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Dell Black Friday ad features $120 Inspiron laptop, $500 gaming desktop

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Dell Black Friday 2018 ad

Costco may have beaten Dell to the punch with its Black Friday ad this year as a major retailer selling PCs, but the computer manufacturer reliably releases its ad around November 1 — and this year is no exception. As usual, it features the full breadth of Dell’s product line, with the best deals usually coming as “doorbusters” that are only available for a limited time.

The biggest doorbuster will no doubt be the Inspiron 11 3000 laptop, which will sell for just $119.99. Of course, its specs are basic — AMD E2-9000e processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage — and the timing of the sale is a bit awkward, coming on Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. right when many people will be sitting down for turkey dinner. But a deal’s a deal, so expect the advertised limited quantities to be snapped up quickly.

If you prefer a dirt-cheap desktop instead, the next hour’s doorbuster is an Inspiron Small Desktop for $249.99, which does include an Intel Core i3 CPU along with 4 gigs of memory and a terabyte hard drive. For another budget laptop deal, you can wake up early on Black Friday instead for an 8 a.m. doorbuster of aa 2-in-1 version of the Inspiron 11 3000, coming with the same amount of RAM and storage as the $120 model, but with a slightly different AMD processor (A6-9220e).

Dell is also advertising two other sub-$200 laptop doorbusters (each $199.99): one at 10 a.m. on Black Friday for an Inspiron 15 3000 with Intel Celeron chip, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive, and 15.6-inch display; the other the day before at the same hour for an Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1 with Celeron processor, 4GB of memory, and 32GB of storage. For a little more you can upgrade to an Inspiron 15 3000 edition with a Pentium processor instead of a Celeron — $229.99 as a doorbuster at 2 p.m. on Black Friday — or pay $329.99 at the same to get one with a Core i3 CPU and double the RAM and storage.

Other desktop doorbusters include an Inspiron 22 3000 Touch all-in-one that comes with an AMD E2-9000e processor, 4GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and a 21.5-inch 1080p HD touchscreen for $299.99 starting at noon on Black Friday. For more power, you can step up to an Inspiron tower with Core i5, 8 gigs of RAM, and terabyte hard drive for either $399.99 at 6 p.m. on Black Friday or for $499.99 with a bundled 24-inch monitor at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Dell is touting its $499.99 doorbuster for its Inspiron Gaming Desktop (10 p.m. on Thanksgiving) as the lowest price ever on the system, though expect compromises for that low price. In particular, you only get a Core i3 processor in addition to 8 gigs of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics. If you’re willing to pay for a faster processor, a non-doorbuster deal for the Inspiron Gaming Desktop features a Core i5 as well as a more powerful GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card for $749.99. Gamers on the go might be interested in the G5 15 gaming laptop (Core i7, 16GB of RAM, terabyte hard drive plus 256GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, 15.6-inch display) that’s available for $999.99 on Thanksgiving at 8 p.m.

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How the Yurok Tribe is bringing back the California Condor

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Enlarge / The California condor is a New World vulture, the largest North American land bird. This condor became extinct in the wild in 1987, but the species has been reintroduced in California and Arizona.

The first California condor to reach Yurok ancestral land in over a century arrived by plane and car in late March of 2022. The small plane that carried Condor 746 had a rough landing, and the bird was irritable. He rattled around in a large dog crate during the three-hour drive to the tribe’s newly built condor facility, in a remote location in Redwood National Park.

Once there, he hopped into the flight pen, a tall enclosure of wire mesh, furnished with log perches and a drinking pool. At 8 years old, Condor 746 is an adult, his naked head bright pink instead of the black found in younger birds. He’s on loan from the captive breeding program at the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. His job is to act as the mentor for four juvenile birds who will become the founders of a reborn condor society in Yurok country.

“We have mentors because condors are so social,” says Joe Burnett, California Condor Recovery Program Manager at the Ventana Wildlife Society. Young birds in a pen with no adult will become unruly. “You get the Lord of the Flies syndrome,” says Burnett. He and his colleagues quickly learned that release programs need an adult to serve as a role model and enforce the social hierarchy that is crucial to the flock’s survival.

A few days after 746 arrived, Condor A0, age 2, entered the flight pen. The first thing she focused on was 746, lounging on a perch. Understanding that she was in a safe place, A0 checked out the food—the carcass of a stillborn calf—then flapped onto a perch and fluffed up her feathers, a sign of avian contentment. Three young male condors, tagged A1, A2, and A3, followed. The youngsters had been living together for months at other condor facilities in Boise, Idaho, and San Simeon, California, and they already felt at home with each other.

