Final Destination 5 (Behind The Scenes)

This video gives you a chance to look BEHIND THE SCENES of: 0:11 Final Destination 5 Survivors of a suspension-bridge collapse learn there’s no way you can cheat Death. (IMDB) Production: New Line Cinema Practical Pictures Zide/Perry Productions Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures Budget: $40 million Box office: $158 Stars: Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher

All credits of this video is Behind The Scenes channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXGT…

 

Siri on iOS 11 still has a long way to go

What has Apple really done to improve Siri? To be honest, I’m not sure. After testing it for an entire day since Tuesday’s iOS 11 release, mostly on an iPad 9.7-inch and an iPhone 7 Plus, it’s obvious Siri is not a major priority for the company, even if some of the features are improved. What has changed is a good sign; what hasn’t makes Siri behind the times.

First, this is not a complete overview of Siri. My intention is to find out whether the new version — one that can now talk more like a human and translate phrases — is really ready to take on the big guns of Amazon Alexa and Google Home (running the Assistant bot). I’m not including Microsoft Cortana in this analysis, because, to be frank, Cortana is behind even Siri when it comes to natural language processing and handling more complex queries.

And it’s clear we don’t quite know everything about Siri or what Apple has planned for the bot. Imagine how hard it was to completely revamp the speaking voice to make it sound more natural with pauses and a nice and steady flow. I tested this new voice by having Siri read a few email headers, and it was like I was talking to a friend. We can finally say there won’t be any more movies where Siri is one of the characters. She (or he) now sounds more like a human, and it’s hard to even tell that this is a robot. The voice doesn’t sound distinct.

As for translation — that works, but it’s something Google has offered with the Assistant for some time. I tried translating several phrases from English to German and they all worked fine. How often does that come up in an everyday routine for me, though? Not often.

So, that left me with a few tests to see if Siri is smarter and understands context. For starters, Siri does know a little more about me. The bot can recommend news stories based on what I’ve read before. I don’t have access to Apple Music right now, but if I did, the bot would now keep track of the music I like and can play my favorite songs. But that’s not too astounding.

Siri still shows a lot of web pages. It doesn’t really know how to converse. Alexa and Google Home (and the Assistant bot) both do a better job of actually dialoguing.

Here are a few examples:

When I asked who is the current president of the United States, Siri answered correctly. And when I asked how old he is, that worked — the bot understood the context. However, when I asked the bot to tell me facts about Trump, Siri just showed me web search results. That seems to happen a lot still. Alexa not only nailed the context, but when I asked about an interesting fact, Alexa also read one of Trump’s recent tweets.

Siri didn’t really try to parse out any meaning. When I said “Play my favorite type of music,” Siri thought I wanted to play a favorites mix on iTunes. On the other hand, Alexa played music by The Boxer Rebellion, which is likely because I listen to that artist a lot.

Next, I said, “Do more people watch basketball or football?” None of the bots in my office helped with that one. Maybe it is just too esoteric. Siri showed me the schedule for the NBA, which is not in season. Alexa and Google did not know the answer at all. We’re in that strange period where bots don’t really know how to deal with any complexity.

That said, Google Assistant is far better at context than Siri. I’ve had conversations about cities and sports teams before, and it just works better with Google. For example, when I asked Siri about the population of Las Vegas, the bot gave me the right answer. But only Google understood what I meant when I asked about the surface miles of that area. (Siri offered to do some math.)

Context is one thing — conversation is another. I’m guessing Google will go even further next month when it announces the Pixel 2 smartphone and likely shows more bot improvements.

10 Things to Leave Behind before Your Birthday

The older you are, the more things you get in life. However, it`s actually a wrong belief, because a wise woman is the one who can leave all the superfluous stuff behind but not the one who looks for more and more. As a result, everything she has is only what she needs and what makes her really happy. Reconsider all your past experiences, make needed conclusions and get rid of what prevents you from being successful and feeling perfect. Letting go of the things that hold you back before your birthday is a smart decision. Aim to get rid of these 10 habits before your next birthday.

1. Stop blaming yourself

There`s no need to think that you aren`t making fast progress and blame yourself for your low productivity. Even if you make lots of mistakes, you`re still on the right way – just believe in it. Remember, each and every mistake makes you stronger. Anyway, it`s better to commit mistakes than do nothing at all. Success takes time so wait a bit and don`t give up trying.

2. Get rid of the feeling that you have too much to lose

When you become an old lady, you won`t worry about the things you did. You`ll regret about those times where you didn`t use a chance. Worrying about having too much to lose is even a bit silly. It doesn`t let you enjoy the current moment and breathe freely so better get rid of these useless thoughts before your birthday.

