There might be dangerous chemicals in your tap water — here’s how to stay safe

Remember the movie “Erin Brockovich”? Of course, you do.

But unless you’ve rewatched it recently, you may not remember that Brockovich—in real life, and in the movie—was fighting a company suspected of polluting a small California town’s drinking water with a cancer-causing contaminant called chromium-6 (aka, hexavalent chromium).

Fast-forward 20 years, and it may shock you to learn that chromium-6 is still a threat to 218 million Americans, including residents of every state. That’s just one of the many findings of a just-released Environmental Working Group (EWG) report on the state of our nation’s drinking water.

6 SIGNS YOU MIGHT HAVE THE SUMMER BLUES

“We’ve known about chromium-6 since Erin Brockovich, but it’s still a pervasive problem, and there’s no federal legal standard for it,” says Nneka Leiba, MPH, the director of Healthy Living Science at the EWG.

Unfortunately, chromium-6 isn’t the only dangerous chemical of concern. After examining data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and almost 50,000 public water systems across the nation, the EWG found 267 different contaminants in our nation’s water supply—more than half of which have no established legal limit.

How could this be, you ask? “The Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t put a new contaminant on its regulated list since 1996, which is when the Clean Water Act was passed. We’ve learned so much more about chemicals since then, but we still haven’t made any improvements in our policies,” Leiba explains.

Arsenic, lead, the agricultural herbicide Atrazine, perchlorate, and perfluorinated chemicals are just a handful of the hundreds of contaminants the EWG found to be widespread in public tap water systems. Many of these chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic, impair thyroid function, and cause harm to fetal growth and development.

I TRAVELED TO THE CARIBBEAN FOR IVF TREATMENTS — HERE’S WHY

When asked for a response, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson was quick to point out that “more than 90 percent of the country’s drinking water systems meet all of EPA’s health-based drinking water standards” and that the EPA has “set drinking water standards for more than 90 contaminants, including microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, inorganic and organic chemicals, and radionuclides.”

How you can protect yourself

Start by plugging your zip code into the EWG’s database to learn what contaminants are in your local tap water.

  • The 11 safest nontoxic cleaners (plus what to avoid)
  • Wearable health trackers: Do they work?
  • 20 ways to never get cancer
  • 7 lemon water swaps you’ll actually be excited to sip
  • Your bottled water has 24,500 chemicals

Next, check out the EWG water filter guide and buy one, stat. You can input contaminants of concern and find filters that are third-party certified by NSF International, a product testing, inspection, and certification organization.

“In most cases, activated carbon water filters will reduce many or all contaminants,” Leiba says, referring to the pitcher-style water filters many of us already use. “Having one is especially important if there’s a vulnerable population in your house—someone who is pregnant or sick, or a baby,” Leiba says. (One EWG-approved filter to try: Brita Chrome 8-Cup Water Filter Pitcher, $40, amazon.com)

Put your water filter to good use with this de-bloating sassy water recipe:

One thing you shouldn’t do: turn to bottled water.

“In many cases, bottled water is just filtered tap water, so it’s the same thing you’d get using a filter,” Leiba says. “But bottled water is much more expensive, and it can also expose you to contaminants leaching into your water from the plastic bottle itself.”

Protecting future generations

Leiba says we all need to “raise our voices” and let elected officials know we need greater source-water protections and infrastructure upgrades (contact information for local government officials can be found on USA.gov.) “Our water utilities are constantly dealing with the influx of contaminants, but the onus isn’t only on the utility,” she says. “They’re usually within federal safety limits, but being within federal limits does not mean our water is safe. In many cases, we’ve done the science and the testing, and we know that these contaminants are unsafe, but there’s been no action taken.”

Hurricane Harvey: National flood insurance renewal likely and emergency funding bill on tap

Hurricane Harvey may go down as one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States, but it’s also likely to be a catalyst to push Congress to renew the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and start preparing an emergency funding bill for

those affected by the storm, FOX Business has learned.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office assured to FOX Business that the program responsible for 4.9 million policyholders, including more than 590,000 in the state of Texas, will be reauthorized.
“Details are still being worked through, but the flood insurance program will be reauthorized,” AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for Ryan, said.

