Recipe for antibacterial plastic: Plastic plus egg whites

Bioplastics made from protein sources such as albumin and whey have shown significant antibacterial properties, findings that could eventually lead to their use in plastics used in medical applications such as wound healing dressings, sutures, catheter tubes and drug delivery, according to a recent study by the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The bioplastic materials could also be used for food packaging.

Researchers tested three nontraditional bioplastic materials--albumin, whey and soy proteins--as alternatives to conventional petroleum-based plastics that pose risks of contamination.

In particular, albumin, a protein found in egg whites, demonstrated tremendous antibacterial properties when blended with a traditional plasticizer such as glycerol.

"It was found that it had complete inhibition, as in no bacteria would grow on the plastic once applied," said Alex Jones, a doctoral student in the department of textiles, merchandising and interiors. "The bacteria wouldn't be able to live on it."

The study appears in the online version of the Journal of Applied Polymer Science.

One of the researchers' aims is to find ways to reduce the amount of petroleum used in traditional plastic production; another is to find a fully biodegradable bioplastic.

The albumin-glycerol blended bioplastic met both standards, Jones said.

"If you put it in a landfill, this being pure protein, it will break down," he said. "If you put it in soil for a month--at most two months--these plastics will disappear."

The next step in the research involves a deeper analysis of the albumin-based bioplastic's potential for use in the biomedical and food packaging fields.

As noted in the study, 4.5 hospital admissions out of every 100 in the U.S. in 2002 resulted in a hospital-acquired infection. In addition to the risk of contamination in hospitals, food contamination as a result of traditional plastics is a notable risk.

Researchers are encouraged by the antimicrobial properties of albumin-based bioplastics that could potentially reduce these risks through drug elution--loading the bioplastic with either drugs or food preservatives that can kill bacteria or prevent it from spreading.

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

Wii U Zelda Won’t Arrive in 2015, or Even Show at E3

Well, that’s a one-two punch for the Wii U: Nintendo said today that its highly anticipated new Legend of Zelda game won’t make its planned 2015 release date, and in case that wasn’t enough, the game won’t even be shown at this year’s E3 Expo in June.

Zelda was set to be the tentpole release for the beleaguered Wii U console this year, so its loss is a pretty massive blow to Nintendo’s holiday lineup. Then again, if you didn’t see this one coming a mile away, you haven’t been paying attention: Nintendo regularly delays its games, especially when said game is a new entry in the Zelda series. (I laid down my marker on this the minute Nintendo announced the game’s release date, by the way.)

And this one in particular is maybe the most ambitious Zelda game the team’s ever done, since it’s the first to take place in a massive open world. The chances that Nintendo would either run into development snags—or simply discover new ideas that they want to implement—were very high.

That seems to have been the case, at least in part: Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma said, in a video update announcing the delay, that “as the team has experienced firsthand the freedom of exploration that hasn’t existed in any Zelda game to date, we have discovered several new possibilities for the game.” Implementing those, he said, is the reason for the delay.

Nintendo isn’t the only console maker to delay Christmas this year: Earlier this month, Sony said that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End wouldn’t be out on PlayStation 4 until 2016.

The loss of Zelda is a fairly heavy blow to Wii U’s outlook for the year. With third party software publishers not releasing much of note on the platform, it’s been up to Nintendo to carry most of the weight. Besides Zelda, it still currently plans to release Mario Maker, Star Fox, Yoshi’s Woolly World and Xenoblade Chronicles X this year.

But there is a bright spot: In addition to its penchant for delaying its big games, Nintendo also often announces big games mere months before it ships them. So hopefully Zelda‘s absence from E3 means more game announcements for 2015 to fill in the void it’s leaving behind.

Jury: Kleiner Did Not Discriminate Against Ellen Pao

Jury: Kleiner Did Not Discriminate Against Ellen Pao

Ellen Pao, former junior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, exits state court in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Ellen Pao, former junior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, exits state court in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

F1 Drivers Push Their Bodies to Extremes in Malaysia’s Heat

2015 F1 Safety Car Formula One's official medical car, the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG S. It carries F1's head physician, Dr. Ian Roberts, in case of a crash. Mercedes-Benz

Formula One holds races all over the world, in all kinds of climates. From the rainy summer days at Silverstone to the autumn heat in Texas, drivers, mechanics and cars must all be prepared for whatever mother nature might throw at them.

One of the worst races, from a weather perspective, takes place this weekend at Sepang Circuit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With temperatures expected to touch 90 degrees Fahrenheit along with 80 percent humidity, both man and machine will be tested. Oh, and then there’s incredible tropical rainstorms that can bubble up out of nowhere.

The near-daily rainstorms wash away rubber that gets laid down on the circuit, meaning track evolution—the movement of the racing line and optimal grip as the race progresses—is difficult to predict. It also means the asphalt is exceptionally rough because the rubber can’t lay down and smooth it out, and the course, with fast corners and a bumpy surface, puts significant strain on the Pirelli tires. That’s why cars will be equipped with the two sturdiest tire compounds that Pirelli offers Formula One teams, the white-labeled Medium and the orange-labeled Hard. Aside from tropical Singapore, which is held at night because of the hot temperatures, Malaysia is generally the hottest and one of the toughest races on tires.

As tough as the course is on tires, it’s even tougher on drivers. The exterior heat and humidity are compounded by the cars themselves, with drivers sitting right against the hot engine, and full-body, flame-resistant Nomex racing suits aren’t exactly suited to keeping cool.

During the 193-mile race, each man behind the wheel will burn as many as 1,500 calories and lose three quarts of body fluid. In the days leading up this race, drivers drink as much water as possible, and will work to keep cool and hydrated. In competition, their heart rates will reach 170 beats per minute. To keep sweat out of his eyes, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg says he wears a ladies sanitary napkin on his forehead. Last year, during pre-race ceremonies, several drivers wore special cooling vests to keep their core temperature down in the high heat.

All of which makes Malaysia an especially tough place to come back to racing for McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, a former world champion who missed the season’s first race in Australia because of a concussion suffered following a crash during preseason testing.

Keeping drivers safe is why the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), F1’s sanctioning body, lays down piles of rules governing the medical tests drivers must pass before getting behind the wheel.