3. Let go of everything that doesn’t make you smile

Life is something to enjoy and to be happy with but not to suffer from. You don`t need to have the things that don`t make you smile and doesn`t let your soul shine brightly. Do your best to protect yourself from negativity and try to focus on the bright side of life instead.

4. Get rid of that heavy burden you don’t need

You grow, get more and more life experience and start realizing what you want and what you don`t what, what you prefer and what you hate, what makes you smile and what makes you cry. Now just look at yourself from aside and say what baggage you should let go of to feel the simplification.

More: Hate Being Yourself? Overcome These Negative Thoughts Today

5. Stop complaining

Complaints will never make you better. They can only take your time and make you look and feel miserable but it`s not what you want. If you don`t like something, try to change it the way you want. If it`s something unchangeable, change your attitude towards it.

6. Overcome laziness

Laziness is the thing you don`t need in your life. What you wish doesn`t matter but what you do matters a lot. A person who always works hard can`t be underestimated so do your best to get what you want and others will treat you better.

7. Stop taking criticism personally

You don`t need an advice on how to live, do you? You know what you want and don`t make others follow your example. Why should you listen to other people`s criticism and opinions? It`s your life only and those who try to teach you or criticize your deeds just waste their time. Do what you want and be responsible for your life instead of listening to them. Don`t let anyone interfere with your business.

8. Stop being afraid of problems

You can`t avoid problems at all and you know it well. They`ll pursue you until you become courageous enough to face and fix them. You can`t change it so it`s better to start treating troubles and difficulties in some other way. Try to see the advantage in every challenge you encounter and take the most out of it.

More: 10 Things to Remind Yourself of Every Morning to Have a Happier Day

9. Get rid of the feeling that it’s too late to start

It`s never late to start living the life you want. Being a loser in your own game is better than being a winner in other`s one. If you feel like it`s time to make serious changes, make them as soon as possible and the world will smile to you.

10. Get rid of the excuses

The one who wants something, looks for the way. The one who doesn`t want anything, looks for the excuses. If you want something with all your heart, you`ll always find a way to get it so focus on what you should do instead of inventing the reason why you can`t do it.

If you`re going to celebrate your birthday soon, think about the things you`d feel better without and try to get rid of them. Then complete your to-do list for the next year and realize that the world is in your hands. Take the initiative and enjoy your life. Do whatever you want and never give up trying because all attempts always get a reward. It`s better to try and fail than to regret about a lost chance. Live your life the way you feel is the best for you and never listen to other people`s opinions. What is the first thing you`ll let go of before your birthday?

ASUS’ ZENFONE AR IS BOTH FUTURISTIC AND BEHIND THE CURVE

ight months ago, a phone called the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro arrived and brought with it a not-yet-fully-realized promise of advanced AR. It was a giant slab of a smartphone, built to Google’s specifications for its Tango AR product, and it didn’t make a great case for being either an awesome phone with some AR capabilities, or a visionary AR device that doubled as your daily phone.

That’s why the new Asus ZenFone AR smartphone, which started shipping in the US earlier this month, holds even more promise. Ranging in price from $599 to $699, it has all of the same Tango AR capabilities as the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, but it’s a much slimmer smartphone. It runs on a snappier Snapdragon processor. It also supports Google’s Daydream software, which is supposed to offer an optimized VR experience. Snap the ZenFone AR into a sweatshirt-soft Daydream headset, and you’re in VR.

The result is a good Android phone that you’ll be happy with — most of the time. It has all of the aforementioned features, plus a pretty, 5.7-inch display and an impressive camera. But when you compare it to other Android phones in the $600-and-up price range, others edge past it. The ZenFone AR’s battery life isn’t great, it’s not water resistant, and its AR and VR capabilities are still not fully baked. This means that aspect of the Asus ZenFone AR becomes little more than a marketing ploy — Tango! Daydream! — when in reality you’re just going to want to have a phone that works really well as a phone.

The ZenFone AR is also in serious danger of being overshadowed by the AR capabilities that are coming to “regular” phones in a more meaningful way this fall, with the rollout of Apple’s ARKit, which will enable AR apps on most recent iPhones. In general, I wouldn’t be surprised if these kinds of AR capabilities come to all newer smartphones in the near future. If that does happen, the hardware-dependent Tango as we know it now would soon become a thing of the past.

So the Asus ZenFone AR phone just came out, but the “AR” part of it already feels a little late.

Photo by Lauren Goode / The Verge
The Asus ZenFone AR is so close to premium. It has a vivid display coated with Gorilla Glass 4, aluminum edges, and a faux-leather back. The one eyesore is the Tango hardware slapped on the upper half of the back of the phone, a metal plate where all of the camera and IR and depth sensors live. After just a few days with the phone, this portion was scratched and smudged easily, taking the phone’s overall aesthetic down a notch.

