For much of the year we were under the impression that the second generation Maxwell will end up as a 20nm chip.
First-generation Maxwell ended up being branded as Geforce GTX 750 and GTX 750 TI and the second generation Maxwell launched a few days ago as the GTX 980 and Geforce GTX 970, with both cards based on the 28nm GM204 GPU.
This is actually quite good news as it turns out that Nvidia managed to optimize power and performance of the chip and make it one of the most efficient chips manufactured in 28nm.
Nvidia 20nm chips coming in 2015
Still, people keep asking about the transition to 20nm and it turns out that the first 20nm chip from Nvidia in 20nm will be a mobile SoC.
The first Nvidia 20nm chip will be a mobile part, most likely Erista a successor of Parker (Tegra K1).
Our sources didn’t mention the exact codename, but it turns out that Nvidia wants to launch a mobile chip first and then it plans to expand into 20nm with graphics.
Unfortunately we don’t have any specifics to report.
AMD 20nm SoC in 2015
AMD is doing the same thing as its first 20nm chip, codenamed Nolan, is an entry level APU targeting tablet and detachable markets.
There is a strong possibility that Apple and Qualcomm simply bought a lot of 20nm capacity for their mobile modem chips and what was left was simply too expensive to make economic sense for big GPUs.
20nm will drive the voltage down while it will allow higher clocks, more transistors per square millimeter and it will overall enable better chips.
Just remember Nvidia world’s first quad-core Tegra 3 in 40nm was rather hot and making a quad core in 28nm enabled higher performance and significantly better battery life. The same was true of other mobile chips of the era.
We expect similar leap from going down to 20nm in 2015 and Erista might be the first chip to make it to 20nm. A Maxwell derived architecture 20nm will deliver even more efficiency. Needless to say AMD plans to launch 20nm GPUs next year as well.
It looks like Nvidia’s 16nm FinFET Parker processor, based on the Denver CPU architecture and Maxwell graphics won’t appear before 2016.
EA is considering developing games for wearables. The company already has two teams on the job, looking for ways to make wearable games. Their efforts are focused on the Apple Watch for now.
EA told CNET that the company has quite a relationship with Apple and Frank Gibeau, head of EA’s mobile gaming arm, said he is impressed with the new Apple A8 SoC. Gibeau added that Apple’s decision to include 128GB storage in flagship models is more good news for gamers, as it raises the bar for developers and gives them more room to play around with.
Gibeau said EA’s mobile division is “intrigued” by the prospect of gaming on wearables. He said wearables are eventually going to offer more performance and capability, thus enabling new gaming experiences. However, he cautioned that “it’s very early days” for wearable gaming.
“In fact, we have two teams prototyping wearable experiences that are not only standalone, but also some ideas where you can actually use the fitness component in the watch that can unlock capabilities in the game that might be on your iPhone. Or you could do crafting or some other auction trading on your watch that goes back into your tablet game that you might check out later when you get home,” he told CNET.
Finally, Ubisoft has a release date for the Wii U version of Watch Dogs. While we don’t know if that many people are waiting for the Wii U version, when it does release it could very well end up being one of the last M rated titles for the Wii U console.
The release date for the Wii U version of Watch Dogs appears to be November 18th in North America and November 21st in Europe. This ends the original release delay that Ubisoft announced for the Wii U version as resources were moved to prepare the other versions of the game for release.
Ubisoft has been one of the strongest supports of software for the Wii U, but recently it announced that it was done producing titles like Assassins Creed and Watch Dogs for the Wii U because the sales of these M rated titles are just not there on the Wii U platform. It did indicate that it would focus on some of its other Wii U titles that continue to be popular on the console.
The news is good that they are getting Watch Dogs, but it looks like we will not see many more games like this on the Wii U.
You can’t accuse eSports League CEO Ralf Reichert of always telling people what they want to hear. At last month’s FanExpo Canada in Toronto, Ontario, just a few blocks away from the Hockey Hall of Fame, Reichert told GamesIndustry.biz that he saw competitive gaming overtaking the local pastime.
“Our honest belief is it’s going to be a top 5 sport in the world,” Reichert said. “If you compare it to the NHL, to ice hockey, that’s not a first row sport, but a very good second-row sport. [eSports] should be ahead of that… It’s already huge, it’s already comparable to these traditional sports. Not the Super Bowl, but the NHL [Stanley Cup Finals].”
Each game of this year’s Stanley Cup Finals averaged 5 million viewers on NBC and the NBC Sports Network. The finals of the ESL Intel Extreme Masters’ eighth season, held in March in Katowice, Poland, drew 1 million peak concurrent viewers, and 10 million unique viewers over the course of the weekend. That’s comparing the US audience for hockey to a global audience for the IEM series, but Reichert said the events are getting larger all the time.
As for how eSports have grown in recent years, the executive characterized it as a mostly organic process, and one that sometimes happens in spite of the major players. One mistake he’s seen eSports promoters make time and again is trying to be too far ahead of the curve.
“There have been numerous attempts to do celebrity leagues as a way to grow eSports, to make it more accessible,” Reichert said. “And rather than focusing on the core of eSports, the Starcrafts and League of Legends of the world, people tried to use easy games, put celebrities on it, and make a classic TV format out of it.”
One such effort, DirecTV’s Championship Gaming Series, held an “inaugural draft” at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills and featured traditional eSports staples like Counter-Strike: Source alongside arguably more accessible fare like Dead or Alive 4, FIFA 07, and Project Gotham Racing 3.
“They put in tens of millions of dollars in trying to build up a simplified eSports league, and it was just doomed because they tried to simplify it rather than embrace the beauty of the apparent complexity.”