Strong went on to say they expect to create an emergency finance package for the victims of the hurricane, but noted they still need to wait until President Donald Trump’s administration makes that request.

“We will help those affected by this terrible disaster. The first step in that process is a formal request for resources from the administration,” Strong said.

The House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and the group that is expected to lead the effort in preparing an emergency funding bill, told FOX Business in a statement they’re ready to help but are also in a holding pattern until they get guidance from federal agencies.

“My Committee stands at the ready to provide any necessary additional funding for relief and recovery. We are awaiting requests from federal agencies who are on the ground, and will not hesitate to take quick action once an official request is sent,” Frelinghuysen said.

The insurance program was created 50 years ago after private insurers declared they would not risk catastrophic flood losses. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the organization has $1.7 billion to pay claims and only $5.8 billion left that it can borrow from the U.S. Treasury.

Beyond the issues over the limited amount of money they can borrow, NFIP is continuing to ramp up its debt. The program already owes the Treasury approximately $25 billion from previous weather disasters, including Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. Sandy alone initially cost $8.4 billion, according to the FEMA website.

It’s unclear whether congressional lawmakers will manage to pass anything other than a temporary renewal to the program set to expire on Sept. 30 or if it will be part of a larger debt ceiling increase, which must be completed by Sept. 29 to avoid a government default.

The guarantee by Ryan’s representative will be welcome news for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, yet it could cause concerns for those who were expecting broad changes to the flood insurance program because of the limited time Congress has before they run into a litany of fiscal deadlines, including the renewal of the NFIP.

Members of Congress only have 12 working days after they return from their August recess to not only raise the debt ceiling and reauthorize the NFIP, but also determine how they’re going to fund the government and renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Still, Texas representatives insist that the devastation from Hurricane Harvey should be incentive enough to move ahead with comprehensive reform to the insurance program.

The House Financial Services Committee Chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), told The Wall Street Journal “a long-term reauthorization is within our means and capacity. We have an opportunity to open up this marketplace to competition and to make it more affordable.”

Lithium in tap water may cut dementia

People with higher levels of lithium in their drinking water appear to have a lower risk of developing dementia, say researchers in Denmark.

Lithium is naturally found in tap water, although the amount varies.

The findings, based on a study of 800,000 people, are not clear-cut. The highest levels cut risk, but moderate levels were worse than low ones.

Experts said it was an intriguing and encouraging study that hinted at a way of preventing the disease.

The study, at the University of Copenhagen, looked at the medical records of 73,731 Danish people with dementia and 733,653 without the disease.

Tap water was then tested in 151 areas of the country.

The results, published in JAMA Psychiatry, showed moderate lithium levels (between 5.1 and 10 micrograms per litre) increased the risk of dementia by 22% compared with low levels (below five micrograms per litre).

However, those drinking water with the highest lithium levels (above 15 micrograms per litre) had a 17% reduction in risk.

The researchers said: “This is the first study, to our knowledge, to investigate the association between lithium in drinking water and the incidence of dementia.

“Higher long-term lithium exposure from drinking water may be associated with a lower incidence of dementia.”

Brain-altering

Lithium is known to have an effect on the brain and is used as a treatment in bipolar disorder.

However, the lithium in tap water is at much lower levels than is used medicinally.

Experiments have shown the element alters a wide range of biological processes in the brain.

This broad impact could explain the mixed pattern thrown up by the different doses, as only certain dosing sweet-spots change brain activity in a beneficial way.

Prof Simon Lovestone, from the department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, said: “This is a really intriguing study.

“In neurons in a dish and in mouse and fruit-fly models of Alzheimer’s disease, lithium has been shown to be protective.

“Not only that, but lithium is used to treat people with bipolar disorder and some studies have suggested that people on lithium for this reason, often for life, might also be protected from Alzheimer’s.”

He said there should now be studies to see if regular, small doses of lithium could prevent the onset of dementia.

No therapy

At the moment, there is no drug that can stop, reverse or even slow the progression of the disease.

Dr David Reynolds, from the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It is potentially exciting that low doses of a drug already available in the clinic could help limit the number of people who develop dementia.

“[Our analysis] suggests that a treatment that could delay dementia by just five years would mean that 666,000 fewer people develop dementia by 2050 [in the UK].”