But the ZenFone AR makes up for that in slimness. And again, I’m giving it some bonus points here because it’s so darn sleek relative to the enormous and clunky Lenovo Phab Pro 2. It’s actually a little thicker and heavier than other comparable phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S8, but it’s not far off from that. It measures 158.9 xx 77.4 x 8.9mm and weighs just under six ounces — a typical size for an Android phablet in 2017.

Photo by Lauren Goode / The Verge
Photo by Lauren Goode / The Verge
Its AMOLED quad-HD display is large and bright, with a nearly 80 percent screen-to-bezel ratio. The ZenFone AR doesn’t have the same kind of edge-to-edge display that is becoming increasingly popular with large-screened phones, which tends to create an illusion of immersiveness, but it’s still a nice screen. (As I write this in a coffee shop, a toddler I don’t know just waddled up to my table and started poking at the phone’s display, if that tells you anything. Probably not.)

This phone has a headphone jack, something we now feel compelled to note in reviews. It charges via USB-C, has a single speaker at the bottom, and comes with a fingerprint sensor built into the physical home button. It runs last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, has an Adreno 530 graphics processor, and the unit I’ve been testing has a colossal 8GB of RAM. The model available from Verizon for $648 has 6GB of RAM, which is still a lot.

Photo by Lauren Goode / The Verge
And you’re going to need all of that power to run stuff like Tango AR apps and Daydream VR apps. The AR apps work by pointing your phone at a space in front of you, while the phone’s many sensors and cameras measure the space and the content from the app through the frame of the phone. It’s been a few months since I’ve used any Tango AR apps — not only did I review the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, but I also did a deep dive this year into a Tango app called Holo — but I can say confidently that the AR experience on this phone was smoother, and, in some of the apps, a little more intuitive than the earlier experiences I had. Google says there are now over 100 apps available in the Tango section of the Google Play Store, triple the number of apps available six months ago.

But the AR apps still tend to be one-off use cases or largely centered around measurement of rooms. Honestly, I can only try out so many lamps and wall hangings or draft floor plans in apps like Lowe’s and Wayfair and Magic Plan. The Gap app was a little different: it let me cast clothing items into the space in front of me, walk up to the clothes, and see texture and color up close. I could see this being helpful if you wanted to see if something had pockets, or buttons, or detailing in the back. But I didn’t actually buy anything from it. It mostly feels like these apps exist to sell me something, whether that’s furniture, clothing, or home decorations, which tends to suck the fun out of using them.

Photo by Tyler Pina / The Verge
Even though Daydream feels even more cumbersome — you have to start the Daydream app on the ZenFone AR, slip on a $79 Daydream VR headset, and then connect the headset to a small handheld controller to get started — I enjoyed using Daydream more than I did the AR apps, which surprised me. There’s also more Daydream content, which is basically 360 video.

With the AR apps, I kept trying to come up with reasons to actually use them. With the Daydream videos, I was actively putting on a VR headset and seeking out what I knew would be entertainment in some way, whether it was The Handmaid’s Tale in 360 degrees on Hulu or a Vogue VR video. One way to look at it is that I was actively seeking a passive experience, as opposed to trying to shoehorn an AR app into a daily workflow that doesn’t currently involve AR in a meaningful way.

Unfortunately, all of this also drains the battery in a meaningful way. The phone has a 3300mAh battery, which in theory should get you through the day, but simply won’t if you’re using anything as power-hungry as AR or VR. Think you have 40 percent battery left on your ZenFone AR? Try checking the market stocks using the WSJ AR app, or taking a quick tour through Kendall Jenner’s closet in VR with Daydream (no Pepsi to be found). Before you know it, you’re in the red zone in the battery department. The phone gets hot, too, when you’re using Tango or Daydream — like so hot you’ll want to put it down for a while before you use it to compose that lengthy email or disappear into Twitter.

Photo by Lauren Goode / The Verge
The ZenFone AR’s camera set might be its best feature. It has a 23-megapixel rear-facing camera that focused quickly and worked well in low light settings, whether I was out to dinner, shooting a fountain in a dark lobby, or capturing a photo of a bridge on a very gray day. Shots looked warm but not overly yellow, it captures video in 4K, and the phone has a more than adequate 8-megapixel front-facing camera. Like other mid-tier to high-end phones made by Asus’ competitors, however, it tended to over-beautify its images, sometimes adding a softness to skin or a saturation to colors that you know just aren’t real.

