Devolver Digital publishes some really fantastic games across different platforms. I’m glad I get to finally write about a game they are putting out, here on Beautiful Pixels. That game is GRIS and it looks stunning! It reminds me of Journey from thatgamecompany in a 2D plane. The announcement trailer has animation that almost makes me wish there was a way I could replace the Apple TV screensaver with this trailer. Watch the trailer for it below:
Set for release in December, GRIS will not have any death or danger. It is all about the animation and art with puzzles accompanied by a lovely soundtrack. The promotional poster is wallpaper worthy. Check it out below:
GRIS is heading to Nintendo Switch, Windows, and macOS this December. Check out the website for the game here. I can’t wait to check it out on the Switch.
In a major physics milestone, scientists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have observed the first evidence of a Higgs boson particle decaying into two matter-antimatter bottom quarks. This achievement, announced jointly on Tuesday by the ATLAS and CMS teams at LHC, has significant implications for future research into the most basic building blocks of matter in the universe.
If that all sounds like a bunch of particle wonk, fear not—even scientists in the field regard these quantum-scale interactions as mind-bogglers. So let’s back up and revisit what the Higgs boson is and why it’s any of our dang business how it decays.
The existence of this famous particle was proposed in the 1960s by a team of physicists including its namesake, Peter Higgs, to explain how some massless particles appeared to magically gain mass. The Higgs boson became an important lynchpin to the Standard Model of particle physics, which is our best attempt to explain how the forces of the universe work (minus gravity.) Proving that the particle did exist would validate the Standard Model, and demonstrating that it could not exist would mean rethinking our most basic assumptions.
As it turns out, the Higgs boson is a total flake that only hangs around for one septillionth of a second before decaying into smaller parts. Over the past half-century, scientists repeatedly tried and failed to capture the fallout of its flickering existence by crashing particles into each other at near light speed in a series of accelerators.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2012 that the LHC, the most powerful accelerator in the world, finally smashed some particles just right, and definitively identified the decay of a Higgs boson into smaller particles called Z bosons, W bosons, and photons. The particle was shown to exist and the Standard Model was validated—a discovery that earned Higgs and physicist François Englert the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.
So if the Higgs boson’s decay has already been observed, what’s special about the new announcement from the ATLAS and CMS teams? Once again, it has to do with the Higgs boson being a prickly customer that does not like to make anything easy for the people who study it.
The particle has long been theorized to decay along five signature pathways, of which four have already been observed at LHC. The fifth hypothetical pathway, in which the Higgs boson decays into subatomic particles called bottom quarks, is both the most difficult to trace and the most common, and is estimated to be the outcome of 60% of Higgs decay events.
Image: ATLAS Collaboration/CERN
To make matters worse, smashing particles together produces heaps of bottom quarks, so it is challenging to track down which of them might have originated from a Higgs boson.
For years, the LHC teams have been working with Fermilab, an accelerator outside Chicago, to capture the Higgs boson’s favorite way to decay. By analyzing thousands of collisions, they were able to isolate bottom quarks from a Higgs boson by using other common decay products as a roadmap.
“Luckily, there are a few Higgs production mechanisms that produce identifiable particles as byproducts,” Chris Palmer, a physicist at Princeton University and member of the CMS team, said in a statement. “We used these particles to tag potential Higgs events and separate them out from everything else. So we really got a two-for-one deal with this analysis because not only did we find the Higgs decaying to bottom quarks, but we also learned a lot about its production mechanisms.”
So, there you have it: All of the major ways in which a Higgs boson can erupt into smaller parts have now been observed in real life. But while this research marks another breakthrough in our understanding of the universe’s fundamental mechanics, it would be naive to assume that the Higgs boson is done confounding us with its general weirdness. We are still in the infancy of particle physics, and there is much more to learn.
Online petitions demanding protection of Białowieża Forest have gathered enormous amounts of signatures: 243.523 on WeMove.eu, and 192.480 on Rainforest Rescue.
For two and a half years, environmentalists have waged a war with the Polish authorities for Białowieża Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Europe's last and largest remaining patches of Europe's original primeval forest.
In April 2018, the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court, ruled that Poland violated EU laws by logging in the forest, imposing fines of a minimum of 4.3 million euros (five million US dollars), potentially rising to 100,000 euros a day, if the felling doesn't stop.
In March 2016, former Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyzko, a member of the Law and Justice party who's backed by forester lobbies, approved tripling the amount of wood that could be harvested from Białowieża, allegedly to combat an infestation by the bark beetle. In July, a handful of Polish environmental organizations filed a formal complaint to the European Commission, which then sued Poland in the EU Court of Justice.
