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Black Friday 2019: Lenovo ad leaks with $99 laptop, $210 desktop PC deals

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Lenovo’s Black Friday ad includes a $99 IdeaPad 130s deal.

Dell is usually the first tech company from whom we see a Black Friday ad each year, but this year a rival has had its deals leak first. Lenovo’s 30-page ad has hit the Black Friday aggregation sites with scores of sales on its laptops and desktops, including the inevitable $99 notebook special.

That laptop is the IdeaPad 130s, an 11.6-inch portable with an Intel Celeron N4000 laptop, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of built-in storage. Lenovo has added a bit of a wrinkle to the deal by carving out three separate chances for you to snatch it as the sub-$100 price point (compared to the current price of $199.99). Not only will it be available at midnight on Black Friday (November 29), but you can also grab it at midnight on Thanksgiving or this coming Monday (November 4) at 9 a.m. The catch for early birds is that only 500 units will be available on the 4th and 1,000 on the 28th.

If you’d prefer a bit more power, the value line of Lenovo’s ThinkPad notebooks will see an impressive doorbuster price of its own: The ThinkPad E495 (AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor, 4GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, 14-inch display) is currently priced at $580, but at 9 a.m. on Black Friday it will drop to just $299. That’s a far better deal than the Chromebook C330 doorbuster at 8 a.m. Black Friday — Lenovo claims that it’s a $80 price reduction to $199.99, but you can purchase one right now on the company’s website for $229.99.

The C330 “deal” is the type we warn about each Black Friday shopping season: the original list price suggesting a big discount, but the current online price already reflecting a big cut. That 50 percent off advertised might only be a 10 percent reduction from today’s price. That’s why it’s fair to be a bit suspicious when you see “lowest price ever” as Lenovo touts a few times in its ad. Thankfully, the $969.99 midnight Thanksgiving doorbuster price for the 2-in-1 Yoga C930 (Intel Core i7-8550U, 8GB of RAM, 256GB solid-state drive, 13.9-inch screen) is a healthy $155 lower than the current price for that configuration, even if the Black Friday ad suggests the price being discounted is $1,499. 

Likewise, the 9 a.m. Black Friday doorbuster of a ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Core i5-8265U, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, 14-inch display) for $999 is more than $450 off today’s price (compared to the $2,199 original price listed in the ad), whereas the $599 1 p.m. Thanksgiving doorbuster ThinkPad E490 (Core i5-8265U , 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, 14-inch screen) is just $75 less than the current price (not the $1,509 listed original price). Gamers can get $250 off the current price for the 17.3-inch version of the Legion Y740 (Core i7-9750H, 16GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive and 356GB SSD, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 graphics ), which will be available for $1,279.99 at 9 a.m. on Black Friday.

Lenovo isn’t going as low as $99 for a desktop PC, but $209.99 (compared to $280 current price) gets you the IdeaCentre 310s, which features an AMD A6-9225 processor, 4GB of RAM, and terabyte hard drive. Other desktop deals include the gaming friendly IdeaCentre T540 (Core i5-9400F, 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics) for $699.99, or $150 off the current price. You can even get $80 off Lenovo’s answer to the Amazon Echo Show, the Smart Tab M10, which comes with a 10.1-inch display, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of built-in storage, and support for Amazon Alexa voice commands for $169.99 starting Thanksgiving at 9 a.m.

These are just the highlights of Lenovo’s Black Friday deals. You should check out the link above to the full ad — but just make sure to open Lenovo’s online store in another browser tab to see how much you’ll really be saving. 



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After ICBM test, US stresses it was “not the result of current world events”

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Enlarge / This old file photo shows a Minuteman III rocket being launched from California.

Lee Corkran/Sygma via Getty Images

Early on Tuesday morning, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, to test the capabilities of the US nuclear armed forces.

The missile carried a test reentry vehicle, which traveled about 6,700 km to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where there is sophisticated tracking equipment to verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system. During an armed conflict, such a missile, which has a range of nearly 10,000 km, could be equipped with a nuclear warhead.

In a news release, the US Air Force took pains to describe this test as long-scheduled and not conducted due to current world events. Rather, the Air Force said, it was the result of “months of preparation” across multiple government partners.

