Use These Apps to Learn How to Speed Read 

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Reading is dope, so if you want to do more of it you should probably get better at it. The average human meat sack can inhale words through their eyes at a prodigious 250 words per minute, but speed-reading software can supposedly up your intake to close to 1000 words per minute if you’re dedicated. Be warned: various studies have shown that speed-reading methods might not be as effective as slower, traditional reading, and may dampen comprehension.

Either way, it’ll take more than that to get you through Gravity’s Rainbow (I suggest you put some money on it) but these speed-reading apps should help you build up the confidence you’ll need to believe in yourself long enough to finish it.

Boba (iOS)

It’s always a surprise to me when I talk to someone who doesn’t use Chrome on their iPhone. Apparently die-hard Safari fans exist, and if you use the built-in Reading List feature you’re probably getting all your reading done in there anyway. The Boba app brings a bit of speed-reading functionality to whatever article you’re consuming through a Safari extension.

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Find an article, tap the share button, and enable the speed-reading extension. You’ll see the speed-reading interface on the bottom of the screen while the plaintext version of the article hangs out above. You can adjust the words per minute anywhere from 50 to 450 depending on your reading level, but that’s about it in terms of customization.

Boba uses Spritz, a speed-reading service that can be integrated into a variety of apps. The Boba app itself is a web browser that links to popular news outlets and lets you speed read there, but its interface is clumsy.

Outread (iOS)

Outread lets you pull from reading lists you already have. Finding a story is easy, thanks to its integration with other reading and bookmarking services (like Pocket or Instapaper). Subway readers can relax; Outread also supports offline reading. In terms of customization, you can futz with features like reading speed, font, size, and set the app to day or night mode if you’re more of an evening reader.

Outread features two reading modes: rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) and guided highlighting mode. The RSVP method displays the text one word at a time in the center of your screen. Since your eyes aren’t panning and scrolling you can focus on a single spot on your phone and read at a faster clip as the words are swapped out like a fast-moving slideshow. Spritz uses the same RSVP method to accomplish the same task.

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Guided highlighting mode takes your classic full page of text and bolds the words as it moves through them, training your eyes to follow the highlighted phrase while the rest of the text is greyed out, making it difficult to revisit previously read words.

ReadMe! (iOS, Android)

There are more ways to speed-read then words coming at you one at a time. ReadMe! is an iPhone and Android app that uses both Spritz and the BeeLine method of speed-reading, which uses colors to help users separate words and sentences.

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A ReadMe! subscription will run you $1 per month or $5 per year and grant you offline Spritz and BeeLine use, synchronization of books and bookmarks among your devices, and PDF support.

If you like BeeLine you can install its Chrome extension, which lets you use it free for 30 days and five times per day after that. A $10 per year subscription is available, as is a $30 per year option that includes five extra licenses as well as another five licenses for low-income students.

WearReader (iOS, Android)

What’s your smartwatch doing right now? Nothing? Good. Get WearReader and turn it into the tiniest e-reader you own. Your watch’s screen is the perfect size for displaying a single word anyway.

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WearReader works on the Apple Watch and Android smartwatches and lets you read from your wrist. You can start reading from your smartphone and select where to start reading on your smartwatch down to the word. It also lets you import files from your iCloud or Dropbox account (supported formats include ePub books, Microsoft Word docs, text files, and PDFs) or upload them to the device itself.

You can fast forward or rewind if you missed a few words, and adjust the speed anywhere from 50 to 1000 words per minute. If you’re not a fan of RSVP-style reading then you can display it as a normal block of text, but where’s the fun in that?

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These are the 10 best games on the Nintendo Switch (so far)

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Nintendo’s newest video game console, the Switch, is finally out. If you can find one, the $300 hybrid game console is a delightful little device.

Nintendo Switch

The Switch is a handheld game console, as seen above, but it’s also a home game console. You slide it into a dock and — voila! — it’s on your TV, right where you left off. Pretty neat!

Since the Switch arrived on March 3, its game library has grown steadily. Here are the best games available for the Switch thus far.

SEE ALSO: Here are all the games coming to Nintendo’s new console, and when they arrive

1. "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild"

"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is one of the best games I’ve played in years. 

