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    Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary and the soft, squishy science of language / ArsTechnica · Friday, 28 May - 11:30 · 1 minute


Enlarge / Artist's impression of either understanding being achieved or intergalactic war being incited, I'm not sure which. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Andy Weir's latest, Project Hail Mary , is a good book that you'll almost certainly enjoy if you enjoyed Weir's freshman novel The Martian . It's another tale of solving problems with science, as a lone human named Ryland Grace and a lone alien named Rocky must save our stellar neighborhood from a star-eating parasite called "Astrophage." PHM is a buddy movie in space in a way that The Martian didn't get to be, and the interaction between Grace and Rocky is the biggest reason to read the book. The pair makes a hell of a problem-solving team, jazz hands and fist bumps and all.

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs .)
But the relative ease with which Grace and Rocky understand each other got me thinking about the real-world issues that might arise when two beings from vastly different evolutionary backgrounds try to communicate. PHM 's otherwise solid commitment to science leans a bit here on what we might call the "anthropic principle of science fiction," after the more well-known general anthropic principle . To wit: Rocky and Grace can communicate well with each other because it serves the story, and if they couldn't, the book would be shorter and less interesting.

I get it— that's how storytelling works. I don't want to sound like a bitter basement-dwelling critic throwing shade at a bestselling science fiction author. But PHM is like The Martian in that it's about solving problems realistically. From my nerd basement throne, it feels like the softer sciences of linguistics and anthropology (or perhaps xenolinguistics and xenoanthropology) don't get the same stage time as their more STEM-y counterparts like physics and relativity.

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    Unsolved Mysteries: Quantum Leap’s Don Bellisario on the fate of Sam Beckett / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 25 May - 15:10

Produced by Adam Lance Garcia, edited by Ron Douglas. Click here for transcript . (video link)

Fresh from our talk with Warhammer remembrancer Dan Abnett on the unsolved mysteries of the Warhammer universe , we now turn our attention to a science fiction property with a bit less grimdark: the one where a polymath with an eidetic memory invents time travel and things go, as they say, a little kaka . Grab your handlinks and step into the imaging chamber because it's time to talk about Quantum Leap .

We were lucky enough to snag some time with legendary TV producer Donald P. Bellisario , whose name has graced the closing credits of some of the most influential and popular TV shows of the '80s and '90s—including Airwolf , Magnum, P.I. , and of course Quantum Leap . Though he's now retired, Bellisario gamely agreed to allow an Ars film crew—with props!—into his California home to badger him with occasionally obscure questions about what is easily the best time-travel show ever to grace television.

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    Unsolved mysteries of the Warhammer 40k universe with loremaster Dan Abnett / ArsTechnica · Friday, 7 May - 11:30

Shot by Adam Lance Garcia and edited by Justin Sloan. Click here for transcript . (video link)

It's been a while since we last got to do an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries," our series wherein we ask creators to take us on a journey into the deeper and more mysterious aspects of their created universes (our most recent episode was about the unsolved mysteries of Mortal Kombat ). But we had an opportunity fall into our laps that was just too good to pass up, though unlike our past couple of episodes, this one isn't (entirely) about video games.

This time, we're sitting down with author Dan Abnett to discuss some unsolved mysteries of the dark far-future Warhammer universe —and man, did he deliver.

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    The Best RSS Readers and News Aggregation Apps / LifehackerAustralia · Thursday, 18 February - 02:10 · 4 minutes

With Aussies waking up this morning to the news that Facebook would no longer be allowing media outlets to share content to the social media platform. It’s major news that has turned the way Aussies consume media on its head.

If you’ve been wondering how to best get your news going forward, don’t panic. We pulled together a useful guide for you here . And in addition to that, we thought we’d share a few of our favourite RSS readers should you decide you’d like to start using that option.

Check out the list below.

