Category Archives: arstechnica

No more cookies for Minecraft’s parrots, following complaints

Enlarge / A Minecraft player approaches a parrot with a cookie that could be deadly in real life. (credit: Mojang)

Usually, when outside groups worry about video games having a negative effect on children, they’re focused on those games’ potential normalization of violence or how games allegedly encourage a sedentary and emotionally unbalanced lifestyle. This week, though, Minecraft maker Mojang is responding to a public outcry by making changes to the way it portrays parrot feeding.

In Minecraft, to breed new in-game parrots, you feed the birds chocolate chip cookies. In the real world, though, even a small amount of chocolate can be toxic to a parrot’s digestive system.

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The Witcher coming to Netflix as a TV series

Netflix announced today that it is working with Polish production and visual effects company Platige Image to create an English-language TV series based on the world of The Witcher.

The series is technically based directly on the Witcher novels and story collections by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, according to the announcement, But those stories (and the world in which they’re set) have become internationally famous primarily through a series of video game adaptations by developer CD Projekt Red. Earlier this year, the developer announced that the game series had sold over 25 million copies since its launch in 2010.

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Widely adopted method for thwarting MRSA fails in hospital that developed it

Enlarge / Baby in an intensive care unit of a California hospital. (credit: Getty | Irfan Khan )

Between August and March, a deadly superbug spread to 10 infants in the intensive care unit of UC-Irvine Medical Center—the hospital where researchers developed a leading strategy to prevent the spread of that very superbug, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The hospital’s strategy, referred to as “universal decolonization,” is thought to prevent the superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), from leaping from patient to patient. It involves washing every ICU patient—colonized or not—with a potent disinfectant, chlorhexidine, and rubbing the topical antibiotic mupirocin inside their noses, where Staph aureus can sometimes lurk. It was developed years ago, in part by Dr. Susan Huang, the hospital’s infection-control expert, and the practice has swept through the country since. According to Huang, 65 to 80 percent of hospitals in the US are now using the strategy.

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Bigger is better: Quantum volume expresses computer’s limit

Enlarge / IBM’s new 16-qubit quantum computer. (credit: IBM quantum experience)

The race to build the first useful quantum computer continues apace. And, like all races, there are decisions to be made, including the technology each competitor must choose. But, in science, no one knows the race course, where the finish line is, or even if the race has any sort of prize (financial or intellectual) along the way.

On the other hand, the competitors can take a hand in the outcome by choosing the criteria by which success is judged. And, in this rather cynical spirit, we come to IBM’s introduction (PDF) of “quantum volume” as a single numerical benchmark for quantum computers. In the world of quantum computing, it seems that everyone is choosing their own benchmark. But, on closer inspection, the idea of quantum volume has merit.

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Chelsea Manning, who served more prison time than any US leaker, is freed

Enlarge (credit: Francis Mariani)

Chelsea Manning was released from the Military Corrections Complex at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas on Wednesday—nearly three decades before the Army private’s sentence was up for leaking classified military documents to WikiLeaks.

The intelligence analyst, who left the barracks at 2am (CDT), was court-martialed and convicted of leaking more than 700,000 documents and video about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. She came out as a transgender woman shortly after being handed an unprecedented 35-year prison sentence in 2013. Then-President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s term in January and set a May 17 release date. Manning, whom President Trump has called a “TRAITOR” on Twitter, had been in prison longer than any other US leaker convicted under the Espionage Act. She was eligible for parole in six years.

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