Complexity is what gives established sports their longevity, Reichert said. And while he dismisses the idea that eSports are any more complex than American football or baseball, he also acknowledged there is a learning curve involved, and it’s steep enough that ESL isn’t worrying about bringing new people on board.
“It’s tough for generations who didn’t grow up with gaming to get what Starcraft is,” Reichert said. “They need to spend 2-10 hours with it, in terms of watching it, getting it explained, and getting educated around it, or else they still might have that opinion. Our focus is more to have the generations who grew up with it as true fans, rather than trying to educate people who are outside of this conglomerate… There have been numerous attempts to make European soccer easier to approach, or American football, or baseball, but they all kill the soul of the actual sport. Every attempt to do that is just doomed.”
Authenticity is what keeps the core of the audience engaged, Reichert said. And even though there will always be purists who fuss over every change–Reichert said changing competitive maps in Starcraft could spark a debate like instant replay in baseball–being true to the core of the original sport has been key for snowboarding, mixed martial arts, and every other successful upstart sport of the last 15 years.
“Like with every new sport, the biggest obstacle has been people not believing in it,” Reichert said. “And it goes across media, sponsorships, game developers, press, everyone. The acceptance of eSports was a hard fought battle over a long, long time, and there’s a tipping point where it goes beyond people looking at it like ‘what the hell is this?’ And to reach that point was the big battle for eSports… The thing is, once we started to fill these stadiums, everyone looking at the space instantly gets it. Games, stadiums, this is a sport. It’s such a simple messaging that no one denies it anymore who knows about the facts.”
That’s not to say everybody is convinced. ESPN president John Skipper recently dismissed eSports as “not a sport,” even though his network streamed coverage of Valve’s signature Dota 2 tournament earlier this year. Reichert admitted that mainstream institutions seem to be lagging behind when it comes to acceptance, particularly with sponsors. While companies within the game industry are sold on eSports, non-endemic advertisers are only beginning to get it.
“The very, let’s say progressive ones, like Red Bull, are already involved,” Reichert said. “But to get it into the T-Mobiles and other companies as a strategy piece, that will still take some time. The market in terms of the size and quality of events is still ahead of the sponsorship, but that’s very typical.”
Toronto was the second stop for ESL’s IEM Season 9 after launching in Shenzhen July 16. The league is placing an international emphasis on this year’s competition, with additional stops planned in the US, Europe, and Southeast Asia.
As the company tries to revive MSN, the focus this time is also on top content from the Web instead of offering original content. For the relaunch, the company has signed up with over 1,300 publishers worldwide including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Yomiuri, CNN and The Guardian.
A “Services Stripe” at the top of the MSN homepage gives users easy access to personal services including Outlook.com email, OneDrive, Office 365 and Skype, as well as popular third-party sites like Twitter and Facebook, according to an online preview launched by Microsoft on Sunday.
The new MSN also provides “actionable information” and content and personal productivity tools such as shopping lists, a savings calculator, a symptom checker, and a 3D body explorer. Readers will have access to content from 11 sections including sports, news, health and fitness, money, travel and video, wrote Frank Holland, corporate vice president of Microsoft Advertising, in a blog post.
The company said it has rebuilt MSN from the ground up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. The new MSN helps people complete their key digital tasks across all of their devices, wrote Brian MacDonald, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for information and content experiences, in a blog post.
“Information and personalized settings are roamed through the cloud to keep users in the know wherever they are,” MacDonald added. Users worldwide can try out the new MSN preview.
In the coming months, Microsoft plans to release MSN apps across iOS and Android to complement its corresponding Windows and Windows Phone apps. “You only need to set your favorites once, and your preferences will be connected across MSN, Cortana, Bing and other Microsoft experiences,” MacDonald wrote.
Microsoft claims an audience of more than 437 million people across 50 countries for MSN.
MSN.com ranks number 26 among the top sites in the U.S., behind Microsoft’s own Bing site, Google’s search site, YouTube, Facebook and Yahoo’s portal, according to traffic estimates by Alexa.
New research shows that the object, known as WISE J0304-2705 and classified as a Y dwarf, may have begun its evolution with a temperature as hot as a red dwarf star before settling on its present temperature, which is similar to Venus.
“Our measurements suggest that this Y dwarf may have a composition and/or age characteristic of one of the galaxy’s oldest members,” David Pinfield, of the University of Hertfordshire, and lead researcher of the study detailing the findings, said in a statement. ”This means its temperature evolution could have been rather extreme.” [Star Quiz: Test Your Stellar Smarts]
Pinfield led an international team that studied the properties of the unusual body.
A peculiar object
WISE J0304-2705 is part of the newly discovered “Y dwarf” class of stars, the coolest of the brown dwarf objects. Brown dwarfs are often referred to as “failed stars” because, despite their substantial size, they fall short of the necessary mass to begin the hydrogen fusion that powers stellar objects.
The new planet-like object has a mass between 20 and 30 Jupiters, ranking it in size between planets and small stars. Unlike the rocky Earth, the Y dwarf has a gas exterior much like Jupiter.
Pinfield and his team identified the Y dwarf with NASA’s WISE Observatory, then followed up with some of the largest ground-based telescopes to better understand its characteristics. These observations revealed that the object may have an ancient origin, undergoing large temperature changes over the course of its life. Its unusual features led the scientists to classify it as “peculiar.”
“The ground-based measurements were very challenging, even with the large telescopes,” team member Mariusz Gromadzki, of the Millennium Institute of Astrophysics in Chile, said in the same statement. “It was exciting when the results showed just how cool this object was, and that it was unusual.”
If the new object is ancient, it would have spent the first 20 million years of its life with a temperature of at least 5,100 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800 degrees Celsius), similar to red dwarf stars. By the time 100 million years had passed, it would have cooled to about 2,700 F (1,500 C), allowing silicate clouds to condense in its atmosphere.