The Best: Feedly

Feedly got the most comments and upvotes from readers, which isn’t surprising — it’s one of the few RSS readers with a modern design and active support behind it. It’s also packed full of features. As I said in a previous post:

Its chronological feed, flexible search and organisation tools, and cross-platform syncing are all excellent, and it helped me wean off Twitter for news — and just about everything else. Since it’s an RSS reader, Feedly can even be used to track YouTube and podcast subscriptions, blogs, and even newsletters in some cases. Oh, and both the web and mobile versions have built-in dark themes.

Those of you who voted for Feedly cited its ease of use, customisable interface, and helpful collection tools as noteworthy, and that’s just for Feedly’s free version. A Pro version is also available for about $9/month that adds even more customisation options, lets you follow an unlimited number of sources, and gives users more granular search and tracking options like alerts for specific keywords.

There’s also a “Team” version that gives users the ability to create “boards” the can be accessed and edited by multiple users, plus integration with apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and more. It’s worth mentioning that the free version is ad-supported, but these are mostly unobtrusive and kept to a minimum. (Feedly Pro and Team are entirely ad-free.)

Even with the ads, Feedly’s free version is difficult to top. However, some readers commented that they found it to be cumbersome to use and others said they disliked the layout options. I’ll admit I needed to change some of the feed display options before I was fully on-board, but once I had my preferences locked in I haven’t looked back.

If you’re struggling to click with Feedly, our runner-up pick is just as worthy of your consideration.

Runner-up: Inoreader


Inoreader came in a close second, and if you do a cursory internet search you’ll find plenty of debates over whether Inoreader or Feedly is the superior product. In my opinion, both are excellent choices and you’ll get a great RSS reader and news aggregation solution whichever service you pick.

The free, ad-supported versions of both services are largely identical, though Inoreader allows up to 150 sources compared to Feedly’s 100. Inoreader has a fairly similar user interface to Feedly — their dark themes are practically identical — though Inoreader’s layout is more compact and faster to navigate. Inoreader also has a built-in podcast player that will play audio in the background while you read through your feed.

While the basic service is entirely free, Inoreader also has paid options . Users can nix ads and follow up to 500 sources for $30 a year (about $2 a month), but in order to get the best features — like an offline mode, unlimited news sources, feed automation, and robust search/tracking features — you’ll need to pony up $75 a year. Interestingly, Inoreader also lets users pick advanced features a la carte.

The rest

The vast majority of Lifehacker commenters were either Feedly or Inoreader users, and they are hands-down the best choices for most people. That said, a few other RSS readers are worth highlighting:

Feedbro FeedBro is an RSS reader extension available for Firefox , Chrome , and other Chromium-based browsers like Edge and Vivaldi. It has a clean (but basic) interface you can customise, and it comes with tons of social media integration. It’s entirely free and, unlike some other RSS add-ons, is fully standalone — meaning you don’t need to sync it with another RSS service for it to work.

Open-source options: Vienna RSS and Tiny Tiny RSS – A couple of open-source choices — Vienna RSS and Tiny Tiny RSS (or TTRSS) — were also mentioned by readers. I’m a sucker for open-source applications, and both Vienna and TTRSS lets users create self-hosted RSS readers. These will require a bit more technical skill than simply signing up for one of the other apps or add-ons above, but they’re great options for protecting your data and having full control over your news feed.

There are also news aggregator options like Apple News and Google News which can be easily be amended to suit your daily news preferences.

This article has been updated since its original publish date.

The post The Best RSS Readers and News Aggregation Apps appeared first on Lifehacker Australia .

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    How To Flirt With Finesse / LifehackerAustralia · Thursday, 11 February - 22:28 · 6 minutes

You might dress well, have a cool job and be blessed with beauty, but flirting is where the real magic of attraction is, especially when it comes to first impressions. In fact, good flirting is often more effective than good looks, and it’s something anybody can learn how to do.

Illustrations by Angelica Alzona.

