‘Dead or Alive’ singer Pete Burns, proto-Goth icon of the ’80s, dies


LOS ANGELES — Pete Burns, the vivacious and androgynous frontman for British pop and New Wave band Dead or Alive, died Sunday from cardiac arrest, his management confirmed Monday. He was 57.

Dead or Alive’s biggest hit was also its first — “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” — which charted around the world and peaked at No. 11 in the U.S. in 1985. The band, known as much for its proto-Goth style as its music, had a handful of lesser hits including “Brand New Lover” and “Something in My House.”

Burns, who appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006, went through extensive rounds of plastic surgery around that time and significantly altered his appearance, which he talked openly about in interviews and a television special. At one point he won a significant settlement from his surgeon for a lip procedure gone wrong.

Image: Redferns via Getty Images

Burns was married to Lynne Corlett in 1980, and the two separated in 2006. A short time later he married Michael Simpson, a union that lasted less than a year.

“He was a true visionary, a beautiful talented soul, and he will be missed by all who loved and appreciated everything he was and all of the wonderful memories the has left us with,” his management said in a statement. “All of his family and friends are devastated by the loss of our special star.”

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Harvard Researchers Print World’s First Heart-on-a-Chip

Harvard Researchers Print World’s First Heart-on-a-Chip
Image: YouTube

Scientists may soon be able to conduct experiments on hearts without needing once-living tissue and muscle from animals. In a new study published today in Nature Materials, Harvard University researchers announced they’ve created the first 3D-printed heart-on-a-chip capable of collecting data about how reliably a heart is beating.

The printed organ is made of synthetic material designed to mimic the structure and function of native tissue. It is not designed to replace failing human organs, but it can be used for scientific studies, something that is expected to rapidly increase research on new medicine. The medical breakthrough may also allow scientists to rapidly design organs-on-chips to match specific disease properties or even a patient’s cells.

Organs-on-chips, also known by the more technical name microphysiological systems, replicate the structure and function of living human organs. Each is made of a translucent, flexible polymer that lets scientists replicate biological environments of living organs. The chips are also clear so that the scientists can see an inner-working into how the organs work.

A large part of the breakthrough was actually developing six different printable inks capable of integrating sensors within the tissue being printed. In one continuous printing process, the team 3D printed materials into a heart-on-a-chip with integrated sensors. The sensors were capable of measuring the beating of the heart.

For now, the chips are only able to replicate the architecture and function of lungs, hearts, tongues, and intestines. In June, Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering developed a lung-on-a-chip programmed to mimic a human lung. The heart is the most advanced organ-on-a-chip yet.

“Researchers are often left working in the dark when it comes to gradual changes that occur during cardiac tissue development and maturation because there has been a lack of easy, non-invasive ways to measure the tissue functional performance,” said Lind in a statement. “These integrated sensors allow researchers to continuously collect data while tissues mature and improve their contractility. Similarly, they will enable studies of gradual effects of chronic exposure to toxins.”

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New method of male birth control could stop sperm in its tracks


A team of British researchers has found a way to alter cow sperm and reduce male fertility by stopping the sperm from swimming.

The discovery, if replicated in human sperm, could be used to develop new forms of male contraception, the scientists announced last week. The same method could also be used to boost sperm flow for enhanced fertility treatments.

“We hope to develop something that will be clinically useful and can be taken forward in the future,” Sarah Jones, a pharmacology lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton in England, said in a press release.

Jones and her research partner John Howl, a professor at Wolverhampton, are both part of the university’s Molecular Pharmacology Research Group.

The duo has teamed up with the University of Aveiro in Portugal on a three-year, €194,000 (about $211,136) project to study ways to control the functions of sperm.

Sarah Jones of the University of Wolverhampton's Molecular Pharmacology Research Group.

Sarah Jones of the University of Wolverhampton’s Molecular Pharmacology Research Group.

Image: university of wolverhampton

Their research primarily focuses on peptides, the chains of amino acids that are the building blocks of protein. 

Jones and Howl said they found they could design peptides to break through cell walls and alter the function and fertilization capacity of bovine sperm. The results have not yet been published in a scientific journal.

“Ironically, sperm are notoriously difficult to penetrate,” Jones said in the university press release. 

