Eleanor Lutz has a running list of scientific topics she wants to find data sets for. It’s not her job exactly. A biologist with wide-ranging curiosity, Lutz moonlights as a data-driven illustrator who transforms public data sets into arrestingly beautiful visual objects. She’s made digital trading cards of animated viruses (who knew HPV could be so mesmerizing), and infographics on plant species that have evolved to withstand forest fires.
Atlas of Space, her latest project, is all about the solar system. She plumbed the depths of publicly available data sets from agencies like NASA and the US Geological Survey and used them to create vivid maps of constellations, asteroids, and planets. In one image, luminescent bands of fuschia and aquamarine asteroids swirl around the bright, white point of the sun. In another, Earth seems to pulsate as an animation of arctic sea ice shows how it extends down the continents during the winter and then retracts back to the poles in summer. “I really like that all this data is accessible, but it’s very difficult to visualize,” she says. “It’s really awesome science, and I wanted everyone to be able to see that in a way that makes sense.”
Over the next several weeks, she is releasing each image along with a detailed tutorial on how to recreate it. A biology graduate student at the University of Washington, Lutz originally learned Python to help with her lab work, but that didn’t quite cover all the complicated techniques she needs to produce these images. “Because I’m not traditionally trained as a designer, and I’m not really an astronomer, I learned a lot from online tutorials myself,” she says. For her, sharing what she discovered is a way to help make the knowledge stick—and a way to pay it forward.
You can find Atlas of Space, along with Lutz’s other projects, on her design blog TableTop Whale.
So you have $52 million burning a hole in your pocket and just can’t decide what to do with it. Buy a private island? Too cliché. A new McLaren? You have enough of those. Pay off college administrators? Your kids have already graduated. But have you considered a stay at the International Space Station, the world’s premiere space hotel?
This is the proposal put forth last week by billionaire hotelier Robert Bigelow, whose company, Bigelow Space Operations, says it will send up to 16 private astronauts to the ISS in the coming years. Bigelow says $52 million will buy you a seat on a SpaceX rocket and a one- to two-month stay in orbit. This depends, of course, on SpaceX getting its commercial crew operations off the ground, which it expects to do by 2020. There aren’t many further details about Bigelow’s plans, but since 2018 he’s put down “substantial sums” to reserve four future SpaceX flights specifically for orbital tourism. (Bigelow has also promised space hotels by 2021, a timeline that is optimistic at best.)
A trip to space is definitely a luxury, but life in orbit? Anything but. In fact, when NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who has spent more time in space than any other American, returned from her last trip to the ISS and was asked to describe her experience, she said, “I would call it a camping trip.” Camping … in space? If that sounds like a good time, here’s what the ultra-rich can expect during their stay at the space station.
The ISS is the largest object ever put into space, but by terrestrial standards it’s still pretty cramped. The station has a pressurized volume of only 32,333 cubic feet, which is about the same as a Boeing 747. But only a third of that is habitable. Unlike a private jet, this space will be shared 24/7 by up to 10 people—six government astronauts and four private astronauts. Sounds like a recipe for cabin fever, but if Scott Kelly could spend a full year on the station, what’s one or two months?
Sleeping accommodations on the ISS are cozy. Each astronaut gets their own sleeping pod, which is just big enough to fit a person and a laptop mounted on the opposite wall. Tourists on the ISS don’t need to worry about bringing a pillow or blanket, either. Pillows are superfluous in space, and their blanket will be a sleeping bag strapped to the wall. Sweet dreams!
The ISS has a kitchen, but if tourists are expecting farm-to-table fare they’ll be very disappointed. An astronaut’s diet involves a lot of rehydrated power foods, but comfort foods like brownies and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are also available. Hopefully the tourists like tortillas, because there will be a lot of them.
Nothing goes better with endless burritos than a little tequila, but the ISS is drier than an AA meeting. NASA tried to get some booze into orbit back in the ’70s, but the negative public reaction over sending sherry to the Skylab space station quickly killed the plan.
