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Secrets behind cuttlefish’s camouflage could inspire shape-shifting structures

[embedded content] When it comes to blending in, cuttlefish are like chameleons of the sea. In fact, their color-changing and shape-shifting feats are far better than those of the chameleon, as they can change their appearance almost immediately. They can even alter the texture of their skin to mimic the textures of the corals, rocks, and plants around them.

Cuttlefish — which aren’t fish, but rather cephalopods, like octopuses and squids — have long amazed and bemused scientists for their unparalleled camouflage and intelligence.

Researchers have begun to unravel the mysteries of these creatures, and have now identified the neural mechanisms that give them their incredible shape-shifting abilities. In a recent study published in the journal iScience, the research team explored how cuttlefish skin is made up of two types of small muscular organs, and how these organs are connected to its nervous system. One type, known as “chromatophores,” receive signals from the brain, directing them to change color.

The other organs can be controlled to create nipple-like protrusions, called “papillae,” along the cuttlefish’s skin. In their study, the researchers revealed just how the instructions for the cuttlefish camouflage are sent from the animal’s brain, through its peripheral nerve center, and to its specialized muscle organs. The nerve circuitry they uncovered mirrors that found in squids, which enable them to make their skin iridescent.

“Cuttlefish are able to hold their papillae without sending neural signals — this is very different to most muscles — and the circuit that controls papillae is very different to the chromatophore colouration pathway, meaning it evolved differently and potentially uses skin sensors to direct its activity,” University of Cambridge researcher Trevor Wardill, told Digital Trends. Wardill analyzes skin signaling in cephalopods and is the lead author of the recent study. Cuttlefish still have their fair share of secrets, however.

One of their most perplexing talents is their ability to interpret their surroundings and change their appearance accordingly. Nonetheless, Wardill thinks his team’s recent research will help inform biomimetic structures and materials that can adapt to their surroundings, just like the cuttlefish. “[This] research will inspire products that could mimic the texture and shape of their surroundings,” he said, “but also may find medical application due to their soft actuator capabilities.

Currently we cannot build anything like a papillae that can change from entirely flat to various 3D shapes within one second and remain flexible.”

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Sennheiser’s ultimate ‘ear bud’ – CNET

I was a big fan of Sennheiser’s original IE800 in-ear headphone when it debuted — I can hardly believe it — five years ago! It was a super comfy, extremely open, natural sounding ‘phone. Sennheiser’s newly revised model, the IE800 S looks similar, but sounds different.

It’s designed and hand-made in Germany.

The Sennheiser IE 800 S in-ear headphones.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The IE800 S features a single 7mm driver mounted in each ceramic ear piece; impedance is rated at 16 ohms. It comes with a rather deluxe looking real leather travel case. I like the silicone and Comply ear tips that securely snap in place on the ear pieces, that’s good, but their non-standard fitting means you can’t use other brands off-the-shelf replacement tips with the IE800 S.

I found it a little trickier than average to achieve a good, air tight seal with these in-ears. The original IE800’s injection-molded ceramic ear pieces looked snazzy in high gloss metallic grey, the IE800 S’ are finished in a more subdued satin grey. Sennheiser isn’t making any great claims about sonic differences between the two models, other than to say the IE800 S’ 7mm drivers are redesigned.

The IE800 S retails for £1,000, GBP870, AU£1,600; the original IE800 is still listed on Sennheiser’s Web sites, it’s £800, GBP560, AU£1,200.

The IE800 S’ “Y” splitter and tail cable.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The user replaceable cables are configured in a different way than what you get with other in-ears; with the IE800 S you can change the cable after the “Y” splitter (see photo). The “Y” cable is permanently attached to the ear pieces. Also the new cables are more flexible and supple than original IE800’s cables.

The IE800 S comes with three cables, the standard one’s terminated with a 3.5 mm plug, another one with a 4.4mm Pentaconn plug for some of the latest Sony high-end portable players, and 2.5 mm balanced connector featured on Astell & Kern and other high-end music players. My first impressions about the IE800 S’ sound was that it was very clear, without even a hint of exaggerated treble “detail,” it sounded like it wasn’t doing anything at all. It was also extremely open, so the sound wasn’t stuck inside my head.

Pianist Nils Frahm’s “Felt” album features him playing a “treated” piano, with felt damping the piano strings, muffling their sound. It’s an ambient sounding recording, and it was very atmospheric over the IE800 S. I split my IE800 S listening time between my iPhone 6S and an Astell & Kern Kann portable hi-res music player.

