YouTube-to-MP3 Converter Site Sued by Major Record Labels

YouTube-to-MP3 Converter Site Sued by Major Record Labels

A group of major record labels—including Universal, Sony, Capitol and Warner Brothers—is suing, which rips audio from YouTube videos, for every single instance of piracy the site allegedly facilitated.

The plaintiffs claim YTMP3 provides and “facilitates...means for its users to engage in copyright infringement, while profiting from the infringement,” as well as violating YouTube’s terms of service. The record labels are suing for $150,000 in damages for every single case of alleged piracy—the site has over 60 million users per month. The BBC reports that they’re also requesting “a court order that would forbid web hosts, advertisers and other third parties from facilitating access to”

As evidence, the court document includes 300+ names the songs downloaded from YTMP3. Here’s a sampling:

“You’re Beautiful” - James Blunt

“All About That Bass” - Meghan Trainor

“Timber” - Pitbull

“Fight Song” - Rachel Platten

“Fireflies” - Owl City

“100 Years” - Five For Fighting

Here are the rest:

YTMP3 Complaint - Songs

Which of these songs do you think is, objectively, the worst? I’m pretty sold on “All About That Bass” but persuade me otherwise in the comments.


Helpless Bone Thug Becomes Latest Victim of Drone Menace

Helpless Bone Thug Becomes Latest Victim of Drone Menace
Image: YouTube/Celi Cel

Go almost anywhere these days and they’re out there, lurking. At our festivals. By our pools. Even in our prisons. Drones have now infiltrated just about every area of human society, as a member of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony learned recently when a quadcopter savagely bonked him at his own concert.

A video obtained by TMZ shows the complete attack, which occurred during a rendition of “Budsmokers Only” on Sunday. Apparently taking exception to the ‘90s hip-hop collective’s exclusionary practices, a nearby drone beaned group member Flesh-n-Bone something wicked.

According to the Associated Press, the Bone Thug “winced and grabbed his head, but he and the rest of the group didn’t stop the show or even the song,” which is fortunate, considering it could have gone a whole lot worse.…


Dogs Suck at Sniffing Out Lung Cancer

Dogs Suck at Sniffing Out Lung Cancer
Credit: Pexels

A team of European researchers put six highly-trained sniffer dogs to the test to see if they were any good at detecting lung cancer. The results were surprisingly bad, but the scientists say factors other than the canine sense of smell were responsible for the poor performance.

The new study, published in Journal of Breath Research, shows that dogs fare poorly when asked to sniff out lung cancer in actual screening situations—despite their uncanny ability to sniff out certain cancers. It’s not their sniffing skills that’s the problem, but canine tendencies—like distraction and boredom—that cause them to lose focus and make mistakes. Simply put, they’re not great at being clinicians.

There’s still good reason to believe that assistance dogs can be tremendously helpful in medical contexts. They’ve been used to detect low blood sugar levels in their diabetic owners, and warn of an impending hypoglycemia attack. Dogs have also displayed an uncanny ability to sniff out certain cancers, such as urological cancers and breast cancer, leading to early detection. But little research has been done to determine if they’re any good at detecting lung cancer, particularly in a real screening situation.

Hence the new study.

Researchers from Krems University Hospital and several other institutions recruited 122 volunteer patients. Twenty-nine had already been diagnosed with lung cancer (but hadn’t yet received any treatments) and 93 subjects showed no signs or symptoms of the disease. The six dogs were trained for six months beforehand, with a total of 150 training samples.

When it came time for the real test, the dogs were exposed to breath samples provided by the participants. This was done in a double-blind manner to eliminate any subjective bias. The dogs correctly detected 79 percent of the patients who actually had lung cancer, but when it came to those without lung cancer, the dogs correctly identified just 34 percent. That’s just not a good return rate, given the seriousness of the diagnosis.

“Our dogs made mistakes with both positive and negative samples, and I think that one important reason for the inferior results might be that a true double blind situation puts a lot of stress on the animals and their handlers,” said Klaus Hackner, a co-author of the study. “Success and regular rewards are important for every kind of sniffer detection work.”