But again, the ZenFone AR, which was first announced in January, is coming at an interesting time. AR is on the cusp of something big, and has been for a while, but it’s not going to get there unless people make a compelling argument for why someone would want AR. And what’s in the Tango section of the Google Play Store right now isn’t super compelling. Ahead of Apple’s official rollout of ARKit, developers have already been demonstrating what you can do when AR is easily enabled on a phone, when it’s not contingent on special hardware, and the results so far are at the very least fun, if not downright impressive.
And it wouldn’t be totally shocking if others (including Google) jumped on board this lightweight AR train as well. This, of course, is the evolution of consumer tech hardware, the thing that makes it the inverse of us sorry humans: as it gets more powerful, its parts actually shrink.

The ZenFone AR phone is a nice phone, and it’s impressive what Asus has managed to do with the Tango requirements. But the AR in the phone itself is just okay, and the “AR” attached to its name won’t have staying power. Soon phones will just have advanced AR — no extra moniker, hardware, or marketing needed.

The sad legend behind Mexico’s creepy Island of the Dolls

Hundreds of decomposing dolls hang from tree branches on Mexico’s Island of the Dolls, just south of Mexico City. Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Px-lga

IT LOOKS like the stuff of nightmares: a grotesque playground of mutilated dolls, many hanging limp from nooses, others with heads attached to spikes, all with soulless eyes staring blankly ahead.

Mexico’s La Isla de las Munecas, or “Island of the Dolls”, has become an unlikely tourist attraction just south of Mexico City, drawing thousands of tourists and photographers morbidly fascinated by the strange spectacle.

But it’s the tragic story behind the island that is perhaps more disturbing, and according to legend, it begins with the tragic death of an anonymous young girl more than 50 years ago.

According to reports, a man named Don Julian Santana left his wife and child one day and moved to an island on Teshuilo Lake in the famous Xochimilco canals to live out his years as a recluse.

Upon arriving at the island, reportedly some time in the 1950s, Santana discovered the body of a young girl who had drowned in a canal. He later found her toy doll floating nearby.

Moved by the discovery of the girl’s body, and perhaps to appease her spirit, Santana set about transforming the whole island into a shrine dedicated to the lost soul.

A photo of Don Julian Santana inside his small hut on the island. Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Px-lga

A photo of Don Julian Santana inside his small hut on the island. Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Px-lgaSource:

Most were collected from garbage or the canals. Picture: Flickr/Kevin

Most were collected from garbage or the canals. Picture: Flickr/KevinSource:Flickr

The island is home to about 1500 dolls. Picture: Flickr/Kevin

The island is home to about 1500 dolls. Picture: Flickr/KevinSource:Flickr

For decades he collected dolls by their hundreds, including baby dolls and even some Barbies, and decorated the island with their lifeless bodies. Santana salvaged the dolls from the canals and garbage.

He lived in a small cabin, where his photo and a few possessions are still on display, surrounded by trees and some 1500 of his decaying dolls.

As word of the island spread Santana began accepting a small fee to show visitors around his peculiar home.

The dolls are in various states of disrepair. Picture: Flickr/Kevin

The dolls are in various states of disrepair. Picture: Flickr/KevinSource:Flickr

Santana collected the dolls over 50 years. Picture: Flickr/Kevin

Santana collected the dolls over 50 years. Picture: Flickr/KevinSource:Flickr

Ghost stories are a part of local lore in the region, which gave way to spooky tales of the dolls coming alive at night, apparently consumed by the dead girl’s spirit.

But in a dark twist, in 2001, Santana’s nephew found him dead in a canal — in the same spot where Santana had decades earlier discovered the corpse of the girl that inspired his life’s work.

As popular interest in the island and its dark legend grew, relatives of Santana questioned whether the dead girl really existed and suggested it was a figment of Santana’s imagination.

An eerie sight. Picture: Flickr/Kevin

An eerie sight. Picture: Flickr/KevinSource:Flickr

Photographers have become fascinated by the island’s lifeless inhabitants. Picture: Flickr/Kevin

Photographers have become fascinated by the island’s lifeless inhabitants. Picture: Flickr/KevinSource:Flickr

But the strangeness of the legend behind Santana’s bizarre island has continued to fascinate the public.

Isla de las Munecas is about 28km south of the centre of Mexico City. Visitors can catch a ferry there from the Embarcedero Cuemanco or Embarcadero Fernando Celada, and it’s about a four-hour round trip — but not all tour boats stop at Isla De las Munecas, so ask ahead.