As for the bathroom situation, well, its slightly better than digging a latrine on a camping trip, but not by much. To urinate, astronauts pee into a vacuum funnel in a high-tech porta potty. Defecating is pretty much the same, but more perilous. Astronauts need to make sure their excrement hits a roughly dish-sized hole, which suctions it into a plastic bag. This is a good incentive for ISS tourists to make sure they’re eating enough fiber, because if the toilet gets backed up or too full, well, let’s just put it this way: In space, everything floats, and someone’s got to wrangle it.
The ISS isn’t just a poop rodeo, however. During a tourist’s month in space, there will be plenty of time for leisure. They’ll be able to drift around the cupola, taking in a view of Earth that only a few hundred people in history have ever enjoyed. They’ll be able to float through the station catching M&Ms in zero g, pump some iron in the ISS gym, or maybe make a few funny videos to send home to friends. Data will cost $50 per gigabyte, but if you’ve already paid $52 million to get there, what’s a few grand more to tweet from orbit?
This is all a good way to spend a day or two, but how to spend the rest of the month? The astronauts surely have some good stories, but they won’t be around to shoot the breeze. NASA plans their days down to the minute, and most of the time they’ll be doing science experiments or station maintenance. How about a spacewalk? This is, at best, unlikely. The suits used for extravehicular activities are basically personal spacecraft and cost over $10 million each. Aside from that, hanging out in the vacuum of space is dangerous business. Astronauts have nearly drowned and run out of oxygen in their suits, so it’s probably best left to those who have spent their whole careers training for it.
If that still sounds like a good way to spend a month, Bigelow is taking reservations. It’d probably be a good idea to inquire about the refund policy, however. When space tourism on the ISS was first getting started in the early 2000s, only seven tourists managed to catch a ride on a Russian Soyuz rocket before the tourist program was put on hiatus. One would-be Japanese astronaut sued the space tourism company Space Adventures to recoup a $21 million down payment on a flight that never happened due to medical reasons. More recently, nearly 300 people lost the majority of their $100,000 down payment to fly to space with Xcor Aerospace when the company went bankrupt. Caveat emptor!
We are very excited to announce the first fully stable release of the Matrix protocol and specification across all APIs – as well as the Synapse 1.0 reference implementation which implements the full Matrix 1.0 API surface.
This means that after just over 5 years since the initial work on Matrix began, we are proud to have finally exited beta!! This is the conclusion of the work which we announced at FOSDEM 2019 when we cut the first stable release of the Server-Server API and began the Synapse 0.99 release series in anticipation of releasing a 1.0.
Now, before you get too excited, it’s critical to understand that Matrix 1.0 is all about providing a stable, self-consistent, self-contained and secure version of the standard which anyone should be able to use to independently implement production-grade Matrix clients, servers, bots and bridges etc. It does not mean that all planned or possible features in Matrix are now specified and implemented, but that the most important core of the protocol is a well-defined stable platform for everyone to build on.
On the Synapse side, our focus has been exclusively on ensuring that Synapse correctly implements Matrix 1.0, to provide a stable and secure basis for participating in Matrix without risk of room corruption or other nastinesses. However, we have deliberately not focused on performance or features in the 1.0 release – so I’m afraid that synapse’s RAM footprint will not have got significantly better, and your favourite long-awaited features (automatically defragmenting rooms with lots of forward extremities, configurable message retention, admin management web-interface etc) have not yet landed. In other words, this is the opposite of the Riot 1.0 release (where the entire app was redesigned and radically improved its performance and UX) – instead, we have adopted the mantra to make it work, make it work right, and then (finally) make it fast. You can read the full release notes here. It’s also worth looking at the full changelog through the Synapse 0.99 release series to see the massive amount of polishing that’s been going on here.
All this means that the main headline features which land in Matrix 1.0 are vitally important but relatively dry:
Using X.509 certificates to trust servers rather than perspective notaries, to simplify and improve server-side trust. This is a breaking change across Matrix, and we’ve given the community several months now to ensure their homeservers run a valid TLS certificate. See MSC1711 for full details, and the 2 week warning we gave. As of ~9am UTC today, the matrix.org homeserver is running Synapse 1.0 and enforcing valid TLS certificates – the transition has begun (and so far we haven’t spotted any major breakage :). Thank you to everyone who got ready in advance!
Using .well-known URIs to discover servers, in case you can’t get a valid TLS certificate for your server’s domain.