Like in football, a single concussion for a driver is not a huge deal. The danger comes from repeated concussions, a non-trivial risk whenever one is in a race car as even minor crashes (which aren’t infrequent) could cause significant g-loads to the brain. Even when they stay on the track, drivers deal with signifiant lateral and longitudinal g-forces, and prolonged stress to the heart and breathing systems. Malaysia adds major heat and humidity. To keep drivers safe, there are numerous medical checks and tests all must pass before they can jump in the cockpit.

There are few things the FIA loves more than rules. That’s why there’s a 24-page document outlining what drivers need to do to get international racing licenses. During an annual medical examination, drivers fill out a questionnaire covering family and personal medical history, any diseases or infections, medications. They undergo cardiovascular and musculoskeletal examinations.

Some conditions, like epilepsy or blindness in one eye are, unsurprisingly, grounds for automatic disqualification. Drivers must be able to distinguish the color of flags being waved during competition, and stereoscopic vision—depth perception—must be functional. Any amputated fingers must not impair gripping function in either hand. And on and on and on.

Before a race, drivers must perform an “extraction test“, where they unbelt themselves, get out of the car safely, and reinstall the steering wheel (so the car can be steered by rescue workers), all within ten seconds. Any driver who fails the test, like Valtteri Bottas did in earlier this month in Australia, is forbidden from racing. Drivers must be able to get themselves out of the car quickly if something were to go wrong.

It all sounds like a bit much, but it’s more reasonable when you consider just how tough the sport is on drivers. Winning in Formula 1 requires getting to the finish line, and that’s never guaranteed. Just as mechanics must ensure the car is reliable and in good working order, the drivers need the same treatment.

Storage Breakthrough Will Improve SSD Capacity Tenfold

The trick to making laptops as thin and light as they’ve gotten has in large part been the transition from traditional hard drives to flash-based solid state drives. The trade-off has been the amount of storage you get (less) and amount you pay for it (much, much more). Micron and Intel appear to have solved at least one of those problems.

The two companies today announced new 3D NAND technology—a variation on the tech that enables the type super-small storage spaces you find in the MacBook Air and other ultralight laptops—that stacks layers of flash cells vertically to increase density. The development comes just in time; the previous production method, known as planar NAND, has nearly maxed out its potential.

When you cut through the technical language, the net result is that 2.5-inch SSDs could come in 10TB capacities, compared to the 1TB drives most laptops max out at today. The smaller SSDs required for the super-skinny laptops of the world won’t see quite as much of a gain, but could still see a jump to 3.5TB, compared to the 512GB you see currently.

It’s a welcome breakthrough, likely also a pricey one for the average consumer. While Intel and Micron indicated that there should be “better cost efficiencies” to 3D NAND versus its planar predecessor, solid state drives remain terrifically expensive next to their spinning disk ancestors. Stepping up from a 128GB SSD MacBook Air to an otherwise identical 256GB MacBook Air adds $200 to your bill, and that’s a fraction of the kind of capacity gains 3D NAND allows.

And even if you were interested in dropping a grand or so on an ultrabook with 2.5TB onboard—maybe you’ve decided to rip 80 Blu-ray discs on a lark?—it’s going to be a little while before you can actually get your hands on one. The 3D NAND chips won’t go into production until closer to the end of this year, which means you won’t see them in consumer devices until 2016 at the earliest.

Still, cheaper and more efficient flash storage—especially this much more efficient—is an incredibly important breakthrough, especially as our lives increasingly revolve around mobile devices that simply don’t have much room to spare. Besides, the less space you waste on an SSD, the more you’ll have for what you really care about: a battery big enough to last you through the day.

Get Your Shots, Wash Your Hands, Thanks, and Goodbye

A little less than 5 years ago, editor Betsy Mason of WIRED Science called to ask whether I’d be interested in joining a new thing. WIRED was thinking about starting a science blog platform; she wondered whether I’d want to be one of the bloggers.

I did very much want: WIRED is both a great magazine, with inspiring storytelling and innovative design, and a brand with international reach. I was a bit perplexed why they would want me — scary diseases didn’t seem like a core interest for WIRED readers — but Betsy (now one of the authors of WIRED’s Map Lab blog) was confident the audience was there.

She was right. Superbug debuted Sept. 14, 2010 with a report on the “Indian superbug,” the antibiotic resistance factor NDM that was then just starting to move across the world. My second post explored “livestock MRSA,” the bacterium that originates in antibiotic overuse in agriculture, and the third looked at the shivery subject of a rare and deadly parasite transmitted by organ transplants. Those three posts pretty much defined Superbug’s turf: public health, global health, and food policy, with a sprinkle of dread. Readers responded with fascination and good will, then and to the more than 300 posts afterward.

Of which, as you’ve probably guessed, this is the last. Superbug has had a fantastic run, but there was only one other place I wanted to work, and I’m headed there. Next week, I’ll be joining National Geographic’s Phenomena under a new blog name.

(Worth saying: This move is coincident with’s redesign, but is not at all related. Phenomena happened to have a rare opening.)

I’ll look back with pleasure on your interest in the long asymptote of polio eradication, especially the outrageous attempt by the CIA to use the campaign as a cover for hunting Osama bin Laden. In the challenges of containing Ebola and the difficulties faced by front-line disease fighters. On the dangers of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. In the icky and fascinating phenomenon of fecal transplants. On the chilling advance of extremely drug-resistant hospital infections and totally drug-resistant TB.

I’ll especially remember your ferocious response to Scottish politicians who tried to shut down the bad-school-lunch blog Never Seconds, and how rapidly thousands of you joined the movement that forced officials to let 9-year-old Martha Payne write again. I was very proud of that.

It was a privilege to write for Wired, especially among my clever, creative, distinguished WIRED Science colleagues past and present. In addition to Betsy, I’m grateful to new WIRED Science editor Adam Rogers and WIRED editor-in-chief Scott Dadich for the platform. And especially, readers, to all of you.

I’ll see you ’round the internet. Don’t forget to wash your hands.

Computational model simulates bacterial behavior

University of Notre Dame applied mathematician Mark Alber and environmental biotechnologist Robert Nerenberg have developed a new computational model that effectively simulates the mechanical behavior of biofilms. Their model may lead to new strategies for studying a range of issues from blood clots to waste treatment systems.

"Blood clotting is a leading cause of death in the United States at this point," said Alber, who is The Vincent J. Duncan Family Professor of Applied Mathematics in the College of Science and an adjunct professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, South Bend. "We can now use a very fast and biologically relevant computational model to study deforming structures of the clots growing in blood flow."