The science behind a perfectly-toasted marshmallow

Photo by cyrusbulsara/Flickr
Wilderness is nice, but hands down, the number one reason to go camping is to incinerate food over a fiery pit. Everything tastes better when it’s burned over flames, especially marshmallows. But before you dip your ‘mallow-tipped toasting fork in the campfire, here are a few things you should know:

MARSHMALLOWS ARE SUGARY GAS BAGS

Marshmallows are mainly sugar, but air actually makes up more than half their volume. They’re made by beating together gelatin or another gel-forming ingredient with a hot sugary syrup. Beating the mixture creates air bubbles, which become trapped as the liquid mixture cools into a gel — creating the spongy texture.

Those bubbles are why Peeps explode in the microwave, and flaming marshmallows swell on the end of a toasting fork. Hotter temperatures makes the air trapped inside the marshmallow expand and take up more space, forcing the flexible sugary mixture to stretch. Eventually, if the pressure is too much? Kaboom.

But take the marshmallow out of the heat, and it’ll deflate — although the stretched out gelatin doesn’t bounce back. “It shrinks to a shriveled mass,” Richard Hartel, a food scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells The Verge in an email. “Don’t get me started on Peeps jousting.”

THE BEST MARSHMALLOW IS A BURNT MARSHMALLOW
Well, maybe not burnt — but definitely toasted. Heating the marshmallow over the fire can make the sugar caramelize, a chemical reaction that produces the brown color and toasted flavor. It requires really high temperatures, so microwaving your marshmallow isn’t going to cut it.

“Many foods don’t get hot enough when they cook for caramelization (like bread),” food chemistry professor Matt Hartings at American University tells The Verge in an email. “Marshmallows certainly do over a fire.”
When the sugar gets hot enough, it starts to break down into smaller molecules that then react with one another. These reactions produce new fruity, nutty, and buttery flavors you can taste and smell on your toasted marshmallow. They also turn the marshmallow skin that satisfying golden color.

Certain sugars may also react with amino acids in the gelatin in what’s known as the Maillard reaction. It occurs at much lower temperatures than caramelization and contributes to the rich brown color and complex flavors of a seared steak, roasted coffee, or caramel candies. For marshmallows that are very slowly roasted, Hartel suspects that the Maillard reaction might be what’s producing their golden hue and general deliciousness.

MAXIMAL GOO REQUIRES PATIENCE
Marshmallows start to melt when they heat up to just above body temperature, Hartings says. But if you’re not careful, you can completely burn the outside before the inside even gets warm. The heat of the fire shakes loose the chemical bonds in the gelatin that hold the candy together, which makes the marshmallow ooze.

So, whether you prefer marshmallows golden brown or charbroiled, don’t catch them on fire immediately if you want to maximize the gooeyness. “You’ve gotta be patient and slow for a while (letting the meltiness reach all the way to the insides). Then,” Hartings says, “you can torch the sucker.”

It’s time to leave Bali behind and head to Lombok

Time passes slowly on Lombok. The small Indonesian island is only an hour on the ferry from the hustle and bustle of Bali, but in many respects these neighbours are worlds apart.

Lombok’s coastline is bordered by unspoilt beaches, while inland, rows of bright green rice paddies stretch out for kilometres, and looming in the distance is Mt Rinjani, an active volcano.

In recent years, the construction of an international airport, new roads and luxury accommodation options have signalled the island is vying for more tourist dollars. If you’re after a comfortable yet authentic experience, now is the best time to visit.

About 85 per cent of the 3.1 million population of Lombok are Sasak, a people closely related to the Balinese except that their religion is predominantly Muslim. For tourists the most notable implication of this is the likelihood of being woken at 4.30am by the imam’s call to prayer at a nearby mosque.

The Sasak locals are incredibly welcoming and excited to share their culture with visitors, which is an enriching experience for someone who has never strayed beyond Bali’s Hindu-influenced culture.

Lombok rice paddies. Picture: Intrepid TravelSource:Supplied

To gain the most from this adventure, I joined an eight-day Discover Lombok tour run by Aussie company Intrepid. The tour begins in Sanur, Bali, and circles Lombok before finishing on the small tropical island of Gili Air.
After arriving on Lombok, our group of seven piles onto a bus and we drive inland to a village called Tetebatu. It seems like every flat surface in Lombok has been converted into a rice paddy; the verdant fields cover the landscape like an enormous patchwork quilt.

Our accommodation in Tetebatu is quite basic, but what it lacks in home comforts is made up for by the immense hospitality of the locals.

We’re given a tour of the surrounding farms, which in addition to the rice fields include coffee, cacao, macadamia, coconut and chilli plantations. When a local farmer notices our group admiring the coconut trees, he directs a young boy to shimmy up a 10m trunk and cut a few down for us to drink. Schoolchildren run to the front gates to wave. Bolder young ones yell “hello” repeatedly until they receive a “hello” in return, at which point they’ll dissolve into a fit of giggles.