Switching to room version 4 by default for creating new rooms. This fixes the most important defects that the core room algorithm has historically encountered, particularly:
…and lots and lots and lots of bugfixes and spec omission fixes.
That said, there is a lot of really exciting stuff in flight right now which sadly didn’t stabilise in time for Matrix 1.0, but will be landing as fast as we can finalise it now that 1.0 is at last out the door. This includes:
Editable messages! (These are in Synapse 1.0 and Riot already, but still stabilising so not enabled by default)
Reactions! (Similarly these are in develop)
Threading!! (We’ve planted the seeds for this in the new ‘aggregations’ support which powers edits & reactions – but full thread support is still a bit further out).
Cross-signed verification for end-to-end encryption (This is on a branch, but due to land any day now). We’ve also held off merging E2E backups into the Matrix 1.0 spec until cross-signing lands, given it may change the backup behaviour a bit. Once this is done, we can seriously talk about turning on E2E by default everywhere.
Live-tracking of room statistics and state in Synapse! (This is in Synapse 1.0 already if you check out the new room_stats and room_state tables, but we need to provide a nice admin interface for it).
Support for smaller footprint homeservers by reducing memory usage and stopping them from joining overly complex rooms.
Then stuff which we haven’t yet started, but is now unlocked by the 1.0 release:
Fixing extremities build-up (and so massively improving performance)
Rewriting Communities. Groups/Communities deliberately didn’t land in Matrix 1.0 as the current implementation has issues we want to fix first. MSC1772 has the details.
Rewritten room directory using the new room stats/state tables to be super-speedy.
Just to give a quick taster of the shape of things to come, here’s RiotX/Android, the all-new Riot client for Android, showing off Edits & Reactions in the wild…
…and here’s a screenshot of the final test jig for cross-signing devices in end-to-end encryption, so you will never have to manually verify new devices for a trusted user ever again! We demoed a *very* early version of this at FOSDEM, but this here is the testing harness for real deal, after several iterations of the spec and implementation to nail down the model. + means the device/user’s cross-signing key is trusted, T means it’s TOFU:
So, there you have it – welcome to Matrix 1.0, and we look forward to our backlog of feature work now landing!
Massive massive thanks to everyone who has stuck with the project over the years and helped support and grow Matrix – little did we think back in May 2014 that it’d take us this long to exit beta, but hopefully you’ll agree that it’s been worth it 🙂
Talking of which, we were looking through the photos we took from the first ever session hacking on Matrix back in May 2014…
…suffice it to say that of the architectural options, we went with #3 in the end…
…and that nowadays we actually know how power levels work, in excruciating and (hopefully) well-specified detail 🙂
There has been an absolutely enormous amount of work to pull Matrix 1.0 together – both on the spec side (thanks to the Spec Core Team for corralling proposals, and everyone who’s contributed proposals, and particularly to Travis for editing it all) and the implementation side (thanks to the whole Synapse team for the tedious task of cleaning up everything that was needed for 1.0). And of course, huge thanks go to everyone who has been helping test and debug the Synapse 1.0 release candidates, or just supporting the project to get to this point 🙂
The Matrix.org Foundation
Finally, as promised, alongside Matrix 1.0, we are very happy to announce the official launch of the finalised Matrix.org Foundation!
As of today the Foundation is finalised and operational, and all the assets for Matrix.org have been transferred from New Vector (the startup we formed in 2017 to hire the core Matrix team). In fact you may already have seen Matrix.org Foundation notices popping up all over the Matrix codebase (as all of New Vector’s work on the public Matrix codebase for the forseeable is being assigned to the Matrix.org Foundation).
Most importantly, we’re excited to introduce the Guardians of the Matrix.org Foundation. The Guardians are the legal directors of the non-profit Foundation, and are responsible for ensuring that the Foundation (and by extension the Spec Core Team) keeps on mission and neutrally protects the development of Matrix. Guardians are typically independent of the commercial Matrix ecosystem and may even not be members of today’s Matrix community, but are deeply aligned with the mission of the project. Guardians are selected to be respected and trusted by the wider community to uphold the guiding principles of the Foundation and keep the other Guardians honest.