The problem with this style of study – which looks for patterns in large amounts of data – is it cannot prove cause-and-effect.

Prof Tara Spires-Jones, from the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This association does not necessarily mean that the lithium itself reduces dementia risk.

“There could be other environmental factors in the area that could be influencing dementia risk.

“Nonetheless, this is an interesting result that will prompt more research into whether lithium levels in the diet or drinking water may modify risk of dementia.”

Telstra will turn off the tap on controversial third party billing arrangements in December

Telstra will stamp out new services from charging its customers via third party billing by December. Picture: Michael Dodge

TELSTRA is set to kill off controversial third party charges for consumers on postpaid plans by December after customers complained of getting hit with unexpected third party charges on their monthly mobile bill.

Such charges typically relate to third party subscription purchases of content like mobile games, apps, and videos which involve recurrent charges on a weekly or monthly basis and turn up included on your mobile bill.

“This has been a pain point for our customers for quite some time,” Kevin Teoh, Telstra’s Director of Consumer Mobiles told news.com.au. “In many cases customers are inadvertently signing up to these services.”

Telstra says it has been looking at ways to address customer grievances around the controversial billing practice in recent years. The telco previously directed third party service providers to improve sign up processes which can often be predatory, and last year mandated a double opt-in process for Premium SMS content.

Take control of your phone bill

“Some customers continued to tell us they received subscription charges for content that they don’t believe they signed up for, so we have now taken this extra step,” Telstra said.

From December 3, third party service providers will no longer be permitted to charge new mobile content subscriptions to Telstra customers on their monthly bill.

“Historically, it has been very easy” for third parties to charge services to people’s mobile bills but “an unacceptable amount” of customer complaints prompted Telstra into action, Mr Teoh said.

Telstra customers with existing subscription services will continue to operate past the December deadline and Telstra will continue to support one-off payments like charity donations and voting for TV game shows.

According to a survey commissioned by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, conducted in April, 12 per cent of Aussie mobile users had been hit with unexpected third party charges in a six-month period.

“Applied to the mobile customer base of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, this 12 per cent equates to almost 1.9 million people who could have received unexpected charges on their mobile bills,” ACCAN Director of Policy, Una Lawrence said last month.

“We estimate that collectively, consumers may have been charged as much as $20 million unexpectedly in the last six months.”

Many consumers aren’t even aware that certain online activity — such as buying games or voting on TV shows — could be charged to their mobile accounts, the survey found.

However Vodafone was quick to point out that it hasn’t offered third party billing subscriptions for premium SMS services since 2015.

“Our industry-first move, combined with other efforts to provide additional safeguards for our customers, have seen a consistent year on year reduction in complaints about third party services,” a Vodafone spokesperson said.

The controversial charges usually fall into two categories: direct carrier billing and Mobile Premium Services that consumers may subscribe to by calling or texting a 19X number or by subscribing on a website. When signing up to such things, texts sent and received are charged at a premium rate, as much as $5.50 per text received.

Telstra customers will still be free to purchase subscription mobile content using alternative payment methods, however the current arrangement where a customer can elect to purchase a subscription for third-party content and charge it to their Telstra bill will end.

Mr Teoh said that after informing third party providers who often rely on this billing mechanism, he has been working with them to “transition them to a more customer friendly method.”

He also said Telstra was working with its content partners to ensure there was not a mad rush by the industry to spam customers with links to sign up for services before the December 3 deadline. “It was very clear,” Mr Teoh said.

The move has been welcomed by consumer groups like ACCAN. “We congratulate Telstra on stepping up and taking action to stop their customers from getting slugged by unwanted third party subscriptions,” the organisation’s CEO, Teresa Corbin said.

“Consumers have had to put up with these unexpected charges far too long.”

Uber is said to tap Expedia CEO to lead the company

Analysts and entrepreneurs who have worked with Dara Khosrowshahi, above in 2012, described him as a “fair” leader who “does more listening than talking.” (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)
Tracey Lien

Uber has chosen Dara Khosrowshahi, the chief executive of travel booking website Expedia, to be its new chief executive, according to a source unauthorized to comment publicly.

Khosrowshahi’s reported appointment ends Uber’s hunt to replace the company’s controversial co-founder and former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, who was pressured to resign in June.