Meeting the locals is a highlight of travelling in Indonesia. Picture: Intrepid TravelSource:Supplied

Local tour guides take us for walks through the surrounding villages and proudly show off their speciality exports. In one village the men dig up slabs of clay, while women expertly churn out marvellous pieces of pottery. In another the men tend to fish farms in a local stream and the women weave delicate fabrics using wooden looms. And at every turn locals are planting, tending and harvesting rice.

The next day we head to the coast, arriving at Labuhan Pandan just in time for dinner.

The bungalow accommodation is run by brothers Harry and Deny, who recently convinced their father his waterfront coconut field might be better used as a relaxing stopover for tourists, and they weren’t wrong. The sand here is a dark grey and highly magnetic, owing to minerals expelled by nearby volcano Mt Rinjani.

The boys’ mother cooks all the food. A few Australian dollars will get you an enormous plate of fried chicken, curry or a whole baked fish all prepared using traditional Sasak recipes.

Eating out in Lombok. Picture: Intrepid TravelSource:Supplied

On day four, we drive several hours to Senaru, a village at the base of Mt Rinjani and from there it’s a 30-minute hike through a monkey forest to the Tiu Kelep waterfall. With an experienced local guide to show us the best route, the walk is not too difficult and we’re rewarded at the end with a glorious view of the 45m fall. I brave a quick swim in the pool at the bottom of the fall. The icy cold water is refreshing after walking through the humid forest.

Leaving the mainland behind, we board a fast boat to Gili Air, one of three tiny tropical islands in the ocean between Lombok and Bali.

The small landmass is surrounded by gorgeous white sand beaches and blue water as clear as glass. There are dozens of restaurants, spas and hotels, making it the perfect location to unwind after several days of adventure.

There’s a strict “no motorised vehicles” rule on all three islands, so if you want to get around you have to either walk, cycle or hire a horse and cart.

Life moves at a slower pace in Lombok. Picture: Intrepid TravelSource:Supplied

Not content to sit around all day, the group decides to hire a local boat driver and snorkelling instructor to take us to several reefs around Gili Air. Only minutes into our journey the snorkel instructor calls the driver to stop and motions us to look ahead in the water. A few seconds later several sea turtles surface metres from the boat so we all grab masks and scramble off the side to get a closer look. The largest turtle is about 1.5m from head to tail and our guide estimates it’s at least 60 years old. It slowly swims along the edge of the coral reef, which, much to our delight, is also home to hundreds of vibrantly coloured tropical fish.

It’s authentic and natural moments such as this that make Lombok such an amazing destination. Bali’s less attractive tourist elements cast a long shadow, but there’s absolutely no excuse for giving up on the region entirely.

With an oasis such as Lombok so close by, it’s time to discover some of Indonesia’s underappreciated destinations.

Idyllic beaches are one of Lombok’s attractions. Picture: Intrepid TravelSource:Supplied

ESCAPE ROUTE

From Denpasar, Bali, you can join a tour that includes transport by boat to Lombok. Alternatively there is a 20-minute flight, or a ferry trip.

BEST TIME TO GO

Tours operate all year round. The busier dry season runs from May

to September, though some travellers may prefer the milder climate of the quieter wet

season from October to April.

COST

Intrepid’s eight-day “Discover Lombok” tour starts from $1130 a person and includes all

transport, accommodation, snorkelling trip, guided walks and some meals.

Apple car project ‘three years behind Google’ as iPhone maker plays catch-up

Apple’s autonomous driving technology is claimed to be three years behind that of GoogleReuters
Apple is “playing catch-up” with driverless car technology which is three years behind that of Google, it has been claimed.

The news comes a day after it was revealed that what was once Apple’s grand plan to launch its own car, has transitioned into the development of self-driving technology for staff shuttle buses.

An unnamed person who claims to have seen Apple’s autonomous technology and is familiar with the efforts of its rivals, told Business Insider: “Apple is just trying to play catch up” and explained that Apple’s current technology is where Google’s self-driving car project was “three years ago”.

Known internally as Project Titan, Apple’s car initiative began back in 2014 and grew into a division with 1,000 engineers led by executives including design head Sir Jony Ive.

But a lack of direction meant it has shifted gears to focus on self-drive technology, to be fitted to existing vehicles, rather than developing its own car from scratch.

Meanwhile, Google has spent over eight years developing its own autonomous technology, and although it built a fleet of pod-like cars of its own, these were never intended to be a commercial product and have since been retired in favour of modified Chrysler minivans. In 2016 Google’s car project was spun out by parent company Alphabet into a new firm, called Waymo.