We have started the Foundation with five Guardians – two being the original founders of the Matrix project (Matthew and Amandine) and three being entirely independent, thus ensuring the original Matrix team forms a minority which can be kept in check by the rest of the Guardians. The new Guardians are:
Prof. Jon Crowcroft – Marconi Professor of Communications Systems in the Computer Lab at the University of Cambridge and the Turing Institute. Jon is a pioneer in the field of decentralised communication, and a fellow of the Royal Society, the ACM, the British Computer Society, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Jon is a global expert in decentralisation and data privacy, and is excellently placed to help ensure Matrix stays true to its ideals.
Ross Schulman – Ross is a senior counsel and senior policy technologist at New America’s Open Technology Institute, where he focuses on internet measurement, emerging technologies, surveillance, and decentralization. Prior to joining OTI, Ross worked for Google.
Ross brings a unique perspective as a tech- and decentralisation-savvy lawyer to the Foundation, as well as being one of the first non-developers in the Matrix community to run his own homeserver. Ross has been known to walk around Mozfest clutching a battery-powered Synapse in a box, promoting decentralised communication for all.
Dr. Jutta Steiner – As co-founder and CEO of Parity Technologies, Jutta is dedicated to building a better internet – Web 3.0 – where users’ privacy & control come first. Parity Technologies is a leader in the blockchain space – known to many as the creator of one of the most popular Ethereum clients, it is also the creator of two ambitious new blockchain technlogies, Polkadot and Substrate, that make it easier to experiment and innovate on scalability, encryption and governance.
Parity has been pioneering Matrix enterprise use since the moment they decided to rely on Matrix for their internal and external communication back in 2016, and now run their own high-volume deployment, with end-to-end encryption enabled by default. Jutta represents organisations who are professionally dependent on Matrix day-to-day, as well as bringing her unique experiences around decentralisation and ensuring that Web 3.0 will be a fair web for all.
We’d like to offer a very warm welcome to the new Guardians, and thank them profusely for giving up their time to join the Foundation and help ensure Matrix stays on course for the years to come.
For the full update on the Foundation, please check out the new website content at https://matrix.org/foundation which should tell you everything you could possibly want to know about the Foundation, the Guardians, the Foundation’s legal Articles of Association, and the day-to-day Rules which define the Open Governance process.
Matrix 1.0 has been a bit of an epic to release, but puts us on a much stronger footing for the future.
However, it’s very unlikely that we’d have made it this far if most of the core dev team wasn’t able to work on Matrix as their day job. Right now we are actively looking for large-scale donations to the Matrix.org Foundation (and/or investment in New Vector) to ensure that the team can maintain as tight a focus on core Matrix work as possible, and to ensure the project realises its full potential. While Matrix is growing faster than ever, this perversely means we have more and more distractions – whether that’s keeping the Matrix.org server safe and operational, or handling support requests from the community, or helping new members of the ecosystem get up and running. If you would like Matrix to succeed, please get in touch if you’d like to sponsor work, prioritise features, get support contracts, or otherwise support the project. We’re particularly interested in sponsorship around decentralised reputation work (e.g. publishing a global room directory which users can filter based on their preferences).
Finally, huge thanks to everyone who has continued to support us through thick and thin on Patreon, Liberapay or other platforms. Every little helps here, both in terms of practically keeping the lights on, and also inspiring larger donations & financial support.
So: thank you once again for flying Matrix. We hope you enjoy 1.0, and we look forward to everything else landing on the horizon!
… from Jupyter notebooks to standalone applications and dashboards
The goal of Project Jupyter is to improve the workflows of researchers, educators, scientists, and other practitioners of scientific computing, from the exploratory phase of their work to the communicationof the results.
But interactive notebooks are not the best communication tool for all audiences. While they have proven invaluable to provide a narrative alongside the source, they are not ideal to address non-technical readers, who may be put off by the presence of code cells, or the need to run the notebook to see the results. Finally, following the order as the code often results in the most interesting content to be at the end of the document.
Another challenge with sharing notebooks is the security model. How can we offer the interactivity of a notebook making use of e.g. Jupyter widgets without allowing arbitrary code execution by the end user?