Representatives for Uber, its board of directors and Expedia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The search was a bumpy ride for the ride-hailing firm, with rumors of Kalanick angling for a return to the leadership role and a lawsuit from Uber investor Benchmark aiming to bar him from interfering with the hiring of a new CEO.

Uber’s board of directors interviewed dozens of potential candidates and narrowed the search to three people, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

It might sound like one of the tech industry’s most coveted positions: leading the world’s most valuable start-up toward its much-ancitipated initial public offering, expanding its forays into self-driving technology, and continuing to upend the transportation industry across the globe.

But candidates were reportedly reluctant to inherit the company’s mounting list of problems, such as allegations about a culture of sexism, a high-profile lawsuit from Google’s self-driving vehicle arm, Waymo, and mounting driver dissatisfaction.

Promising candidates such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman and departing GE chief Jeff Immelt were widely known to be among the final three candidates, but both took to Twitter to announce they didn’t want the job.

Khosrowshahi was the mysterious third candidate, who managed to dodge the leaks that have plagued the company and its board since Kalanick’s resignation.

“He is exactly the kind of leader Uber needs right now,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research who has followed Khosrowshahi’s exploits.

“He’s adult enough to face the cultural issues at Uber, and he’s not stodgy or from a legacy technology company.”

Analysts and entrepreneurs who have worked with Khosrowshahi described him as a “fair” leader who “does more listening than talking.”

In the lead-up to his appointment, Uber’s investors were embroiled in disagreements as to what kind of CEO Uber needed.

Investors and corporate governance experts had framed the CEO search as something of a quagmire because the board was looking for one person to perform two very different tasks.

As a company that has more than 12,000 employees, a $70-billion valuation, and a looming expectation to go public sooner rather than later, Uber needs a leader with vast management experience who can help the company correct its course and prepare for an IPO, business experts said.

But if Uber wants to remain a disruptive force in the transportation industry a decade from now, some investors believe it needs a visionary CEO who isn’t afraid of taking risks.

It’s rare to find both those qualities in one person, investors said. Even some of the most successful technology companies don’t have CEOs who can do it all.

Mark Zuckerberg may be considered a product visionary, but Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, is widely credited for helping grow the company’s moneymaking business. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were the co-founders of Google, but it was outsider Eric Schmidt who was brought on as CEO to grow the company’s operations.

Until Kalanick resigned, some investors and management experts believed that appointing an experienced chief operating officer to work alongside the brash-but-forward-thinking CEO would offer the balance Uber’s executive leadership needed. But in lieu of that, business experts believe an experienced manager is the best bet.

“A lot of start-ups get going on the energy of the founders, but now they have to really professionalize,” said Lynn Isabella, an associate professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. “They have to think about the systems and processes and the values they want to systemically infuse across thousands of people. So it’s not surprising that the search committee would turn to individuals with a track record of managing large organizations.”

Khosrowshahi appears to fall somewhere in the middle, having been the CEO of the publicly-traded Expedia since 2005, but also having a reputation as an innovator who turned the company from a travel agency into a global brand that now has its foot in the so-called sharing economy, of which Uber is a part.

Prior to joining the online travel booking site, the Iranian American entrepreneur served as chief financial officer of Barry Diller’s IAC. Matt Cohler, a partner at Benchmark who recently took a seat on Uber’s board, worked closely with IAC to steward the development of the dating app Tinder in recent years. That relationship may have helped in identifying Khosrowshahi as a candidate. IAC founder and Chairman Barry Diller is Expedia’s chairman.

Before IAC, Khosrowshahi — who has a degree from Brown University in electrical engineering — served as a vice president of investment banking firm Allen & Co. His financial background could prove useful for Uber, which is currently without a chief financial officer.

Khosrowshahi shares some similarities with his predecessor, including a fascination with self-driving cars (he tweeted in 2014 his enthusiasm for Google’s autonomous vehicle) and an interest in on-demand transportation (he personally invested in on-demand trucking company Convoy in July).

His experience at Expedia also mirrors some of the challenges Uber has come up against. In the U.S. and abroad, Uber faces fierce competition from the likes of Lyft, Grab and Ola. Expedia has so far fended off Priceline, Airbnb and Google, which have increasingly encroached on its travel and lodging booking business.