The new model may be adapted to study clot formation in blood vessels, which can pose the risk of detaching and migrating to the lungs, a fatal event. Clots in healthy people usually stop growing and dissolve on their own. The clots, which result from genetic deficiencies, injury, inflammation or such diseases as cancer and diabetes, can grow uncontrollably or develop irregular shapes, threatening to detach under the pressure of blood flowing through the vessels.

Biofilms are found on almost any moist surface including veins, water pipes, ship hulls, contact lenses and hospital equipment. Biofilms are aggregates of bacterial cells embedded in self-produced extracellular polymer substances (EPS). Some biofilms are beneficial, treating wastewater and allowing the biodegradation of environmental contaminants. Others are harmful, fouling industrial equipment, corroding pipes and forming cavities in teeth. Biofilms are of particular concern in human infections, as bacteria in biofilms are much more resistant to antibiotics.

Since biofilms are often found in flowing systems, it is important to understand the effect of fluid flow on biofilms. Biofilms behave like viscoelastic materials. They first stretch elastically, then continue stretching and eventually break, like gum. Most past biofilm models were not able to capture this behavior or predict biofilm detachment. The new model allows for the simulation of this complex behavior. Simulations show that lower-viscosity biofilms are more likely to stretch and form streamers that can detach and clog nearby structures.

The new model can be used to devise new strategies to better manage biofilms. For example, it can be used to promote beneficial biofilms in waste treatment systems, or prevent biofouling layers on membrane filtration systems. It also can help improve dental plaque removal with water irrigators or develop methods to clean catheters or surgical equipment.

"In the past, scientists typically studied bacteria in isolation. In more recent years, they have recognized the importance of biofilm structures and discovered how they are built, but earlier models failed to accurately predict the impact of inhomogeneous multicomponent structure of the biofilm including EPS, on its deformation under pressure from the fluid flow," said Alber, whose group developed the computational model in collaboration with the members of the Nerenberg laboratory.

"The new model simulations are important because they allow us to more realistically incorporate the viscoelastic properties of the biofilm," said Nerenberg, whose laboratory focuses on environmental biofilm processes. "This research will lead to major advances in our understanding of biofilm accumulation and persistence in natural and engineered systems."

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

Slack Says It Was Hacked, Enables Two-Factor Authentication

The buzzy collaboration platform Slack has blown up over the last year, with half a million daily users and a $2.8 billion valuation. Now it’s just hit a different milestone for budding startups: Getting humiliated by hackers who defeated its not-quite-ready-for-primetime security protections.

On Friday Slack announced on its corporate blog that it was hacked over the course of four days in February, and that some number of users’ data was compromised. That data included email addresses, usernames, encrypted passwords, and, in some cases, phone numbers and Skype IDs that users had associated with their accounts. The company claims that its passwords were sufficiently scrambled to be unreadable to hackers, but it also admits that it detected “suspicious activity” on a “small number” of Slack user accounts, implying that users’ communications were in at least some cases fully accessed by the intruders.

“We are very aware that our service is essential to many teams. Earning your trust through the operation of a secure service will always be our highest priority,” the company’s blog post from Slack’s VP Anne Toth reads. “We deeply regret this incident and apologize to you, and to everyone who relies on Slack, for the inconvenience.”

In response to a request from WIRED, a Slack spokesperson declined to comment further on how many user accounts might have been accessed in the hack. But the spokesperson emphasized that it’s communicating privately with users who it believes may have had their communications breached.

In response to the breach, Slack says it’s also now offering a two-factor authentication feature, which would require any user to enter a one-time passcode sent to his or her phone in addition to the usual Slack credentials. It’s also enabled a password “kill switch” for Slack administrators, allowing them to log out all users of a Slack installation and reset their passwords.

Those new features likely can’t undo the damage Slack’s hack will represent to its credibility among corporate users. The company has framed itself as a friendlier replacement for Microsoft’s work and collaboration tools. Given those enterprise ambitions, its addition of two-factor authentication highlights that it didn’t have that security protection in place earlier — a fact that’s surprising, given that the two-factor feature is increasingly seen as the standard for web-based applications.

In its statement, Slack says it had planned to release the two-factor feature in just a week, but was still testing it. “We have decided to release it immediately, despite the remaining bits of clunky-ness: the feature works and it does provide a significant new level of protection against unauthorized access to your Slack account,” writes Toth. “We will be improving this feature in future releases but the feature functionality is what is most important right now.”

Slack adds in its post that it’s been “working 24 hours a day to methodically examine, rebuild and test each component of our system to ensure it is safe,” and that it’s working with outside security experts and law enforcement. It says that its stolen passwords had been both—converted into an unreadable string of characters—with the hashing function known as bcrypt and also “salted,” an additional step that usually makes hashed passwords far more difficult for any thieves to decipher. But Slack users should nonetheless turn on two-factor authentication here.

Soon, Humans Will Follow Robots Into Deep Space

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly is seen inside a Soyuz simulator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia, Mar. 4, 2015. NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly is seen inside a Soyuz simulator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia, Mar. 4, 2015. NASA

Today, astronaut Scott Kelly will board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station. He’ll spend a year in low-Earth orbit, in part as a lab rat in a study that looks at how his body responds to life in space. The cool part here is the control group: Scott’s twin brother Mark, also an astronaut, is staying on Earth, making him a genetically matched basis for comparison. It’s an intriguing experiment, but as far as human space travel goes, it’s no giant leap. Humans haven’t left low-Earth orbit—just a couple hundred miles above where you’re sitting right now—since 1972, when astronauts last walked on the moon.

Robots, though? Robots are having all the fun. “Uncrewed” spacecraft have ventured to almost every corner of the solar system, and—at this very minute—are exploring alien worlds from asteroids and comets to planets and dwarf planets. Which makes it tempting to declare that space exploration should be the realm of robots, not humans. People are expensive, hard to maintain, and they can die. Who needs the grief?

Well, we do. The crewed space program and the robot space program are two different things with two different purposes. And we need them both.

Yes, when it comes to science, robots kick butt. They’re tough, cheap, and no one besides sci-fi sentimentalists cares if they never come home. Everywhere you look in the solar system, a robot is there. Rosetta is orbiting a comet, waiting for the Philae lander to wake up. Dawn is at the icy dwarf planet Ceres, which might have a subsurface ocean. In a couple months, if all goes well, New Horizons will become the first human-made object to visit Pluto. Juno is scheduled to arrive at Jupiter next summer.