After a billion years, it would have cooled to temperatures around 1,800 F (1,000 C), cool enough for methane gas and water vapor to dominate in its atmosphere. Today, the would-be star barely reaches temperatures high enough to boil water, with a surface hitting 200 to 300 F (100 to 150 C), a range lying between that of Earth and Venus.
Discovered in 2011, the Y dwarf class extends the range of brown dwarfs to as cold as minus 10 F (minus 23 C). Y dwarfs have no lower temperature limit, so even cooler objects may exist, including more unusual bodies.
WISE’s amazing bounty
WISE J0304-2705 makes the 18th confirmed Y dwarf, with three more potential objects. Most of these were found using WISE, whose sensitivity in the mid-infrared spectrum opened up a new range for study.
Launched in 2009, the WISE space telescope went into hibernation in 2011. NASA revived the space telescope in 2013, and it continues to observe as part of its three-year mission.
“WISE gives us wonderful sensitivity to the coolest objects,” Pinfield said. “With three more years of observations, we will be able to search the sky for more Y dwarfs, and more diverse Y dwarfs.”
The research was published in the August edition of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Crytek will be self-publishing the PC version of Ryse: Son of Rome that will be released on Steam starting on October 10th. Crytek promises a benchmark for PC gaming graphics with support for 4K resolution.
The PC version promises a number of graphics enhancements over the Xbox One release and Crytek claims that they have given the developers the chance to really show what the Crytek engine can do without compromising quality thanks to the hardware available today.
To run the PC version of Ryse, Crytek is requiring a dual core processor 2.8Ghz Intel/3.2GHz AMD, 4GB of RAM, 64bit Windows 7/8, DirectX 11 compatible graphics card with at least 1GB of video ram and 26GB of hard drive space. For the best experience Crytek recommends Quad Core Intel processor/Octo-Core AMD processor, 8GB of RAM, 64bit Windows 7/8, DirectX 11 graphics card with 4GB of video RAM, and 26GB hard disk space.
The PC release of Ryse is said to include all of the DLC content. While it sure was a graphics show piece for the Xbox One, reviews of the game were kind of mixed. Still the PC release could be just what the doctor ordered for Ryse to gain some new players. In addition to the Steam release, we still are hearing that a boxed release is coming as well, but we don’t have any specifics on that just yet.
You’re sitting at home, watching one of the major E3 presentations. A brand-new AAA video game has just been revealed and the teaser trailer actually makes it look pretty hot. You’re halfway through watching the trailer, interest piqued, and now you’re wondering, “When’s this coming out?” Now you see it; it’s slated for the holiday season… of the following year. You’re going to be waiting a solid 18 months, and that’s assuming the project doesn’t encounter delays.
Such is the way of the modern AAA console and PC business, but it wasn’t always like this. While the industry never really saw Apple-like announcements when you could practically buy the product immediately after, recent history shows that game announcements used to happen more regularly around six months prior to shipping.
“Back in the PS2 days…if it was shipping in the fall, you usually would see it for the first time at E3. That’s if everything went according to plan. The running joke was if you saw it for two E3s, development was a problem,” noted industry veteran and consultant Christian Svensson.
So what happened? With the success of the PS2 and the continued boom in the industry, retail became increasingly more important, and pre-orders started driving everything. And naturally, more time before release meant more time for marketing and more time to drive pre-sales.
“Around the time that Xbox 360 and PS3 came to market, the investments and risks were so high you had to do everything you can to build awareness earlier,” Svensson said. “You had to build in more beats for your PR earlier, you had more shows to attend to drive hands-on and media exposure, and all of that was ultimately in the name of driving up your pre-order numbers… everyone was trying to lock down the day one consumer. That drove all of that mania where you had to announce 18 months to two years out.”
While pre-orders were a primary factor in the ever-lengthening lead time to a launch, there were other factors as well. Svensson pointed out that companies have always worried about early leaks twisting their messaging. “If we announced it first, at least we controlled the message. Announcing it early lets you prep all of your partners earlier without fear that there are leaks out there,” he said.
Beyond that, development cycles on big budget titles just grew longer and longer. Announcing earlier enabled teams to adequately judge and react to feedback.
Warren Spector (Deus Ex, Epic Mickey), Director of the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at the University of Texas at Austin, remarked, “Talking about a game early is a double-edged sword, no doubt about it. On the one hand, it can lead to unrealistic expectations about ‘promised’ features that ultimately fail to make the shipping game (as inevitably happens). And there’s no doubt, public clamor can amp up the pressure on a team On the flip side, seeing public excitement about what you’re doing can get a team ’psyched and cranking’ as we used to say. It’s nice when people express enthusiasm for what you’re doing. Also, early reveals can help you gauge public opinion, which can be useful in weeding out undesirable features as well as ones you might want to focus on more. Early reveals cut both ways.”
Dominic Matthews, product development manager for Ninja Theory, added, “The risk with announcing too early is that you make a first impression that is very, very hard to change. You can say as many times as you like that the game is very early in development, or this isn’t finished or is work in progress, but players understandably don’t hear it. They just see what you’re showing and take it as representative of the finished game. Personally, I would have kept all of the games I worked on under wraps for longer.”
That said, Matthews acknowledges that most developers are very excited to be able to discuss their projects usually. “It’s actually a really positive thing for a developer to be able to share their work outside of the studio. The announcement of the game allows everyone in the team to be able to share what they are doing with friends, family and industry peers. It can be frustrating having to say ‘I’m working on something really cool, but I just can’t talk about it yet’,” he said.
There’s also the very tangible benefit that by announcing earlier, teams should have an easier time adding talent to make a project go more smoothly.
Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford commented, “It’s not merely about attracting future customers, but communicating about the effort to the industry itself. When your in-development project is known, some activities including recruiting or attracting business partners or other activities becomes much easier than when you’re silent under the radar.”
