Experience the shocking power of Britney Spears without Auto-Tune

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Auto-Tune has been embraced by the music industry for its ability to create polished, listenable recordings when an artist lacks the natural talent to hit every note. That’s the nice way of saying it. Engineers also turn to Auto-Tune when dealing with truly wretched “singers.” And they’re using it everywhere. All the time. Pop star Britney Spears became the latest showcase of all that Auto-Tune makes possible this month after an unaltered studio session voice track leaked online. It’s for a song called “Alien” from Spears’ 2013 album Britney Jean. The finished song (with copious amounts of pitch correction) can be heard here. This version sounds nothing like that. Spears, who by now should be a recording studio veteran in every sense, is…

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The second ‘Mockingjay’ trailer hints at revolution

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The first half of Mockingjay, the final installment in the Hunger Games series, won’t arrive until November. We’re over a year away from the conclusion. But the filmmakers are already seeding teasers that hint at its biggest idea: that a world exists outside the ruthless government of Panem. Like the first one, this is supposedly an address from President Snow, but something is about to go very wrong. It’s very simple — the video gives away very little about what we’ll actually see in the film. It also keeps up the pretense of being propaganda, sent straight from the sinister Capitol to your screen. Of course, if The Hunger Games has taught us anything, it’s that the line between entertainment, art, and propaganda is finer than we’d like…

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Yo app is being used to monitor missile strikes in Israel

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The premise of Yo — the app that just lets you say “yo” to other people — may be ridiculous, but it’s being put to some pretty complicated uses. According to The Times of Israel, a pair of developers are now using Yo as a way to alert people of terrorist attacks throughout the country. The simple notification will come through for any Yo user who subscribes to updates from Red Alert: Israel. Traditionally, Red Alert works as a standalone app that sends off more detailed push notifications about the same types of rocket, mortar, and missile attacks that Yo users will be notified about.

That may sound like a step backward, but it was actually a logical partnership, according to The Times of Israel. By tapping into Yo, it’ll be simple for…

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The best weather app for Android

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Is it going to rain today? Should I bring a jacket with me? Is it safe to plan a trip to the beach this weekend? Just a couple of years ago, answering any of those questions required watching your local news or tuning in to The Weather Channel to get a vague forecast that will probably change before you get where you’re going. But with smartphones, we can have insanely accurate weather reporting and predictions at our fingertips everywhere we go. Weather apps are a huge part of my daily…

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Germany investigates second possible spy as tension with the US grows

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Germany has just begun to peel back the layers of an arguably gratuitous spying campaign by its supposed ally, the United States.

Today German police raided the Berlin-area apartment and office of a man suspected of spying for the US, the second case in less than a week. The investigation is ongoing, but German authorities are taking it “very seriously,” a spokesperson told reporters.

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George R.R. Martin says ‘fuck you’ to anyone who thinks he’ll die before finishing ‘Game of Thrones’ series

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George R.R. Martin isn’t thrilled that some people are concerned he’ll die before completing work on his A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novel series. “I find that question pretty offensive, people speculating about my death and my health,” said Martin, 65, in an interview with Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger. “So fuck you to those people.” Merely saying it apparently wasn’t enough; Martin also flipped the bird to make his feelings resoundingly clear. Martin has been slaving away on The Winds of Winter, the sixth novel, for some time now, but has refrained from offering fans a firm release date — or even a general window as to when they can expect it. He plans to wrap the series with the seventh novel.

There’s a lot more riding on Martin’s…

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Congress will vote on a controversial new cybersecurity bill

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There’s a new cybersecurity bill making its way through Congress, sponsored and written by Diane Feinstein (D-CA), and critics are already calling it a new backdoor for surveillance by the National Security Agency. The Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA) was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, putting it on track for a Senate vote this summer. But like its controversial predecessors, the bill is coming under fire as a step backwards in the fight for surveillance reform.

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The irresistible bliss of watching layers shaved from skulls and gadgets

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In keeping with the honored internet traditions of stop-motion videos and things cut in half, filmmaker Laurin Döpfner took an industrial sander to objects and recorded the results. Döpfner took layer after layer off a skull, a log, a walnut, and various electronics, taking a photo after each sanding. He then combined around 100 photos to create short but mesmerizing animations. Although it existed for two years before being spotted by This is Colossal, Döpfner recently uploaded a 4K version of the video, titled Verschleif, to YouTube.

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Edward Snowden has applied for extended asylum in Russia, his lawyer says

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Edward Snowden has applied for an extension of his year-long asylum in Russia, according to his lawyer. Anatoly Kucherena, who has represented the NSA whistleblower since last year, tells Russia Today that he and Snowden have “fulfilled the procedure to receive temporary asylum … We have submitted documents to prolong his stay in Russia.” The decision was widely expected, and Snowden said in a May interview with NBC that although he would like to return to the US, he would “of course” apply for an extension if the asylum looked like it was about to run out. Earlier this month, The Moscow Times cited a report by Russian news service Izvestia that he had submitted a petition before June 30th, the deadline for an asylum application. His…

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Xperia Z1 Compact on sale in the US six months after announcement

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One of our favorite phones of this year, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, has finally gone on sale in the United States half a year after it was initially unveiled. Making its debut at CES in Las Vegas this January, the Z1 Compact lived up to its name by compacting almost everything good and glorious about the Xperia Z1 into a smaller device with a 4.3-inch screen. Even the battery, while physically smaller, lasts almost as long as the Z1’s, and the entire 20-megapixel camera is also transported to the smaller device.

It’s not unusual for Sony to be releasing its smartphones later in the US than in other markets, however this much of a delay for the Z1 Compact represents a real missed opportunity for the Japanese company. No other Android…

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American Museum of Natural History is hosting its first adult sleepover

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For years, grown-ups could only watch jealously as their children gallivanted off to spend a night in the American Museum of Natural History. But, that will change on August 1st with the first adult-only sleepover program, which will see lucky participants camping out beneath a certain blue whale.