Much of the setup for "Breath of the Wild" happened 100 years in the past. The game supposes that you (Link) and Princess Zelda — the longtime heroine of the series — failed in a major battle against longtime antagonist Ganon. There’s far more to the story than that, but it’s much more exciting to discover on your own. Discovery is at the heart of everything in "Breath of the Wild" — it’s a massive open world full of secrets waiting to be discovered. Simply put: If you own any game on the Switch, this is the one to buy.

Price: $59.99

2. "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe"

 If you own a Nintendo Switch, you should own "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe." No equivocations. No caveats.

Like "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," you’re looking at a must-own game here for any Nintendo Switch owner. It’s a ridiculously good game, alone or with friends. It’s literally the best entry in a series composed of great games. There are no truly bad "Mario Kart" games, so that this one stands out says a lot about how good it is. There are dozens of courses, a fantastic new mode that beyond delivers on fan expectations, and a robust online multiplayer mode. I have literally nothing negative to say about "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe," except that Nintendo could’ve thrown owners a bone and offered some form of discount if you bought the game already on Wii U. But Nintendo knows you’ll buy it at $60, so Nintendo is charging $60. Such is capitalism.

Price: $59.99

3. "Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition"

"Minecraft" is this generation’s Super Mario. It’s an international phenomenon. Unless you’ve been living on the moon, you probably already know these things.

It’s on computers, phones, tablets, and game consoles — including the Switch as of pretty recently. It’s at your local mall, occupying kiosks with plushies and T-shirts. There’s a semiannual convention ("MineCon") and an education initiative that’s got it in schools (MinecraftEDU).

But why is it so popular? Think of "Minecraft" as virtual LEGO.

It’s a system for fitting pieces together to create something — sometimes amazing somethings — from nothing. "Minecraft" provides endless building blocks and a blank canvas. It’s up to you to create something incredible, or silly, or referential, or whatever, using the tools it provides. The tools are blessedly user-friendly, as are the systems for employing those tools.

Price: $39.99

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Hibernating Aliens Could Explain the Great Silence

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We have yet to find any traces of extraterrestrial intelligence, a vexing problem known as the Fermi Paradox. A new solution to the “where are all the aliens?” conundrum suggests that advanced aliens do exist—but they’re in a self-imposed state of hibernation, waiting for a future era of the cosmos in which they can flourish to the greatest extent possible. How very convenient.

The Universe as we observe it today is not as it was billions of years ago, nor does it appear as it will billions of years from now. New research accepted for publication in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society suggests that conditions in our current Universe are far too warm for a digital, computer-based civilization, and that it makes sense for such beings to enter into a state of aestivation—hibernation, but in response to excess heat—until the cosmos is much colder in the far, far future. At that stage, with stellar objects dispersed across an enlarged Universe, information processing can occur with far greater speed and efficiency, enabling an advanced civilization to achieve more than what’s possible under current cosmological conditions.

But back up a sec: digital aliens? Indeed, an increasing number of futurists, astrobiologists, and SETI experts are starting to think that advanced intelligence eventually transitions into a digital mode of existence. Living as digital beings within powerful supercomputers, post-biological aliens (or future posthumans) will demand unhindered access to powerful and efficient means of information processing—a hypothetical mode of existence known as “dataism.”

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But as Anders Sandberg, Stuart Armstrong, and Milan Ćirković argue in their new JBIS paper, there’s a cost to information processing, particularly when the computer performing those calculations is temperature dependent. As computer scientists and information physicists know, the potential for information processing increases as temperature decreases (energy is required to cool a blazingly fast computer, after all). So rather than squander energy and resources in the current era, Sandberg and company believe is makes more sense for an advanced, computer-based civilization to aestivate and wait until the Universe is much colder than it is today.

The current background radiation of the Universe is roughly three degrees Kelvin above absolute zero. That may seem like a trivial amount of “warmth” to you and me, but to a computer-based civilization, it could represent an intolerable amount of heat. Trillions of years from now, when the background radiation will be reduced to practically nothing, thanks to the expansion of the universe and extinguishment of most stars, information processing will be able to proceed at a rate 1030 greater than what’s achievable today, the researchers calculate.

“An advanced civilization may have explored a big chunk of the universe, done what is doable with existing nature, and now mostly have internal ‘cultural’ things to do,” explains Sandberg at his blog. “These things can be regarded as information processing. If they want to maximize processing they should not do it today but wait until the cold future when they will get tremendously more done. They should hence aestivate.”