We set ourselves to solve these challenges, and we are happy to announce the first release of voilà.
Voilà turns Jupyter notebooks in standalone web applications.
Voilà supports Jupyter interactive widgets, including the roundtrips to the kernel.
Voilà does not permit arbitrary code execution by consumers of dashboards.
Built upon Jupyter standard protocols and file formats, voilà works with any Jupyter kernel (C++, Python, Julia), making it a language-agnostic dashboarding system.
Voilà is extensible. It includes a flexible template system to produce rich application layouts.
Installation and first-time use
Voilà can be installed from pypi:
pip install voila
conda install voila -c conda-forge
Upon installation, several components are installed, one of which is the voila command-line utility. You can try it by typing voila notebook.ipynb. It results in the browser opening to a new tornado application showing markdown cells, rich outputs, and interactive widgets.
As you can see in the screencast, Jupyter interactive widgets remain fully functional even when they require computation by the kernel.
You can immediately try out some of the command-line options to voilà
with --strip_sources=False, input cells will be included in the resulting web application (as read-only pygment snippets).
with --theme=dark, voilà will make use of the dark JupyterLab theme, which will apply to code cells, widgets and all other visible components.
Note that code is only shown, voilà does not allow users to edit or execute arbitrary code.
Voilà’s execution model
The execution model of voilà is the following: upon connection to a notebook URL, voilà launches the kernel for that notebook, and runs all the cells as it populates the notebook model with the outputs.
The current version of voilà only responds to the initial GET request when all the cells have finished running, which may take a long time, but there is ongoing work on enabling progressive rendering, which should make it into a release soon.
An important aspect of this execution model is that the front-end does not determine what code is run by the backend. In fact, unless specified otherwise (with option --strip-sources=False), the source of the rendered notebook does not even make it to the front-end. The instance of the jupyter_server instantiated by voilà actually disallows execute requests by default.
Together with ipympl, voilà is actually a simple means to render interactive matplotlib figures in a standalone web application:
Voilà is language-agnostic
Voilà can be used to produce applications with any Jupyter kernel. The following screencast shows how voilà can be used to produce a simple dashboard in C++ making use of leaflet.js maps, with the xeus-cling C++ kernel and the xleaflet package.
We hope that voilà will be a stimulant to other languages (R, Julia, JVM/Java) to provide stronger widgets support.
Richer layouts with Voilà templates
The main extension point to voilà is the custom template system. The HTML served to the end-user is produced from the notebook model by applying a Jinja template, which can be defined by the user.
An example template for voilà is the voila-gridstack template, which can be installed from pypi with
pip install voila-gridstack
You can try it by typing voila notebook.ipynb --template=gridstack.
A roadmap item for the gridstack voilà template is to support the entire spec for the deprecated jupyter dashboards and to create a WYSIWYG editor for these templates in the form of a JupyterLab extension.
Note that voila-gridstack template is still at an early stage of development.
How to make custom voilà templates?
A voilà template is actually a folder placed in the standard directoryPREFIX/share/jupyter/voila/templates and which may include
nbconvert templates (the jinja templates used to transform the notebook into HTML)
custom tornado templates such as 404.html etc.
All of these are optional. It may also contain a conf.json file to set up which template to use as a base. The directory structure for a voilà template is the following:
Another example template for voilà is voila-vuetify, which is built upon vue.js:
The voila-gridstack and voila-vuetify templates are still at an early stage of development, but will be iterated upon quickly in the next weeks as we are exploring templates.
A Jupyter server extension
Beyond the voila command-line utility, the voilà package also include a Jupyter server extension, so that voilà dashboards can be served alongside the Jupyter notebook application.
When voilà is installed, a running Jupyter server will serve the voilà web application under BASE_URL/voila.
The Jupyter Community Workshop on Dashboarding
From June 3rd to June 6th 2019, a community workshop on dashboarding with Project Jupyter took place in Paris. Over thirty Jupyter contributors and community members gathered to discuss dashboarding technologies and hack together.
Several dashboarding solutions such as Dash and Panel were presented during the workshop and featured at the PyData Paris Meetup which was organized on the same week.