Like Kalanick, Khosrowshahi has in his capacity as CEO opted for an offensive strategy. Two years ago Expedia paid $3.9 billion for HomeAway, a U.S. vacation rental company that competes with Airbnb. Expedia also owns travel brands Orbitz, Travelocity and Egencia.

But there are also significant differences, both between Khosrowshahi and Kalanick, and Uber and Expedia’s businesses.

Although both Uber and Expedia fall under the travel and transportation banner, Uber relies on hundreds of thousands of independent contractors to perform its core function: offering rides to passengers. Expedia, meanwhile, predominantly plays the role of a middleman in connecting customers with hotels and airlines.

Expedia is also a publicly-traded company that is already profitable, whereas Uber is privately held, with a lofty valuation and staggering financial losses.

In matters of politics, Kalanick faced scrutiny when he joined President Trump’s now-dissolved economic advisory council in December, and has largely kept his views on the current administration close to his chest. Khosrowshahi has openly criticized the Trump administration, supporting a lawsuit Washington state filed this year against the president over his travel ban.

He is not the female CEO Uber had hoped to hire to remedy its image as a workplace hostile toward women, but as a vocal advocate for immigrants his hiring is likely to hit the right note with many in the predominantly liberal-leaning technology community. (Khosrowshahi has donated to both Democratic and Republican candidates; during the 2016 presidential election he made donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.)

His hiring by Uber was first reported by the New York Times.

As CEO, Khosrowshahi will be tasked with helping Uber pick up the pieces after a tumultuous year defined by scandal, departures and lawsuits.

But he’s no stranger to starting at companies during trying times. In a July interview with the Financial Times, Khosrowshahi recounted that after joining Expedia in 2005, the company was hit hard by the financial crisis. Rather than capitulating, Expedia doubled down on its technology, investing heavily to compete with other travel search engines. It’s a move that has since paid off.

Researchers Level Up To Tap Human Intuition Of Video Gamers In Quest To Beat Cancer

Video gamers have the power to beat cancer, according to cancer researchers and video game developers at Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

SMU researchers and game developers are partnering with the world’s vast network of gamers in hopes of discovering a new cancer-fighting drug.

Biochemistry professors Pia Vogel and John Wise in the SMU Department of Biological Sciences, and Corey Clark, deputy director of research at SMU Guildhall, are leading the SMU assault on cancer in partnership with fans of the popular best-selling video game “Minecraft.”

Vogel and Wise expect deep inroads in their quest to narrow the search for chemical compounds that improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs.

“Crowdsourcing as well as computational power may help us narrow down our search and give us better chances at selecting a drug that will be successful,” said Vogel. “And gamers can take pride in knowing they’ve helped find answers to an important medical problem.”

Up to now, Wise and Vogel have tapped the high performance computing power of SMU’s Maneframe, one of the most powerful academic supercomputers in the nation. With ManeFrame, Wise and Vogel have sorted through millions of compounds that have the potential to work. Now, the biochemists say, it’s time to take that research to the next level — crowdsourced computing.

A network of gamers can crunch massive amounts of data during routine gameplay by pairing two powerful weapons: the best of human intuition combined with the massive computing power of networked gaming machine processors.

Taking their research to the gaming community will more than double the amount of machine processing power attacking their research problem.

“With the distributed computing of the actual game clients, we can theoretically have much more computing power than even the supercomputer here at SMU,” said Clark, also adjunct research associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. SMU Guildhall in March was named No. 1 among the Top 25 Top Graduate Schools for Video Game Design by The Princeton Review.

“If we take a small percentage of the computing power from 25,000 gamers playing our mod we can match ManeFrame’s 120 teraflops of processing power,” Clark said. “Integrating with the ‘Minecraft’ community should allow us to double the computing power of that supercomputer.”

Even more importantly, the gaming community adds another important component — human intuition.

Wise believes there’s a lot of brainpower eager to be tapped in the gaming community. And human brains, when tackling a problem or faced with a challenge, can make creative and intuitive leaps that machines can’t.