Svensson agreed: “[If] you’ve created some assets, you think you know what you’re going to build, but you still need some very key roles to be filled and/or just body count to do the work, when it’s known that a particular studio is working on that franchise then recruitment becomes an easier task than, ‘hey we’d like to call you in but we can’t tell you what we’re working on’.”
Of course, there’s another benefit to announcing early that some developers would be very keen on: once a project is revealed there’s a better chance it won’t be canceled. “One of the things people forget is that not every game put in development always ships. A reason a lot of teams would want to announce earlier is that it’s harder to kill a product that’s been announced because it’s very public and for it to not come out after it’s been announced is a difficult thing for a company to suffer. It raises questions about if the company knows what it’s doing,” pointed out Svensson.
Once the announcement gets out there, the pressure definitely ramps up on a development team. But that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. After all, it takes an intense amount of pressure to create a diamond.
“Sometimes pressure is a good thing on the development process,” said Pitchford. “The best amongst us game makers exist to try to entertain people and whenever we have a deadline we work crazy hard to do the best job we can as we know that once the deadline is up, there’s no more time to do any better.”
“In my experience a lot of that magic that just sort of works out is the result of trying to adapt to some kind pressure on the situation. It often turns out that the pressure forces some of these things to happen that ultimately make games not only better, but shippable. The point is that while pressure always feels stressful, there are often a lot of positive aspects to pressure from a development point of view.”
Pitchford also noted that some of that pressure should be alleviated by a good publisher: “I think the only really negative consequence is about expectation management and that’s where the best publishers are really worth their value. The best publishers have a knack for managing customer expectations positively while projects unfold during the development and marketing phases of a project and that’s where you get the best feelings and results from a project.”
So if you’re planning a big budget game right now, when’s the right time to announce? How much lead time do you really need?
“I think it varies from product to product as far as what’s appropriate. An enormous AAA game that is new IP aimed at a monster retail release, a longer lead time, certainly north of a year, is still warranted,” advised Svensson. “When you start to get into north of 18 months, you get diminishing returns, even on something like that… When people have short attention spans, it’s hard to stay on people’s radar at a high level. I think the industry went too far for a period of time on that front and I think the economics of it are changing.”
Pitchford agrees that if you’re looking to sell something new, having that extra lead time is beneficial. “I’ve worked on games that have gone a long time in silence before being announced and I’ve worked on games that have had public announcements that were way too early. I think both approaches can be made to work, but both also bring their own set of challenges. My preference on which way to go depends on the game. The more inventive the game is and the more education required to communicate what is being promised, the more time is useful to master that communication before going wide,” he said.
It’s a fluid process, however, and the marketing teams have to be ready to adapt. Pitchford continued, “Part of the value of the early marketing campaign is to actually learn how to market the title to a wider audience. You’ll notice if you look at campaigns from start to finish that everything from logo designs to key messaging points to front-of-box and key art content evolves and iterates over the course of a project. This is a very tangible manifestation of the marketing team actually learning how to sell the thing they are selling through a careful process of testing and iterating.”
While early reveals can certainly be beneficial for both the marketing side and development side, it’s clear that the digital revolution is having an impact, noted Ninja Theory’s Matthews.
“I think the transition into digital gaming will shorten the window between announcement and release. There won’t be such pressure to drive pre-orders as there is in the retail space,” he said.
Another wrinkle in the digital space is the rise of self-publishing. Under that scenario, announcing earlier remains quite valuable.
“Ordinarily I would say that you should wait to announce as long as you can to make sure you have the best possible assets to make a first impression with: An amazing trailer or a rock-solid gameplay demo. Having said that, we’ve just announced our new game Hellblade at the very beginning of development – in other words incredibly early. We’ve done this because we’re self-publishing and actually want to build a community behind the game by sharing the development process,” Matthews continued. “By announcing now, we can share development right from the start. If we waited, we’d be retrospectively looking back at development which would feel less real, less here and now. This type of approach, or funding a game through crowdfunding, or Steam Greenlight might result in more games actually being announced even earlier.”
“The digital share of sales is climbing up and the need for that pre-order drive is slipping a little bit in the sense that you don’t have to have this crescendo to launch to necessarily find success with the right product, especially when you have live teams creating content post-launch; it’s not the put everything in the box and ship it mentality anymore,” he explained. “It is the, ‘hey we’re going to create a minimum viable product (MVP) and we’re going to bring it to market and support it’ … In some cases you might not even really ramp the marketing until you feel you’ve got a good product to promote.
“To some degree, I think the pressure to announce early across the industry as a whole is being reduced because of the proliferation of digital, the adoption of games as service, and quite frankly, the other part of it is it’s really fucking expensive to have an 18-month or two-year marketing cycle for a game. It’s really hard to do, and not every game has the right kind of content to support that longevity. You can’t go dark, otherwise you lose people’s attention, you have to have a consistent set of beats all the way through from announcement to launch, otherwise why announce early? You’ve lost that benefit. It’s hard on production teams because they have to create assets to support these beats, it’s hard on marketing teams because it’s a long, hard slog.”
And with the rise of indies and smaller games published on platforms like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, huge lead times make even less sense. For smaller digital projects, three months might be more than enough time to spread the word.
“One of the things we’ve learned doing digital products, announcing more than three months out to build awareness just really doesn’t make a lot of sense. A lot of those titles are smaller, they don’t necessarily have a lot of features to drive a six-month or nine-month campaign… They’re focused. The level of touch is very high in a short period, and I’d love to see the business get back to a lot more of that,” Svensson said.
“What I do think we’re going to see is a lot of normalization again for the average product probably around six to nine months again, kind of where we were in ’99 and 2000. And I don’t think that’s bad.”