The workshop was also the occasion for several contributors to start working on voilà. Custom templates, a dashboard gallery, logos and UX mockups for JupyterLab extensions have been developed.
We will soon publish a more detailed post on the workshop, detailing the many tracks of development that have been explored!
What is coming?
There is a lot of planned work around voilà in the next weeks and months. Current work streams include better integration with JupyterHub for publicly sharing dashboard between users, as well as JupyterLab extensions (a voilà “preview” extension for notebooks, and a WYSIWYG editor for dashboard layouts). There are also ongoing discussions with the OVH cloud provider (which already supports binder by handling some of its traffic) on hosting a binder-like service dedicated to voilà dashboards. So stay tuned for more exciting developments!
Last but not least, we are especially excited about what you will be building upon voilà!
We would like to thank Chris Holdgraf for his work on improving documentation, and integration with JupyterHub.
We should mention Yuvi Panda and Pascal Bugnion for getting the voila-galleryproject off the ground during the workshop. We are grateful to Zach Sailer for his continued work on improvingjupyter_server. We should finally not forget to mention the prior art by Pascal Bugnion with the Jupyter widgets server which was also an inspiration for voilà.
Apple has released a new version of iCloud for Windows 10 in the Microsoft Store, according to a recent blog post by Microsoft and a handful of Apple customer support documents. The new version claims to be a major improvement, with more robust features and more reliable syncing—the latter of those has been a common complaint for users of Apple’s previous version.
Features listed by Microsoft include:
Access your iCloud Drive files directly from File Explorer without using up space on your PC
Choose the files and folders you want to keep on your PC
Safely store all your files in iCloud Drive and access them from your iOS device, Mac, and on iCloud.com
Share any file right from File Explorer and easily collaborate with others—edits will be synced across your devices
Interestingly, Microsoft says the new iCloud app is “powered by the same Windows technology that also powers OneDrive’s Files On-Demand feature”—an unexpected technical and corporate partnership. But it shouldn’t be too surprising at this point; despite the storied history and rivalries of the 1980s and ’90s (as well as competition in area
Update, June 11: Shortly after Nintendo’s E3 2019 “Direct” video presentation on Tuesday, the game maker hosted a “Treehouse” panel on YouTube with updates about previously announced Nintendo Switch games. One of those updates confirmed some good news for hopeful Super Mario Maker 2 owners: its online matchmaking service will indeed receive “friends-only” modes after all.
When discussing upcoming support for the June 28 game, producer Takashi Tezuka said through a translator, “A new update will let people play with your friends online.” The game will not ship with this feature in June, and no date was attached to this eventual update. But we’re glad to see the company publicly reverse course and reach feature parity with other first-party Nintendo Switch Online games.
Most of the news to come out of a recent Super Mario Maker 2 press event seems to be good, with series fans confirming that the “make your own Mario” series has only gotten bigger and better in its Nintendo Switch premiere. But the event also included confirmation of a strange limitation for the June 28 game: the series’ new online-multiplayer modes—which require a paid Nintendo Switch Online membership—will n
A Noah’s Ark strategy will fail. In the roughest sense, that’s the conclusion of a first-of-its-kind study that illuminates which marine species may have the ability to survive in a world where temperatures are rising and oceans are becoming acidic.
Two-by-two, or even moderately sized, remnants may have little chance to persist on a climate-changed planet. Instead, for many species, “we’ll need large populations,” says Melissa Pespeni a biologist at the University of Vermont who led the new research examining how hundreds of thousands of sea urchin larvae responded to experiments where their seawater was made either moderately or extremely acidic.
The study was published on June 11, 2019, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Pespeni and her team were surprised to discover that rare variation in the DNA of a small minority of the urchins were highly useful for survival. These rare genetic variants are “a bit like having one winter coat among fifty lightweight jackets when the weather hits twenty below in Vermont,” Pespeni says. “It’s that coat that lets you survive.” When the water conditions were made extremely acidic, these rare variants increased in frequency in the larvae. These are the genes that let the next generation of urchins alter how various proteins function—like the ones they use to make their hard-but-easily-dissolved shells and manage the acidity in their cells.
But to maintain these rare variants in the population—plus other needed genetic variation that is more common and allows for response to a range of acid levels in the water—requires many individuals.