Hackner believes this was a learning experience, and he hasn’t given up hope that dogs can someday be used to sniff out lung cancer. It’s just a matter of setting up effective protocols.

“This disparity is not likely to be a detection issue; dogs have been shown to have extremely sensitive noses as proven by their use in tracking, bomb detection, and search and rescue,” he said. “However, in contrast to analytical instruments, dogs are subject to boredom, limited attention span, fatigue, hunger, and external distraction.”

Still, this study points to the limitations of using dogs for such complex and psychologically-demanding tasks. It would probably be more practical to develop the much heralded “e-nose”—a sensor just as powerful as a dog’s extremely sensitive nose.

[Journal of Breath Research]

SpaceX Wants to Venture Much Further Out Into the Solar System

SpaceX Wants to Venture Much Further Out Into the Solar System
All images: Flickr / SpaceX

Elon Musk finally revealed his plans for a mission to Mars today. But a new set of images from SpaceX show the Interplanetary Transport System going even further in the solar system than the Red Planet.

As we speculated yesterday, the plans for the ITS do, indeed, go well beyond Mars. Musk confirmed an interest in traveling elsewhere in the solar system, especially to Europa, during his speech today—and SpaceX confirmed in a tweet and with this new artwork, as well.

In the latest renderings from SpaceX, you can see the ITS heading past Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, and also Saturn’s rings. Other destinations appear to include Titan, Enceladus, Europa, or others. But before the ITS can make it way out there, the spacecraft has to show that it can get to Mars first.

SpaceX Wants to Venture Much Further Out Into the Solar System
SpaceX Wants to Venture Much Further Out Into the Solar System
SpaceX Wants to Venture Much Further Out Into the Solar System
SpaceX Wants to Venture Much Further Out Into the Solar System
SpaceX Wants to Venture Much Further Out Into the Solar System
SpaceX Wants to Venture Much Further Out Into the Solar System
SpaceX Wants to Venture Much Further Out Into the Solar System

Doctor Strange Has a Giant Fire Whip and an Awkward Moment in a New Trailer

Doctor Strange Has a Giant Fire Whip and an Awkward Moment in a New Trailer

There’s a new Doctor Strange trailer which shows us a lot more of Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). Be prepared to find him a lot more charming than our hero.

There are two very good moments in this new footage: The first puts Strange in context with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Wong (Benedict Wong) saying, “The Avengers protect the world from physical dangers. We safeguard it against more mystical threats.”

And the second is Kaecilius and Strange interacting. With Kaecilius calling him “Mister” and then “Mister Doctor.” Eventually Doctor Strange manages to get out, “It’s Strange.”

And then Kaecilius hits him with “Maybe, who am I to judge?” It’s so good and Mikkelsen’s delivery is masterful. There’s never been more evidence that this movie might actually be as fun and weird as it should be.

Elon Musk: Die For Me

Elon Musk: Die For Me
Image: AP

Today, noted space cadet (in every sense of the phrase) Elon Musk revealed his plan to colonize Mars. He also basically told us to prepare to die for him. Cool idea, Elon!

“The risk of fatality will be high,” Musk told the audience in Guadalajara, Mexico, of the SpaceX mission to the Red Planet. “There’s no way around it. It would be basically, are you prepared to die? If that’s okay, you’re a candidate for going.” He added, “The probability of death is quite high on the first mission.” As if the all-consuming cold hug that is death was not something humans have been conditioned to fear for our entire existence.

This wasn’t Musk’s only reference to the inevitable descent into nothing, however. He also noted at the very beginning of his presentation—presumably to warm up the audience—that we pretty much have two options as a society.

“I don’t have an immediate doomsday prophecy,” he said at the beginning of the talk. (Are you lying, Elon?) “One path is to stay on Earth forever, and there will be some extinction event. The alternative is to become a multi-planetary species, which I hope you will agree is the right way to go.”

“Some extinction event.” Lovely!

Musk also alluded to his own fallibility, noting that he’d have to leave the company in good hands before doing anything crazy and potentially life-threatening—like going to Mars himself.

Well, at least Musk is lumping himself somewhere into the death pool.