Make friendly, lasting eye contact – with a smile

Eye contact is pivotal when flirting, and Marin suggests it’s the best way to indicate your interest. It means the difference between a friendly “how-do-ya-do” conversation and a “I’d really like to get to know you” conversation. Whether you’re across the room or already talking, eye contact has been shown to boost feelings of attraction. In one study, published in the Journal of Research and Personality , strangers were asked to stare into the eyes of other strangers. After holding a mutual, friendly gaze for two minutes, most participants reported increased feelings of passionate love toward the stranger.

Marin says the trick to flirtatious eye contact is to maintain your gaze longer than usual. If you spot someone across the way, try to meet their gaze, hold it for a few seconds and look away. Repeat this a couple times and, if they aren’t giving you weird looks, then make your approach. Be cautious, though. While a kind gaze does wonders, an unbroken, wide-eyed stare is creepy. If you’re worried you’ll go overboard, use the triangle technique and smile. Nothing says “I like you” like a big ol’ smile .

Approach from the front


The wrong kind of approach will end things before they even start. When you see someone who piques your interest, Vanessa Marin , licensed marriage and family therapist and Lifehacker contributor , recommends you always approach from the front. Nobody likes being snuck up on by a stranger, and Marin notes this is especially true for men trying to approach women.

If they’re facing away, either make your way around or wait for them to move. And if they’re at the bar, at least grab a seat next to them instead of rudely tapping them on the shoulder (if, y’know, COVID restrictions allow for that). Approaching them from the front also gives you both a chance to catch each other’s glance and gauge interest.

Give compliments that go beyond looks

Compliments are great for flirting, but they’re also a dime a dozen. Dr Nerdlove , dating columnist and Kotaku contributor , suggests you step things up and compliment them on something they had a conscious hand in:

Complimenting somebody’s looks is both unoriginal and not terribly interesting. Letting someone know that you appreciate, say, their fashion sense or their insight, on the other hand, shows that you get them on a personal level.

“You’re cute” and “You have pretty eyes” aren’t going to cut it. If you can’t think of something that appeals to their choices, Marin says you should at least try and give them an unusual compliment. Say something like “You have a very confident-sounding voice,” or “You seem like someone who knows how to get the best out of people,” or “You have a delightfully offbeat personality.” Leave them with a compliment that will stick with them and make you unique.

Also, ditch the pickup lines and cheesy one-liners. One study, published in the journal Sex Roles , suggests that both men and women hate “cute-flippant” opening lines. Overall, participants in the study preferred openers that were more innocuous or direct. So skip the “Are you wearing space pants?” lines and try to strike up an actual conversation about the venue, music or a mutual friend. Otherwise, just go for it and offer to buy them a drink or make a unique compliment.

Use appropriate touch to show interest


A light touch, done carefully, is an extremely effective form of flirting for both men and women. Light touching shows interest, beyond a doubt. Additionally, your flirting may not be as obvious as you think it is, so it’s great for being more direct, as long as the situation allows and the atmosphere is appropriate. When someone is certain that you’re interested, it’s easier for them to respond in kind.

In the book Close Relationships , Dr Pamela Regan , a professor of psychology at California State University, suggests there are three main types of social touch. The first is “friendly”, which is like a light shoulder push, shoulder tap or handshake — not ideal for flirting, but good for testing the waters. The third type, “nuclear”, is the super obvious types of romantic touch, like a soft face touch or brushing someone’s hair out of their face, and is far too abrupt and forward for flirting. “Plausible deniability”, the second type of touch, is right in the middle and it’s where you want to be. It involves gentle and informal touching around the shoulder or the almost-always effective touch on the forearm. One study, published in Social Influence , found that a light touch on the forearm increased the chance participants would give out their phone number or go on a date. Just be sure the atmosphere is right when you try it. Read the other person’s body language and do not engage if you’re not sure, or you might make them feel uncomfortable.