According to the source, Apple now plans to develop the technology to drive an autonomous ride-sharing and ride-hailing system; think of it as an Uber without drivers, something Uber itself is also working on. But, the source adds, Apple has no plans to go it alone and would likely want to partner with a pre-existing ride-sharing company. Google, they say, is in a similar situation where it has the technology but lack Uber’s existing business model.

Google began testing its pod-like cars in 2014, but has since retired them to museumsGoogle
To add some context to the three years claim, in May 2014 Google revealed its autonomous car prototype, a two-seat electric vehicle capable of driving itself. Since then, a fleet of these vehicles have successfully driven many autonomous miles across California, and have now been retired from service. One is currently in the London Design Museum.

In June this year, Apple boss Tim Cook said his company was “focusing on autonomous systems”, and now anonymous sources within the company have explained what this means. Speaking to the New York Times, the five people said Apple is working on a “self-driving shuttle service that ferries employees from one Apple building to another.” They added that the shuttle will likely be based on a commercial vehicle, bought from a car maker then fitted out with Apple’s driverless technology.

LLNL finds reason behind defects in 3D printing

High-speed images of a common laser-based metal 3D printing process, coupled with newly updated computer models, have revealed the mechanisms behind material redistribution, a phenomenon that leads to defects in printed metal parts, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers reported.

High-speed images of a common laser-based metal 3D printing process, coupled with newly updated computer models, have revealed the mechanisms behind material redistribution, a phenomenon that leads to defects in printed metal parts.

In a study published by Scientific Reports(link is external), LLNL scientists combined ultrafast imaging of melt-pool dynamics with high-resolution simulations, finding that particles of liquid metal ejected from the laser’s path during the powder-bed fusion additive manufacturing (PBFAM) process — commonly called “spatter” — is caused by the entrainment of metal particles by an ambient gas flow, not from the laser’s recoil pressure, as previously believed.

“People have been assuming that recoil pressure leads to spatter because that’s what the laser welding community has seen,” said Sonny Ly, an LLNL physicist and the paper’s lead author. “We imaged right at the melt pool and you could see particles ejected right from the pool due to recoil, but a majority of particles are swept away and entrained by the gas flow. The entrained particles can go back into the laser beam and are melted, leading to a more dominant form of spatter.”

When spatter particles fly out of the laser’s path and land back on the parts, they can contaminate the powder bed and affect the build quality of a layer, Ly explained, leading to roughness, porosity and lack of fusion in finished metal parts.

The high-speed video images were captured with three kinds of cameras, including a sensor capable of up to 10 million frames per second. LLNL engineer Gabe Guss said not only could the researchers see the wave of pressure created by the laser and the counter-drop of molten metal, but also the gas flow above the powder bed that sucked the particles in, where they were either instantly melted or flew through the laser untouched.

“It turns out only about 15 percent of the ejections of molten particles are caused by splashing in the melt pool, which was the assumed mechanism — the rest is primarily cold particles passing through the laser beam above the melt pool and some other factors,” Guss said. “It’s surprising because when one watches commercial printers, you see the hot ejections and they look like they come from simply outward gas pressure, not the inward entrainment effect.”

The video images were compared to high-fidelity simulations that were previously validated for other additive manufacturing applications, revealing that the incline of the melt pool influenced the direction of the spatter.

“These cameras can’t show in detail what’s happening below the surface of the melt pool,” explained Saad Khairallah, an LLNL computational engineer/physicist who ran the simulations. “The simulations showed a difference in the morphology of the melt pool beneath the laser spot, which allowed us to interpret the experimental observations. This is an example where simulations complement experiments and become a key component in a science story.”

The researchers said the findings should help answer fundamental questions about the powder-bed fusion printing process and improve the physics of existing flow models. With a better understanding of the conditions, researchers could establish a baseline and mitigate against the effects of spatter as well as make more efficient use of materials, Ly said.

LLNL physicists Ibo Matthews (the project’s principal investigator) and Alexander “Sasha” Rubenchik also contributed to the paper.

Evidence behind reports of new baldness cure is a little thin

Scientists studying cancer stumble on ‘breakthrough’ in search for baldness cure,” announces The Daily Telegraph, adding that not only does this mean “a cream or ointment may soon cure baldness or stop hair turning grey” but also it could one day … explain why we age”.

Sadly for those of us with grey, or no, hair on top, these claims are arguably premature.

Researchers were actually conducting a study in mice looking into a rare genetic condition called neurofibromatosis, which causes tumours to grow along the nerves, when they discovered the role a protein called KROX20 plays in hair colour.