The Kann had superior control of bass, so definition tightened up, and the IE 800 S’ overall clarity improved. That was with the standard cable with the 3.5mm jack. Stepping up to the cable with the 2.5mm “balanced” plug yielded further improvements in those areas with the Kann player.

Comparing the original IE800 with this new IE800 S was fascinating. The IE800 is brighter and bassier, the IE800 S sounds smoother and more spacious. The midrange is more natural, so voices, strings, and guitars sound more inviting.

I’ve always liked the IE800, but the IE800 S sounds like a more refined device.

Then I pulled out a set of Shure SE846 in-ear headphones (£899) that feature four balanced armature drivers in each ear piece. Right away the SE846 was nowhere as transparent as the IE800 S, but the SE846’s bass was more muscular and better defined. The IE800 S’ bass prowess was very decent, but the SE846 more viscerally potent.

It’s more rock and roll, the IE800 S fares better with acoustic music. So it’s a tie, I like both for different reasons and they will appeal to different tastes. The Sennheiser IE800 has been one of my long term reference in-ear headphones, and the IE800 S ups the ante.

That said, the IE800 stood the test of time, and I’m expecting the IE800 S will still sound great five years down the road, in 2023.

Google Auto Trends report says we're all dog-obsessed dashcam buyers

Cars are changing fast, as is the way that culture sees and uses them. Google wanted to better understand this, so it compiled search data from the US, Germany and Japan to see what was trending in the wheeled world. The results are a little surprising. First of all, we should cover how Google went about compiling this data since the idea of my automotive search history being reviewed by anyone or anything is mortifying.

Nobody should know the kind of deep, dark masochistic fantasies that I harbor for owning an early-2000s vintage Land Rover Discovery. Jokes aside, Google looked at search trends (of course), then smoothed out the curve by accounting for seasonal variations in searches (snow tires in winter, convertibles in summer, etc.). Lastly — and here is where it gets interesting — Google went through YouTube and broke down what people were making videos about, the type of language they were using to talk about their subject matter and which brands were mentioned.

Lastly, Google spoke to 1,000 living, flesh-and-blood human batteries… sorry, human beings, about how the automotive trends that it identified affected their lives.

This is what Americans are searching for when they search for car stuff.

Volvo

The US, as it turns out, is very interested in bringing its doggos and/or puppers into the car. The number of searches for dog-related vehicle accessories is on the rise, and this is a trend that isn’t lost on manufacturers. Both Land Rover and Volvo have recently advertised accessories to increase the pooch-friendliness of their respective rides.

Specifically, people have been searching for dog car seats, dog car hammocks, dog car steps and dog driver’s licenses (not really, but that’s a world I’d want to live in). The Germans aren’t interested in dogs in their cars, and perhaps that’s rightfully so. With all the premium dynamism that Teutonic automakers are pumping into their vehicles, no self-respecting hound would stand a chance in a car hammock.

What are those Germans looking for then? Digital audio broadcasting (DAB, for short) compatible radios. DAB is a broadcasting standard introduced by the German government way back in 2010.

Things have been slowly converting over, and older car radios won’t work with the new technology. The Germans need their Can and Kraftwerk and Hasselhoff to soothe the savage, yet efficient beasts that dwell within their souls.

The Germans are trying to get DAB-compatible radios in theircars schnell.

Andrew Hoyle/Roadshow

The last market surveyed, Japan, is completely different. There, auto accessories are king.

Google speculates that accessories become more important as more and more Japanese citizens spend increasing amounts of time in their vehicles. This leads inexorably to searches for seat cushions, steering wheel covers and car humidifiers (which I had no idea was a thing). According to the data, a Japanese person is twice as likely to search for auto customization terms online as someone in the US and five times more likely than someone in Germany.

One great unifying want between all three countries is the dashcam. No longer solely the province of Russian taxi drivers, dashcams and apps that make your phone function like a dashcam are trending all over everywhere. People just want to record everything I guess, because reasons, but the fact is that there are three times as many searches for onboard cameras as there are for autonomous driving.

People across the globe are searching for dash cameras, moreso than autonomous driving!

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

This is the first year that Google has done this trend report, so it will be interesting to revisit this next year and see what has changed, and more importantly, what hasn’t.

To read the full text of the report, click here.

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