“What if we learn things that we never would have learned any other way? And even if it doesn’t work it’s still a good idea and the kids will still get their endorphin kicks playing the game,” Wise said. “It also raises awareness of the research. Gamers will be saying ‘Mom don’t tell me to go to bed, I’m doing scientific research.”

The Vogel and Wise research labs are part of the Center for Drug Discovery, Design and Delivery (CD4) in SMU’s Dedman College. The center’s mission is a novel multi-disciplinary focus for scientific research targeting medically important problems in human health. Their research is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

The research question in play

Vogel and Wise have narrowed a group of compounds that show promise for alleviating the problem of chemotherapy failure after repeated use. Each one of those compounds has 50 to 100 — or even more — characteristics that contribute to their efficacy.

“Corey’s contribution will hopefully tell us which dozen perhaps of these 100 characteristics are the important ones,” Vogel said. “Right now of those 100 characteristics, we don’t know which ones are good ones. We want to see if there’s a way with what we learn from Corey’s gaming system to then apply what we learn to millions of other compounds to separate the wheat from the chaff.”

James McCormick — a fifth year Ph.D. student in cellular molecular biology who earned his doctoral degree this spring and is a researcher with the Center for Drug Discovery, Design and Delivery — produced the data set for Clark and Guildhall.

Lauren Ammerman, a first-year Ph.D. student in cellular and molecular biology and also working in the Center for Drug Discovery, Design and Delivery, is taking up the computational part of the project.

Machines can learn from human problem solving

Crowdsourcing video gamers to solve real scientific problems is a growing practice.

Machine learning and algorithms by themselves don’t always find the best solution, Clark said. There are already examples of researchers who for years sought answers with machine learning, then switched to actual human gamers.

Gamers take unstructured data and attack it with human problem-solving skills to quickly find an answer.

“So we’re combining both,” Clark said. “We’re going to have both computers and humans trying to find relationships and clustering the data. Each of those human decisions will also be supplied as training input into a deep neural network that is learning the ‘human heuristic’ — the technique and processes humans are using to make their decisions.”

Gamers already have proven they can solve research problems that have stymied scientists, says Vogel. She cites the video game “Foldit” created by the University of Washington specifically to unlock the structure of an AIDS-related enzyme.

Some other Games With A Purpose, as they’re called, have produced similar results. Humans outperform computers when it comes to tasks in the computational process that are particularly suited to the human intellect.

“With ‘Foldit,’ researchers worked on a problem for 15 years using machine learning techniques and were unable to find a solution,” Clark said. “Once they created the game, 57,000 players found a solution in three weeks.”

Modifying the “Minecraft” game and embedding research data inside

Gamers will access the research problem using the version of “Minecraft” they purchased, then install a “mod” or “plugin” — gamer jargon for modifying game code to expand a game’s possibilities — that incorporates SMUs research problem and was developed in accordance with “Minecraft” terms of service. Players will be fully aware of their role in the research, including ultimately leaderboards that show where players rank toward analyzing the data set in the research problem.

SMU is partnering with leaders in the large “Minecraft” modding community to develop a functioning mod by the end of 2017. The game will be heavily tested before release to the public the second quarter of 2018, Clark said.

The SMU “Minecraft” mod will incorporate a data processing and distributed computing platform from game technology company Balanced Media Technology (BMT), McKinney, Texas. BMT’s HEWMEN software platform executes machine-learning algorithms coupled with human guided interactions. It will integrate Wise and Vogel’s research directly into the SMU “Minecraft” mod.

SMU Guildhall will provide the interface enabling modders to develop their own custom game mechanic that visualizes and interacts with the research problem data within the “Minecraft” game environment. Guildhall research is funded in part by Balanced Media Technology.

“We expect to have over 25,000 people continuously online during our testing period,” Clark said. “That should probably double the computing power of the supercomputer here.”

That many players and that much computing power is a massive resource attacking the research problem, Wise said.

“The SMU computational system has 8,000 computer cores. Even if I had all of ManeFrame to myself, that’s still less computing and brainpower than the gaming community,” he said. “Here we’ve got more than 25,000 different brains at once. So even if 24,000 don’t find an answer, there are maybe 1,000 geniuses playing ‘Minecraft’ that may find a solution. This is the most creative thing I’ve heard in a long time.”