Use playful teasing to your advantage

People want what they can’t have, and a little playful teasing shows that you’re interested, but also draws people in. Nerdlove recommends a simple technique called “pushing and pulling” , where, like a kitten with a string, you dangle a compliment within reach, then pull it back. Here are some of Nerdlove’s examples:

“You’re the coolest person I’ve met… at this bar, anyway.” “Holy crap, you really are such a nerd, it’s adorable!” “You’re awesome, I never meet people like you; get away from me, I just can’t talk to you.” “We’re never going to get along, we’re too similar.”

The key here is to absolutely avoid negging or backhanded compliments, like “You’ve got a great smile, even with those teeth.” Keep it playful, friendly, and make it abundantly clear that you’re teasing. Do it with a big smile, have fun (and be self-deprecating when it’s right). With that said, however, remember to be yourself and don’t get too caught up in the idea of needing to use playful teasing all the time.

Nerdlove says good flirting is about riffing and playing off what one another says. Don’t force a change in the conversation, and keep things light. Also, keep in mind that some people don’t like teasing or witty banter, so be ready to switch gears. If you say something unfunny or upsetting, apologise and change the topic. Don’t make it about you, and don’t shift the blame onto them, like “I’m sorry you were offended.” Acknowledge that you messed up and move on to a happier subject. When in doubt, Nerdlove suggests you just be a great listener . It gives people a chance to open up about themselves, and gives you a chance to relax.

Read signals and take a hint


Things won’t always go your way when you flirt, so it’s important to know when to throw in the towel. Nerdlove suggests it all comes down to watching the other person’s body language and listening to how they respond. If you see these signals, dial it back:

  • They’re being polite, but unresponsive.
  • Their smiles are quick smirks that don’t look authentic.
  • They give short, uncomfortable laughs.
  • They’re not volleying back jokes or questions.

Nobody likes an overbearing flirt. It’s pushy, awkward and super skeezy. Also, people talk. You never know when one bad social interaction will make things worse for you in the long run. If you swing and miss, shake it off, save face and give it a shot another day.

This article has been updated since its original publish date.

The post How To Flirt With Finesse appeared first on Lifehacker Australia .

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    Click Frenzy 2021: Everything You Need To Know / LifehackerAustralia · Tuesday, 9 February - 06:15 · 4 minutes

We may be a little early to the party but it’s never too early to start thinking about Click Frenzy 2021. Originally launched back in 2012, the major shopping event has firmly established itself as one of Australia’s must watch sale events – and it’s gearing up for a big one.

To help you get ready for the huge sale event, we’ve put together a handy guide on when the big sale event will be kicking off, and what kind of deals you can expect during the day.

Here are some of the best deals from last year to give you an idea of what to expect:

When does Click Frenzy start?

The first unofficial Click Frenzy is for Valentine’s Day and runs until February 14. A quick glance at the websites’ calendar tells us the first official event will be Click Frenzy Travel which kicks off at 7pm on the 20th April. Next up is Click Frenzy Mayhem on the 18th May, followed by Click Frenzy Julove on the 13th July. The Main Event will end out the year on the 9th November with a huge cyber weekend showcase. As you can see, there’s a lot in store and we’re all kinds of excited to see exactly what Click Frenzy sales will be available.

Click Frenzy 2021 deals: What to expect

Some of the best deals during last year’s main event included video game consoles for $4 and Apple AirPods for $3. In other words, you could level up your life with cool new gadgets that cost less than lunch with your friends at Maccas.

The 53-hour main event also saw many different items priced at 99% off. Past sales have included TVs, premium headphones, gift cards, drones and more. However, these are the blink-and-you-will-miss-them sales that literally last for a few seconds. In other words, don’t get your hopes up.

Which retailers are taking part?

The list of retailers is impressive. The Click Frenzy homepage lists dozens of retailers covering sporting goods through to tech. Pretty much every retailer you can think of is covered. Pet supplies, cosmetics, fashion — you name it and there’s probably a deal already available.

