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#1 ‘Tis But a Scratch: Misadventures in Automotive Scratch Repair’Tis But a Scratch: Misadventures in Automotive Scratch Repair

The scratch was small, maybe half an inch long. Hard to even see unless you knew where to look. But once you knew, it was the only thing you could see. It was all I could see, anyway.

I had only had the car for two weeks when the scratch appeared. I'd gassed up just once by the time I saw it, right there on the hood. How could it have happened? A mishap at the car wash? A passerby I'd wronged? Some kind of deranged animal? It wasn't from another car or falling debris, that was for sure. But what could have left this blemish, marring my beautiful new Mazda CX-5 with less than 300 miles on the odometer, leaving behind a scratch so deep I could run my fingernail inside it? From the looks of it, it went all the way down to the primer.

I guessed it didn't matter. The real question was how to get rid of it.

My quest to remove the scratch took me first to my local car wash and detailing center, who always seem to do good work. The guy with the clipboard said that for $100 they'd hand-wax it and try to buff it out. I crossed my fingers, but after the detailing the scratch was still there. I asked the technician, a term I use extremely lightly, to take another look. They squirted some polish onto a rag, rubbed it for a second and shrugged. Nothing we can do, the scratch is too deep. I would need to take more drastic action.

The aftermath of that encounter led me to the one place where I knew I could find a solution: The internet. And as I expected, I quickly found there was no shortage of tactics and products that promised to remove scratches from your vehicle, be they either tiny or deep.

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#2 Galaxy S10 photo leak shows Samsung wireless Galaxy Buds

This might be Samsung Galaxy Buds that can charge wirelessly on the back of the upcoming Galaxy S10.

In just a matter of weeks, Samsung is expected to announce the Galaxy S10 but on Wednesday, German publisher WinFuture ran a photo showing what might be new Samsung wireless earbuds called Galaxy Buds. This photo leak comes days after WinFuture published photos that allegedly show the upcoming Galaxy S10E.

The Galaxy Buds appear in a tiny case that rests on the back of what might be the upcoming Galaxy S10 Plus. The photo suggests that the earbuds can be charged wirelessly from the phone similar to how the Huawei Mate P20 charges FreeBuds 2 Pro wireless earbuds.

The most valuable companies on Earth [Microsoft GES]

From Apple and Nestle to PetroChina and Chevron, we look at some of world’s biggest companies, measured in terms of market capitalization and ranked in ascending order.

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#3 The 50 most useful Alexa skills

Alexa can stream music, control your smart gadgets, order items from Amazon and even integrate with IFTTT. While all of this is awesome, there is a whole world of third-party skills that can make Alexa even more useful. In fact, there are currently more than 70,000 skills. 

There's no need to wade through them all, though. Below you will find some of Alexa's most helpful, clever and entertaining skills available today.

Editors' note:This article was originally published July 27, 2016, and is frequently updated to include additional information and new skills.

A skill for finding skills

Finance

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#4 The Green New Deal’s Trains and EVs Won’t Work for EveryoneThe Green New Deal’s Trains and EVs Won’t Work for Everyone

What is the Green New Deal? It’s a platform, a Justice Democrat raison d’être, a liberal fever dream, the product of progressive young Americans’ impatience with their government’s approach to climate change. It’s an attempt to link climate change solutionism to a broader social and economic program. It is, technically, a resolution introduced in Congress this week that seeks to use serious government investment in renewable energy as a policy multitool, to correct “systemic racial, regional, social, environmental, and economic injustice.”

Which would seem to make it a great North Star for the transportation sector. After all, America’s cars, trucks, trains, and planes are responsible for 28 percent of the country’s approximately 6,511 million metric tons of annual emissions. And indeed, the resolution’s transportation recommendations are sweeping: that the country invest seriously in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing, in “clean, affordable, and accessible” public transit, and in so much high-speed rail that air travel is no longer necessary.

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#5 Amazon Dives Into Self-Driving Cars With a Bet on AuroraAmazon Dives Into Self-Driving Cars With a Bet on Aurora

Amazon Wednesday made perhaps its most significant move yet into the self-driving car space, announcing an investment in autonomous tech developer Aurora. For a company with one of the largest logistics operations on the planet, it’s about time.

“Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, whether it’s in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we’re excited about the possibilities,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. Amazon and Aurora declined to disclose the terms of the investment.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos spoke with WIRED’s Steven Levy as part of WIRED25, WIRED’s 25th anniversary celebration in San Francisco.

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#6 Google experiments with dark mode for Chrome on phones

It took Google quite some time to get on board with the idea of adding a dark mode to its apps and platforms, but it's definitely looking like the tech giant has gone all in. 9to5Google has discovered that Chrome 73 beta for Android comes with a night theme, a few days after it reported that Google is working on a dark UI for Chrome on Mac and Windows. 