And those are only the recent missions. Cassini has been studying the Saturnian system for more than a decade, and a couple weeks ago found evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus has hydrothermal vents—a hot environment that could harbor life. The Curiosity rover continues to explore Mars, and its smaller predecessor, Opportunity, passed the 26-mile mark this past week—a marathon that took more than 11 years. Oh, and the Messenger spacecraft, launched in 2004, is wrapping up a mission at Mercury. The Voyager probes are in interstellar space. All these robots have sent invaluable data back home, teaching us about how the universe works.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, Feb. 3, 2013. NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, Feb. 3, 2013. NASA

The human space program, on the other hand, has never been about science. The driving force behind Apollo—the pinnacle of the human space program—was to show up the Soviet Union. The Cold War is over; the human space program no longer has an existential purpose.

Which is why it’s struggling. How badly? After NASA retired the space shuttles in 2011, the agency was left without a way to get people into orbit. It became a space agency that couldn’t get to space. Private companies like SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada are all trying to fill the gap. But they’re still just doing what people did decades ago. “Commercial space at this point with respect to human space flight is somewhat a sideshow,” says John Logsdon, a space policy expert and historian at George Washington University. “All that’s happening is two firms, SpaceX and Boeing, are under contract to develop a taxi to take people to the space station. Other than that, there’s a lot of talk.”

But critically, while the human space program may not have an overarching mission, it does have a purpose. A 2014 report from the National Research Council cited the economy, science, education and inspiration, national security, and—no kidding—human survival. We humans are perpetually in jeopardy if we stay on Earth, whether from nuclear war, climate apocalypse, or a good old-fashioned killer asteroid (a classic). If humanity is to survive, we have to spread out.

More than that, though, that NRC report also cited a “shared destiny and aspiration to explore.” Now, that might sound sort of flaky. Logsdon ranks the idea long with all the other “clichés that one tends to spout when talking about the future of humanity.” But even he wants people to boldly go. He remembers when men went to the moon. “Knowing what was happening, knowing here there were true explorers going to a new place—it was about as exciting as you can get,” Logsdon says. It’s about inspiration, adventure, and pride in what we can accomplish together as a species.

Astronaut Scott Kelly along with his brother, former Astronaut Mark Kelly at the Johnson Space Center, Jan.19, 2015. Astronaut Scott Kelly along with his brother, former Astronaut Mark Kelly at the Johnson Space Center, Jan.19, 2015. NASA

Eventually humans will be able to do some exploring, too. We can do things robots still can’t. “The ability to react to surprises or to decisions that need to be made tactically—that’s directly in the realm of the human endeavor,” says Jim Bell, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University who has worked on every Mars rover mission. A person analyzing the Martian terrain could rely on experience and instinct; all a robot has is software and time-delayed commands.

And eventually, the two programs will reunify. NASA’s Deep Space Network was the communications link for the Apollo missions, and now connects a bunch of interplanetary robot spacecraft with home. “We wouldn’t have healthy robotic exploration without the human exploration program,” Bell says. The robots will eventually be scouts, finding the places where people can and should follow up.

By outsourcing its role in low-Earth orbit to the private sector, NASA can focus on deep space. It has started work on a new Orion spacecraft and the space launch system, the most powerful rocket ever built. They’ve even souped up the huge crawler transporters used to carry the rocket to the launch pad. This week, NASA announced a new mission—using a robot—to pluck a rock off the surface of an asteroid, testing capabilities the agency says people will need on a trip to Mars. “We’re further along the path of making it happen than we ever have been,” says Logsdon.

It’s true that NASA doesn’t have the money to visit Mars. Under existing budget constraints, it never will. Right now, much of the science astronauts do on board the ISS has to do with keeping astronauts alive on board the ISS. But that’s not recursive. What researchers learn from Mark Kelly and his brother might not apply to more than a handful of people today…but someday it’ll be important to all of us. Spacefaring robots and spacefaring humans have only taken baby steps so far. But even baby steps move you forward.

Water, Fire, and Costa Rica’s Carbon-Zero Year So Far

Water gushes out of a floodgate at the hydroelectric dam Cachi in Ujarras de Cartago, 60 miles of San Jose, Costa Rica, May 25, 2007. Water gushes out of a floodgate at the hydroelectric dam Cachi in Ujarras de Cartago, Costa Rica, May 25, 2007. JUAN CARLOS ULATE/X00047/Reuters/Corbis

Costa Rica’s energy utility hasn’t burned any fossil fuel this year. None. The country of nearly 4.9 million people ran on nothing but renewable power for 75 days, a goal that many richer countries—including and especially the United States—can only dream of. So how did Costa Rica do it? Smart infrastructure investments and an assist from an unlikely ally: climate change.

Like Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil, and many other Latin American countries, Costa Rica gets most of its energy—about 80 percent—from hydroelectric plants. Damming rivers has environmental consequences too, obviously, but the energy from the resulting power plants is carbon-free. Hydropower is also more reliable and easier to scale up than existing wind and solar technologies.

So in that sense, Costa Rica’s 75-day streak may be impressive, but it isn’t surprising, says Juan Roberto Paredes, a renewable energy expert at the Inter-American Development Bank. On average, the country’s energy matrix was already nearly 90 percent renewable, making it the second most “renewable country” in Latin America (after Paraguay, which gets nearly all of its energy from just one dam).

But a reliance on hydropower still puts you at the mercy of the elements—just different ones than solar or wind. The key to hydropower is rainfall. Less rain means less water behind the dams, which quickly translates into less power. Just last year, Costa Rica declared a state of emergency in the country’s northwest because of an El Niño-fueled drought, and hydro’s contribution to the country’s electric grid dropped, forcing the utility to switch on some diesel generators. (Brazil is currently experiencing a similar crisis, with a catastrophic drought endangering many of the hydroelectric plants that power São Paulo and the rest of the country’s populous southeast.) But this year, Costa Rica’s four largest hydropower plants have enjoyed unusually heavy rains—so far.

