Stop Releasing Balloons Into the Sky

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Photo: Herm (Pixabay)

Where exactly do balloons go once you’ve released them into the sky? We now know that answer, and unfortunately, it’s anything but pretty.

Between 2008 and 2016, a staggering 630,000 balloons were found during coastal cleanups organized by the Ocean Conservancy. They’ve become especially dangerous to marine life that becomes entangled in balloon strings or confuses balloons for food (and consequently chokes and dies).

Balloons are rarely recyclable. Most are made of mylar (the shiny, metallic-looking balloons, a combination of plastic and nylon) or latex—and many recycling facilities won’t accept either.

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So what should you do with all those balloons at the end of a party? It’s simple: dispose of them in the trash. Or reuse them. Balloons can easily be deflated and brought back to a local party store to be refilled.

Also, don’t be fooled by marketing that claims latex balloons are “eco-friendly” alternatives to mylar. Though latex balloons are considered biodegradable, they take several years to degrade, still posing serious environmental concerns.

Want to make an even bigger difference? Lobby your local politicians to ban balloon releases outright.

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Some lawmakers are actively trying to ban mass balloon releases (culprits in East Hampton, New York could face up to a $1,000 fine or 15 days in jail). If you’re looking to avoid jail time and help the environment, weigh your balloons down to ensure they won’t fly away—and eventually land in the ocean.

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What You Need to Know About HDMI 2.1 and 8K TVs in 2019

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Image: HDMI Forum

You’re going to hear a lot about HDMI 2.1 in 2019. It’s the latest iteration on the A/V connection format that consumers have used since it replaced previous A/V connections nearly two decades ago, and with 8K TVs ready to beat down the door into your living room, HDMI 2.1 is a necessary and much-anticipated upgrade.

While HDMI 2.1 ports and cables will look identical to those we use now, this newest update—which will inevitably replace the HDMI 2.0 standard that was introduced in 2013—has quite a few differences from previous versions. It’s packed with new features and will be capable of delivering incredibly high-quality video. It’s also more complicated and more restrictive in some ways than previous HDMI versions.

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This guide will explain the differences between HDMI 2.1 and the current 2.0, what it means for your TV and home theater devices, and whether you should buy a new TV because of it (spoiler: you shouldn’t).

HDMI 2.1 versus 2.0 (and 2.0a and 2.0b)

HDMI technology has gone through several revisions and updates over the years. The current standard, HDMI 2.0, replaced HDMI 1.4 in 2013 and updated the technology to support 4K Ultra High Def (UHD) video at 60 frames-per-second, plus a number of AV features. Better still, it didn’t require you to have to travel to the dust-covered lands behind your TV and swap out all your HDMI cables.

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Two interstitial updates—2.0a and 2.0b—expanded High Dynamic Range (HDR) support for HDMI 2.0, but are otherwise identical to 2.0 and also use the same cables.

HDMI 2.1, on the other hand, is an entirely different beast.

The main difference is that HDMI 2.1 increases your maximum signal bandwidth from 18Gbps (HDMI 2.0) to 48Gbps, which enables video resolutions of up to 10K and frame rates as high as 120fps—numbers that seem grossly unnecessary given current hardware realities, but impressive nonetheless. And future-proofed, so you (hopefully) won’t have to upgrade your cables or connectors for some time.

Image: HDMI.org

HDMI 2.1 also brings a number of other A/V features and enhancements, including:

  • Dynamic HDR, which is capable of changing HDR settings on a frame-by-frame basis.
  • Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC), which enables the use of object-based surround sound formats, such as Dolby Atmos.
  • Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Quick Frame Transport (QFT) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), which are helpful for video games since they reduce input lag, latency, and refresh rate for smoother, more accurate gameplay.
  • Quick Media Switching (QMS), which removes the delay when switching between resolutions and frame rates.

Aside from the higher signal bandwidth and new features, the other notable difference between HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 is that 2.1 will require new cables—something HDMI 2.0 mercifully did not, despite being a massive jump from HDMI 1.4.

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These new cables, which are being called “ultra high speed” cables, are what enable the higher resolutions and refresh rates, but you don’t need to worry about buying them any time soon. Ultra high speed cables will only be required for the higher resolutions and framerates, while the additional HDMI 2.1 features (like eARC, Dynamic HDR, and the latency-reducing benefits) are compatible with most current HDMI cables.

Image: HDMI.org

Unfortunately, it will not be possible to update an existing HDMI 2.0 device to support HDMI 2.1 features via firmware or software updates; the only way to utilize HDMI 2.1’s features is by connecting an HDMI 2.1 device to an HDMI 2.1-supported TV (even if that connection is via a non-ultra high speed HDMI cable).

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Here’s where it gets confusing, however. Depending on the device, “HDMI 2.1 support” might mean different things.

HDMI 2.1 versus… HDMI 2.1?

Technically, TV manufacturers can legally advertise that their TVs feature HDMI 2.1 ports, even if they don’t support the super-high resolutions or frame rates that HDMI 2.1 enables. The TVs just have to support some HDMI 2.1 features, and manufacturers have to be open about what their sets have and don’t have—which is precisely what you’ll be seeing from the first wave of “HDMI 2.1”-supported TVs.