The night theme for the experimental mobile browser is still in its very, very early stages. In fact, you'll only know that it exists when you long press on a link or on an image, and only if Android Pie's Dark Mode setting under Developer Options is set to Always On. Further, even the panels that already come in dark gray still need some work -- some of their text is still in black.

While there's no guarantee that the feature will make it past beta, there's a very good chance that we will. Dark mode is an oft- and long-requested feature for Android, since it's easier on the eyes and could even extend battery life. As 9to5Google noted, we'll likely see more elements, including the browser's other menus, dyed a darker color in the future.

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#7 Fitbit launches new wearable, but your employer has to sign you up

Fitbit quietly introduced a new activity and sleep tracker, but, unlike the company's previous step counters, the wearable is available only if your health plan or employer.

Called the Fitbit Inspire and Inspire HR, the wristlets are "designed to make developing health habits easier for everyone," according to the website. So far, there's been no flashy marketing or advertising of the latest offering.

CNBC reports that some users spotted the new wearables on their corporate websites. 

"These special release trackers are available exclusively through Fitbit corporate, wellness, health plan, and health systems partners and customers of their organizations, participants, and members," Fitbit says on the site.

The swim-proof Inspire is available in black and white color options. It can be worn as a wristband or on a clip. The wearable gadget has some basic features like calories burned, call and text alerts, reminders to move and 24/7 heart rate monitoring. 

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#8 Apple will pay the teenager who discovered the Group FaceTime bug

Apple has said it will pay the teen who discovered the Group FaceTime bug that let you listen in on someone before they answered a call. Grant Thompson, a 14-year-old high school student from Tucson, Arizona, discovered the flaw around two weeks ago while setting up a group chat with friends playing Fortnite. His mother Michele Thompson said she repeatedly tried to contact Apple about the issue through email and social media to no avail. The company got in touch with her a week ago, once news of the bug had gone viral online, by which point it had taken Group FaceTime offline.

Apple issued a fix for the FaceTime bug just hours ago in its iOS 12.1.4 security update. The release notes for the patch credit Thompson alongside another individual identified as Daven Morris from Arlington, Texas. Apple has confirmed that it plans to compensate the Thompson family and provide an additional gift toward the teenager's education, according to Reuters.

Details of the payment have not been released, though Apple does offer up to $200,000 in cash bounties as part of its bug bounty program. The company formally launched the initiative (an industry norm) in 2016 and reportedly invited a batch of security researchers to take part in it. Luca Todesco -- a 19-year-old who was hailed as the first person to jailbreak an iPhone 7 -- was apparently among those who got the call. Earlier that same year, Facebook paid a $10,000 bug bounty to a 10-year-old Finnish kid who figured out a way to delete other users' comments from Instagram's servers.

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#9 Twitter finally shared how big its daily user base is — and it’s a lot smaller than Snapchat’s

How big is Twitter’s daily user base? A lot smaller than Snapchat’s it turns out. 

For years, Twitter has been asking investors to judge the company by looking at user growth for its daily active users. The problem? Twitter never shared how many daily active users it actually had, which made the year-over-year growth hard to appreciate.

That changed on Thursday when Twitter shared its daily user total for the first time: Twitter has 126 million daily users, which is 60 million fewer users than Snapchat (and a lot fewer users than the core apps owned by Facebook). That means roughly 39 percent of Twitter’s monthly active users are on the app every day.

The new metric matters because it helps put Twitter’s user growth — what it’s been touting for years — into perspective. It also helps us compare Twitter’s audience to competitors, like Snapchat, which it competes with for advertising dollars.

Twitter will tell you that it’s not fair to compare directly to Snapchat. That’s because Twitter says it is only counting users who could be exposed to ads — what it is referring to as its “monetizable” audience. Snapchat, Twitter would argue, counts users who open the app, send a message, and leave without ever getting to the part of the app where Snapchat serves ads. (Though in reality, it seems like someone could use Twitter for the same purpose.)

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#10 Brain-zapping implants that fight depression are inching closer to reality

MOOD CHANGER  Neural activity in certain areas of the brain (blightly colored strands show connections emanating from those regions) can be measured to decode mood.

O.G. Sani and M.M. Shanechi/Shanechi Lab

Like seismic sensors planted in quiet ground, hundreds of tiny electrodes rested in the outer layer of the 44-year-old woman’s brain. These sensors, each slightly larger than a sesame seed, had been implanted under her skull to listen for the first rumblings of epileptic seizures.

The electrodes gave researchers unprecedented access to the patient’s brain. With the woman’s permission, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco began using those electrodes to do more than listen; they kicked off tiny electrical earthquakes at different spots in her brain.

