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Pumpkin kegs, dead dinosaurs, and rooting for the home team in this week’s Staff Picks

Digital Trends Staff Picks

Jeffrey Van Camp: Screw you, science! I want cloned dinosaurs

There are many reasons why we shouldn’t bring dinosaurs back from the dead, but damnit, it would be nice to have the option! This week, Nature magazine ripped the dinosaur posters off my childhood walls and burned my set of Dino Riders action figures. As it turns out, researchers took the science of Jurassic Park a little seriously and have been studying the half-life of DNA. The sad part is, those researchers found that even in a “perfect preservation environment” of -5 celsius, every bond between the nucleotides that make up DNA would be broken after 6.8 million years. Worse, after about 1.5 million years the DNA would “cease to be usable.” That’s a far shot from the 75 million year gap between us and the last group of dinosaurs, and it means we’re never going to discover a prehistoric sap-covered mosquito with any actual Dino DNA left in it — let alone enough to allow us to fill in the gaps to complete the… code with frog DNA. Total buzzkill.

 Science, what is this crap?! You’re supposed to continue to show us that anything is possible, including our favorite science fiction morality tale movies. I certainly hope there is another research team hard at work irradiating lizards. I’m not in the mood to learn that Godzilla can’t exist either. 

Science. Fail.

This video best describes how I feel right now.

Micah Abrams: Marco Arment is at it again 

Marco Arment knows from elegant problem solving. The Instapaper and Tumblr developer has a gift for identifying needs native to a digital world (“I need to read the internet offline,” in the former case; “My blogging platform does 8000 things I don’t need it to do,” in the latter), and creating incredibly easy-to-use solutions. So my eyes perked up when I heard about his latest venture, “The Magazine.” 

The problem The Magazine sets out to solve is less user-specific than industry-specific. Digital publishing is a space where, from a business standpoint, there’s way more failure than success. This despite the fact that, by some measures, we’re reading now more than ever and the traction of sites like Bill Simmons’ Grantland prove that the audience for long-form writing is large within the younger generations so often blamed for the death of print. So how do you make money?

The Magazine is basically a written version of Arment’s popular Build And Analyze podcast, which covers technology and culture from a developer’s perspective. Arment always makes products that are simple and effective, and The Magazine is no exception; but in this case it’s the business model that’s really simple: $1.99 a month for 4 articles every two weeks. So can it be effective? We’ll find out soon enough: In the first issue’s forward, Arment declares that, if he can’t make it profitable within 4 issues, he’s shuttering it. 


Caleb Denison: Geeks unite!

This video is a heart-warming mashup of two distinct geek-o-types: gamers and band nerds. I spent six years in various marching bands and drum-and-bugle corps when I was young, but I never got to do a field show half as cool as the one from Ohio State University’s half-time show during its game against Nebraska. The field show highlights the theme songs to some of the most recognizable video games from the last three decades. While the audio isn’t perfect, it’s good enough to underscore the impressive display the highly coordinated marching band manages to pull off (stick around for the running horse at 6:13). As of now, the video has scored over 9 million views. I guess sometimes nerds do get some attention after all.

Andrew Couts: Beating the cyberwar drum badly

Hide yo’ kids. Hide yo’ wife. The Chinese, Russians, Iranians, and terrorists are coming — through the computers! This, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who warned this week that the U.S. is a virtual sitting duck unless Congress gets some comprehensive cybersecurity legislation to President Obama’s desk stat. 

 “An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches,” said Panetta during an event at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum on Thursday. “They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”

Why, exactly, we’re loading passenger trains with barrels of lethal chemicals, he did not say. 

Of course, Panetta’s ominous (if ludicrous) example has a hard lining of truth. Multiple cybersecurity experts have told me about the vulnerabilities of our critical infrastructure networks and other legacy systems that have no business being connected to the Internet in the first place. But don’t be fooled: The rules of pre-engagement specify that getting us all nice and scared is the first step toward victory, the cyber type or otherwise.

Read this prime example of fear-mongering in all its glory at The New York Times, here.

molly-mchughMolly McHugh: Now this is a great pumpkin Charlie Brown

I am not what you would call a crafty person. I hardly ever wrap presents, and don’t get me started on the uselessness of making cards (why can’t you just hand someone a gift and say “This is from me,”?). I have little to no appreciation for decorations or handmade anything or DIYing – but this, this pumpkin turned into a keg, I can respect. Clearly, I am not Celebrations Party Ideas target audience, but if anything could get me to care about carving a pumpkin into something other than a Stars Wars insignia (I’m on three consecutive years now), it’s beer. Now I’m off to find a pumpkin that can hold approximately 2,000 ounces of liquid.

 Ryan Fleming: It’s never too early to fan out

Last night (or early this morning if you want to get technical about it) marked one of the most important days of the year for sports fans – Midnight Madness. For those that have led sad and lonely lives devoid of the joys of college basketball, Midnight Madness marks the first day that college basketball teams can officially practice together.  For many programs (including my own beloved Kansas Jayhawks), the event is heralded by all the pomp and circumstance you would expect of a sport that could easily be mistaken for religion by many.  

But beyond the pageantry of the event itself, it signifies that the college basketball season has begun, at least technically.  The games won’t begin until November, but a quick search online for last night’s festivities can help fill the void until the first tip-off.  Rock chalk!