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Sure, having a truncated version of HDMI 2.1 makes sense for some TVs—you might not care if your brand-new TV can’t output in 120fps, given that there’s barely any content you can watch right now—but you’re going to want to be diligent about HDMI 2.1 marketing when you’re shopping for new TVs going forward. (That said, you probably shouldn’t buy an 8K TV in 2019, anyway.)

What’s wrong with an 8K TV?

Image: HDMI.org

The jump to 8K Full Ultra High Def (FUHD) screens and HDMI 2.1 won’t make your current TV obsolete, since HDMI 2.0 and 4K UHD content/device are going to remain relevant for quite some time.

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8K might sound like another exciting leap in visual fidelity, and many of the AV enhancements from HDMI 2.1 will likely be awesome, but there just isn’t enough 8K content justify the astronomical expense of an 8K TV, and there likely won’t be for quite some time. Yes, it’s the same argument everyone said about 4K TVs, but think about it: 4K content is still something of a novelty for most people, and 4K TVs are in some ways still unnecessary for many people, depending on their home setups.

That’s not to say that there isn’t any 8K content out there, but it’s paltry, with only a handful of movies and YouTube videos available. 8K Blu-rays and 8K Blu-ray players don’t yet exist, nor do 8K cable boxes or streaming devices. And even when they do, the first generation of 8K TVs likely won’t be compatible, since the initial models hitting in 2019 will probably have incomplete HDMI 2.1 support. Plus, HDMI 2.0 is capable of 8K video at 24 and 30 fps, which are the frame rates most movies and TV shows are shot in right now.

The only consumers who have a legitimate reason to upgrade to HDMI 2.1 sooner than others are gamers and hardcore home theater aficionados. Even then, most console gamers are going to have to wait for the big reveals from Microsoft and Sony—likely in 2020—which should give TV manufacturers plenty of time to pack in as many HDMI 2.1 features (and resolutions) as possible.

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In other words, buying an 8K TV now and waiting for everything else to catch up would be a little silly; buy an 8K TV when you’re ready for an 8K TV, because you’ll have much better products to pick from then compared to now. Maybe the TVs will be a little more reasonably sized, too.

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Teenage Engineering is making modular synths for the masses

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Teenage Engineering

Modular synths are all the rage right now. And it’s not just the usual players either. Korg and Stylophone recently dipped their toes in the modular world. And now Teenage Engineering is getting on the bandwagon. The company is best known for its portable music creation tools like the OP-1 and OP-Z, not to mention the damn near disposable, but kinda awesome Pocket Operator line. This year it’s making it first modular system and also its first analog synth with the Pocket Operator Modular series.

Gallery: Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator Modular | 12 Photos

Dubbed simply the 16, 170 and 400, these new devices are what Teenage Engineering is proudly calling “the poor man’s modular.” They’re reasonably priced introductions to the complicated and often incredibly expensive world of modular synthesis, where instead of having a traditional keyboard with a predetermined signal path, you actually have to wire different parts together to create the sound you want.

The 16 is a simple modular membrane keyboard, it doesn’t make any sound on it’s own, but it can be connected to other gear with control voltage (CV) in jacks. The 170 keeps that membrane keyboard and connects it to a simple monophonic synth with a single square wave oscillator, LFO, envelope generator, sequencer and everything else you’d need to start making music (or at least noise), including a speaker. Lastly there’s the 400 — the big boy of the group. It includes Square, Sine and Saw oscillators, 2 VCAs, 2 envelopes, a mixer, random generator, a 16-step Sequencer, LFO, noise module, filter, and more for a total of 16 different modules. It loses the keyboard from the 170, but keeps the speaker.

Unsurprisingly these new synths are neither pocketable, nor as affordable as the rest of the Pocket Operator line. The 16 is $149, the 170 is $349 and the 400 is $499. Those last two in particular might induce a bit of sticker shock considering the most expensive pocket operator until this point was $89. But they’re significantly cheaper than most of your other modular options (though not all).

If you’re wondering how a $500 synth the size of a coffee table book fits in next to the $50 PO-12 you’re not alone. I asked Teenage Engineering’s head of production Oscar Ahlgren and he explained that Pocket Operators are about “getting a lot for the money” rather than pure price. He also said, “when you open the box and start unpacking the kit you’ll definitely feel that it’s got that pocket operator vibe… It’s all very playful and fun, without sacrificing sound quality.”

These dead whale carcasses often show up off the coast of California and bring in large numbers of great white sharks looking for an easy meal after they smell blood in the water. The same is happening off of Oahu at the moment but the winds have currently shifted and the dead whale is moving away from shore.

The concern with these situations is always the wind pushing the whale carcass close enough to shore to create a safety concern for swimmers, surfers, and beachgoers. If you’ve got a dead whale a mile offshore and blood in the water there will always be lots of sharks around. This particular whale carcass had attracted so many tiger sharks around Pearl Harbor that it had to be towed offshore by officials where it continued to attract huge numbers of sharks.