Most of the electrical pulses went completely unnoticed by the patient. But researchers finally got the effect they were hunting for by targeting the brain area just behind her eyes. Asked how she felt, the woman answered: “Calmer in my nerves.”

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#11 Ultima Thule is shaped like two lumpy pancakes

THIN CRESCENT  This series of images, taken as the New Horizons spacecraft sped away from Ultima Thule, helped scientists determine that its shape is more like two pancakes than a snowman.

NOAO/SwRI/JHU-APL/NASA

Visions of a space snowman have fallen flat.

New images of Ultima Thule released February 8 indicate that the faraway space rock is much thinner than thought. Rather than two round spheres stuck together like a snowman (SN: 2/2/19, p. 7), the object, officially called MU69, is shaped more like a couple of lumpy pancakes that melded together in a frying pan.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by the Kuiper Belt object on New Year’s Day 2019 (SN Online: 12/30/18), and the spacecraft continued snapping shots past its point of closest approach. The new images were taken from a vantage point almost 9,000 kilometers beyond Ultima Thule, as New Horizons rapidly sped away.

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#12 An Antarctic expedition will search for what lived under the Larsen C ice shelf

BERG IN MOTION  Iceberg A68 fully split from the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017, but was still hugging the coast in November 2017 (left). A year later, the iceberg had rotated around and drifted northward, fully exposing the seafloor it once shadowed (right). 

ESA

Maybe the fourth time’s the charm. On February 9, an international team of scientists is embarking on yet another mission to hunt for ocean life that may have once dwelled in the shadow of a giant iceberg (SN Online: 10/13/17).  The scientists, led by researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, are headed to the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, where a Delaware-sized iceberg broke off a year and a half ago.

Three previous expeditions have set a course for the ice shelf since the big break in July 2017 (SN: 8/5/17, p. 6). To reach the site, ships must navigate through sea ice drifting in the Weddell Sea, which lies between the Antarctic Peninsula and the main continent. There’s a narrow time window when the sea ice is at its sparsest: just after the Southern Hemisphere’s midsummer, from February into March.

But good timing isn’t a guarantee of success. Two previous missions, a British Antarctic Survey–led expedition in February 2018 and a Korea Polar Research Institute mission in March 2018, were stymied by thick sea ice blocking their way through the Weddell Sea (SN Online: 3/3/18). A third, led by scientists at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, England, reached the shelf in late January 2019, but strong winds and dangerous ice floes ultimately forced the team to move on to focus on its primary (and still ongoing) mission — to find polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915. 

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#13 To keep the planet flourishing, 30% of Earth needs protection by 2030

The Sarara Conservancy in northern Kenya, where local pastoralists from 18 different ethnic groups manage their land for both livestock grazing and wild animals—in what some hail as a new model for conservation.

PUBLISHED January 31, 2019

This week a United Nations working group responded to a joint statement posted online in December by some of the world’s largest conservation organizations calling for 30 percent of the planet to be managed for nature by 2030—and for half the planet to be protected by 2050. But exactly what counts as “protected”—and how countries can reach those goals—is still up for debate. (direct download)

Conservationists say these high levels of protection are necessary to safeguard benefits that humans derive from nature—such as the filtration of drinking water and storage of carbon that would otherwise increase global warming. The areas are also needed to prevent massive loss of species.

Humans and their domestic animals are squeezing the rest of life on Earth to the margins. Today, only four percent of the world’s mammals, by weight, are wild. The other 96 percent are our livestock and ourselves. Since 1970, populations of wild mammals, birds, fish, and amphibians have, on average, declined by 60 percent.

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#14 To curb climate change, we have to suck carbon from the sky. But how?

Cropland borders rainforest habitat in Iguacu National Park in Brazil.

PUBLISHED January 17, 2019

At McCarty Family Farms, headquartered in sun-blasted northwest Kansas, fields rarely sit empty any more. In a drive to be more sustainable, the family dairy still grows corn, sorghum, and alfalfa, but now often sows the bare ground between harvests with wheat and daikon. The wheat gets fed to livestock. The radishes, with their penetrating roots, break up the hard-packed surface and then, instead of being harvested, are allowed to die and enrich the soil.

Like all plants, cereal grains and root vegetables feed on carbon dioxide. In 2017, according to a third-party audit, planting cover crops on land that once sat empty helped the McCarty farms in Kansas and Nebraska pull 6,922 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil across some 12,300 acres—as much as could have been stored by 7,300 acres of forest. Put another way: The farm soil had sucked up the emissions of more than 1,300 cars.

"We always knew we were having a sizable impact, but to have empirical numbers of that size is inspiring to say the least," says Ken McCarty, who runs the farms with his three brothers.

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