“But with cell-penetrating peptides, we are now able to cross an otherwise impermeable barrier to manipulate the intracellular biology of sperm, so as to enhance or inhibit motility” — that is, to make it easier or harder for sperm to get around.

The British researchers said their partners in Portugal may repeat the same experiments using human sperm for further testing.

For decades, the burden of birth control and fertilization methods have fallen mainly to women. 

David Bishai, a professor at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not involved in the project, said male contraception “is badly needed.”

Researchers have found men are generally interested in new types of contraception and hypothetically willing to try them, Bishai wrote in his 2012 paper on the demand for male contraception.

Yet no viable birth control exists for men, apart from wearing condoms, abstaining from sex or getting a vasectomy. 

“You really don’t have great options,” he told Mashable. 

Research efforts have been largely stymied by the lack of investment from large pharmaceutical companies, he said. Many of the advances in male contraception have instead come from public entities and non-profit organizations.

For instance, the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is holding clinical trials to test new hormonal methods of male contraception. The methods involve applying two different gels to the skin — one with a progestin, one with testosterone — on a daily basis to stop sperm production.

The Parsemus Foundation, a medical non-profit, has developed Vasalgel, a non-hormonal gel that is injected into the vas deferens — the duct that carries sperm from testicles to urethra — and blocks the sperm, although the procedure is reversible.

“The private pharmaceutical research in male contraception has been so limited,” Bishai said. “Why doesn’t the market understand that men have been left behind?”

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Comparing all the 303 recreations to each other and the original


Someday, I’ll realize my dream of gathering ethnomusicologists and neuroscientists and engineers and we can finally sit down and work out why it is that the 303 is so damned pleasing. In the meantime, we can obsess over the nuances of different 303 recreations.

Kudos to ADSRsounds for putting that together. They not only compare the original Roland box to the new TB-03 and AIRA TB-3 renditions, but also the analog clone TT-303.

These sorts of comparisons are ultimately subject to your own bias as you watch. But there’s still a lot to glean.

The first video is interesting. The knobs closed test for whatever reason seems to be a punishing test for emulation; I’d heard some die-hard 303 users complain that Roland hadn’t quite gotten it right.

But there are a number of interesting details here. I think you can at least hear the improvements between the TB-3 and the TB-03; the move is generally toward closer accuracy. Also, I think the TT-303 performs pretty poorly as a direct clone – for all the complaints about digital emulation, it seems to do a fairly effective job of recreating the original. That’s not a dig at the TT-303 — on the contrary, it suggests that this “clone” has a little bit of its own character, which might be desirable.

The key is, watch to the end. I think there’s a marginal improvement in sound on the TB-03 over the AIRA TB-3 – on sound alone, I’d choose that.

But generally, you’d be okay with any of these four. The original TB-303 might be something you have a special personal relationship with. But in the music, any one of them works. This is really about what these mean for the music.

That means I think the choice is really down to usability and price (particularly if you find a TT-303 or AIRA TB-3 used deal).

The AIRA is still a great buy, and worth choosing if you like its clever touch note programming. Personally, I would much rather have the direct synth parameter control on the TB-03. The less-clever part of the touch interface was that Roland decided per-preset what parameters you’d control, rather than giving you dedicated knobs for everything. But… that’s if it was an even choice. If someone were, say, parting with an old TB-3 at a good price and I were on a budget, I might well go that way.

The TB-03 meanwhile has a lot going for it in its connectivity, dedicated controls, and compact size.

In other words: stop worrying and go make some acid.


The post Comparing all the 303 recreations to each other and the original appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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A Flashlight That Can Start Fires and Cook Dinner Is the Best Camping Accessory



Wicked Lasers is known for its handheld lasers and flashlights that redefine what it means to be bright. A few years ago it released a flashlight that was intense enough to start a fire, and now the company has managed to dramatically shrink its design so you can easily bring it the next time you go camping and leave the matches at home.

At over eight-and-a-half inches long the FlashTorch Mini still isn’t something you can clip to your keychain and keep in your pocket. But its about 40 percent smaller than the original FlashTorch, while maintaining the ability to start fires, or cook dinner, thanks to its impressive 2,300 lumen output. For comparison, that’s roughly the same brightness as a video projector used in a large lecture hall.