For more on this story, you can click here.

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Adorable kid tries to train his Google Home, and it does not go well

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Ever feel like you’re more advanced than technology? This little kid can relate.

A young, very patient boy was spotted in his kitchen talking to his family’s Google Home, desperately trying to impart some wisdom.

He begged the device to repeat him so that he could teach it some brand new skills, saying, "I’m telling you stuff and you don’t know what it is… Can I please train you because you don’t know what stuff is?"

The boy then realized maybe Google should help him, too, since he "doesn’t even know his ABCs."

Finally, after nearly a minute-long one-sided conversation, Google replied, "Huh. Looks like there’s a problem," and that’s when things went completely off the rails. Read more…

More about Tech, Google, Kids, Web Culture, and Google Home

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A Hob Set Free

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ordine_cooking_hub_layout

Ordine is an innovative cooking solution designed for the modern user. Optimized for small spaces, the design eliminates the need for a bulky traditional stove, clearing the way for more cabinet and counter space.

The design features two hob units that are mounted on a central power hub on the wall. Elevated neatly out of the way, the user must simply grab one or both hobs off the wall and set the desired temperature to activate. Clad in materials consisting of natural wood and copper, the design not only saves valuable kitchen real estate but is made to complement your interior aesthetic on display.

Designer: Adriano Design

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Air Force gives 3D-printed rocket company Cape Canaveral launch pad

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Relativity Space

Relativity Space, a startup that aspires to create 3D printed rockets, has secured a launch pad at Cape Canaveral. The company announced Thursday a five-year agreement with the US Air Force that will allow the company to operate out of Launch Complex 16 (LC-16) at the at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The startup is the fourth private company to be given access to LC-16, joining Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and the United Launch Alliance. By using the existing launch complex, Relativity Space believes it will save about four years that would have been required to build a launch pad from scratch, according to CNBC.

The company is aiming to launch its first payloads into low-Earth orbit by 2020. Its 3D-printed rocket, the Terran 1, is expected to be able to launch payloads of up to 2,700 pounds. Each launch will cost about $10 million, and Relativity Space already has over $1 billion in booked launches according to Axios.

It’s worth noting that Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis was named by Vice President Mike Pence as a member of the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group last year. Executives from SpaceX, Blue Origin and the United Launch Alliance are also members of the council.

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People are using the viral ’10-year challenge’ as a stark warning about what’s happening to our planet

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rhone swiss glacier

  • Social media feeds are currently filled with "10-year challenge" posts that juxtapose users’ photos from 2009 and 2019.
  • Environmental activists are using the trend to draw attention to how much Earth has changed in the last 10 years, posting side-by-side images of our planet’s recent transformation.
  • This year has started off with a slew of depressing news about climate change: Last year was the hottest year on record for the world’s oceans (which are also warming up faster than we thought), and Antarctic ice is melting faster than it used to.

The new year has delivered a one-two punch of bad news about the world’s oceans.

Not only did 2018 turn out to be the oceans’ warmest year on record, but scientists realized that oceans are also heating up 40% faster than they’d previously thought. What’s more, research has revealed that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is melting nearly six times faster than it was in 1980s. 

So when a viral photo challenge emerged in which users juxtapose pictures of themselves from 2009 and today, some environmentalists seized on the opportunity to highlight Earth’s own "10-year challenge."

Sites like Reddit and Instagram are exploding with posts that call for greater public awareness about the impacts of climate change. While the original challenge is meant to provide a visual representation of the way someone has matured or changed, the climate-change versions convey a more serious message: this is the 10-year challenge we need to start focusing on. 

Many of the 10-year comparison photos show melting glaciers — one of the most visually dramatic effects of a warming planet.

Melting glaciers mean the North and South Poles are slowly getting make-overs (and not the good kind). In a worst-case scenario, called a "pulse," warmer water could cause the glaciers holding back Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets to collapse. That would send massive quantities of ice into the oceans, potentially leading to rapid sea-level rise around the world.

If a pulse were to happen, the sea level in South Florida could increase by 10 to 30 feet by 2100. But because water — like most things — expands when it warms, sea-level rise is inevitable even if the ice sheets don’t melt, since the oceans absorb 93% of the extra heat that greenhouse gases trap in the atmosphere.  

It’s one thing to talk about these threats in the abstract. But it’s a different ballgame when we see visual proof.

SEE ALSO: Before-and-after pictures show how climate change is destroying the Earth

The top photo here shows the Rhone glacier in Switzerland now, while the bottom shows how much more ice there was in 2009.

Glaciologists think half of Switzerland’s small glaciers — and the streams they feed — will be gone within the next 25 years, according to Reuters.

Although many glaciers have shrunk dramatically in the last decade, juxtapositions that show their changes over a longer period of time are even more striking.

This pair of images shows the retreat of Alaska’s Pedersen Glacier between 1917 and 2005.

These photos of Alaska’s Muir Glacier are placed on top of each other so you can swipe back and forth to see how much has melted over the last 120-plus years.

 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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