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Review: Apple Music impresses a subscription skeptic

July 12, 2015 - 5:40pm
I've never been a fan of subscription music services, but Apple Music might make me change my mind.

A day with Apple Music: What it is and what it isn't (+video)

July 11, 2015 - 3:01pm

Apple launched its streaming service on Tuesday. Here's a hands-on experience of a user's first day with Apple Music.

Why Apple Music could crush the streaming business (+video)

July 11, 2015 - 3:01pm

Apple Music poses a substantial threat to rival on-demand music streaming services, particularly Spotify.

Photos: Spike Aerospace's Luxurious Supersonic Jet

July 11, 2015 - 5:51am
Spike Aerospace, a Boston-based company, is designing a supersonic jet that could fly passengers from New York to London in just 3 hours.

Music industry begins global Friday release of new albums

July 10, 2015 - 5:39pm
Big record stores, streaming services and hit charts adjusted longtime practices as the music industry Friday began a coordinated global release for new albums.

Can you actually hear 'inaudible' sound?

July 10, 2015 - 10:35am
Are wind farms harmful to humans? This controversial topic makes emotions run high. To give the debate more objectivity, an international team of experts dealt with the fundamentals of hearing in the lower limit range of the audible frequency range (i.e., infrasound), but also in the upper limit range (i.e., ultrasound).

Leveraging the Internet's unique data repositories

July 10, 2015 - 8:20am
Sometimes, data doesn't look like data. But when circumstances conspire and the right researchers come along, interesting facets of human nature reveal themselves. Last.fm and World of Warcraft are two entities made possible by the Internet, both aimed at entertainment of consumers. However, through new means of social interaction and larger scales of data collection they also, perhaps unintentionally, advanced science. Scientific achievement may seem like a stretch for a music service and a video game, but these unlikely candidates for scientific study show that the information age constantly offers new ways to study human behavior. Last.fm and World of Warcraft are contemporary social constructions, part of the new way that humans interact in our rapidly changing digital world. By applying scientific rigor to the data unwittingly generated by two Internet-based companies, we see that knowledge is everywhere, but sometimes requires creative routes to coax it out of hiding.

AUDIO: When jazz collided with physics

July 9, 2015 - 12:44pm
The Large Hadron Collider and jazz pianist Al Blatter make an unlikely musical duet at the Montreux Jazz Festival

Hearing test pinpoints middle-ear problems in newborns

July 9, 2015 - 11:26am
Screening method can reduce false-positive hearing results, reducing need for extensive followup tests, family stress, researchers say. In their study, audiologists used high-frequency tympanometry to test middle-ear function in 31 infants between the ages of one week and six months.

With acoustic reflector, carnivorous pitcher plants advertise themselves to bats

July 9, 2015 - 11:24am
In Borneo, some insectivorous bats have developed a rather intriguing relationship with carnivorous pitcher plants. The plants offer the bats a relatively cool place to roost, free of parasites and competition from other bats. In return, the bats keep the plants well fertilized with their droppings. Now, researchers show that the plants rely on special structures to reflect the bats' ultrasonic calls back to them.

Carnivorous Plant Lures in Pooping Bats | Video

July 9, 2015 - 10:27am
The Pitcher plant (N. hemsleyana) structure reflects ultrasonic calls from insectivorous bats (Kerivoula hardwicki) and "relatively cool place to roost." The bats leave dropping behind providing a fertilizer for the plants.

With acoustic reflector, carnivorous pitcher plants advertise themselves to bats

July 9, 2015 - 10:00am
In Borneo, some insectivorous bats have developed a rather intriguing relationship with carnivorous pitcher plants. The plants offer the bats a relatively cool place to roost, free of parasites and competition from other bats. In return, the bats keep the plants well fertilized with their droppings. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 9 show that the plants rely on special structures to reflect the bats' ultrasonic calls back to them. That adaptation of the plants makes it easier for bats to find their plant partners in the cluttered forest.

We could find aliens any day now—SETI scientists discuss extraterrestrial life hunting

July 9, 2015 - 6:27am
ET phone Earth! We could be on the verge of answering one of the essential questions of humanity that has captivated our minds for centuries. As we advance in technology the search for extraterrestrial life becomes more sophisticated and promising. But the real frosting on the cake would be finding any signs of an intelligent alien civilization. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project is looking carefully for these signs, listening to the Universe that may be full of potential ET signals. In an interview with astrowatch.net, key figures of alien life hunting discuss the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life. SETI's Seth Shostak, Paul Shuch, Douglas Vakoch and Gerry Harp talk the odds of finding ETs, explain the famous "Wow!" signal received in 1977 and unveil the future of the search for aliens.