Here’s where climate change comes in. Almost all climate models predict that “one effect of climate change will be a concentration of rainfall, and as a consequence of that, longer periods of drought,” explains Walter Vergara, a climate change specialist focused on Latin America at the World Resources Institute. Especially in tropical countries like Costa Rica, more rain will fall in less time. That’s great for hydroelectric plants, but terrible if you worry about, say, flash floods and mudslides. Plus, rainfall now might just mean drought later. Costa Rica’s rainy winter won’t last, and comparable levels of precipitation might not return for a long time. “Only El Niño and La Niña can tell us how much longer we won’t need fossil fuels to generate electricity,” says Julio Mata, an energy expert at the University of Costa Rica.

So does that mean that once the rain passes, Costa Rica will be breaking out the diesel generators once again? Not necessarily, Vergara says. The country has another natural energy source standing by: volcanoes—six active ones and dozens more inactive, which means subterranean heat and power. Geothermal now contributes about 15 percent of Costa Rica’s energy, and its share of the pie will likely only grow as the government makes further investments.

That’s an exceptionally reliable source of power, subject to none of the fluctuations due to changes in rainfall, sunlight, or oil prices that plague other methods. Geothermal offers Costa Rica a way to fill in hydropower’s gaps with another renewable source, rather than turning to fossil fuels in the next emergency. Mata says the country could eke out even more power if it allowed geothermal plants in national parks and protected areas, which cover a quarter of Costa Rica’s land and include many of its volcanoes.

Of course, not every country has rivers to dam, volcanoes to tap, or a government with such a strong commitment to environmentalism. (In Costa Rica, the energy and environmental ministries are even under the same roof, Paredes told me.) In many ways, Costa Rica had a significant head start in the race toward a future free of fossil fuels. But they are showing the rest of us what it would take to catch up.

Antibiotic effectiveness imperiled as use in livestock expected to increase

Antibiotic consumption in livestock worldwide could rise by 67 percent between 2010 and 2030, and possibly endanger the effectiveness of antimicrobials in humans, according to researchers from Princeton University, the International Livestock Research Institute, the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy.

Five countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- will experience a growth of 99 percent in antibiotic consumption, compared with an expected 13 percent growth in their human populations over the same period, the study authors report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the United States, antibiotic consumption in animals currently represents up to 80 percent of total antimicrobial sales.

Because of the incredible volume involved, this increase in antimicrobial use in animals raises serious concerns about preserving antimicrobial effectiveness in the next decades, the researchers report. Global demand for animal protein is rising dramatically, and antimicrobials are used routinely in modern animal production for disease prevention and as growth promoters. The study focused on cattle, chickens and pigs, and identified the latter two as the main contributors to antibiotic consumption.

"The discovery and development of antibiotics was a major public health revolution of the 20th century," said senior author Ramanan Laxminarayan, a senior research scholar in the Princeton Environmental Institute. "Their effectiveness--and the lives of millions of people around the world -- are now in danger due to the increasing global problem of antibiotic resistance, which is being driven by antibiotic consumption."

The study is based on a limited data set of veterinary-antimicrobials sales from 32 countries, all with developed economies. Before now there has been no quantitative measurement of global antimicrobial consumption by livestock -- a critical component in assessing the potential consequences of widespread animal antibiotic use. Numerous studies have suggested links between the use of antimicrobials and antibiotic-resistant bacteria originating from livestock as well as their potential consequences for human health.

Two thirds, or 66 percent, of the projected global increase in antimicrobial consumption is due to the growing number of animals raised for food production. The remaining third is attributable to a shift in farming practices, with a larger proportion of animals projected to be raised in "intensive farming systems," or factory farms.

"For about a billion poor people, livestock are essential to survival," said Tim Robinson, principal scientist from the International Livestock Research Institute. "They are raising their livestock in extensive, backyard systems on the whole and do not use antibiotics as growth promoters or in disease prevention. They use them when their livestock are sick and will take a disproportionately high share of the consequences as effective drugs become more costly and less available in treating their livestock and themselves when they become sick."

Having reliable global data is essential for scientists and policymakers to both measure the extent of the problem and assess potential solutions, said lead author Thomas Van Boeckel, a Fulbright research scholar in Princeton's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

"An important limiting factor in carrying out this first inventory of antibiotic consumption in animals was the lack of 'modeling-ready' data on veterinary antibiotic sales in many countries," Van Boeckel said. "Sometimes these data are simply not collected because of lack of veterinary surveillance programs, but sometimes the barriers are more political and or legislative. With this work we hope to trigger a momentum and show how useful such data could be to inform the design of global concerted policies against antimicrobial resistance."

"Antibiotic resistance is a dangerous and growing global public health threat that isn't showing any signs of slowing down," Laxminarayan said. "Our findings advance our understanding of the consequences of the rampant growth of livestock antibiotic use and its effects on human health--a crucial step towards addressing the problem of resistance."

Story Source:

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

Tech Time Warp of the Week: Remembering the Worst ‘Virtual Reality’ Game System Ever

When you strapped into the Tiger R-Zone headset, the real world would melt away, leaving you in a full-color, immersive 3-D world. Well, that’s what you’d think from commercial embedded above. But the R-Zone’s marketing was probably the most egregious example of false advertising in videogame history.

Introduced in 1995, the $30 Tiger R-Zone game console appeared to be a cheaper alternative to Nintendo’s own foray into mobile virtual reality gaming, the Virtual Boy. But contrary to what the ads may have implied, the machine didn’t feature 3-D graphics at all. Instead it projected simple, two-color graphics that you glimpse only momentarily in the ads. Nor was it immersive: the graphics were projected onto a screen in front of your right eye, while your left eye was free to wander.

Apart from a headset, it didn’t have anything in common with virtual reality at all. The device was actually a bizarre wearable videogame console, more of a horrid predecessor to Google Glass than to the Oculus Rift.

Keeping the game industry’s emptiest products in mind may help us avoid getting fooled again.

Today Tiger Electronics is probably best remembered for the Furby and the GigaPet line of “virtual pets,” but in the 1980s and 90s, the company was known for a line of cheap portable LCD videogames based on licensed properties, such as successful console or arcade games, or popular films or television shows. Unlike the original Game Boy, each R-Zone game was a stand-alone device that usually cost a bit less than a Game Boy game. They were a quick, cheap fix for videogame junkies, but the game play experience was, shall we say, lacking.

The graphics on these handhelds were incredibly simple. Much like a pocket calculator or digital watch, these games depended on a small number of static shapes that were lit up depending on what was supposed to be happening in the game. If you mashed the screen down, you could actually see all the different pictures.