The subatomic particles, called neutrinos, are hallmarks of the dominant fusion process insidethe sun. Created in the first step of a reaction sequence responsible for the majority of the sun’s fusion, the particles have long eluded detection. Now, an international collaboration of more than 100 scientists working with the Borexino detector in Italy has made the first measurements of these elusive particles.
The new findings “allow us to look at the majority of the fusion reactions in the sun’s core in real time, as they happen, minus an eight-minute delay for travel to Earth,” Andrea Pocar, of the University of Massachusetts and part of the Borexino team, told Space.com by email. ”The measurement allows us to strongly confirm the model of the sun, and to take a ‘neutrino photograph’.”
‘The most direct confirmation’
Along with light, the sun streams neutrinos from its core out into space, bombarding a square inch of the Earth with about 420 billion particles per second. Although numerous, the low-energy neutrinos created through the proton-proton (pp) fusion process only interact with other material through the weak nuclear force, making their detection a challenge.
The first step in the dominant fusion process in the sun starts when two protons in its core fuse into a deuteron, creating a pp neutrino. Other neutrinos are created in subsequent steps of the process, several of which have been detected, but the first-step neutrinos remained elusive.
“They are the most direct confirmation that nuclear fusion is the source of energy [for the sun],” Wick Haxton, of the University of California, Berkeley, told Space.com. Haxton, a theorist who studies neutrino and nuclear astrophysics, is not a part of the Borexino collaboration.
Scientists have sought to establish that the rate of energy generation at the solar core is consistent with the light shining from its surface. Neutrinos inside the heart of the sun take 100,000 years to reach the stellar surface before rushing outward at the speed of light. Comparing the sun’s energy emitted as the sun’s light with the energy from the core reveals information about the thermodynamic equilibrium of the star over tens of thousands of years.
“This measurement directly confirms what we know about fusion processes in the sun from higher energy neutrinos and what we see from the surface of the sun,” Pocar said.
The new findings also reveal more about the nature of neutrinos themselves. The particles come in three types, or “flavors.” Those streaming from the solar core are “electron”-flavored. As they travel through space, they shift between “muon” and “tau” types. Combined with previous solar neutrino measurements, the Borexino experiment strongly confirmed the nature of the particles.
So far, such effects have been seen only on the sun, Haxton said. The same effect can be used on Earth in so-called long-baseline neutrino beam experiments, which seek information about the complete ordering of neutrino masses.
“It is important that we establish that we understand matter effects in the sun before using this effect to determine something as fundamental as neutrino masses,” Haxton said.
The research was published online today (Aug. 27) in the journal Nature, along with Haxton’s corresponding News & Views article.
The heart of the sun
Buried beneath Italy’s Apennine Mountains, Borexino is shielded from the cosmic rays that interfere with detection of pp neutrinos by nearly a mile (1.4 kilometers) of rock. The onionlike layers surrounding the instrument, combined with its depth, make it the most radiation-free medium on the planet.
Surrounded by 300 tons of liquid, the 2,200 sensors within the tanks capture interactions of the neutrinos with the material. The liquid resembling benzene is derived from some of the oldest petroleum found on the planet as part of an effort to eliminate the presence of carbon-14, whose decay covers up neutrino signals. Although most of the carbon-14 in the ancient material has decayed, the scientists continue to refine the process.
“They did years of work to make the detector pure, eliminating trace amounts of radioactivity,” Haxton said.
Contamination for the recent detections was reduced to less than 1 part per billion billion, he said.
Borexino continues to make detections of pp neutrinos on a daily basis. Pocar expressed his interest in attempting to measure the product of the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen (CNO) cycle that makes up the remaining 1 percent of solar reactions. Though responsible for only a fraction of the fusion process in the sun, the CNO cycle dominates in massive stars with hotter cores.
Currently, scientists can deduce the amount of elements other than hydrogen and helium—what astronomers term as metals—at the heart of the sun, but they cannot directly measure it. These measurements indicate that the core is relatively rich in elements such as carbon and nitrogen, while the outer shell is metal-poor. The metallicity of the two are related in the standard solar model, which assumes that the sun was homogeneous when it first formed.
“Such a measurement directly probes the metallicity of the core,” Haxton said.
Measurements of the interior could have implications for planet formation. According to Haxton, one theory is that the planets may have extracted a lot of the metal from the solar disk as the sun formed.
“We might learn that a star’s surface metallicity is altered if that star harbors planets,” Haxton said.
Such information could have an impact on how exoplanet hunters select their target stars.
The operating system, which Xinhua did not name, will be initially offered on desktop PCs, with the plan to later extend it to smartphones. The news service cited a report in the People’s Post and Telecommunications News, a trade paper run by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the agency responsible for, among other things, the regulation and development of China’s software industry.
“We hope to launch a Chinese-made desktop operating system by October supporting app stores,” Ni Guangnan of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the trade paper, according to a translation by Reuters on Sunday.
Ni leads an official operating system development alliance established in March by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
According to the People’s Post and Telecommunications News, Ni cited the end of Windows XP support and the ban on Windows 8 on government computers as giving domestic OS developers an opening.
Earlier this year, China officials banned the use of Windows 8 on government computers, a move triggered by the end of Windows XP’s support in April. Before that, authorities had blasted Microsoft for halting security updates to the 13-year-old OS.
Historically, China has been a stronghold of Windows XP, in large part because of massive piracy of Microsoft’s software.
China has long been at odds with foreign technology firms, particularly Microsoft and Google — but also at times with Apple — over their impact and influence in the country. But that animus increased significantly last month when government antitrust regulators raided several Microsoft offices, seizing computers and documents in a first step of an investigation. The probe had been prompted by complaints lodged since July 2013 about how Windows and Microsoft Office are bundled, about Windows-Office compatibility and about other unnamed concerns.