At max brightness the FlashTorch Mini’s rechargeable batteries will only last for about 30 minutes. But you can dial back the lumens to a setting that’s still bright, just not completely blinding, to max out battery life to up to 100 minutes. The most important feature, however, is an automatic lockout mode which prevents the $200 FlashTorch Mini from accidentally powering on in your bag, turning your camping gear into an instant, but presumably unwanted, bonfire.

[Wicked Lasers]

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Blockchain gets its first test with international trade


Some financial gurus are convinced that blockchain (the underlying tech behind bitcoin) is the future of business, and they might already have some proof. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Wells Fargo have conducted the first international, inter-bank trade deal to use blockchain for the transaction. It was a relatively modest experiment that shipped $35,000 in cotton from Texas to China, but it demonstrated the advantages of taking humans out of the equation. The deal included smart contracts that automatically sent payments and transferred ownership as the cargo reached certain locations. The companies involved didn’t have to waste time sending documents, processing money or worrying about potential fraud.

Don’t expect blockchain to be a mainstay of trade in the near future. Wells Fargo tells the Sydney Morning Herald that there are "significant regulatory, legal and other concerns" that have to be resolved before it’s used on a regular basis. However, the advantages make it hard to ignore. Existing shipping processes can take days, especially for cross-continent trips where time zones are a major factor. Blockchain reduces the transaction time to minutes — cargo could arrive much sooner, which means less time waiting for the products you want to buy.

Via: Reuters, Sydney Morning Herald

Source: Commonwealth Bank of Australia

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Vixole’s Matrix shoe puts an active LED display on your feet


Now that Nike’s Back to the Future-inspired high tops exist, and the famous self-lacing tech has arrived on a consumer product, even footwear is beginning to get smarter. With a little crowdfunding help, Vixole will be making its own contribution to the growing lineup of forward-thinking kicks, with its Matrix shoe. The startup’s Indiegogo campaign launched today and aims to put customizable LED displays for static or motion graphics on everyone’s feet. It’s not just for eye candy, however: The design includes an array of sensors that can adjust the visuals according to movement, GPS coordinates or even react to your playlist.

Vixole made its first announcement about the Matrix a few months back, providing mockups of its intelligent footwear and even surfacing its prototype on occasion. I met up with Ali Ma and Haidong Dong, two of the founders, to check it out and learn a bit more about their plans. This is the second footwear project for Ali, who previously launched Essential Marks, sneakers designed with LEDs circling a transparent sole. Haidong joined to help on the business side and this led the duo to take things one step further for their follow-up project.

With the help of its team of designers and engineers, the company has laid out the plans for the Vixole Matrix smart LED high top. The final design will wrap a 22ppi LED display around the rear of the shoe’s upper within injection molded thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This is a durable, flexible material, similar to what’s you’ll find on products like the Nike FuelBand SE.

Sensors including units to detect sound, light and bending, along with an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer will be installed inside a specially designed insole. There will also be haptic sensors on board, so if you wanted you could get vibrating notifications and prompts for turn-by-turn directions. This set of features could be combined with LED blinkers on each shoe — a useful option, say, if you were riding a bike. There will even be a step tracker, which seems like a no-brainer for smart footwear.

Other potential uses could add some flare to a night on the dance floor; actively react to your skateboard stunts; or even connect to third-party apps to provide motion capture data. This is one of the reasons why the Vixole team is making the software open source. There will be a mobile app to help control and customize the illumination tech on Vixole’s shoes including the ability to capture and convert photos into displayable graphics. You’ll also be able to access the Vixole marketplace to download new designs or share your own creations.

Right now the team is at the proof of concept stage and the Indiegogo campaign will help take the product from prototype to the final market version. With all this tech on board, the estimated retail price of $345 seems reasonable enough (they’re smarter than Yeezy’s, after all), but if you take advantage of the crowd-funding deals you could score a pair for as low as $225.

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Watch Death-Defying Windsurfers Take on a Hurricane



We really shouldn’t have to say this, but the next time a massive storm churns up towering waves in the ocean, it’s probably a good idea to head for cover, instead of suiting up and heading out for some death-defying windsurfing.

Sure, these athletes, who presumably have some amazing health care and maxed out life insurance policies, are getting some truly impressive hang times off these waves. But we’re not entirely sure if a memorable YouTube clip is genuinely worth risking your life over.