How to get the best deals

Of course, trying to nab a product for 99% off isn’t easy and stock is, expectedly, limited. Just look at the tales of misery and woe from previous years , with many missing out. That’s because there are a very specific set of rules you have to follow to make sure you can get the insane prices and they’re only available for a very, very short time. I’m talking less than 30 seconds here, people.

You have to be real quick. More than that though — here’s the most important things to do to set yourself up better:

1. Be a Click Frenzy subscriber.
That means heading to the Click Frenzy homepage and whacking your name, email address and one of the two gender options they provide in the boxes provided. Easy enough.

Subscribers will receive a series of emails over the 24-hour period. Going on past efforts, each email will instruct you as to where and when you need to head to certain Click Frenzy pages. You won’t get an exact time. Take a look at a previous image to get a feel for what you need to look for in the email.

As you can see, you need to be in a particular section of the Click Frenzy site. During that time, a banner will appear that has a code written on the front. Remember that. You don’t have time to write it down. Click the banner and you’ll be ready to pay.

2. Turn off your adblockers.
If you’re using an adblocker, you will need to turn it off. The banner that appears on the webpage is a ‘pop-up’ and blockers such as AdBlock will prevent that from appearing. If you can’t see it, you can’t click it.

3. Payment options.
Purchases will be made directly through the retailer’s website so payment options will vary across the board. Each brand page on the Click Frenzy website will give you a heads up on the forms of payment that will be accepted.

4. Purchase limits.
There are likely to be limits on how many terms you can purchase, particularly with the big 99% off deals. So, saving $99 on a $100 gift card mightn’t be as good as saving thousands on a new TV. Don’t get trigger happy with the first deal you see.

The post Click Frenzy 2021: Everything You Need To Know appeared first on Lifehacker Australia .

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    The connected battlespace, part two: The fault in our (joint) stars / ArsTechnica · Monday, 8 February - 14:00 · 1 minute


Enlarge / Artist's impression of some kind of cool integrated battlespace AR/VR interface kind of thing. (credit: Jackie Niam / Getty Images)

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously (or infamously ) said in 2004, “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” Over the course of the last twenty years of armed conflict, the US military and NATO allied forces have tried to evolve into the force they wished they had been at the beginning, rapidly evolving in some ways while staying very much the same in others.

The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria were in many ways a crucible for connected battlefield technologies—some of which were in their infancy during the 1991 Gulf War and others that were born out of urgent needs that arose as the wars became never-ending counterinsurgency operations with forces spread far and wide. But now the military faces the problem it deferred at the beginning of the so-called “Global War on Terror”—how to operate a connected battlefield in a world where the enemy is very capable in the air, in space, and in the electromagnetic spectrum.

The new holy grail is “Joint All-Domain Command and Control,” or "JADC2" (pronounced "jad-see-two"). JADC2 is the aggregation of command and control for sea, air, space, land, electromagnetic spectrum, and other cyber-y things. It’s not going to happen overnight. But with the hard-learned lessons of the past few decades and the rise of technologies that can begin to help manage the information overload of the battlefield, JADC2 appears to need a lot less unobtainium that previous integrated battlespace plans were made of.

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    How To Make Delicious Buffalo Wings In Your Pressure Cooker / LifehackerAustralia · Sunday, 7 February - 21:53 · 4 minutes

Where wings are concerned, I’m very easy to please. For me, the Buffalo wing (chicken wing) experience is 90% sauce, with the remaining 10% split between juicy meat (that’s properly cooked) and some degree of skin crispiness; basically, as long as butter is involved, I’m thrilled.

But even if I had exacting Buffalo wing standards, I’d be impressed by pressure-cooked Buffalo wings, which are easy, infinitely adaptable, satisfying, and best of all, fast . What’s not to love about that?