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If this hypothesis is true, ancient extraterrestrial civilizations exist, they’ve already explored much of the galaxy, and they’re now difficult to observe. We may even be living in a region of space that’s considered the “property” of one of these civilizations. Importantly, Sandberg says we should be able to see signs of an aestivating civilization, even though they’re dormant.

“The thing to look for is a suspicious absence of processes that would waste resources useful for the aestivators,” Sandberg told Gizmodo. Specifically, he says we should be on the lookout for process that prevent a variety of astrophysical phenomena: stars from converting mass into energy, stars imploding into black holes, galactic winds losing gas into intergalactic space, galaxy collisions, and galaxy clusters getting separated by the expansion of the universe. We don’t see anything preventing these processes from occurring at the moment (a strike against this hypothesis), but Sandberg says scientists should be on the lookout for unusual zones in which these natural cosmological process have been dramatically diminished.

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Another way to potentially detect these sleeping civilizations would be to mess with their stuff, but that could be very dangerous. “[We could] try to set off some process that really would upset the aestivators—like launching a lot of self-replicating probes to pave the reachable universe with our infrastructure,” said Sandberg. “If the aestivators are halfway competent their robot guardians will show up to stop that. Which might make this a very risky way of testing the hypothesis.”

A hypothetical megastructure constructed by an advanced alien civilization. Image: Shkadov Thruster L. Blaszkiewicz/CC

The aestivation hypothesis offers a tidy explanation to the Fermi Paradox—the surprising observation that we’ve never seen signs of aliens—but it’s not without problems. David Brin, an astrophysicist, SETI expert, and science fiction author, says the new paper is clever, but the concept has several flaws.

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“If you are getting better at launching ever faster ships, that can out-race last year’s models, when does it make sense to actually launch one?,” he told Gizmodo. “Likewise, while you may get better at computation in a colder universe, you are foregoing all the computation that you might accomplish, if you just kept cranking away during the warmer times.”

Sandberg argues this isn’t the case, and that advanced aliens can’t have their cake and eat it, too.

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“Imagine having a wallet with a limited number of dollar bills (energy) and buying cakes after Christmas that are getting cheaper over time (eventually leveling out at some low price),” he told Gizmodo. “If you want to get as much cake as possible, you should save your bills until the cakes reach their minimum price. Anything else will get you less cake.”

He says an alien civilization can certainly strive to improve its computational efficiency in the current cosmological era, but while this might be what computation-maximizing civilizations do in the present, using up any resources now will mean far, far fewer resources in the distant future.

Brin also believes that aestivation is an exceptionally dangerous strategy.

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“If you ignore the physical world in favor of dataism, you may be surprised by something that erupts in objective reality and bites you, while you slept in search of better (computational) times,” he said. Brin thinks opportunistic, non-dataist aliens may find a way to breach the defenses of the aestivators and wreak havoc.

Interestingly, Sandberg himself doesn’t believe in the aestivation hypothesis, but he says it’s important to investigate the possibility. “If you don’t check your less favored hypotheses you are not doing science,” he said. At the same time, the aestivation strategy is still something we may want to consider for ourselves in a few billion years, he added.

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“The cool part is that it actually does suggest a fair bit of new things to look for—galaxies with a suspicious absence of heavy stars or gas loss, galaxies being moved, that sort of thing,” he told Gizmodo. “I think that whatever the answer to the Fermi paradox is—we are alone and responsible for the future of the universe, intelligent life is always doomed, there is some rather low ceiling on technology, the aliens are here in some form, or we are fundamentally wrong about something essential—is going to be mindblowing. But it might take a long, long time to get that answer.”

[Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (pre-print available here)]

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Andy Rubin’s first Essential smartphone has a glaring flaw that might be a dealbreaker

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Android creator Andy Rubin unveiled the first smartphone from his new company called Essential on Tuesday.

The first Essential-made smartphone, the PH-1 (as in PH-ONE, get it?), runs on a stock version of Android and has some pretty solid features, like fast processors, a giant screen, and a premium titanium-ceramic build. But there’s one glaring issue that I just can’t stop staring at, and I suspect it might be a dealbreaker for some folks.

essential andy rubin

Don’t see it? It’s right here:

essential ph-1 phone

That front-facing camera hole. It’s hideous.