The R-Zone was similar. The screen for each game was actually built into the cartridge, through which the machine beamed a red light that projected specific images onto a plastic surface that hovered in front of your eye.

Your one eye. Because it was balanced in front of only one eye, you had to cover the other to avoid going cross-eyed. As you can imagine, eye strain was a huge problem. Reviewers also complained about the responsiveness of the controls, and the way the control pad cable dangled in front of your face.

Unlike the Virtual Boy, which at least had something of a cult following, no one is even nostalgic for the R-Zone. It was really that bad. Check out this hilarious but profanity ridden rant from the Angry Video Game Nerd:

And then there’s this more considered but still utterly scathing review from RetroActive:

Facebook is hoping to finally bring virtual reality into the mainstream, but looking back at the R-Zone, it’s not hard to see why people are so skeptical of today’s virtual reality applications. And it’s not wrong to be cautious.

New virtual reality consoles like the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Galaxy VR are a giant leap forward over the Virtual Boy or Sega’s more advanced Sega VR. But we’ll probably see some new products hit the market that, just like the R-Zone, try to capitalize on the virtual reality trend without actually delivering anything that actually resembles virtual reality at all. Keeping the game industry’s emptiest products in mind may help us avoid getting fooled again.

The Week in TV: Every Tom Hanks Film Reenacted in 7 Minutes

Ever wonder what it would be like to have a deer spirit animal for your dog named Sugar Bob? Or what it’s like for Maisie Williams to watch her ultra-NSFW TV show Games of Thrones with her grandma? Or how it would feel to have Chelsea Clinton cut you down to size with her laser eyes? Well fortunately, you can rest easy, because we’ve got the answers to all those questions along with a few more you never even considered asking in this week’s TV roundup. We say “hello!” to James Corden, farewell to Nick Kroll, and “Why, God, why?!” to the pay gap between men and women. Laugh with us. Cry with us. Then hand the woman nearest to you at the office whatever money is in your wallet, because she probably isn’t being fairly compensated.

The Late Late Show With James Corden—Every Tom Hanks Movie in 7 Minutes (Above)

James Corden is officially part of the chat show lineup, and he’s starting off big with sketch starring American Treasure and all around Awesome Guy, Tom Hanks. If Corden is trying to seduce stateside audiences by pandering to our love of T. Hanks, well, it’s working. You have our curiosity, Corden, but can you keep our attention?

Jimmy Kimmel Live!—Maisie Williams Watches Game of Thrones With Her Grandma

Maisie Williams will turn 18 this coming April, which means she is only one year younger than her co-star/on-screen big sister, Sophie Turner. We really hate to play the double standard, but our emotional response to seeing Williams in grown up clothes is way different than the one we have to Turner, which is to say, we involuntarily reject Williams in anything more feminine than a tousled pageboy haircut and gender-neutral medieval attire. Sigh. They grow up so fast! But really, hit her up on Twitter for her latest and greatest bon mots about quirky handbags, her sweaty hands, and #mophie. She’s #MaisieCraisie.

The Late Show With David Letterman—Aubrey Plaza’s Basketball League

Somehow, Aubrey Plaza seems to make it through every one of her late night appearances without ever looking the host in the eye. Is it a defense mechanism? Is it a power move? Is she physically capable of direct eye contact?! The enigma that is Ms. Plaza will continue to keep us on our toes.

Conan—Christopher Plummer’s Secret to Long Life: ‘Hard Drinking’

This guy. Such a bummer we’ll never know what it was like to party with Christopher Plummer in the swinging 1960s. And could he be any classier? A Canadian who acts like an Englishman with an Oscar and a bundle of Emmys and Tonys who has also played a Star Trek villain? Swoon! In his younger days he also didn’t look half bad in drag. And we all know that it takes a real man to wear women’s clothing.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart—The Future of Gender Wage Equality

Our eyes are filled with tears, but we cant tell if were crying from laughter or laughing in the middle of a good cry. This woman gets it.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon—’Mitt in the Mirror’ With Mitt Romney & Jimmy Fallon‬

The funny thing is, if Mitt Romney were running for president again we would probably hate this sketch. But since he’s realized the futility of setting millions of dollars on fire in pursuit of the White House, we can say “Way to go, Mitt! High five for making fun of yourself!” Ha. Ha ha. Ha.

Jimmy Kimmel Live!—Serve a Year PSA With Chelsea Clinton and Jimmy Kimmel

If Chelsea Clinton decided to run for president, we’d vote for her based on the strength of that side-eye alone. And it’s a look we feel like papa Bill has gotten a lot over the years.

Conan—Kevin Hart: Will Ferrell Is ‘Cheap as Hell’

Part 1,000,000 of the Kevin Hart Charm Offensive.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart—Dude, That Deer Is Wicked High

Between Portlandia and this sketch we’re all totally clear that Oregon is the best place to live in the whole world, right? Everyone deserves to their own Sugar Bob in the wilds of a temperate rainforest.

Bonus Track: The Kroll Show—Together Forever

As we say farewell to The Kroll Show, we must too say farewell to our beloved Lizes of PubLIZity. We can go forth with peace, knowing that Liz B. and Liz G. will continue to look uh-meeeaayyy-zing no matter what endeavors they pursue next.

Father-Son Team Resurrects a Strange, Forgotten Concept Car

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Rob Ida, left, and his father, Bob Ida, right, pose for a portrait in front of the Tucker Torpedo they're building from scratch at their shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Joe Ida, Bob's father, was a Tucker dealer for one day in the 1940s before the company went bust. Now the father and son duo are completing a car that was never produced outside of a 1/4-scale model. Bryan Derballa

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The body of the Tucker Torpedo that Rob Ida is building with his father at the shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa

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The steering mechanism for the Tucker Torpedo that Rob Ida is building with his father at the shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa

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A detail of the body of the Tucker Torpedo that Rob Ida is building with his father at the shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa

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A magazine article about the Tucker Torpedo is displayed at Ida Concepts in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. The Idas are building a Tucker Torpedo from scratch. Bryan Derballa

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Bob Ida works on a custom-made brake for the Tucker Torpedo that he's building with his son at their shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa


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The body of the Tucker Torpedo that Rob Ida is building with his father at their shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa

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A CNC lathe where Bob Ida is fabricating a custom brake for the Tucker Torpedo he's building with his son at their shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa

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Scraps sit in a CNC lathe where Bob Ida is fabricating a custom brake for the Tucker Torpedo he's building with his son at their shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa

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Rob Ida bends sheet metal for the body of the Tucker Torpedo he is building with his father at their shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa

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A detail of the body of the Tucker Torpedo that Rob Ida is building with his father at the shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa

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A press photo of the Tucker Torpedo at Ida Concepts in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa


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The body of the Tucker Torpedo that Rob Ida is building with his father at the shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa

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A 3D model of the Tucker Torpedo that Rob Ida and his father are building at their shop in Morganville, NJ on February 5th, 2015. Bryan Derballa

Thank You From Zoologic

Photo: Beverly, via Flickr. Distributed under a CC BY 2.0 license. Photo: Beverly, via Flickr. Distributed under a CC BY 2.0 license.