[YouTube via Likecool]

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Norway just became the first country to offer the leading HIV prevention drug for free



Norway has become the first country in the world to offer at-risk citizens the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drug at no cost, as part of its National Health Service.

Bent Høie, the country’s minister for health and social care, made the announcement earlier this week.

Norway joins Canada, France, South Africa, and the United States in offering the HIV prevention drug, although Norway is currently the only country to distribute it for free.

Multiple studies have found PrEP to be highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV. One study found people could reduce their infection risk by 92-99% depending on how many pills they take per week.

Norway’s government lobbied for the last two years to bring PrEP to those who face an increased risk of contracting HIV — gay and bisexual men and trans women.

"PrEP will contribute to reducing the rate of new infections in the gay community, as gay men are facing a risk of infection much higher than the general population," Leif-Ove Hansen, the president of HIV Norway, said in a statement, New Now Next reports.

An estimated 2.1 million people around the world were newly infected with HIV in 2015, bringing the current total to approximately 36.7 million people.

While many of the HIV management drugs now allow people living with the disease to enjoy a similar quality of life to healthy populations, prevention is still the cheaper and safer option.

In other countries where PrEP is available, prices for users can range. In the US, many insurance companies cover most of the cost so that patients are only responsible for the co-pay. (Without insurance, the drug can cost up to $24,000 a year.) In France, the drug is reimbursable once patients submit a receipt.

But Norway is the first to offer the drug to patients without any cost whatsoever.

SEE ALSO: A ‘game-changing’ drug in the fight against HIV can now be legally funded by the NHS

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: No one knows what’s making children in South Africa resistant to AIDS

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Your experience is probably worth a lot less than you think


Do you work in software? Do you have more than a decade of experience? You do? I’m sorry to hear that. That means there’s a strong possibility that much of what you know is already obsolete. Worse yet, there’s a good chance that you’re set in anachronistic ways, hidebound with habits which are now considered harmful. If you think your experience is automatically valuable, I warn you: think again.

To be clear, I am not arguing in favor of age discrimination, which is wrong, illegal, and stupid. (Some of the finest engineers I’ve ever known, who anyone would be happy to hire in a heartbeat, are in their 50s.) I am, however, arguing that tech’s ever-accelerating pace of change means that people tend to greatly overestimate the value of their experience, the returns from which diminish every year.

People say “the principles remain the same, you just apply them to different tools / in different environments” — but that’s, at best, a falsely comforting half-truth.

Consider: back in the day, object-oriented development was the solution to all of our problems; now it’s a problem to which many solutions are proposed. Once upon a time, every web developer knew, axiomatically, that you never mixed HTML and JavaScript, because of separation of concerns; but then came React.

The status quo isn’t going to stabilize any time soon. Around the world, veteran developers with “valuable” experience are already being asked, with honest bafflement: “Wait, why are you trying to write an algorithm for this? Why not just train a model in TensorFlow?”

I don’t mean to imply that all knowledge and experience becomes worthless. Some lessons, and some well-developed instincts, are indeed very nearly universal. Some platforms — Android, iOS, containers in the cloud, etc. — will be around long enough, and accumulate changes slowly enough, that their understanding will be valuable for a long while yet.

But there has still been a significant sea change. The de facto assumption for most of the twentieth century was that experience was assumed high-value unless proven otherwise. In technology, in software, this is no longer the case. Increasingly, instead, your experience beyond a certain point — say, 5-10 years, depending on many factors — is assumed low-value unless proven otherwise.

This doesn’t only apply to hard technical skills. Managing people scattered across six time zones via Slack and Google Hangouts is very different from managing in person; managing in a high-growth startup is very different from managing in a large static company. Whether you’re a developer, DevOps, or a manager, you never get to stop having to constantly prove yourself. That is the nature of the tech beast.

The most important skill, one that truly doesn’t get old, is the meta-skill of constantly learning new things … and that meta-skill can rust and wither away, too, if it languishes unused. If you’ve been doing the very same thing at work for the last few years, without working on any side projects of your own, then I am sorry to report that your career is already rotting away from within, without you even knowing it.

Don’t let that happen. “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” That isn’t just good advice; these days, it’s an imperative.

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