Otherworldly Weekend

Otherworldly Weekend

In this section, we recommend the content that we liked most this week. It may not be new, and have a range of formats, the only thing that matters is that it managed to distinguish itself from everything else we heard, read or viewed in the past week.


Perhaps some of you are too young to remember but in the late '90s, there was this awesome open world exploration game, a very strange and in some ways revolutionary game called Outcast. It failed to sell a lot of copies, but it became a cult classic that would go on to influence a lot of design decisions that would change open world games for the latter decades. The first thing that made it unique, besides the rarity and novelty of open world games at the time, was the voxel engine. That engine made it possible for the paltry graphics resources of the time to draw a lot of elements at distances that we weren't used to at the time. That made the game feel huge and beautiful, with vibrant colors and strange landscapes and creatures. Outcast takes you, a Navy SEAL to another dimension by wormholes, much like Stargate portals. 
Today you can find a remake of this 1999 classic, Outcast - Second Contact that was launched recently. Despite the original studio bankruptcy, some of the studios' veterans created a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 that was successfully backed and they reformed the studio to create this revival. Give it a look, it's a very different proposal from recent titles that we think might be worth to replay or discover anew.

Wot I Think: Outcast - Second Contact

Despite growing up in the '90s, I had never heard of Outcast. And as someone who loves open-world exploration, I don't share that fact proudly. I've only ever known the shinier counterparts of last century's genre defining titles, growing up with games like Bioshock, Fallout, and Wolfenstein, whose decades-old predecessors continue to influence modern gaming [...]


We know, we know, it's mainly a technology website, but we're also big on science and since we're both biologists we couldn't resist to share this one. Atlas Obscura, an awesome website full of great articles of strange and unique tidbits of cultural peculiarities and general oddness, published an interesting piece on bird behavior. It refers to a fairly well-known behavior that goes by the name of "anting", which as you might already guess refers to the unexpected habit of rubbing ants on their body. Not all species indulge in this behavior, but the ones that do still gives us no clues as to why they do it. Ornithologists have been trying to come up with an explanation, and there are a number of hypotheses. Ants belonging to the Formicinae subfamily produce formic acid, which some researchers say could be used to kill parasites in the feathers; as a balm to relieve irritation caused by seasonal molting and others say it could be a way for birds to safely eat ants by preemptively shedding away their acid. The verdict is still out, either way, it's a curious mystery waiting to be solved and a reminder that science is an ongoing affair and sometimes the trip is much more fun than the destination!


The astronomy community has been sucker punched this weekend, we have the first confirmed interstellar visitor! The object appeared at an angle in our solar system that suggests it came from outside the heliosphere. Dubbed "Oumuamua", which roughly translates to "first messenger" in Hawaiian, the object appears to be an asteroid with a reddish tinge. It's oddly shaped, looking like a long cigar (triaxial ellipsoid) with approximately 80 meters across two of its axes and 800 meters on the third. We don't know where it came from, some advanced the hypothesis of it being an ejected asteroid from a nearby recently formed exosolar system, that's roughly in the same direction that Oumuamua came from.
It was discovered by an automated telescope system, the Pan-STARRS1 and it did so after a software update that was intended exactly for this situations, to identify objects that would otherwise be rejected by the previous algorithms. If anything this might be an indication that the software worked as intended and that we might have more discoveries on the horizon.


There is a good chance that you know some personality tests and maybe even taken one. The Meyers-Briggs appear to be popular right now and perhaps useful but thinking about it; a personality test offers a very reductionist view of a person. I guess we all want to know where we belong and feel more comfortable belonging to a group even if it's poorly defined. 

The beginning of personality testing occurred during the second world war when a group of psychology professors created the F-scale with the objective of identifying potential authoritarians. This article covers personality testing from 1943 to what we know today. 


Barefoot running is a thing. There are even shoes like the ones from Vibram (making dubious claims) for those who feel more comfortable wearing something but still want to maintain a natural gait.  I got tempted to try it about a decade ago but abandoned running altogether not long after that. The proposition is that running barefoot prevents injuries because we change the way we run to a natural stride.  The research, however, isn't that simple because shoes do change the way we run, but our body also adapts to it, and in the end, we may just be trading one set of injuries for another. 


It gets better and better. Not only do we have to worry about software exploits but now even replacement hardware is a concern. 

The research, in a paper presented this week at the 2017 Usenix Workshop on Offensive Technologies, highlights an often overlooked disparity in smartphone security. The software drivers included in both the iOS and Android operating systems are closely guarded by the device manufacturers, and therefore exist within a "trust boundary." The factory-installed hardware that communicates with the drivers is similarly assumed to be trustworthy, as long as the manufacturer safeguards its supply chain. The security model breaks down as soon as a phone is serviced in a third-party repair shop, where there's no reliable way to certify replacement parts haven't been modified.
EP17: The X is For Experimental

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