How to make Buffalo wings in your pressure cooker

If you love a crispy skin, then you should rest the wings overnight in the fridge to dry out the skin. But if you’re willing to sacrifice some crunch in favour of time, you can have a batch ready in less than an hour, no deep-frying required. Here’s how to do it.

First, separate the wings into drums and flats if needed — the nice man at my local store hacked mine up for me so I didn’t have to — and season with salt. (Your batch size will depend on your pressure cooker’s capacity — you don’t want to overfill it.)

Place a steamer basket in your pressure cooker and carefully arrange a layer of flats on the rack, making sure that none of them touch the bottom of the cooker. Once you have a nice solid layer, arrange the remaining wings on top and pour in a cup and a half of water.

Lock the lid in place and press the “Steam” button, then use the “Adjust” button to select “Less” (or equivalent settings on your pressure cooker). This will steam the wings for 5 minutes at high pressure, which is what you want — and while they cook you can make some sauce .

Let the pressure release naturally for about 5 minutes, and release the rest manually. If you’re making wings for a crowd, repeat this process as many times as you need to get all the wings cooked. (Save the leftover steaming water — it makes for great chicken stock.)

From here, you have two options: grill the steamed wings straight away, or let them dry out in the fridge overnight. Because I am a serious journalist, I made several versions to help you decide. It is my duty. You’re welcome.


The wings, pre-fridge drying.

First, I made a batch the same way I always do: lightly sauced right out of the pressure cooker, grilled on both sides until crisp, and then heavily sauced.


If you’re hungry now and indifferent to crispy skin, these are for you. They took 30 minutes start-to-finish and are downright succulent: juicy and flavourful all the way through, and incredibly tender — but not so tender they fall apart in your hands. Look, you could do a lot worse.


But if you’re after that crispy, crispy skin, I suspect you feel you could also do a lot better . If that’s your deal, place the steamed wings skin side up on a cooling rack and let them rest, uncovered, in the fridge overnight. Make some ranch sauce if, like me, you prefer it to blue cheese dressing for wings, then go to sleep and dream of Buffalo wings.



Once the wings are nice and dry, you have to decide how you want to crisp them up. Grilling is my preferred crisping method because I hate smelling like a vat of oil, but I fried some wings anyway just for you. Following Claire’s method from her sous-vide wing adventure , I heated about 1.5cm of vegetable oil to about 200 degrees Celsius and shallow-fried three wings.


Were they good? Obviously, yes, they were amazing. But now there’s a ring of gummed-on vegetable oil inside my stainless pan, all my windows are open even though it’s snowing outside, and I need to shower.


Grilling your wings, on the other hand, is low-risk and high-reward. You can grill them straight out of the fridge to approximate a fried texture or do the sauce-broil-sauce method I mentioned earlier. Whichever you choose, keep your pan about 15cm away from the hot griller and put the flats in the centre, surrounded by the drums.

They will brown more evenly this way. Broil ’em skin side-up until golden and crisp, then flip and repeat twice more — you want to finish them skin side-up to maximise that crispiness.

Here’s what dried, broiled, then sauced wings will look like:


These were legitimately crunchy, but they dried out a bit in the griller. You can try moving the pan closer to the grill, but you’ll need to watch them closely so they don’t burn. Overall, these are just OK; I scarfed down the testers happily, but technically they were the “worst” of the bunch.

And here are some dried-sauced-broiled-sauced wings:


Drying them in the fridge helped the skin crisp up, but the cushion of sauce kept the meat from drying out. These are amazing. I’m keeping this technique in my back pocket for the next time I have a wing craving that I can wait 12 hours to satisfy.


No matter what your usual technique for at-home Buffalo wings entails, I think it would be improved by high-pressured steam and a stint under the griller, especially if you’re making wings for a big crowd. Steam the wings the night before, whip up whatever sauces you like, and grill them off in batches the next day. Then you’re set to party.



This article has been updated since its original publication.

The post How To Make Delicious Buffalo Wings In Your Pressure Cooker appeared first on Lifehacker Australia .