“This scheduled test launch is demonstrative of how our nation’s ICBM fleet illustrates our readiness and reliability of the weapon system,” said Col. Chris Cruise, 576th Flight Test Squadron Commander. “It is also a great platform to show the skill sets and expertise of our strategic weapons maintenance personnel and of our missile crews who maintain an unwavering vigilance to defend the homeland.”

Nevertheless, Tuesday’s test—which occurred at 12:49 am local time in California on Tuesday, or 07:49 UTC—was notable due to its timing. At least twice this year, the Air Force has delayed or canceled a Minuteman III test because of geopolitical tensions.

On March 2, the Pentagon said it was delaying an ICBM test to avoid any miscalculations with Russia, which had just invaded Ukraine. At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin had placed his nuclear deterrent forces on a “special regime of combat duty.” A month later, as tensions continued to escalate, the Air Force confirmed that the planned Minuteman III test had been canceled.

Tuesday’s test had also been delayed due to geopolitical events, Reuters reported. It was moved so as not to send the wrong message after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a trip to Taiwan, and China responded with a show of force earlier in August.

During the last half-century, the US military has carried out more than 300 ICBM tests to ensure the readiness of its stash of missiles, more than 400 of which are deployed around the United States in case they are called upon in a nuclear conflict. These missiles are intended to serve as a deterrent, in that no matter who acts first in a nuclear war, the United States would be able to retaliate with devastating force.

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Which microbes live in your gut?

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When you hear about the gut microbiome, does it ever make you wonder what tiny creatures are teeming inside your own body? As a microbiologist who studies the microbiomes of plants, animals and people, I’ve watched public interest in gut microbes grow alongside research on their possible dramatic influence on human health. In the past several years, microbiome testing techniques used by researchers like me are now available to consumers at home. These personal gut microbiome testing kits claim to tell you what organisms live in your gut and how to improve your gut microbiome using that data.

I became very interested in how these home test kits work, what kind of information they provide and whether they can really help you change your gut microbiome. So I ordered a few kits from Viome, Biohm and Floré, tried them out and sifted through my own microbiome data. Here is what I learned.

Your gut microbiome can be a partner in your health—if you have the right bacteria.

How do gut microbiome kits work?

All gut microbiome kits require you to carefully collect fresh fecal material. You put it in the various tubes provided in the kit and mail the samples back to the company. Several weeks later, you’ll receive a report describing the types of microbes living in your gut and suggestions on how to change your diet or activities to potentially alter your gut microbiome.

What consumers don’t exactly know is how companies generate the microbial profile data from your fecal sample. A typical approach I and other microbiome researchers use is to extract and decode the microbial genetic material from a sample. We use that genetic material to identify what species of microbes are present. The challenge is that this process can be done in many different ways, and there are no widely agreed-upon standards for what is the best method.

Different home gut microbiome test kits can give conflicting results.
Enlarge / Different home gut microbiome test kits can give conflicting results.

For example, microbiome analyses can be done on two types of genetic material, RNA or DNA. If the profile is based on DNA, it can give you a snapshot only of what types of microbes are present, not what microbial genes are active or what activities they are doing in your body. On the other hand, if the profile is based on RNA, it can tell you not only what microbes are present, but also whether they’re playing a role in your digestion or producing metabolites that can reduce gut inflammation, among other functions. Viome generates its profiles by looking at RNA, while the other companies use DNA.

Other data analysis choices, such as how different types of genetic sequences are sorted or which databases are used to identify the microbes, can also affect the level of detail and utility of the final data. Microbiome scientists are usually very careful to point out these nuances when interpreting their own data in scientific papers, but these details are not clearly presented in home microbiome kits.

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De-extinction company sets its next (first?) target: The thylacine

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Of all the species that humanity has wiped off the face of the Earth, the thylacine is possibly the most tragic loss. A wolf-sized marsupial sometimes called the Tasmanian tiger, the thylacine met its end in part because the government paid its citizens a bounty for every animal killed. That end came recently enough that we have photographs and film clips of the last thylacines ending their days in zoos. Late enough that in just a few decades, countries would start writing laws to prevent other species from seeing the same fate.

On Tuesday, a company called Colossal, which has already said it wants to bring the mammoth back, is announcing a partnership with an Australian lab that it says will de-extinct the thylacine with the goal of re-introducing it into the wild. A number of features of marsupial biology make this a more realistic goal than the mammoth, although there’s still a lot of work to do before we even start the debate about whether reintroducing the species is a good idea.