Basically, what Essential has done here is cut out a hole for a selfie camera in its full-screen display, which not only looks bad, but could also potentially affect how you use your phone. 

On almost every smartphone — including Android phones, and this is an Android phone — a lot of information tends to be displayed at the top. Beyond the time and battery life, you can see your notifications and settings at the top of the screen.

So what happens if you pull down your notifications on Essential’s PH-1? Or you want to view your settings? Will the camera hole obstruct some of the text and images on the screen? Or does Essential have software that makes words curve around that strange black hole?

Better yet, what if you want to watch a movie on your phone, in landscape mode? Will that camera hole cut out part of the picture?

Another question: The PH-1 has a giant "chin" at the bottom with no discernable functionality — why didn’t Essential place the selfie camera there instead, to leave the display looking and feeling full?

I truly believe that smartphones are the most valuable devices we own, so it makes sense to invest in the right one. They’re powerful and personal. We take them out of our pockets countless times a day for all sorts of uses, from productivity to entertainment. But you also want your smartphone to look good — you’re going to be looking at it all the time — and to me, the selfie camera hole really hurts the phone’s attractiveness.

But what makes matters worse is that the hole could also be disruptive, even if you’re just checking the time or watching your favorite show. And that, to me, could be a dealbreaker for many prospective customers.

SEE ALSO: Attending Bungie’s ‘Destiny 2’ event with my older brother was a precious memory I will never forget

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NOW WATCH: Animated map shows what the US would look like if all the Earth’s ice melted

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Why It’s Worth Paying for an Office Instead of Working from Home

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My daily commute is about 30 slow, zombie shuffles between my bedroom and my home office. While I’m grateful to say I have the option to work wherever and whenever I want, I sometimes love-hate my arrangement. Because working from home has a way of slowly sucking away your sanity.

I’m a vagabonding writer who’s worked out of different homes from around the world since 2015. Earlier this year I’d started to settle for a bit in Los Angeles, where it’s not uncommon to commute for several hours each day due to crazy traffic, and decided that I needed to work from outside the home. I traded my “free” home office space and two-minute commute for a 40-minute commute to a proper office that I paid $500 per month for.

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It was a good decision.

It’s not that I can’t get anything done at home. I have no trouble being ruthlessly productive on most days. Instead, it’s the invisible things that hurt me and my sanity. It’s sometimes not knowing when to stop working or constantly getting interrupted by well-meaning but totally clueless family members who just want to know what’s for lunch. And because it’s sweatpants all day and every day I might forget what it’s like to look presentable (which is more of a personal problem, I suppose).

But also, I just miss having that face-to-face interaction with people who aren’t also my family.

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I used to work in office settings where I’d regularly banter with my co-workers in the coffee room. They were always good for brainstorming ideas or commiserating with for times when a project made me want to tear my hair out. I took it for granted. When I first started working from home, the difference was immediately stark clear: working from home gets awfully lonely. And that’s why I signed up with WeWork, a shared co-working space.

WeWork and other co-working spaces like it offer a startup-like microcosm of smart, diversely skilled professionals who are open to chatting and sharing ideas. Any working professional or team of any size can plunk down some money to rent their own dedicated office space or desks and gain access to the well-equipped (and fancy) facilities on a month-to-month basis. Not going to lie: the unlimited coffee and beer certainly sweeten the deal.

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And the office vibe helps. I learn new things and get to bask in the buzzing, collective energy of my fellow creatives. If I wanted focused work, I just retreat into my office or an empty conference room. And if I don’t want to go into the office, I don’t have to. The physical separation of a location for work and home stuff has allowed me to also draw clearer, distinct lines on what I should and could work on. That, too, has been a huge boon.

Sure, I could save money to plant my arse back in my own home office chair and be a hermit, but the trade-off of being able to build a routine to go someplace most days of the week and ultimately be more productive are worth more to me than the commute and monthly rental.

Plus, it gives me a reason to leave the house.

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Trump accidentally tweeted ‘covfefe’ — and Twitter immediately turned it into a huge meme

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President Trump posted a very strange, incomplete thought on Twitter, and the whole world was confused. The tweet included the nonsensical word "covfefe" which had everyone up all night trying to figure out what it could possibly mean. He eventually deleted it, but the jokes keep pouring in.

