‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Finale Reactions: Yeah, We’re Gonna Need to Talk About That One

Well, as we hoped would happen, Game of Thrones celebrated the coming of winter by bringing some serious heat. At nearly 80 minutes, “The Dragon and the Wolf” was the series’ longest to date, and it packed in what it could from the very beginning. Most of that was revelation rather than spectacle, but by the time the credits rolled, much of the show’s ambiguity had fallen away, leaving viewers with a clear view heading into the show’s eighth and final season.

(Spoiler alert: If you’re not caught up on the current season of this show and don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.)

To run through things in the simplest fashion: The Snow/Targaryen caravan brought their wight to King’s Landing, and after some precarious intra-Lannister negotiations, Tyrion finally persuaded Cersei to stand alongside the others against the army of the dead.

After Euron turned tail and fled to the Iron Islands (or so we thought), the man we came to know as Reek really put the [...]  read more

‘Game of Thrones’ Finale Reactions: Yeah, We’re Gonna Need to Talk About That One

Well, as we hoped would happen, Game of Thrones celebrated the coming of winter by bringing some serious heat. At nearly 80 minutes, “The Dragon and the Wolf” was the series’ longest to date, and it packed in what it could from the very beginning. Most of that was revelation rather than spectacle, but by the time the credits rolled, much of the show’s ambiguity had fallen away, leaving viewers with a clear view heading into the show’s eighth and final season.

(Spoiler alert: If you’re not caught up on the current season of this show and don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.)

To run through things in the simplest fashion: The Snow/Targaryen caravan brought their wight to King’s Landing, and after some precarious intra-Lannister negotiations, Tyrion finally persuaded Cersei to stand alongside the others against the army of the dead.

After Euron turned tail and fled to the Iron Islands (or so we thought), the man we came to know as Reek really put the [...]  read more

UPDATED: How Will Houston Handle the Deluge of Hurricane Harvey?

This story has been updated as of 8:47 pm ET.

Hurricanes are classified according to their wind speed. But a truer measure of their destructive potential would also include their moisture level. Just before making landfall on Friday night, Hurricane Harvey jumped up to become a category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. More dangerously, though, it’s also packing enough moisture to drop 20 inches or more of rain across Texas’ gulf coast.

As early as Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbot declared a state of emergency so the gulf region would be eligible for federal disaster relief. They’ll likely need it. The current forecast predicts that Harvey, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday, will stall out over east Texas for days. Yet, while seven counties had ordered evacuations by Friday, Houston—home to 2.3 million people—didn’t. Its mayor told residents to weather it out, rather than clog highways leading out of the city.

And [...]  read more

What Ligers, Grolar Bears, and Mules Show Scientists About Evolution

In 2006, a hunter shot what he thought was a polar bear in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Closer examination, however, revealed brown patches on its white fur, uncharacteristically long claws and a slightly hunched back. The creature was in fact a hybrid, its mother a polar bear, its father a grizzly. Although this cross was known to be possible—the two species had mated in captivity before—this was the first documented case found in the wild. Since then, it has become clear that this was not an isolated incident. Conservationists and others worry that if climate change continues to drive grizzly bears into polar bear territory, such interbreeding will become more common and will devastate the polar bear population. Some have even proposed killing the hybrids in an effort to conserve the species.

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Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta [...]  read more

What I Learned at Gerrymandering Summer Camp

At 6’5″, Aaron Dennis towers over the whiteboard beside him. Blue marker in hand, the 22-year-old hunches slightly to jot down suggestions being shouted by a group of people deep into a brainstorming session. Dressed mostly in nerdy T-shirts (one reads Science! with a test tube in place of the letter i), they’re trying to come up with names for a tech tool they plan to build during a two-day hackathon at Tufts University’s data lab.

The group includes computer science PhD candidates, mathematicians, political operatives, and experts in so-called geographic information systems, or GIS. That’s the mapping technology that underlies many apps and software tools that run our lives, from Google Maps to logistics software.

It also comes in handy when you’re carving the American electorate into voting districts that favor your political party, a time-honored—and reviled—tradition known as gerrymandering.