To find out more about the company’s plans for the thylacine, we had a conversation with Colossal’s founder, Ben Lamm, and the head of the lab he’s partnering with, Andrew Pask.

Branching out

To an extent, Colossal is a way of organizing and funding the ideas of Lamm’s partner, George Church. Church has been talking about de-extincting the mammoth for a number of years, spurred in part by developments in gene editing. The company is structured as a startup, and Lamm said it’s very open to commercializing technology it develops while pursuing its goals. “On our path to de-extinction, Colossal is developing new software, wetware, and hardware innovative technologies that can have profound impacts on both conservation and human health care,” he told Ars. But fundamentally, it’s about developing products for which there’s obviously no market: species that no longer exist.

The general approach it lays out for the mammoth is straightforward, even if the details are extremely complex. There are plenty of samples of mammoth tissue from which we can obtain at least partial genomes, which can then be compared to its closest relatives, the elephants, to find key differences distinct to the mammoth lineage. Thanks to gene editing technology, key differences can be edited into the genome of an elephant stem cell, essentially “mammothifying” the elephant cells. A bit of IVF later, and we’ll have a shaggy beast ready for the sub-Arctic steppes.

Again, the details matter. At the plan’s inception, we had not created elephant stem cells, nor done gene editing at even a fraction of the scale required. There are credible arguments that the peculiarities of the elephant reproductive system make the “bit of IVF” that’s needed a practical impossibility; if it does happen, it will involve a nearly two-year gestation before the results can be evaluated. Elephants are also intelligent, social creatures, and there’s a reasonable debate to be had about whether using them to this end is appropriate.

Given these challenges it may not be a coincidence that Lamm said Colossal had been looking for a second species to de-extinct. And their search turned up a project that was taking a nearly identical approach: the Thylacine Integrated Genomic Restoration Research Lab (TIGRR), based at the University of Melbourne and headed by Andrew Pask.

In the pouch

As with Colossal’s mammoth plans, TIGRR intends to obtain thylacine genomes, identify key differences between that genome and related lineages (mostly quolls), and then edit those differences into marsupial stem cells, which would then be used for IVF. It, too, faces some significant hurdles, in that nobody has made marsupial stem cells yet, nor has anyone cloned a marsupial—two things that have at least been done in placental mammals (though not pachyderms).

But Pask and Lamm pointed out a number of ways that the thylacine is a far more tractable system than a mammoth. For one, the animal’s survival until recent years means there are a lot of museum samples, and thus Pask says we’re likely to obtain enough genomes to get a sense of the population’s genetic diversity—likely critical if we want to re-establish a stable breeding population.

Marsupial reproduction also makes things significantly easier. A marsupial embryo “places far less nutritional demand on getting to the point of birth,” Pask told Ars. “The placenta doesn’t really invade the uterus.” Marsupials are also born at a stage that’s roughly half-way through embryogenesis for a mammal; the rest of development takes place in the mother’s pouch. In contrast to the in utero years needed by a mammoth, the thylacine may only need a few weeks. The marsupial embryos are also so small at birth that the foster mothers can be considerably smaller than a thylacine; Pask said his group plans to work with a fat-tailed dunnart, which is roughly the size of a small rat.

Even after birth, the thylacines would fit in the dunnart’s pouch for a short period, and Lamm is excited by the prospect of developing an artificial pouch to get the animals from there to the point where they can be hand-reared. If not, some larger marsupials could act as foster parents.

The dunnart isn’t the ideal surrogate, as it’s lineage diverged from that of thylacines several million years ago (compared to well under a million for mammoths and elephants). That means a lot more genome editing needs to be done to dunnart cells to get them to a thylacine-like state. That’s one of the reasons that Pask was excited about the opportunity to team up with Colossal, which is working to develop methods for high-throughput genome editing.

None of this is to say that the thylacine is more or less likely to be revived. Colossal will still face challenges identifying which changes are absolutely essential for producing a thylacine-like animal, and which other changes are needed to ensure the genome will survive all of that category of changes (these compensatory mutations can be essential for allowing species to survive evolutionary changes). Still, most of the risks involved appear to be more manageable in its case.

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