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Sun, 21 Oct 2018
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Beautygate: Did Apple secretly add a 'beauty mode' to new iPhones that can't be turned off?

© Unbox Therapy

Selfie camera 'aggressively smooths' your skin, muting freckles and blemishes, but the feature cannot be turned off

WTF?! The iPhone XS and XS Max have been out for a little over a week now. Reviews of the new handsets have mostly been positive. However, users are beginning to notice something strange with the front-facing camera.

Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy said he noticed that when he uses the front-facing selfie camera that the resulting image looks odd - like it has been touched up or airbrushed (video below). At first, he thought it might have been related to Apple's new "Smart HDR" technology. Unfortunately, after turning off Smart HDR in the settings the skin smoothing remained.

Several users on Reddit have noticed the same effect, and there does not appear to be any way to turn it off. Other phones and camera apps have a beauty mode built in, but users can either disable it or dial it all the way down using a slider. The iPhone XS and XS Max camera apps don't have any settings related to beautifying or skin smoothing to turn off or adjust.

Comment: This isn't really surprising. Apple has always dictated what their products do and how their users will engage with them. It's reminiscent of how dressing rooms in clothing stores would adjust the lighting to magnify how good one would look when trying on clothes. The difference is, this doesn't appear to be a sales strategy, more like a bubble applied to user's reality after the purchase has already been made.

See also:


Science catches up with reality: Newly-discovered distant planet bolsters evidence for 'Planet X'

dwarf planet nine
© Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott Sheppard, courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science
The orbits of the newfound extreme dwarf planet 2015 TG387 and its fellow Inner Oort Cloud objects 2012 VP113 and Sedna, as compared with the rest of the solar system.
Scientists have discovered yet another marker on the trail toward the putative Planet Nine.

That clue is 2015 TG387, a newfound object in the far outer solar system, way beyond Pluto. The orbit of 2015 TG387 shares peculiarities with those of other extremely far-flung bodies, which appear to have been shaped by the gravity of a very large object in that distant, frigid realm - the hypothesized Planet Nine, also known as Planet X.

"These distant objects are like breadcrumbs leading us to Planet X," study leader Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

"The more of them we can find, the better we can understand the outer solar system and the possible planet that we think is shaping their orbits - a discovery that would redefine our knowledge of the solar system's evolution," he added.

And 2015 TG387 is special among these bread crumbs, because it was found during a relatively uniform survey of the northern and southern skies rather than a targeted hunt for clustered objects in certain parts of the sky, Sheppard said. Targeted hunts can produce biased results - for example, the appearance of clustering where none may actually exist, he explained.

Comment: For more on 'Planet' X, or Nemesis, see: Also check out SOTT radio's:

Green Light

World's first 'Hyperloop' transport pod capable of traveling at over 700mph unveiled in Spain

Hyperloop capsule
© Marcelo del Pozo / Reuters
The front of the world's first full-scale passenger Hyperloop capsule is seen during its presentation in Spain
The first full-size passenger capsule designed to carry passengers at over 1,100 kilometers per hour (700mph) was unveiled on Tuesday in Cadiz, Spain.

According to Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), the vessel has been built to scale to transport passengers at super-fast speeds through magnetic tubes.

"Today we have unveiled a new type of transportation vessel built with an industry high percentage of composite, which makes the Hyperloop capsule perhaps the safest transportation vehicle in the world," said Rafael Contreras, the company's co-founder and chairman.


Deep space astronauts at risk of having their guts destroyed

© Getty Images
We can't send astronauts on deep space missions without knowing how the journey will affect the human body -- what's the point of sending them to Mars if they won't even make it to their destinations? That's why researchers have been looking into the effects of deep space travel on human spacefarers. A group of investigators at Georgetown University Medical Center, for instance, has recently discovered that when gastrointestinal tissues are bombarded by galactic cosmic radiation (GCR), their functions get altered. And if the way they function changes, astronauts could develop cancerous tumors in the stomach and colon.

GCR doesn't affect us here on Earth, because we're being protected by our planet's magnetosphere. We didn't evolve to be able take huge doses of it without that extra protection -- and no, current shielding technology can't block it out. The study's lead investigator, Kamal Datta, explained: "Heavy ions such as iron and silicon are damaging because of their greater mass compared to no-mass photons such as x-rays and gamma rays prevalent on Earth, as well as low mass protons in outer space."