That’s what’s brought the group here to [...]  read more

The Internet Responds to James Cameron’s ‘Wonder Woman’ Critique In This Week’s News Roundup

Welcome back, internet fans. We’ve got a lot to catch up on, so let’s get started. First of all, to set the scene, it’s been the kind of week where an attempt to avoid backlash causes backlash and everyone in Texas is, as of this writing, getting ready for a hurricane that will hopefully disappoint when it shows up. In other news, plans are being made to “shrink” national monuments, British people are crying over a clock, and some folks are just now discovering Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” is a cover. As for what else has been going on, well, welcome to the highlights—and, OK, maybe some lowlights—of the past seven days of online playfulness.

Staring at the Sun

What Happened: Despite warnings to the contrary from nearly all corners, President Trump looked directly at the sun during last week’s solar eclipse. It did not go unnoticed.

What Really Happened: Cast your mind [...]  read more

What the Controlled Chaos of Burning Man Reveals About Cities

Every year, for the past 26 years, something truly remarkable happens: an entire city appears out of the desert. I’m speaking, of course, of Black Rock City, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, erected for the quasi-ritualistic celebration of art, radical inclusion, and free-to-be-you-and-me-ness known as Burning Man.

Burners will come home raving about barter system and the impromptu wedding they attended in not much more than goggles, but the festival’s most impressive feat may be this infrastructural coup. In a moment when the powers at be can’t even fund the country’s shambling roads and bridges, the 2,000 organizers and volunteers who run Burning Man put together—and then take apart—a 70,000-person city in the space of two months. (That figure does not include emergency workers, government personnel, vendors, or contractors.)

So cities can learn a thing or two from this festival (and not just how to ride a bike through hangover and a dust storm). [...]  read more

iPhone Home Studio: All the Gear You Need to Record a Hit Song

Cut your next hit song anywhere with gear that turns your phone into a recording studio.

1. Ernie Ball Music Man St. Vincent Signature Guitar

Designed by Annie Clark herself, this mahogany guitar is one versatile ax. The trio of DiMarzio mini humbuckers can be played in five configurations, offering bite and warmth in equal measure. The tremolo adds soulful warbles to your solos. | $2,099

2. George L’s Guitar Cable

Your cable has two jobs: Don’t screw up the sound, and don’t fall apart. Running 20 feet (or longer, if you need it), George’s cables are sturdily built with nickel, brass, or gold plugs and offer dead-quiet, interference-free sound. Choose a bright color to stand out from the rest of your band. | $48 and up

3. IK Multimedia iRig 2 HD

This simple adapter connects your guitar directly to your iPhone. The latest model has an integrated headphone jack with a dedicated preamp so you can monitor your shredding to ensure your guitar sounds the way it should—not like you’re recording on a phone. | $100

4. Apple iPhone 7 Plus

The roomy screen on Apple’s largest phone is super for crafting [...]  read more

Even Artificial Neural Networks Can Have Exploitable ‘Backdoors’

Early in August, NYU professor Siddharth Garg checked for traffic, and then put a yellow Post-it onto a stop sign outside the Brooklyn building in which he works. When he and two colleagues showed a photo of the scene to their road-sign detector software, it was 95 percent sure the stop sign in fact displayed a speed limit.

The stunt demonstrated a potential security headache for engineers working with machine learning software. The researchers showed that it’s possible to embed silent, nasty surprises into artificial neural networks, the type of learning software used for tasks such as recognizing speech or understanding photos.

Malicious actors can design that behavior to emerge only in response to a very specific, secret signal, as in the case of Garg’s Post-it. Such “backdoors” could be a problem for companies that want to outsource work on neural networks to third parties, or build products on top of freely available neural networks available online. [...]  read more

How Will Houston Handle the Deluge of Hurricane Harvey?

Hurricanes are ranked according to their wind speed. But a truer measure of their destructive potential would also include their moisture level. Just before making landfall on Friday night, Hurricane Harvey jumped up to become a category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. But more dangerously, it’s also packing enough moisture to drop 20 inches or more of rain across Texas’ gulf coast.

Texas has been bracing itself. As early as Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbot declared a state of emergency so the gulf region would be eligible for federal disaster relief. They’ll likely need it. The current forecast predicts the storm will stall out over east Texas for days. Seven counties have ordered evacuations. Houston, home to 2.3 million people, hasn’t. Its mayor is telling residents to weather it out, rather than clog westbound highways.

This isn’t the city’s first rodeo. Houston built its coastline for drainage, with copious reservoirs and dams, [...]  read more