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Aphex Twin’s first concert livestream includes online-only visuals

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Aphex Twin (aka Richard D. James) may have a reputation as a tech-savvy artist, but he hasn’t exactly embraced livestreaming. You’ve usually had to attend one of his concerts to see him venture beyond his album cuts. At last, though, you’ll get to see him perform live… and then some. He’s hosting his first-ever livestreamed concert at London’s Field Day Festival at 8:55PM local time (3:55PM ET) on June 3rd, and this isn’t just the usual feed that shows the stage performance and nothing else.

The IDM artist is partnering with Weirdcore to make a "bespoke online visual immersion" that should bring his warped, mischievous art style to your screen. We wouldn’t count on a "Windowlicker" level of choreography, but this is definitely more than you tend to get when you’re watching from home. the only shame is that Aphex Twin is unlikely to make a habit of this. While plenty of musicians coordinate digital graphics with their live sets, that doesn’t happen very often with streams — this may be your one and only chance to see James experiment with online visuals during a live gig.

Via: Pitchfork

Source: NTS Radio

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An Amazon engineer is letting thousands of Twitch users play the stock market with $50,000 of his own money (AMZN)

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Today saw the debut of "StockStream," a new social experiment in playing the stock market airing on Twitch, Amazon’s live video game streaming service.

The idea is reminiscent of 2014’s "Twitch Plays Pokémon," where more than a million Twitch viewers all shared control of the classic Nintendo Game Boy game.

But this ain’t no game: Mike Roberts, the Seattle-based Amazon engineer behind StockStream, is letting players vote on how to invest $50,000 of his actual savings on the real-life stock market. So far, about 60,000 people have come through to play along, or at least gawk at the spectacle.

twitch bets stocks stockstream

Roberts says that the idea for something like this has been kicking around the web for years, with users of sites like Reddit letting anonymous commenters vote on the next stock they should buy. Now, after six months of work, Roberts has debuted StockStream as a more focused, and applied, version of that concept.

"After the first day, I’m a lot more bullish than I already was" about the game, says Roberts. 

The way StockStream works is simple: Every five minutes, a round of voting opens, allowing Twitch viewers to vote on the purchase or sale of any stock, like "!buy AAPL" or !sell TSLA." After five minutes, the relevant stocks get added to or subtracted from Roberts’ portfolio, with the trade executing via the popular Robinhood app. 

iOS and Android robinhood

Players are then scored on how their stocks performed. If you suggest buying Apple, and it pops right after the trade is made, you get points. But if it dives, your score is docked accordingly. Roberts says that the current scoring system is confusing for a lot of players, and will likely be revamped, but those are the basic rules.

There’s no prize or payouts for players with the most points. It’s more about the fun of participating a financial crowdsourcing experiment.

As for Roberts, so far the wisdom of the crowd has him treading water. After day one, Roberts still has about $26,000 cash on hand, with a total account value — cash on hand, plus the value of his stocks — of about $50,055.92

Win or lose

Roberts says he was a little concerned, going in, about trolls stomping all over the fun social experiment he had envisioned by purposely trying to derail his portfolio and lose him money. A few odd choices like Cheesecake Factory and Papa John’s aside, though, he says that players have chosen for him "a reasonable, diversified portfolio" that includes hot tech stocks like AMD, Tesla, and Apple.

StockStream viewers can make donations to Roberts, but as of day one, that hasn’t happened very much, nor does he expect it to. He does say that a fair amount of StockStream viewers are signing up for Robinhood via his referral link, which nets him a "free" stock bonus for the portfolio when they make their first trade. Otherwise, it’s almost entirely his money that’s on the line.

twitch plays pokemon 1

Roberts says he hasn’t really considered a way for players to "win" at StockStream. He feels like it would be disingenuous and discouraging if he told players that their goal was something as straightforward as doubling his money; he’s really in it for the love of the game. 

There is, however, a losing condition. Because of FINRA regulations for the category of day trading that he falls into, Roberts has to make sure that his total account balance (again, cash plus the value of his stocks) stays above $25,000. If it dips below, he won’t legally be allowed to trade anymore, and so the game is over. So while his account is a little over twice that today, he acknowledges that there’s an element of financial danger to the game.

"If a lot of these [stocks] start crashing tomorrow, then things could get dicey," says Roberts.

SEE ALSO: No-fee stock trading app Robinhood is now officially worth $1.3 billion

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