How Facebook’s Chief Geek Will Meld Reality With the Oculus

Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer delivers his keynote address at the Facebook F8 Developers Conference on March 26, 2015, in San Francisco. Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer delivers his keynote address at the Facebook F8 Developers Conference on March 26, 2015, in San Francisco. Eric Risberg/AP

Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer turned 40 last month. He (just barely) blew out a row of 40 candles during a mini-celebration at company headquarters, and Mark Zuckerberg posted a video to, yes, Facebook. “Schrep,” as friends and colleagues call him, could share his huffing and puffing with anyone who wasn’t there.

But what he really wants to do is share the moment in three dimensions, not just two. When friends and family view that video over the net, he wants them to step inside Mark Zuckerberg’s conference room as the candles go out, not just watch on a phone.

That was the upshot of Schroepfer’s keynote on Thursday at Facebook’s annual developer conference in San Francisco. Like Zuckerberg the day before, he teased the idea of combining Facebook with the sort of virtual reality offered by Oculus, the startup Zuckerberg and company acquired last year.

When he sits down for a chat with WIRED after the keynote, Schroepfer makes a point of saying that marriage of Facebook and VR is still years away. And indeed it is. But he believes the company is already laying the groundwork for such a marriage. “There is a deep well of research and work we’re doing in terms of how to do that,” he says. “We are very interested in making this a social experience….The true magic of this VR technology will come when it’s not a solo activity, but a joint activity.”

Virtual Reality for All

The long road to that place begins with the “immersive” 360-degree videos Facebook unveiled earlier in the week. Initially, these videos will come from professionals—big movie and internet media houses—but “within a year or two,” Schroepfer says, consumers will have access to relatively inexpensive cameras that can shoot such videos too, before sharing them with friends and family on Facebook. “All the components are there,” he says.

When you open such videos on a phone, you’ll be able to “move through them,” simply by tilting the phone here and there. Think the photo viewer on the Facebook Paper app, only with an extra dimension. That’s not exactly virtual reality, but Facebook hopes to provide additional fidelity by giving you the option of streaming these videos to headsets like the Oculus and the Samsung Gear VR, hardware that straps around your eyes and gives the (rather convincing) illusion that you’re in another place.

The pitch echoes similar talk from tech giants Google and Microsoft and startups like Magic Leap. After so many years of unfulfilled promise, virtual reality—and its cousin, augmented reality—are finally moving towards the mainstream. But as Schroepfer says, such technology has a long way to go. A very long way.

The 360-Degree Camera

Much needs to change even before Facebook’s 360-degree videos can show up in your Oculus headset. For one, you need to actually buy an Oculus headset (the consumer incarnation of the device hasn’t reached the market). And, behind the scenes, Facebook must fashion a way of automatically formatting these videos for viewing in an Oculus. “How the heck do you get them into your VR? This is the Facebook News Feed we’re talking about,” says Brian Blau, an analyst with research outfit Gartner, who has worked with VR in the past.

Indeed, Schroepfer acknowledges that the future is not yet here. “This is the Wild West,” he says. “We have to do some work on the back-end—transcode the video to play in our environment or do some other processing to make it look great on different Oculus devices.”

What’s more, inside the computing centers that drive Facebook’s online empire, the company must beef up its vast network of hardware before it can send all those 3-D videos streaming across the globe. “You’ve going to need a lot of bandwidth, a lot of compute,” says Jay Parikh, the company’s head of infrastructure engineering. “It’s not a small file. It’s a lot of data.”

But, Schroeper says, the basic hardware needed to make all this happen exists today. As he points out, a Japanese company called Ricoh is already offering a small consumer camera that can capture 360-degree video, and others will follow. “The quality is not there yet,” he says. “But you can see a short, clear path to where the quality is pretty good.” And the Oculus is on the verge of fruition. This week, Facebook is showing off the headset with conference attendees to impressive effect. So impressive, in fact, that Facebook hopes to take the idea much further than these 360-degree videos.

A Virtual Visit to the Louvre

Schroepfer envisions a time when you can use Facebook and Oculus VR to, say, join a friend on a virtual tour of the Louvre—even if one of you is in San Francisco and the other is in New York. “It’s you and I going to Paris to visit a museum without getting on an airplane,” he says, “and being able to interact while doing this.”

That requires an even greater leap in technology. “If you have someone else in the world, you want to see some sort of representation of them,” he says. “There’s a lot more data we have to track.” And even if you get this kind of mutual VR right, there’s still the headset problem. Will people really want to spend much time with hardware strapped around their eyes? But Facebook, according to Schroepfer and Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash, the company working to this mitigate this problem as well.

As Abrash explained during his keynote, the ultimate aim is to more closely meld the virtual with what’s (really) around you. “In effect, you’ll be able to pull the real world into VR,” he said. “You want to be able to see your coffee cup so you can pick it up without taking off your headset. You want to be able to see your keyboard and mouse so you have an infinitely configurable virtual workspace.”

At this point, such talk is still science fiction. It requires, Abrash said, a “much deeper understanding than currently exists.” But that’s the reality Facebook is reaching for.

This Clever Three-in-One Kitchen Gadget Is an Ace of Baste

Every time. Every damn time with these Joseph Joseph characters. They churn out these clever little design spins on common kitchen tools, so sensible and seemingly obvious that you want to laugh or cry or smack your own forehead or eat a meal prepared with said tools. They even done it to the humble baster.

The latest gem from the designers who brought us utensils with built-in feet and childproof knife blocks and pop-out ice cube trays is this: An Inception version of a turkey baster, with a meat thermometer and a cleaning brush stowed inside it. You may only use a turkey baster once a year, but meat thermometers and cleaning brushes, those are doo-dads for all seasons.