Gene Therapy for Deafness Moves a Few Steps Closer

July 8, 2015 - 4:16pm
A technique for fixing faulty DNA has been shown to improve responses in mice with genetic hearing loss

-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

What do weed and chicken farmers have in common? Willie Nelson

July 8, 2015 - 4:10pm

Chicken farmers have been shafted by corporate consolidation, says country legend and Farm Aid President Willie Nelson.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Nelson and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) lay out the problems with contract farming and lament the plight of the American chicken farmer. While poultry growers earn about 34 cents for every chicken they raise, processing companies earn about $3.23 per bird. It’s a cycle that leaves farmers trapped in debt, they write:

In May of 2010, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Alabama for a hearing examining abuses and anticompetitive practices in the poultry industry.

Poultry farmers at this and similar events described a widespread culture of fear. Growers reported retaliation in the form of canceled contracts, substandard chicks and feed, unannounced audits, rigged prices and expensive upgrade requirements if they chose to speak publicly or to their congressional representatives, or to organize with fellow growers to defend their interests.

But there are solutions:

The good news is that we have laws on the books to protect these farmers. All we have to do is enforce them.

In the 2008 farm bill, Congress directed the USDA to develop rules to protect farmers from retaliation and stop deceptive and anticompetitive practices by processors. The USDA did as directed, using findings from the aforementioned workshops to develop strong rules protecting poultry growers’ basic rights.

One of these rules prohibits industry retaliation “in response to the lawful expression, spoken or written, association, or action of a poultry grower.” In other words, growers have the right to speak freely and peaceably assemble. Other provisions prohibit deceptive or anticompetitive practices.

The powerful meat lobby has pressured Congress year after year to block funding to enforce these rules. Today, farmers remain vulnerable to industry retaliation, discrimination and deception. A funding bill that would allow the USDA to protect farmers from these unfair practices has started to move in Congress, but the same powerful interests that stopped it before will not be far behind. Members of Congress need to hear from their constituents on this issue immediately.

Willie Nelson, ladies and gents: marijuana enthusiast, country music hero, and the Lorax of chicken farmers.

Grist / Amelia Bates
Filed under: Food

Gene therapy restores hearing in deaf mice

July 8, 2015 - 1:10pm
Using gene therapy, researchers have restored hearing in mice with a genetic form of deafness. More than 70 different genes are known to cause deafness when mutated. The scientists focused on a gene called TMC1 because it is a common cause of genetic deafness, accounting for 4 to 8 percent of cases, and encodes a protein that plays a central role in hearing, helping convert sound into electrical signals that travel to the brain.

Microsoft tweaks streaming music plan for Windows 10

July 7, 2015 - 3:39pm
Microsoft has rebranded its subscription-based music services as part of a ramped-up effort to compete with the likes of Apple, Google, Spotify and others.

Using sonar to navigate: Bats do it, dolphins do it, and now humans can do it, too

July 7, 2015 - 11:46am
Bats have been using sonar to navigate and communicate for ages, and now humans can do the same, thanks to lightweight and efficient ultrasound microphones and loudspeakers developed by physicists. The devices owe their flat frequency response to graphene, which makes a stiff and responsive diaphragm far superior to those in today's ultrasound receivers and transmitters. Biologists can even slap one on a bat to record its nightly ultrasonic conversations.

Decoding the brain: Scientists redefine and measure single-neuron signal-to-noise ratio

July 7, 2015 - 10:40am
(Phys.org)—The signal-to-noise ratio, or SNR, is a well-known metric typically expressed in decibels and defined as a measure of signal strength relative to background noise – and in statistical terms as the ratio of the squared amplitude or variance of a signal relative to the variance of the noise. However, this definition – while commonly used to measure fidelity in physical systems – is not applicable to neural systems, because neural spiking activity (in which electrical pulses called action potentials travel down nerve fiber as voltage spikes, the pattern of which encodes and transmits information) is more accurately represented using point processes (random collections of points, each representing the time and/or location of an event).

Oorganization of human brain is nearly ideal

July 7, 2015 - 10:01am
The structure of the human brain has an almost ideal network of connections -- the links that permit information to travel from, say, the auditory cortex (responsible for hearing) to the motor cortex (responsible for movement).