DARPA Just Launched a Podcast

DARPA Just Launched a Podcast

DARPA, the agency that helped invent things like email in the early 1970s and the internet itself in the late 1960s, just launched a podcast. Podcasts have been around since the 2000s, but better late than never, I guess.

DARPA, of course, is known as the “mad science” wing of the US Department of Defense. They’re the ones constantly working on more efficient ways to kill people on the battlefield and save the lives of American soldiers, whether it’s through robots or new medical techniques. And sometimes those technologies are put to incredible use in the civilian sector. Again, just look at the internet and email.

The podcast, called Voices From DARPA, is hosted by Ivan Amato and each episode features a program manager for DARPA on different aspects of the agency’s national security mission. The podcast doesn’t have a set schedule, but the agency says people can expect a new episode every month or so.

DARPA’s big push this decade has been in materials and chemistry, so it makes sense that they’ve got a “molecules guy” on the premiere episode. The first episode is titled Molecule Man and Amato interviews program manager Tyler McQuade about the frontiers of chemistry and how his work might be put to use on the battlefields of tomorrow. Once you get to about halfway through the episode it really does start to sound like science fiction, but that’s DARPA’s mission—making the weird and seemingly impossible a reality.

DARPA’s new podcast is no Serial (just kidding, I’ve never listened to Serial and have no business comparing the two) but it’s probably required listening for anyone interested in science, technology, and the US military.

You can listen to the DARPA podcast on YouTube and SoundCloud. DARPA says it hopes to have the podcast up on iTunes by the second or third episode.


Correction: This post originally misstated that program managers were “under contract” for DARPA. As DARPA pointed out to me over email, program managers are “full-on federal employees.”

Does Anyone Else Remember The Pretender, the Weirdest Show of the Late '90s?

Does Anyone Else Remember The Pretender, the Weirdest Show of the Late "90s?

Trying to describe The Pretender to people who’s never seen it is nearly impossible. The premise is ridiculous and the twists unbelievable. It’s a supremely strange show and I literally can’t believe it lasted four seasons on NBC.

Here’s a summary: A man named Jarod (no last name) escapes from the Centre (no descriptive name), where he has spent his entire childhood being used for his astonishing intellect to... run simulations of things so that... the people paying the Centre... could get the best plan possible...for whatever. He’s pursued by Miss Parker (no first name), the daughter of the man in charge of the Centre; Sydney (OH MY GOD WHY DID NO ONE IN THIS SHOW HAVE FULL NAMES), the doctor who had essentially raised Jarod; and Broots, a computer nerd.

The formula of each episode was basically that Jarod (Michael T. Weiss) would show up somewhere in a brand new job—he could literally do anything, that’s what “Pretender” means—to solve some sort of injustice. He’d do that, arrange for the bad guy to suffer some sort of ironic pain and arrest, and then leave again, usually just before Miss Parker (Andrea Parker) showed up to chase him.

And that part, where Jarod was basically a superhero, was weird enough. When you add in whatever the hell the Centre was, the show’s mythology gets downright insane. Dredging up specific missions of Jarod’s is hard, but the weird shit happening on the Centre end? Easy.

They have a “tribunal” system for interrogating employees about things going wrong. There are Cleaners, which are like a secret police, and Sweepers, which are security. Because why not have a big strange corporation with an impenetrable naming scheme.

Sydney was always doing some sort of weird experiment with twins. There was a creepy bald dude named Raines who had an oxygen tank. Miss Parker had a secret sociopathic twin who, I swear to god, lost a thumb at one point. Actually, everyone had secret relatives running around. Sydney had a secret twin in a coma. Miss Parker had a couple of brothers and an uncle. At one point there was a young clone of Jarod wandering around. There was a guy in the vents who has his own special mind powers. Oh, and Jarod cartesd around a case full of surveillance footage of his entire childhood.

Plus the name thing which is downright ridiculous. Mr. Parker doesn’t ever use his daughter’s name in order to preserve this conceit. So he calls her “Angel” instead. Her brother? Mr. Lyle. Is that his first name, his last name? NEITHER! It’s an alias. At one point, Sydney is introduced as “Dr. Sydney” in order to avoid naming him properly. Are these people’s names the anti-life equation? What’s happening?!