This wonder device is called the ThermoBaste. Now listen here: You can’t expect to baste, take the temperature of your meat, and somehow clean them both while all three tools are nested together. Instead, you’ll need to separate the three pieces in order to use them as intended. But in combining all three of those things into a culinary matryoshka doll, it condenses two of the most awkwardly shaped kitchen tools into one, freeing up some drawer space in the process.

As a bonus, it’ll also save you from jabbing yourself with a meat thermometer when you’re fishing around for kitchen utensils in the dark. You’re still on your own with the corkscrew.

While the baster looks a bit oversized to accommodate the other tucked-in tools, the meat thermometer looks pretty handy. It doesn’t just list the degrees in Fahrenheit and Celsius of whatever it’s plunged into, it also provides an on-dial cheat sheet of the appropriate internal temperatures of different kinds of meat. Poultry, lamb, well-done beef, medium beef, rare beef, pork, ham; there’s an entire petting zoo on there.

The cleaning brush is for the baster, so you don’t have to do that thing where you suck in soapy water and squirt it out with the baster 14 million times in order to clean it.

The price is very fair. Let’s break it down. Your average meat thermometer goes for less than $10, and you can expect to fork over $20 or so for a fancy digital one. Basters? Those’ll set you back $5 to $10 based on the build quality. And a decent skinny brush, that’s another $5 easy. At a cool $20, the ThermoBaste is right in line with a cacophonous baster/thermometer/scrubber combo. Good luck getting those other options to all snap together neatly.

Every Lamborghini Model Ever in One Magnificent GIF

Before the 350GT, Lamborghini made tractors. Not hulking, slow cars. Literal tractors. It’s how Ferruccio Lamborghini made his money in post-war Italy, but it wasn’t his passion. Fortune in hand, the Italian turned to his real goal: building the best sports cars possible, which meant taking on industry giant Ferrari. In 1963, he founded Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini. A year later, he gave the world the 350GT, the first production car branded with the charging bull, built in Sant’Agata Bolognese, just 16 miles from Maranello.

In the half century since, Lamborghini has produced some remarkable cars. The Miura, one of the best two-seat, mid-engine cars ever. The Countach, which made curved lines seem like the lamest idea ever. The Murcielago, the first model built under the ownership of Audi. And now you can see them all in one glorious GIF, created by

Lamborghini, like other automakers in the supercar genre, tends to crank out lots of variations on each model (there are enough takes on the Gallardo to justify a top 10 list). So the GIF is restricted to the main models. It’s also missing the LM002, the ill-advised Lambo SUV.

Here’s the full list:

  • 350GT

  • 400GT 2+2

  • Miura

  • Espada

  • Islero

  • Jarama

  • Urraco

  • Countach

  • Silhouette

  • Jalpa

  • Diablo

  • Murcielago

  • Gallardo

  • Reventon

  • Aventador

  • Sesto Elemento

  • Veneno

  • Egoista

  • Huracan

What It’s Like to Watch Hodor DJ a ‘Rave of Thrones’

Kristian Nairn performs during a "Rave of Thrones" party on December 27, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. Kristian Nairn performs during a "Rave of Thrones" party on December 27, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

HBO’s gala premiere for Season 5 of Game Of Thrones in San Francisco was supposed the city’s hottest ticket. It was sparkly red carpet affair, complete with afterparty and star sightings. It was as awesome as you might expect. However, it wasn’t nearly as cool as “Rave of Thrones”—the party thrown two nights later at a club just a few blocks away by DJ and actor Kristian Nairn, the man Thrones fans know as Hodor. It didn’t have an open bar, but it did have Nairn’s signature blend of progressive house music, a light show, and a lot more cosplay than HBO’s swanky affair.

The first things I noticed upon walking into the club were the costumes—a sizable handful of patrons got fully into the Rave of Thrones theme. Some had Daenerys wigs on, others had dragon tails, and there was even a guy in some Jaqen H’ghar-esque armor with a Lumi-Whip—one of those fiber-optic devices that are a little more intense than the standard light gloves ubiquitous at EDM shows. The next thing I noticed were the many chants of “Hodor” the audience threw up as Nairn worked on the stage, to which he responded to by urging everyone to keep dancing. (There were, however, no calls to “Aranat oqo”—”to drop the beat” in Dothraki—a phrase fans have been known to shout during his sets despite the fact that if Nairn were actually Hodor he wouldn’t speak, let alone speak a language from Essos.)

Nairn himself is incredibly imposing. At just under seven feet tall, he doesn’t really need a stage or a DJ booth to tower over everyone, but there he was, bouncing along to his music, shuffling around sounds, cueing up tracks, and fiddling with knobs. Unlike many modern DJs, he doesn’t use a laptop. It’s just him and his console of buttons and knobs—a setup that keeps him less separated from his crowd, and more in tune with their mood.

Nairn’s particular style of progressive house may fold in a few dialogue samples of his character—and at one point the music dropped out to leave only a chiptune variation of the Game Of Thrones title theme—but mostly he’s just lost in the trance of a continually pulsating rhythm. And instead of cyclically building the beat to a drop that unleashes the abrasive screeches so prevalent in dubstep, Nairn is a throwback to the golden days of British house music, with extended running times, seamless hour-long mixes, and a focus on keeping the energy level high but not exhausting.

His controlled but easy-going performance also reveals a basic but lesser-known fact: Nairn has always been a musician. He’s been a DJ for 20 years, plays guitar, and sings. If anything, Hodor is his side gig. Holding on to that underlying rational identity helps him seem that much more endearing and disarming. He’s not an actor trying to get cred by starting a band, and he’s not trying to eschew his newfound celebrity to get people to just care about the music, man. He’s just fully embracing Hodor as a means of bringing people to the dance floor. (Take note, R.J. Mitte.)

At the end of a 90-minute set, having said barely a word since his introduction, Nairn grabbed a microphone as the next DJ waited to keep the party going through 2 a.m. He thanked the crowd for coming out, wished that he would see everyone again at his next gig in the city, and promised to stick around for a few minutes so that fans could say hello and take some pictures. He was every bit the gentle giant he plays on TV. “And as always,” he says finally, leaving the briefest pause as he shifts into character for one moment, “Hodor.”

Facebook Messenger Now Has Apps. Here Are the Ones to Try

Facebook Messenger Now Has Apps. Here Are the Ones to Try

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