The People’s Post and Telecommunications News‘ story (Chinese language version) cited by Xinhua ran on Thursday, and provided more detail about the domestic OS plans.
Ni spelled out a timeline that could replace foreign operating systems on the desktop in one to two years, then in three to five years expand to mobile devices. Private industry, Ni added, may co-fund development of the home-grown OS.
“Creating an environment that allows us to compete with Google, Apple and Microsoft, that is our key to success,” Ni said.
China has worked on a its own OS before: In 2000, Red Flag Linux, which was funded in part by the government’s Ministry of Information, was released. Later that year, Red Flag was mandated as the replacement for Windows 2000 on all government PCs. Tensions at the time between China’s government and Microsoft were at the root of that order.
Jupiter’s moon Europa doesn’t look like a particularly inviting place for life to thrive; the icy satellite is nearly 500 million miles (800 million kilometers) from the sun, on average.
But beneath its icy crust lies a liquid ocean with more water than Earth contains. This ocean is shielded from harmful radiation, making Europa one of the solar system’s best bets to host alien life.
That’s one of the reasons Europa is so alluring to scientists. It has all the elements thought to be key for the origin of life: water, energy, and organic chemicals, the carbon-containing building blocks of life, scientists said at an event called “The Lure of Europa,” held here last month. [Europa and Its Underground Ocean (Video)]
“All the ingredients are there to make us think Europa is the next place to go,” NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan said at the event, which was organized by the Planetary Society, a nonprofit organization headed by scientist and TV host Bill Nye.
Looking for life
Just as a layer of ice over a pond allows the water beneath it to stay liquid through the freezing winter, Europa’s icy crust shields its enormous ocean despite the moon’s great distance from the sun. As Europa travels around Jupiter, the massive planet bends and flexes the satellite, generating interior heat that keeps its water from freezing completely.
Beneath Europa’s surface, active volcanoes may also heat the water, providing vents where bacterial life may thrive as it does on Earth.
“With that combination of volcanism and water, good things are going to happen,” Stofan said.
Further, it may be possible for a probe to get through Europa’s crust, and into the ocean below. A space mission should be able to get through ice a few kilometers thick, Robert Pappalardo, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told Space.com after the event. Europa’s variable ice shell may be that thin in places.
In addition to Europa’s ocean, a second potential site for life exists in the moon’s subsurface lakes. Some bubbles of energy from beneath the surface don’t make it all the way through the crust but instead melt some of its ice. The lakes that form from the meltwater last hundreds of thousands — or perhaps millions — of years, and scientists estimate that some of these lakes contain more water than all of North America’s Great Lakes. [6 Most Likely Places for Alien Life in the Solar System]
At the end of last year, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovered a third region where scientists could search for the ingredients for life: geysers of water vapor erupting from Europa’s southern hemisphere, possibly allowing a flyby probe to sample the moon’s subsurface sea from afar.
“The seawater is spewing into space,” Nye said.
He urged scientists to fly by and “look at what’s collecting on the windshield.”
An upcoming mission
Every 10 years, the U.S. National Research Council issues a Planetary Science Decadal Review. The 2011 report ranked the exploration of Europa as one of the highest-priority missions. But budget cuts to NASA’s Planetary Science program and a focus on the inner solar system have so far kept any mission concept from coming to fruition.
However, NASA’s 2015 budget request includes funding to help plan a potential Europa mission. The same week as the Planetary Society’s conference, the agency asked researchers to propose scientific instruments for a mission to the icy moon.
According to John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, a flyby spacecraft would most likely be easier to implement than a Europa orbiter. Grunsfeld was not part of the panel but was in the audience, and he answered several questions after the session.
Another mission option could include a vehicle that would transport a number of tiny “CubeSats” (mini satellite payloads) to the moon and deposit them on the surface to do a variety of experiments, Grunsfeld said.
Nye emphasized that getting to Europa requires long-term planning — not only for the mission itself, but also for the voyage to the outer solar system.
“There is a lot of space in space,” he said, pointing out that it would take a number of years for any probe to get to Europa.
Funding the voyage
The cost of doing planetary science at Europa is less than $2 billion — a small amount when compared to many government expenditures, Nye noted. He compared it to the cost of each taxpayer purchasing a single cup of coffee.
“If we found evidence for life on another world, you would be part of it,” he said.
In general, robotic missions have a relatively low cost and a high return in planetary science, Nye said.
Spinoff science and technology resulting from the study of Europa would also be a benefit, he added. Space exploration has already brought a number of technological advances. In addition to the amazement and wonder that would come with the discovery of life elsewhere in the solar system, finding a new ecosystem would likely have a profound effect on medical science, Nye said.
Exploring Europa doesn’t mean that life would be discovered immediately. In fact, in a discussion after the conference, Stofan said that pinning down the discovery of life unambiguously would probably not be possible with only a fly-through of Europa’s plumes. What could be definitively measured, however, is whether the water vapor spewing from the planet contains amino acids, the building blocks of life.
But the first step is to find out if Europa is the kind of place that would support life, Pappalardo said. “Finding out if it does is a tougher thing to do,” he said.
Figuring out whether Europa harbors life would probably require returning samples from the plumes or elsewhere on the moon to be studied on Earth, where they could be studied in depth. But humans have not yet managed to return samples from Mars, which is much closer than Europa, so accomplishing this for Europa may not happen until the more distant future.
Stofan said she didn’t think human exploration on the surface of Europa is likely, given the high radiation levels there. Robotic studies of the icy moon, such as the proposed Europa Clipper mission, would be the primary method of study.
“We are the first generation of humans who could send a mission to these extraordinary places — Mars and Europa — to search for life,” Nye said.