Comment: Ruined guts aren't the only health problem astronauts face:


US military technological 'upgrades' means Uncle Sam just won't need soldiers as it used to

uncle sam
OK, I've got some good news and some bad news. Which do you want first?

The good news? OK, no problem.

You know that old anti-war cliché about "Suppose They Gave A War And No One Came"? Well that slogan might be closer to becoming reality than you think.

Exhibit A: This story from Japan Today. "SDF recruiters struggle as applicant pool dries up."

You see, it seems that recruiters are having a tougher time than ever selling Japan's youth on the glitz and glamour of a career in the nation's "Self-Defense Force" (aka Japan's Stealth Army). The country's infamous plummeting birth rate has created a shortage of 18-26 year olds in the job market (11 million today compared to 17 million just 24 years ago), meaning that universities and corporations are viciously competing to recruit high school graduates. And that competition has left those struggling to sell teenagers on the benefits of joining the military in the dust.


Mystery particle: Impossible cosmic rays are shooting out of Antarctica

cosmic rays
No particle we know of can explain what's going on.

Meet ANITA. ANITA stands for "Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna." It seeks out cosmic rays from space as while hanging from a balloon suspended over Antarctica. In the last two years, though, it has twice detected cosmic rays coming from a direction no one expected: inside the earth. According to the Standard Model (SM) of physics, this shouldn't be possible.


BrainNet: Scientists connect 3 peoples' brains to play a game of telepathic Tetris

tetris neurons
© Oleksiy Maksymenko/Wikimedia Commons
The participants played a Tetris-like game as one, transmitting moves to each other using only their minds.
A team of scientists has created a device which allows human beings to cooperate while playing a game using only their thoughts. While the technology is still in its infancy, the potential applications are astounding.

"We present BrainNet which, to our knowledge, is the first multi-person non-invasive direct brain-to-brain interface for collaborative problem solving," the joint team from the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University wrote in a pre-publication release.

The three-way neural connection, called BrainNet, operates using two devices: two electroencephalograms (EEGs) transmit the 'senders' instructions to the 'receiver' who wears a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Using these devices the three participants could share their thoughts and cooperate to play a Tetris-style video game together, as one. Hardly a mind-bending task but the technology is still in development.


Limiting screen time improves cognitive function for children - study

children technology
© Richard Lewisohn | Cultura | Getty Images
Cutting back on screen time, along with the right amount of sleep and physical activity, is linked to improvements in cognition among children, a study suggests.

The observational study analyzed data from a broader study funded by the National Institutes of Health, focusing on 4,500 children ages 8 to 11.

Researchers compared time spent on screens, sleeping and engaging in physical activity from that study against the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines, created by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology to advise how kids should spend their time in a given day.

The study associates kids who met the guidelines - which include nine to 11 hours of sleep, at least one hour of physical activity and less than two hours on screens - with improvements in cognition.


New species of hummingbird identified in Ecuador

The new hummingbird species Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus is said to be in danger of extinction

The new hummingbird species Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus is said to be in danger of extinction
A team of ornithologists in Ecuador has identified a new species of hummingbird: a lovely blue-green creature that lives in a cold, barren highland area and is danger of extinction.

Team leader Francisco Sornoza saw one of the birds through binoculars a year ago and had a hunch that it was a previously unknown species.

The bird is about 11 cm (four inches) long and has a stunning, deep blue neck, a white breast with a black stripe and greenish-blue head and body feathers.

It has been given the name Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus, or blue-throated star. The discovery was announced Thursday in a journal called The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

Microscope 2

Scientists at CERN discover two new particles, with a third 'exotic' one on the way

Large Hadron Collider
© Pierre Albouy / Reuters
Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
The eggheads at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva have rocked the world of particle physics yet again, observing two never-seen-before particles and are confident they have discovered traces of a third, more exotic kind.

Operated by CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), the discovery was made by researchers working with the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) collaboration, a team that specializes in investigating the slight differences between matter and antimatter by studying a type of particle called the "beauty quark", or "b quark."

Comment: Some other rather interesting developments have occurred at CERN over that past few years: