The science behind a good cup of coffee

Here’s the data behind making a healthy, flavorful cup of joe—from beans to brew

(credit: Amanda)

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks worldwide, with countless cups of the dark, alluring elixir brewed up each day. And, lucky for those coffee-guzzlers out there, mounting data suggest it’s good for you; moderate coffee drinking has been linked to lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, liver diseases, diabetes, and an overall lowered risk of dying too soon.

But, as coffee-lovers happily continue sipping their morning fix with a dash of self-satisfaction, it’s worth noting that not every cup of coffee is equal. Brewed coffee can vary wildly in its flavor and chemical make-up, particularly the chemicals linked to health benefits. Everything that happens before the pour—from the bean selection, roast, grind, water, and brew method—can affect the taste and quality of a cup of joe.

So far, there’s little to no data on the health impact of drinking one type of coffee over another. In studies linking coffee to lowered risks of disease and death, researchers mostly clumped all coffee types together, even decaffeinated coffee, in some cases. But, there is a fair amount of data on individual components of coffee that are flavorful and beneficial—and how to squeeze as much them as possible into your mug. Here’s what the science says:

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Neato BotVac Connected review: A LIDAR-powered robot vacuum is my maid now

Vacuuming is for chumps. Make a robot do it.

It's been about two months since I've vacuumed my house, and the floor has never been cleaner. That's because I haven't been doing it—a robot has. For the past two months we've had a Neato BotVac Connected rolling around the house, the latest robo vac in Neato's lineup. Like all Neato robots, this has a spinning LIDAR unit that maps out the house. In this new "Connected" version, it's got Wi-Fi and a smartphone app.

The household name in household robots is definitely iRobot's Roomba, a round robotic vacuum cleaner that popularized the idea of having a little bot clean up after you. The fundamentals of the Roomba haven't changed much since its introduction: it's a vacuum on motorized wheels with a bumper plate in the front. When the plate bumps into something, the robot knows it hit an obstacle and changes directions. Start a Roomba on floor and usually it will spiral outward until it hits a wall, try to feel out the perimeter of the room, and then ping pong all across the center of the house in an attempt to cover the interior space.

Most Roombas can't "see." Its only window to the outside world is the little bumper plate—it feels its way around a space by running into stuff. Roomba will say it takes this limited information and runs it through an algorithm to be a little smarter than "randomly driving around," but to the human eye, there's little logic to where the little disk is driving.

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Starting the racing year right at the Rolex 24

The classic season-opening event for endurance racing in the US.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—The Rolex 24 at Daytona is the start of the American sportscar racing season. Since it happened to coincide with my 40th birthday, we decided to fly down to Florida to check it out. The main event is a 24-hour race for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which you might remember last year as the Tudor United SportsCar Championship. The race involves four different classes of car racing on track at the same time.

The fastest cars race in the Prototype class, a mix of older Daytona Prototypes (tubeframe race cars) and LMP2s (carbon fiber prototypes that race at Le Mans). Next quickest are the GTLM cars, which are factory-supported racecars based on roadgoing machines like the Corvette Z06 and Porsche 911. Both Prototypes and GTLM feature lineups of professional drivers, many of whom are world-class. Several stars of NASCAR and IndyCar were in the field this year.

The next two classes are pro-am, where wealthy amateurs are joined by professional hotshoes. There are the Prototype Challenge cars, which are all identical open-cockpit cars with Chevy V8s. The other pro-am class is GTD, which this year uses the GT3 technical ruleset. Like the GTLM cars, these are based on road-going machines like Lamborghini Huracáns and Dodge Vipers, but there is less room for technical development.

It's been an action-packed race so far (with almost six hours left to run at the time of writing). Who wins is anyone's call. You can catch the end of the race on Fox Sports or streaming via the IMSA website or app.

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Calling all Bay Area Belters: come hang out with fellow fans of The Expanse!

Come raise a glass with Nick Farmer, the creator of the Belter language.

Anderson Dawes runs the OPA on Ceres Station. His belter accent—multilingual slang delivered by Jared Harris with an accent that wouldn't sound out-of-place in Attack the Block—is a joy to listen to. (credit: SyFy)

Attention all would-be OPA members: Du sif wang wit milowda fo yam seng unte revelushang! (Translation—join us for drinks and revolution!)

This Wednesday, February 3, 2016, come join Ars’ Tech Culture Editor Annalee Newitz and me at Longitude bar in downtown Oakland, California. Not only will you be among friends and fellow fans of The Expanse, but you’ll be able to hang out and learn Belter from the man who created it—Nick Farmer, the language consultant for the show.

Farmer is well-trained in many languages, including Swedish, Spanish, and a smattering of others to various degrees. At Longitude, he'll give all of us a basic lesson in Belter 101—a fascinating and poorly-understood (at least by us Earthers) creole.

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Today Show Sued Over Copyright Infringement

NBC Universal is known to chase pirates, but this week it’s on the receiving end of a copyright lawsuit. Texan photographer Alexander Stross has sued the company for multiple infringements. The Today Show allegedly used Stross’ work on-air, on their website, and on Twitter, all without permission.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

todayCopyright is a double-edged sword, and those who sharpen one side often get cut by the other.

In recent years NBC Universal has fiercely protected its copyrights. The company warned file-sharers of criminal prosecutions, pursued The Pirate Bay in court, and even tried to censor TorrentFreak with an inaccurate takedown notice.

This week, however, the company is on the receiving end of a copyright dispute. Photographer Alexander Stross filed a lawsuit at a Texas federal court accusing the Today Show of infringing his work through multiple venues.

In the complaint (pdf) Stross explains that a series of photos he took of micro houses in Texas gained mainstream new attention earlier this year. It was also covered in a segment of The Today Show, reaching an audience of millions of people.

However, the photos shown on air were used without permission from the photographer. In addition, one of the photos was posted in a tweet without attribution, which is still online today.

“The same day as the On-Air Segment, The Today Show ‘Tweeted’ about the story – reproducing one of the Photographs, with no attribution at all,” the complaint states.

A day later this coverage was followed by an article on The Today Show website, again featuring the infringing photos. To make matters worse these were credited to a third party.

“Defendant ascribed a false and misleading credit to each Photograph stating ‘Courtesy of Matt Garcia Design,’ as reflected below,” the complaint adds.

Screenshot from the complaint


In an attempt to resolve the matter Stross contacted The Today Show, notifying it about the incorrect credits. After he didn’t hear back for a month, he emailed again, but without a response.

Only after the photographer hired legal representation did a producer of the show reply, arguing that the architect of the houses gave permission to use the material. However, according to internal correspondence no permission was given at the time the material was used.

“Defendant knowingly published the Photographs in the Web Article with a false and misleading credit to [the architect] – before it ever received anything from Garcia.”

“When contacted by counsel, Defendant lied about the source of the Photographs, and its alleged belief that it had advance authorization to use them,” the complaint mentions.

Even more so, The Today Show knew that the credit was incorrect as it mentioned Stross as the author of the photos in the original segment. Nonetheless, they never contacted him to obtain permission.

According to Stross it is clear that The Today Show infringed on his copyrights and he demands both statutory and actual damages as compensation.

With eight photos in total the damages could reach a million dollars but of course, NBC Universal should be well aware of that already.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Today, a California ghost town can have fiber to the doorstep—but it’s not easy

Pop. density in Sloat is roughly equal to Montana, but you can get 48.4Mbps/9.8 Mbps.

SLOAT, CALIFORNIA—Plumas County is rural, mountainous, and at the far north of the Sierra Nevada Range. In area, it is larger than the individual states of Rhode Island and Delaware, but the population here is under 20,000. It all makes for a beautiful place to live, but some amenities that are common in more densely populated areas can be hard to come by.

High-speed Internet access that’s reliable across all seasons of the year is one clear example. In 2014, the local cable TV provider (New Day Broadband) went bankrupt, taking with it the only source for cable-based Internet access in the town of Quincy, California. It was also the only tethered high-speed provider accepting new customers. AT&T used to offer DSL in the area, but the company stopped taking on new clients and does not allow existing customers to transfer service. And while both satellite Internet access and multiple WISPs (wireless ISPs) are available, both of these delivery methods face reliability challenges in stormy, snowy weather (a common occurrence for this area in the winter).

With that in mind, you can imagine my surprise when in recent years I learned a local ISP—Plumas Sierra Telecommunications—now offers fiber to the doorstep. This new availability of reliable, high-speed Internet access allowed me to shift from an office job to telecommuting, meaning my wife and I could return to the rural Sierra Nevada after 15 years of living in the metropolis of Southern California.

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On American Indian reservations, challenges perpetuate the digital divide

After mild improvements, American Indian reservations still suffer from “digital divide.”

An access ­point tower constructed by Tribal Digital Village overlooks Pala, California. (credit: Tribal Digital Village)

Recently, Sam Tenakhongva, a teacher living on the Hopi reservation in northern Arizona, bought a Chevrolet pickup truck equipped with integrated 4G LTE. As the company’s advertising boasts, the feature was novel for a commercial vehicle and unprecedented for a truck. Intrigued, Tenakhongva decided to take advantage of a free trial.

It didn’t take long for him to eschew the service. The truck only connected when Tenakhongva was in a 4G network and, given the region’s limited broadband access, Tenakhongva knew such an occurrence would be too rare to justify the cost.

Today, this situation rings true for an overwhelming majority of American Indians living on reservations. This year, the Federal Communications Commission reported that 41 percent of Americans living on tribal lands lacked access to broadband (which the FCC currently defines as 25Mbps for downstream speeds and 3Mbps for upstream speeds); that number leaps to 68 percent for those in rural areas of tribal lands.

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Facebook prohibiting private firearms sales from unlicensed dealers

The company will remove posts reported by its users that violate the policy.

(credit: Franco Bouly)

The social-networking site Facebook, and its Instagram photo-sharing service, are prohibiting person-to-person firearms transactions and related firearms advertising on the popular platforms.

The Friday move comes almost a month after President Barack Obama announced an executive initiative requiring those selling guns—whether at a flea market or online—to register as a firearms dealer and to perform background checks on gun purchasers. The White House has urged Silicon Valley to bake encryption backdoors into its wares, and has also urged social media companies to make it difficult for unlicensed gun dealers to sell firearms on their networks. Silicon Valley, however, has publicly balked at calls for encryption backdoors. Facebook's changeover is part of its updated terms of service that also prohibit its 1.6 billion monthly visitors from selling marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs.

The company will remove posts reported by its users that violate the policy, which had already prohibited firearms sellers from promoting "no background checks required." Licensed dealers, which by law must perform background checks, may still advertise as long as transactions occur outside Facebook properties. Minors have already been shielded from seeing pages advertising guns. Repeat violators of Facebook's policy, designed to clamp down on unregulated gun sales, could be banned from the social network.

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Shootout redux: Smartphone camera vs tricked-out DSLR, one year later

More lenses, more lights, more settings—but which one takes better pictures?

Enlarge / Was this image taken with an iPhone or a DSLR? Spoiler: this one's from a DSLR, on a tripod, with a long exposure and a fair amount of post-processing. This is Gordon Cooper's "Faith 7" Mercury capsule, on display at Space Center Houston. (credit: Lee Hutchinson)

"The best camera," goes the old saying, "is the one you have with you." It’s true, too—spend just a few minutes browsing places like /r/pics and you’ll find stunning image after stunning image taken on a wide variety of cameras, from DSLRs with telephoto lenses all the way down to smartphones. A modern smartphone is equipped with a hell of a lot of picture-taking power and can spit out pro-looking images without a whole lot of effort, and nearly everyone has one on them all the time. Does that mean, then, that the best camera today is a smartphone?

We explored this in our October 2014 "iPhone vs. DSLR" shootout—and we learned a lot. The first lesson was, at least according to a whole lot of people, that I suck at photography. And that’s all right—I do suck at photography. Most of the images I take are properly called "product photography," done inside in studio conditions with lots of lights and not necessarily a lot of variation in settings. Shooting in the real world is a lot more complicated.

More importantly, we proved conventional wisdom right. A smartphone does take awesome pictures, so you don’t need a DSLR, two bags of gear, and a tripod unless you really need an expensive DSLR, two bags of gear, and a tripod.

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NEON: KDE baut eigene Pakete seiner Releases

Das Projekt KDE Neon soll eine Art Rolling-Release für den Plasma-Desktop bieten. Dafür baut KDE eigene Pakete und nutzt als Basis eine LTS-Veröffentlichung von Ubuntu. Noch ist das Projekt aber ein Experiment. (Fosdem2016, Ubuntu)

Das Projekt KDE Neon soll eine Art Rolling-Release für den Plasma-Desktop bieten. Dafür baut KDE eigene Pakete und nutzt als Basis eine LTS-Veröffentlichung von Ubuntu. Noch ist das Projekt aber ein Experiment. (Fosdem2016, Ubuntu)