At present, that applies to the Unity Test Tools and the engine’s new graphical user interface system, which was demonstrated in the opening keynote of Unite 2014. The features will be available under the MIT/X11 license, giving users the freedom to “control, customise and extend” their functionality.
The source code for the components will be hosted on BitBucket, and Unity has prepared a guide for any interested open source contributors. The source for the Unity Test Tools is already available, with the GUI to follow.
“Beyond that, we don’t have a concrete plan, but we have a lot of things in the pipeline,” the company said in a statement. “These components will all be isolated from Unity in such a way that you can modify them and use your own modified version with the official public Unity release.
“Although Unity Technologies has been active in the open-source community for quite some time, this is the first time we’ll be opening the source to components of Unity itself.
“We’re excited to see what you do with it.”
Snapchat Inc, creator of a mobile app that allows users to send messages that disappear within seconds, may be looking to expand its service to videos, news articles and advertisements, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.
The California-based company is currently in talks with advertisers and media companies about a service called Snapchat Discovery, the Journal reported, citing sources.
Snapchat Discovery, rumored to debut in November, will show content and ads to Snapchat users, the Journal quoted the sources as saying.
At least a dozen media companies have shown interest in providing content for Snapchat Discovery, the Journal said.
Snapchat Discovery will allow users to read publications and watch video clips by holding down a finger on the screen, as they do with photos and other messages on the app, the report said.
Snapchat, popular among teenage users, was not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.
According to DFC, 92 per cent of PC game sales in 2013 were digital and it thinks this trend will continue and rise in 2014.
Gamers are starting to favour digital downloads over physical copies of the game, which is not really surprising given that who actually wants to own boxes and DVDs and manuals when all you really need is the game.
DFC Intelligence goes on to add that PC games outsold console games in terms of revenue so it means that channel is not the way gamers are playing. But then again the specs of consoles are well below PCs.
By his own admission, Andrew Wilson still “geeks out” at EA’s press conferences, despite his position as the company’s CEO demanding that he take centre stage. When we meet after the Gamescom media briefing, he enthuses in great detail and at considerable length about a FIFA 15 video demonstrating the capabilities of the new game’s goalkeepers. What that team has accomplished since he ascended to executive level, Wilson says, never fails to make him smile.
And Wilson has spent his first year in charge identifying the ways to spread that enthusiasm to EA’s customers. That hasn’t always resulted in success, of course: with Battlefield 4 the company stumbled once again on the unpredictable landscape of online gaming, and with EA Access it met with resistance from Sony on the grounds of value. In this interview, Wilson discusses both of these issues, and outlines EA’s renewed dedication to listening to its customers and following wherever that might lead.
Q: The last time we spoke you were still with EA Sports, and you’ve had a promotion since then – quite a big one, in fact. You’re coming up on a year as CEO now. Have we started to see evidence of the mark you wanted to make on the company?
AW: I think…no, I know that I didn’t approach this role thinking about making a mark or leaving a legacy. It wasn’t personal in nature. I took on the role because of how I feel about the company. This company has been very good to me and my family over the years, I loved the people I worked with inside the company and I loved the games we made together.
“Financial return is an outcome, but it shouldn’t be the objective. We’ve made a lot of decisions based on that over the last 12 months”
As I worked in the company in a variety of different roles, it became apparent to me that in some areas we’d lost our way a little bit. When I came in [as CEO] I really wanted to bring to the forefront the things that I thought made the company great, things that had delivered for us over the years. That really meant building this foundation of ‘player first’. I get that there are things we have to think about: we’re a big company, we’re a public company, we have shareholders, we have 8,000 people working for us. But all of that is for nothing unless you deliver for your number one constituency: the players. Without that, it’s for nothing.
Q: So the idea that the CEO is stuck trying to serve two masters, the shareholder and the customer, that isn’t how you see it, then?
AW: Financial return is an outcome, but it shouldn’t be the objective. Financial return is what happens when you achieve the right objectives. We’ve made a lot of decisions based on that over the last 12 months. We are engaging with our player-base more regularly, through more platforms to ensure that we’re doing what they want, and to make sure that we’re listening to them when we’re doing something that they don’t want. It’s as much about eliminating what doesn’t inspire or entertain as it is about the stuff that does.
Q: Is that how we should think about the problems that Battlefield 4 faced? You’ve publicly addressed the complaints already, but was that just a consequence of trying to deliver on an ambitious objective?
AW: If I promised you that nothing would ever go wrong [on future projects], that would be very disingenuous of me. The reality is that we come to work every day and challenge ourselves and our teams to do creative and innovative things. What I can say, however, is that living up to that commitment to engagement and action I mentioned before means that we will make tough decisions in service of the player.
Titanfall for Xbox 360 was coming in hot, it needed a few more weeks, and we moved it out of the fiscal year to get a great game. I don’t think we would have done that before. Need for Speed is a franchise we’ve released every year for 17 years – it’s as sure a thing as FIFA. But the team said that they couldn’t do what we challenged them to do in a year. It wasn’t possible, so for the first time in 17 years we decided not to launch a Need For Speed.
More recently, Battlefield: Hardline, moving out of the holiday quarter would traditionally be seen as catastrophic in this industry.
Q: Particularly that franchise. Battlefield 3 and 4 were both holiday releases.
AW: Yes, but it was the feedback. We brought gamers in earlier, we let them play the beta earlier. And the beta was very stable, so we’d solved a bunch of the problems that existed in Battlefield 4. But what people said to us was, ‘This is pretty cool, but we think you should go deeper. We want more out of this.’ So we’ve given the team more time. That’s a tough decision to make, and it has a financial impact in the near-term, but long-term, for the player and the franchise, that’s the right decision.