Condor, known as prey-go-neesh in the native language, is sacred to the Yurok people. The Yurok reservation lies along the Klamath River in northwest California, but much of the tribe’s ancestral land is now in the hands of government agencies or private landowners. The tribe has been working to bring back the California condor since 2003, when a group of elders identified the bird as a keystone species for both culture and ecology, and therefore the most important land-based creature in need of restoration.

Nineteen years after the Yurok made that bold decision, the condors arrived. Elders who had worked toward that pivotal moment watched as Tiana Williams-Claussen, director of the Yurok Wildlife Department, and her colleagues released each newcomer into the pen.

Williams-Claussen’s job is to understand the details of condor biology and to interpret Yurok culture for the wider world. A tribal member, she grew up on the coast near the mouth of the Klamath, and went off to Harvard University. She didn’t set out to be a condor biologist, but when she returned in 2007 with a degree in biochemical sciences, condor restoration was the work her people needed her to do. Williams-Claussen has since spent 14 years living and breathing condors, learning how to handle them, building partnerships with government agencies, and listening to what Yurok elders have to say about the great bird.

The California condor is a critically endangered species: In the 1980s, the total population dwindled to fewer than 30 individuals. Biologists concluded the species’ only chance of survival lay in capturing every living condor in order to breed the birds in captivity, safe from poisons and power lines.

Reintroducing condors to the wild proved difficult, however, and the process became a dramatic lesson for biologists on the importance of parenting and the slow pace of growing up among these long-lived, highly social birds. Scientists learned that time spent with adults was critical to the behavioral development of young condors. They also found that in a species where adults follow and protect their offspring for a year or more after the birds fledge, youngsters pioneering landscapes empty of condors require lots of human babysitting.

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Physics meets paleontology: The hotly debated mechanics of pterosaur flight

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Julius Csotonyi

A group of researchers has recently made an astounding discovery.

Using an innovative imaging technique, an international team of scientists has uncovered remarkable details of a pterosaur’s soft tissue. Despite an age of approximately 145–163 million years, the wing membrane and the webbing between both feet managed to survive fossilization.

Armed with new data, the team used modeling to determine that this little pterosaur had the capacity to launch itself from the water. Their findings are published in Scientific Reports.

Fine details

Pterosaurs—an extinct type of winged reptile—were the first known vertebrates to take to the air and fly. Their sizes ranged from the very tiny (a wingspan of 25 centimeters) to the absolutely enormous (a breathtaking 10- to 11-meter wingspan). According to the lead researcher on the new work, Dr. Michael Pittman, the small aurorazhdarchid that was studied could have fit in the palm of your hand. Of 12 well-preserved pterosaurs from the Solnhofen Lagoon in Germany, it was the only one with preserved soft tissues.

Dr. Pittman is a paleobiologist and assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and co-author Dr. Thomas G. Kaye is with the Foundation for Scientific Advancement. The authors noted that this pterosaur is now among only six known pterosaurs with evidence of webbed feet and approximately 30 with wing membranes.

“We are constantly amazed by just how stunning the preserved details can be,” Dr. Pittman told Ars, “which keeps getting better and better as we refine the technique more and more.”

The ability to detect these soft tissues and bring them into sharp relief through laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF) is relatively new. LSF is a non-destructive imaging technique that has been taken to new levels by Dr. Pittman and Dr. Kaye.

“As part of a larger, ongoing project,” Dr. Pittman said, “we have been using LSF to reveal otherwise hidden soft tissues preserved in fossils. A key focus has been to use LSF to study feathered dinosaurs and pterosaurs to better understand their biology and flight evolution.”

Ready for takeoff?

In this case, understanding the pterosaur’s biology involved determining whether this Late Jurassic creature could take off from the water. Just because the pterosaur had webbed feet, the researchers emphasized, doesn’t necessarily mean it spent time in the water, nor does it indicate that it could get out of the water if it happened to fall in.

The work was incredibly difficult and potentially contentious. It’s one thing to try to determine locomotion in animals that have skeletons mirroring those that exist today; it’s an entirely different matter when that creature has no modern analogue.

“There’s a ton of debate about pterosaurs generally, about pretty much every aspect of their biology,” Dr. Armita Manafzadeh told Ars. “And their joints are extra debated because they’re just very bizarre.”

Skeleton and associated soft tissues of the aurorazhdarchid pterosaur fossil.
Enlarge / Skeleton and associated soft tissues of the aurorazhdarchid pterosaur fossil.

Dr. Manafzadeh, who was not involved in this research, is a Donnelley Postdoctoral Fellow and NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies. Her work focuses on what’s called “arthrology”: understanding joints, joint function, and movement in both extant and extinct species.

Figuring out the movement of extinct animals, she said, requires determining “what you think the animal was capable of, and that has its own challenges.”

“But you also have to figure out, out of this range of capabilities, what did the animal actually do when it was alive,” she said. “It might have been able to do it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it did it.”