“The bigger the population, the more rare variation you’ll have,” says Reid Brennan, a post-doctoral researcher in Pespeni’s UVM lab and lead author on the new study. “If we reduce population sizes, then we’re going to have less fodder for evolution—and less chance to have the rare genetic variation that might be beneficial.”
In other words, some organisms might persist in a climate-changed world because they’re able to change their physiology—think of sweating more; some will be able to migrate, perhaps farther north or upslope. But for many others, their only hope is to evolve—rescued by the potential for change that lies waiting in rare stretches of DNA.
The purple sea urchins the UVM team studied in their Vermont lab are part of natural populations that stretch from Baja, California to Alaska. Found in rocky reefs and kelp forests, these prickly creatures are a favorite snack of sea otters—and a key species in shaping life in the intertidal and subtidal zones. Because of their huge numbers, geographic range, and the varying conditions they live in, the urchins have high “standing genetic variation,” the scientists note. This makes purple urchins likely survivors in the harsh future of an acidified ocean—and good candidates for understanding how marine creatures may adapt to rapidly changing conditions.
It is well understood that rising average global temperatures are a fundamental driver of the imminent extinction faced by a million or more species—as a recent UN biodiversity report notes. But it’s not just rising averages that matter. It may be the hottest—or most acidic—moments that test an organism’s limits and control its survival. And, as the UVM team writes, “the genetic mechanisms that allow rapid adaptation to extreme conditions have been rarely explored.”
Currency in the current sea
The new study used an innovative “single-generation selection” experiment that began with twenty-five wild-caught adult urchins. Each female produced about 200,000 eggs from which the scientists were able extract DNA out of pools of about 20,000 surviving larvae that were living in differing water conditions. This very large number of individuals gave the scientists a clear view that purple urchins possess a genetic heritage that lets them adapt to extremely acidic ocean water. “This species of sea urchin is going to be okay in the short term. They can respond to these low pH conditions and have the needed genetic variation to evolve,” says UVM’s Reid Brennan. “So long as we do our part to protect their habitats and keep their populations large.”
But coming through the ferocious challenge of rapid climate change may come at a high cost. “It’s hopeful that evolution happens—and it’s surprising and exciting that these rare variants play such a powerful role,” says Melissa Pespeni, an assistant professor in UVM’s biology department and expert on ocean ecosystems. “This discovery has important implications for long-term species persistence. These rare variants are a kind of currency that urchins have to spend,” she says. “But they can only spend it once.”
Why Noah’s ark won’t work (2019, June 11)
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More information on the newly announced Trials of Mana, a remake of the game released in Japan in 1995 as Seiken Densetsu 3, has come out of a developer interview with Famitsu at E3 2019.
Here are the notable tidbits:
The project began moving around two years ago.
Unlike Secret of Mana, the reason we are making a significantly bolder remake with this game is because this title was never released overseas, so we hope to introduce it as a completely new title.
Trials of Mana is one of the conclusions we arrived at through trial and error while listening to the feedback from [the remake of] Secret of Mana. Early in development, we created a prototype that was even closer to the original game, but as a remake after 25 years we were not satisfied with that.
The original concept of the Mana series was something along the lines of, “seamlessly play the Final Fantasy series’ ATB battle system.” We called what we ended up with “motion battle,” we weren’t saying it was an action RPG at that time.
In Secret of Mana, you were able to fight while changing weapons, but since your weapons were fixed in Trials of Mana, we heard from users that was no good, so with the remake we wanted to fix that.
Elements such as combos and jump attacks have been implemented in the remake. It’s being made so you can really enjoy the action parts.
While this is probably the most action-heavy game in the series, it is an action RPG through and through, so you enjoy the game even if you’re not good at it so long as you level up.
Since action performance differs based on the character, your experience with the game will change based on who you’re playing as.
There is no multiplayer.
Event scenes are pretty much fully voiced. 30-plus characters all have proper voices.
The voice cast will be announced at a later date, but we can say with 100 percent certainty that the voice cast won’t damage the characters’ images.
There is a lot that we still can’t say, so fans and non-fans alike please look forward to hearing more.
Trials of Mana is due out for PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC in early 2020.
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