Q: Do you see EA Access in the same way? You’re the first publisher to pull the trigger on something like this on console. I remember a talk you gave at the Develop conference a few years back, where you held up services like Netflix as a model for the games industry to emulate. Was this idea in your mind all the way back then?
AW: It’s not completely the same, but yes. But, again, I wouldn’t take credit for that programme in its entirety. I’ve been involved in that programme, but we’ve got a great team that’s been looking at challenging the standard by which certain people access products. It’s early days – we launched it yesterday – but for what it’s worth all the positive intent is there. It will evolve, but what we’ve come to understand – and what I believed back then – is that this concept of, ‘I want to give you an amount of money each month that makes sense, and for that I want a bunch of cool stuff’, we want to live up to that.
Does that mean people will stop paying $60 for games? No, but there’s a big part of the population for whom that [EA Access] is the right context, that’s the right way for them to engage with games.
“There’s a big part of the population for whom EA Access is the right context, that’s the right way for them to engage with games”
Q: And potentially it’s a way for people who wouldn’t ordinarily play, say, Madden to get acquainted with the franchise. For a lot of people, FIFA and Battlefield would be enough to justify for the annual fee, and anything else is a bonus.
AW: Yes, but there will be many different types of players. For some people that will be how they want to play all content, for others it will form some part of it. There’ll be others who might use it just to trial games. Again, the price point is low enough that it’s pretty cool as a trial mechanism. We want to build a service that players can use in a way that makes sense to them.
Q: It gives the catalogue longevity, too, which is something that the games industry hasn’t been particularly good at.
AW: EA makes great games. Stuff that we made ten years ago is still good, and so in ten years time the games we’re making now will still be good.
Q: It’s early days, as you point out, but even in the near term are you planning to grow the selection on EA Access, to be additive?
AW: Absolutely. We wanted to launch it at a point where we could put things into the catalogue, into The Vault, and it would have value. We thought that four [games] was the minimum for the price-point, but we want to get to a place where you could play any number of games for that price-point. Over time, the value will just get better and better and better, in much the same way that Netflix does. When I started subscribing to Netflix, there was no House Of Cards, there was no Orange Is The New Black – there is now.
Q: I have been surprised at my preference for buying games digitally in the generation so far. I thought it would take a bit more time.
AW: Convenience is a wonderful thing.
Q: Is that sort of behaviour behind the decision to get EA Access out there now, this year? Is that transition happening faster than you expected?
AW: No. Listen, we – and certainly myself – have matured in the understanding over the years about how people consume content, irrespective of the industry. One of the stats that I hear frequently is that 40 per cent of music is still bought on CD. Now, I haven’t bought a CD in 14 years. I’ve bought vinyl, by the way, a bunch in the last 14 years, so I consume media in different ways through different business models based on what I’m looking for. The way my view has evolved, I’m a bit like you: I haven’t bought a disc for my PS4 or my Xbox One; I click a button and it turns up, and that’s good for me. But that doesn’t mean that everyone wants it the same way. I’ve moved from a belief that there will be one access model to rule them all, to the belief that our objective as a company is to provide access to our entertainment in ways that make sense to the growing population of players.
Q: Services like EA Access to make sense in the context of this generation, which seems to largely about choice, whether that’s variety of games, how you want to buy, how you want communicate with other players. The experience is very open now.
AW: One of the things that we’re learning as we make the digital transformation is that we don’t need to guess what players want any more. For the longest time we had to guess, and the first opportunity to find out whether you got it right or not was when you saw the game on the shelf. Now, we’re getting better at listening. We haven’t always been great listeners, but we’re getting better, and what that’s telling us is that people want choice. They want to be able to choose what’s right for them at a given moment in time. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all any longer. We’ve got to build a core platform, game engines and games that facilitate that.
Q: Are you concerned that Access will alter your customer’s perception of value? FIFA 14 is still a game that can be played all year whether the new one is out or not. That $60 has got to feel like a better decision than before, surely.
“We thought that four games was the minimum for the price-point, but we want to get to a place where you could play any number of games for that price-point”
AW: It doesn’t matter whether you spend a $1, $10 or $100,000, as long as you’re getting value from what you’ve spent then you’ll feel good about that. EA Access feels like tremendous value, and whether you continue to feel good about paying whatever it is for a frontline product comes down to our ability to to deliver value.
The commitment that we’re making to those frontline products is that they will be bigger, more engaging, service oriented, with new and dynamic content every time you log in. People are now playing FIFA and Battlefield all year round. When I started a game would get played for four weeks, and then it was on to the next one. The value that we deliver today, we have games that can be the only thing you play for an entire year.
Q: Certain products have started to feel out of time to me. I won’t mention the name, but I bought a game digitally that cost the same amount as, for example, FIFA, and it took me six or seven hours to finish and that was it. I felt cheated in a way that I wouldn’t have with the exact same game at this point in the last generation.
AW: That understanding of value is really, really important, and I’m trying to push that into the organisation – irrespective of business model. Back in the day it was all about delivering $60 of value; now, I want to deliver $1 of value if you want to spend $1, I want to deliver $10 of value if you want to spend $10. I want to deliver value on your investment and on your investment of time. As you get older you realise that time is the most important resource. Part of your issue with that other game is that it took six hours, and you didn’t feel the value returned. We should think about the investment of money, but also the investment of time.
Q: You’ve mentioned the value of EA Access several times, and obviously Sony came out and disagreed on that point. For now, at least, Access won’t be available to PlayStation customers. Was that disappointing, particularly with the reason Sony gave?
AW: What I can say is that we launched it yesterday. We believed when we launched it that it was great value, and gamers, for the most part, have fed back that it’s great value. We’re going to continue to put things into that service that make it even better value. It will evolve and go through lots of permutations over time as we listen and learn from players who engage with it. My hope is that we can deliver that kind of service to many millions of players for years to come.