The team looked to Dr. Michael Habib, a self-described pterosaur aeromechanics specialist and one of only four people on the planet with that expertise, to help them analyze how these soft tissues could have impacted the reptile’s ability to fly and launch. Dr. Habib has studied birds and pterosaurs for years, and his unique knowledge base of physics, aerodynamics, and paleontology made his insights particularly relevant. The launch model used in this paper was an expansion of work Dr. Habib and his colleague did in 2010 to help determine whether large pterosaurs would have been able to launch from the water. He is a research associate with the National History Museum of Los Angeles and adjunct associate professor of Medicine at UCLA. 

“I work on animal biomechanics and flight origins,” Dr. Pittman said, “but I invited Dr. Mike Habib on the project because of his specific expertise on the flight of pterosaurs, which enabled the team to deliver the results we found.”

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How do painkillers kill pain? It’s about meeting the pain where it’s at

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Enlarge / A variety of pain-relieving drugs are available both over the counter and by prescription.

Without the ability to feel pain, life is more dangerous. To avoid injury, pain tells us to use a hammer more gently, wait for the soup to cool or put on gloves in a snowball fight. Those with rare inherited disorders that leave them without the ability to feel pain are unable to protect themselves from environmental threats, leading to broken bones, damaged skin, infections, and ultimately a shorter life span.

In these contexts, pain is much more than a sensation: It is a protective call to action. But pain that is too intense or long-lasting can be debilitating. So how does modern medicine soften the call?

As a neurobiologist and an anesthesiologist who study pain, this is a question we and other researchers have tried to answer. Science’s understanding of how the body senses tissue damage and perceives it as pain has progressed tremendously over the past several years. It has become clear that there are multiple pathways that signal tissue damage to the brain and sound the pain alarm bell.

Interestingly, while the brain uses different pain signaling pathways depending on the type of damage, there is also redundancy to these pathways. Even more intriguing, these neural pathways morph and amplify signals in the case of chronic pain and pain caused by conditions affecting nerves themselves, even though the protective function of pain is no longer needed.

Painkillers work by tackling different parts of these pathways. Not every painkiller works for every type of pain, however. Because of the multitude and redundancy of pain pathways, a perfect painkiller is elusive. But in the meantime, understanding how existing painkillers work helps medical providers and patients use them for the best results.

Anti-inflammatory painkillers

A bruise, sprain, or broken bone from an injury all lead to tissue inflammation, an immune response that can lead to swelling and redness as the body tries to heal. Specialized nerve cells in the area of the injury called nociceptors sense the inflammatory chemicals the body produces and send pain signals to the brain.

Common over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkillers work by decreasing inflammation in the injured area. These are particularly useful for musculoskeletal injuries or other pain problems caused by inflammation such as arthritis.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin do this by blocking an enzyme called COX that plays a key role in a biochemical cascade that produces inflammatory chemicals. Blocking the cascade decreases the amount of inflammatory chemicals, and thereby reduces the pain signals sent to the brain. While acetaminophen (Tylenol), also known as paracetamol, doesn’t reduce inflammation as NSAIDs do, it also inhibits COX enzymes and has similar pain-reducing effects.

Prescription anti-inflammatory painkillers include other COX inhibitors, corticosteroids, and, more recently, drugs that target and inactivate the inflammatory chemicals themselves.

Because inflammatory chemicals are involved in other important physiological functions beyond just sounding the pain alarm, medications that block them will have side effects and potential health risks, including irritating the stomach lining and affecting kidney function. Over-the-counter medications are generally safe if the directions on the bottle are followed strictly.

Corticosteroids like prednisone block the inflammatory cascade early on in the process, which is probably why they are so potent in reducing inflammation. However, because all the chemicals in the cascade are present in nearly every organ system, long-term use of steroids can pose many health risks that need to be discussed with a physician before starting a treatment plan.

Topical medications

Many topical medications target nociceptors, the specialized nerves that detect tissue damage. Local anesthetics, like lidocaine, prevent these nerves from sending electrical signals to the brain.

The protein sensors on the tips of other sensory neurons in the skin are also targets for topical painkillers. Activating these proteins can elicit particular sensations that can lessen the pain by reducing the activity of the damage-sensing nerves, like the cooling sensation of menthol or the burning sensation of capsaicin.

Certain topical ointments, like menthol and capsaicin, can crowd out pain signals with different sensations.
Enlarge / Certain topical ointments, like menthol and capsaicin, can crowd out pain signals with different sensations.

Because these topical medications work on the tiny nerves in the skin, they are best used for pain directly affecting the skin. For example, a shingles infection can damage the nerves in the skin, causing them to become overactive and send persistent pain signals to the brain. Silencing those nerves with topical lidocaine or an overwhelming dose of capsaicin can reduce these pain signals.

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