The KROX20 protein is produced in specific cells within each individual hair follicle. This in turn switches on production of another protein called SCF. This SCF protein is needed to support the mature pigment (colour) producing cells in the hair follicle, and if it is not produced the mice lose their hair colour and become white. If the mice lack the KROX20-producing cells completely, they cannot produce any new hair and become bald.

While the basic biology of cells in different mammals is very similar, researchers are likely to want to perform tests on human cells in the laboratory to confirm the findings apply to humans.

This advance does not automatically mean that researchers are “on the cusp” of curing baldness or grey hair. The research is at an early stage, and it is not yet known whether the loss of hair colour is reversible and, if so, how it might be reversed.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Texas and was funded through various grants from the National Institutes of Health.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Genes & Development.

While it’s necessary to explain why a particular piece of research might be important, the predictions of what might happen as a result of this study are premature.

The University of Texas issued a press release about the study and it would appear that this formed the basis of the Telegraph’s and the Daily Mail’s coverage. Both describe the research in very similar terms to the wording in the press release.

It is the press release which suggests that “The research also could provide answers about why we age in general as hair graying and hair loss are among the first signs of aging”.

It is certainly not possible to say at this stage whether these very specific hair-related processes are related more widely to ageing.

What kind of research was this?

This was animal research which has looked at the biology of hair greying and hair loss.

The researchers were actually investigating what seemed to be a completely different topic – neurofibromatosis – which causes benign tumours (neurofibromas) to develop in the covering (called the “sheath”) of nerves.

However, they found that one strain of mice that they genetically engineered to study this condition actually developed grey fur early in life. Therefore they carried out more experiments to look at why this was, and what they could learn about hair greying.

This type of research is commonly used to get a very detailed understanding of the biological processes that go on in the body. When researchers have a better understanding of how such a process works it helps them to work out ways they might be able to stop them if required (for example if they normally lead to hair greying or loss) and help people when these processes go wrong.

However, results are very early stage and much more research is needed before any new treatments could be developed.

What did the research involve?

The researchers genetically engineered mice to stop producing a protein called SCF – Stem Cell Factor – in a specific group of cells which also produces a protein called KROX20. They found, to their surprise, that these mice lost all hair colour. This started when they were around 30 days old, and about nine months later the mice’s hair was completely white.

The KROX20 protein was known to switch on certain genes during development, including those important in making the fatty coverings (sheaths) of nerves. It is also active in certain cells within the hair follicles. Once researchers discovered its effect on hair colour they did further experiments into what role these cells were playing in hair colouration.

For example, they looked at the levels of pigment (melanin) in the hair over time. They also investigated exactly what type of cells were producing KROX20, and where they were found in the hair follicle. The researchers also looked at what happened if they killed off the KROX20-producing cells at a key point in their hair production cycle.

What were the basic results?

The researchers found that the cells in the hair follicles which produced KROX20 would normally also produce SCF.

This SCF was found to be needed to maintain mature pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in the hair follicle.

If the KROX20-producing cells did not also produce SCF, the mice’s follicles lost mature melanocytes, and their coats lost their colour because no new pigment (melanin) was being deposited into the hair as it grew. This process started early on in the mice’s lives – by the time these mice were 11 days old the amount of melanin in the hair was starting to decrease.

The researchers found that the KROX20-producing cells were developing from the same line of cells that produced keratinocytes – a type of cell commonly found in the outer layer of skin (epidermis).

These cells were found initially in only a restricted area of the hair follicle, but gradually they increased in numbers and also spread to other areas in the hair follicle. This included contributing to the formation of the hair shaft.

The researchers also found that if they killed off the KROX20-producing cells in the hair follicle, then the mice grew no new hair.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that they had identified a group of “progenitor [cell]s which regulate hair growth and pigmentation”, in part by helping maintain pigment-producing cells (melanocytes).

Conclusion

The current study identified a group of cells in the hair follicles of mice which are important both in forming the hair shaft to allow hair growth, and also in maintaining hair colour.

So far this research has been in mice, but the basic biology of cells in mammals is very similar, so it seems likely that the findings would also apply to humans. Researchers are also likely to want to perform tests on human cells in the laboratory to confirm their findings.

The findings represent an advance in what is known about how hair grows and maintains its colour. However, this doesn’t automatically mean the researchers are “on the cusp of developing a cream or ointment to cure baldness or stop hair turning grey” as suggested in the Mail.

The research is at an early stage, and the researchers themselves note that they still need to carry out studies to look at whether the loss of hair colour is reversible. Carrying out research takes time, and not every advance in understanding results in successful treatments.