The overnight event is billed as a more sophisticated version of the kid-friendly “A Night at the Museum” program, and will cost $375 to attend. Participants will be treated to a live animal demonstration, a midnight viewing of the Dark Universe Space Show, and a special presentation in The Power of Poison exhibition. All visitors will also have the opportunity to roam the empty halls. Additionally, the package includes a champagne reception,…

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Watch Christian Bale as Moses in Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus’ trailer

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The biblical epic of Moses has inspired generations of creatives, but Egypt has never looked as dour as in the first trailer for Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. The movie will star Christian Bale as a mean and muscular Moses, and looks set to follow the events laid out in the book of the same name. Exodus tells the story of Moses attempting to free his people from enslavement in Egypt. Expect to see plagues, burning bushes, Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul as Moses’ sidekick Joshua, and of course the titular exodus, when Gods and Kings hits theaters this December.

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Next ‘Star Wars’ film being shot in IMAX

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After saying that Star Wars Episode VII would be shot on regular 35mm film instead of the larger, 70mm IMAX film, a new tweet from the production suggests the jumbo format has not been left out. A new post from Bad Robot’s (director J.J.Abrams’ production company) Twitter account shows an IMAX camera hoisted high above a sea of sand dunes, saying only “#bestformatever.” Slashfilm confirmed with IMAX that the production was using the format, though it remains unclear whether it’s only for certain parts of the film versus the entire feature.

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Taxi app will use Apple’s iBeacon and your iPhone to broadcast coupons to nearby users

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How would you feel being a walking advertisement? If you’re wearing a T-shirt with a company’s logo on it, that’s one thing. But your phone — in your pocket? That’s quite another, and it’s just what taxi hailing company Taxi Magic is doing with its iOS app. A new version being released this Thursday will let you beam out your referral code for the service to others, all using Apple’s iBeacon technology.

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Lyft, the pay-to-hitchhike app, baits regulators by launching in New York City

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Lyft, the app that enables passengers to grab rides with strangers, just announced it will begin serving customers this week in the New York City outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

“The people of New York deserve more transportation options,” Lyft wrote in a blog post. “Lyft provides greater access to a safe, affordable personal transit alternative that is built for New Yorkers, by New Yorkers.”

Lyft, which is available in more than 60 US cities, is cheaper than a taxi and its drivers undergo more stringent background checks than cabbies, the company says.

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Samsung’s ‘Gear VR’ virtual reality headset purportedly revealed in leaked image

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SamMobile has published what it claims is the first image of Samsung’s upcoming virtual reality device. The product is allegedly called Gear VR, and as Engadget reported last month, is the result of a collaboration between Samsung and Oculus VR. Unlike the Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR isn’t a virtual reality headset in the traditional sense. Based on rumors we’ve seen thus far, it’s more accurate to think of it as a fancier version of Google’s Cardboard giveaway. Your phone powers the entire experience. Presumably the Gear VR will offer a more comfortable means of strapping a smartphone onto your face thanks to its elastic band and padding. It’s not the sleekest-looking thing, though what we’re seeing here appears to be a render — and…

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Bringing the apocalyptic landscape of ‘Planet of the Apes’ to life

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Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Rise of the Planet of the Apes was that it made you care for a character who you knew was responsible for the downfall of humanity. While much of that came down to the brilliant acting of Andy Serkis, it was also due in large part to the advanced animation and motion capture techniques that turned Caesar from a man in a gray bodysuit to a stunningly realized intelligent ape. That process and more are explored in depth in the new book Rise of the…

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Latest trailer for Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Zero Theorem’ grapples with why we exist

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The latest trailer for Terry Gilliam’s latest opus, The Zero Theorem, has landed, and it’s every bit as visually arresting as it is philosophically dense. Here, Christoph Waltz plays computer genius Qohen Leth as he struggles to solve the titular Zero Theorem, an impossible proof that would effectively verify the meaninglessness of existence. Grappling with existential angst in his dark, ad-drenched future, he finds solace in “the girl with pink hair” and eventually a reason for being.

The film premiered last fall at the Venice International Film Festival, and received mixed reviews at the time. However, audiences and fans of Gilliam’s work may take to it a little better when it hits theaters later this summer.

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The International 4: Valve’s $10 million ‘Dota 2’ tournament brings e-sports to the masses

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The rapid rise of e-sports continues this July with the biggest and most lucrative tournament held to date. The fourth Dota 2 International takes place in Seattle’s 17,000-seat Key Arena, where the world’s best teams are competing for a share of a spectacular $10.5 million prize pool, highlighted by a first place award of over $4.8 million.

The majority of that funding comes from Dota 2‘s highly engaged and committed players, who’ve been buying in-game Compendiums of goodies and rewards that in turn have directly funded the TI4 prize pool. With a new, much larger venue, a prize pool that vastly outstrips anything that’s come before, and a comprehensive set of online streaming options, The International 4 promises to be a seminal moment…

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Watch a giant whale sculpture getting washed live now

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It’s not every day you get to see a giant whale being washed live on the internet. But today is your lucky day. The enormous, fiberglass blue whale sculpture hanging from the ceiling of the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History in New York is currently being vacuumed and brushed — all 94 feet of it. You catch out all the high-stakes action going now, between 11:30 AM EST and 12:30 PM, at the museum’s livestream account. The exhibition manager’s lofty scrubbing is also being accompanied by pop-up blue whale facts, and you can weigh-in with your own takes on Twitter using the hashtag #WhaleWash. It’s not the first time the whale washing has been recorded for posterity. Catch a time-lapse video of the…

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