All of that was weird as hell, but then the show got canceled... and somehow got weirder. There were two TV movies made after the show proper ended. Pretender 2001 basically dealt with the cliffhanger left by the season four finale and the series’ cancellation. Island of the Haunted added a ton of backstory to the Parker family and introduced to all his insanity... a prophecy and magic. SURE. I GUESS.

And yet, somehow, I kind of love this show? Its early seasons were mostly fun little adventures. The later seasons went off the deep end in a serious way, and that makes it even more enjoyable somehow. The cast was engaging and everyone involved seemed to have a blast, which translated to the viewing experience. It’s so campy and ridiculous and exactly the thing to watch in syndication while doing homework. Which is how I, and the one other person I ever met who watched it, encountered it.

I’m still annoyed by the name thing, though.

Russian Hackers Might Have Gotten Into Democratic Smartphones, Too

Russian Hackers Might Have Gotten Into Democratic Smartphones, Too
Image: Shutterstock

The Federal Bureau of Investigation thinks Russian hackers may have targeted the mobile phones of democratic party officials, according to Reuters. The US government also blamed Russia for the hack on the Democratic National Committee, which exposed a trove of embarrassing internal emails and documents.

According to the report, elected officials may be among those targeted by the attacks. Mobile phones are full of vital information hackers could be seeking, and they also include a variety of real-time information information like GPS coordinates, as well as hijackable hardware like microphones and cameras. A hacked phone is effectively a fully-featured surveillance device—which says nothing of all the sensitive data that might be on board.…

And it wouldn’t be the first time. Just last month, security researchers revealed that a hacking-for-hire firm from Israel had managed to totally compromise an iPhone with just a smile text message. This despite the fact that the iPhone is considered one of the most secure devices available. Apple quickly pushed a security update to patch the vulnerability, but the fact remains that phones, even secure ones, are eminently hackable.

The actual extent of the attack on democratic officials is still unknown.

Democratic staffers have been targets for some time now. Last week, a White House staffer who helps manage press for First lady Michelle Obama had his Gmail account hacked and leaked online.

Sure, these hackers are talented, but it’s not very reassuring that hackers are clobbering people in government so often.


This High-Speed Simulator Suspended From Cables Looks Like So Much Fun

This High-Speed Simulator Suspended From Cables Looks Like So Much Fun

The most immersive virtual reality experience is still going to feel fake with your body plopped motionless in a chair. Adding motion into the mix, through the use of a simulator, greatly increases the realism of the experience—particularly if it can fly around a room like this amazing cable-controlled contraption.

This High-Speed Simulator Suspended From Cables Looks Like So Much Fun

The CableRobot Simulator, jointly developed by researchers at Fraunhofer IPA and the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, features a simple carbon fiber cabin, weighing around 180 pounds, with enough room for a single passenger.

Most simulators use a cabin like this—usually filled with giant wraparound displays—that’s strapped to a moving gimbal firmly attached to the floor so it can spin around, and lean back and forth in any direction. The gimbal’s movements are matched to what’s happening in the simulation, adding to the realism, but the CableRobot takes things much further with a greater range of motion.

Instead of being permanently mounted to the floor, the carbon fiber cabin, and its passenger, are suspended within a series of moving cables powered by strong winches all working in unison. Together they can tilt, spin, and move the simulator around, at impressive speeds, to almost every last corner of a room. Its movements are essentially limited to the size of the room, and the strength of the motors powering the winches.

This High-Speed Simulator Suspended From Cables Looks Like So Much Fun

When combined with a virtual reality setup like an Oculus Rift which completely blocks what the rider sees around them, the effect is undoubtedly incredibly immersive, and probably a little bit terrifying, as it recreates the motions and movements seen in the VR experience. The researchers who created it believe it could be an even better tool for teaching pilots, and even drivers, to operate their vehicles in complete safety. However, the rest of us see this as being the closest thing we have to Star Trek’s holodecks right now.

[Fraunhofer IPA via Gizmag]