Straddling the border between Poland and Belarus, Białowieża includes extensive undisturbed areas and is home to a rich wildlife of which 59 mammal species, including the European bison. But while on the Belarussian side over 80 percent of its extension is circumscribed under a national park, only 17 percent of Poland's forest enjoys a similar level of protection.
Watchdog environmental organizations say at least 160,000-180,000 trees have been felled since Szyzko's 2016 new management plan.
Neglect for the environment is an issue touching all corners of Eastern Europe. In Romania, Greenpeace estimates that three hectares of trees are lost every hour in the Carpathian mountains, also home to one of Europe's last patches of primeval forest. In Slovakia, official declarations that forests are growing undermined by aerial photography.
In Poland, Szyzko was eventually sacked in January 2017, only days after another controversial bill which he had sponsored was approved in parliament. The bill removes the obligation for private landowners to apply for permission to cut down trees or to inform local authorities that trees have been or will be removed.
In May 2017, protestors established a permanent camp in the forest, often chaining themselves to harvest machines. The settlement, organized on a bottom-up basis, encouraged the development of online petitions and international awareness.
The situation detonated when some protestors were forcibly removed from the area, in handcuffs, by the Forestry Corps, and a legal ban was put in place to forbid entry to certain parts of the land. By the height of 2017 Summer, the Environment Ministry had declared any opposition to logging would be seen as political opposition.
As Poland’s state media, which had been increasingly subject of intervention by the government of the conservative Law and Justice party, began to attack these protests with vitriol, campaigners decided to season their message with patriotic sentiment, promoting a message of national heritage that is in line with the party's ideas.
A digital 3D model of the forest, produced by a collaboration between Greenpeace and Minecraft, allows players to explore Białowieża complete with biodiversity and weather patterns. Called “To the Last Tree Standing”, the game eventually removes the trees from players’ sight without warning, leaving them scrambling to find the last one.
Hopes for an easier regulatory road for genetic engineering in European agriculture were dashed today by the Court of Justice of the European Union. In a closely watched decision, the court ruled that plants created with new gene-editing techniques that don’t involve transferring genes between organisms—such as CRISPR—must go through the same lengthy approval process as traditional transgenic plants.
Many researchers had argued that regulators should take a lighter touch when evaluating products created with the new technologies, but environmental groups and their allies successfully argued that they should be subject to the same EU rules that apply to other genetically modified organisms.
“We applaud the European Court of Justice for this forward-thinking decision,” said Dana Perls, senior food and agriculture campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FOE) in Washington, D.C., in a statement. “All products made with genetic engineering, including ones made with gene-editing tools like CRISPR, should be regulated, assessed for health and environmental impacts, and labeled.” FOE’s affiliate in France was part of a coalition of groups that brought the case.
The ruling is “the death blow for plant biotech in Europe,” said Sarah Schmidt of the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf in Germany. It will force gene-edited plants to go through a regulatory process that typically costs about $35 million, she said, meaning only large companies will be able to foot the bill, effectively pricing out universities, nonprofits, and small companies.
The case focused on crops that have been made resistant to herbicides without transferring genes from other species. (The transgenic technique has been the typical way of creating herbicide-tolerant crops.) The French government had passed a law exempting these new gene-edited crops from regulation under the European Union’s directive on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which requires an assessment of risks to health and the environment, as well as labeling, tracking, and monitoring of the products. Confédération Paysanne, a French union in Bagnolet representing small farms, and eight other groups, sued and charged that the plants modified with gene-editing techniques should be regulated under the GMO directive, because they could cause significant harm.
The court decided that gene-editing techniques are covered by the GMO directive because they “alter the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not occur naturally.” (The court exempted conventional mutagenesis—the unnatural use of chemicals or radiation to create mutations for plant breeding—because it has “a long safety record.”) It also said the new gene-editing techniques have risks that could be similar to those of transgenic engineering.
Those findings drew criticism from some researchers. “To classify gene-edited crops as GMOs and equivalent to transgenic crops is completely incorrect by any scientific definition,” said Nick Talbot, a molecular geneticist at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. “Precise modern gene-editing technologies allow accurate, predictable changes to be made in a genome.”
The court also asserted that gene-editing techniques “make it possible to produce genetically modified varieties at a rate out of all proportion to those resulting from the application of conventional methods of mutagenesis.” Schmidt said she was “shocked” by this claim. Maurice Moloney, CEO of the Global Institute for Food Security in Saskatoon, Canada, called it “logically absurd” that gene editing was riskier than the random mutagenesis used in conventional breeding.
In its statement, FOE said it hopes U.S. regulators would follow the lead of the European court. So far, however, U.S. officials have said they have no plans to subject most gene-edited crops to the same regulatory process used for transgenic crops.