Hubble spots colliding galaxies in a spectacular dance

Hubble is still providing dramatic pictures of the universe despite the arrival of the James Webb Space Telescope. NASA and the ESA have released a Hubble image of Arp-Madore 417-391, a strange galaxy collision about 670 million light-years away. Their gravitational tug-of-war has produced an odd ring-like shape where the two galactic cores are relatively close and the star “plumes” form a circle.

The telescope spotted the merger using its long-serving Advanced Camera for Surveys, which has helped detect strange galaxies and even dark matter. Researchers are using the orbital hardware to build a list of follow-up observations for the much newer James Webb telescope, which has sometimes been used in tandem with Hubble to study space objects.

Arp-Madore 417-391 galaxy collision in context
The Arp-Madore 417-391 galaxy collision in its greater context.
ESA/Hubble & NASA, Dark Energy Survey/DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA, J. Dalcanton

You may not see Hubble leading these discoveries for much longer. The telescope has suffered a number of system failures in recent years, and is expected to plummet to Earth as soon as 2030 if there are no interventions. While NASA and SpaceX are considering boosting Hubble’s orbit to keep it active, that extended lifespan isn’t guaranteed. This galaxy crash may represent one of the telescope’s last hurrahs, even if the observatory has years left in space.

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Critter & Guitari’s 201 Music Synthesizer is the long-awaited successor to its Pocket Piano

Critter & Guitari’s lineup of hackable music computers and video synths are undeniably unique. They do things that practically no other instrument can, plus they’re probably the most visually distinctive portable music devices out there. Its latest creation is the 201 Music Synthesizer, an arguably long overdue replacement for the company’s first product — the Pocket Piano

Like its flagship Organelle, the 201 is built on open source software, specifically Pure Data and Faust. But rather than trying to be all things to everyone, it’s more narrowly focused. It ships with six built-in synth engines covering chiptune-style bleeps, analog-esque sounds, drum samples, physical modeling (likely via Karplus Strong), and vocal synthesis. Rather than four knobs that vary in purpose depending on what patch you’ve loaded (which may or may not have particularly good documentation, depending on who created it), the 201 has three parameter knobs for envelope, tone and “surprise” — for when you just want a happy accident. 

One of the things that makes the 201 really standout though, is the pattern generator and sequencer. While you can simply play notes live and record them for later recall, the synth can also create patterns for you. A couple of presses on the unique maple keys and the 201 will start spitting out simple octave jumps, arpeggios or random polyphonic chaos. And if something strikes your fancy, you can save that as well. And you can save literally thousands of sequences to the included 8GB microSD card. 

Like the Organelle, you can actually hack together your own patches for the 201 using Pure Data or Faust, but that’s more of a nice bonus than the main selling point here. Under the hood of the 201 is a 900Mhz ARM processor with 512MB RAM, which should be plenty for most synth patches, but it’s not quite as powerful as the Organelle M. The 201 also has a built-in speaker, a 1/4-inch stereo out jack, 1/8-inch MIDI in and out, USB-A for connecting MIDI controllers, and USB-C for accessing the files on the microSD card.

Of course, to be a true replacement for the Pocket Piano, the 201 also needs to be portable. So, in addition to the AC adapter, it can be powered by three AA batteries. And at about one pound and a little over nine-inches long, it’s pretty easy to toss in a backpack. 

The Critter & Guitari 201 Music Synthesizer is currently crowd funding over at Kickstarter and has already surpassed its goal. If you’d like to secure one when they start shipping in April of 2023 you can back it before December 20th for $295. 

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New York’s crypto mining restrictions are the first in the nation

Cryptocurrency mining companies hoping to set up shop in New York State may bump into some limits. Governor Kathy Hochul has signed legislation restricting crypto mining in the country, making it the first state to clamp down on the practice. The environment-focused law establishes a two-year freeze on new and renewed air permits for fossil fuel power plants used for mining that uses demanding “proof-of-work” authentication. The Department of Environmental Conservation will also have to study if and how crypto mining hurts the government’s climate change mitigation efforts.

The bill passed the state legislature in June, but didn’t reach Hochul’s desk until this Tuesday. It wasn’t guaranteed to become law. The Hillnotes that the governor didn’t commit to signing the measure during an October election debate. Her main opponent, Lee Zeldin, said he wouldn’t sign the bill if he were in a position to do so.

Politicians and environmental groups have worried that crypto mining, particularly that involving proof-of-work, consumes too much energy. The computationally intensive process adds to the load on the electrical grid, and has even prompted some mining outfits in New York to build natural gas-based power plants to sustain their operations. The cryptocurrency world has sometimes tried to minimize the impact. Ethereum, for instance, recently completed a merge to a less energy-hungry “proof-of-stake” system that revolves around validation from certain users.

It’s not certain if other states will follow suit. Democratic Senators have pressured Texas to take action on crypto mining energy demands, but that state’s government hasn’t budged so far. Not surprisingly, crypto proponents have also balked at laws limiting their activity. The Chamber of Digital Commerce claimed New York’s law sets a “dangerous precedent,” and that proof-of-work mining played a role in economic growth. There’s also the question of effectiveness — New York’s law might drive some miners to states with looser policies.

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The Nest Thermostat is only $90 as part of Google’s Black Friday deals

Google’s Nest Thermostat is on sale for just $90 for Black Friday, with a tidy $40 discount. That’s among the lowest prices we’ve seen, and close to the lowest it has gone for so far. Like most smart home devices, the Nest Thermostat grants control via smartphone, tablet, laptop or even a smart display like Amazon’s Echo Show or Google’s Nest Hub (both of which are seeing significant Black Friday deals). 

Since it’s programmable and capable of knowing when you’re home, the thermostat can save energy by not overly heating or cooling an empty house. Google designed it to be easy to install, and most people can do it themselves. Google says 85 percent of systems are compatible, but before you pick one up, you might want to check your HVAC compatibility on Google’s site.  

In addition to remote access and programmability, the Next Thermostat has a Savings Finder option within the Nest app that can suggest tweaks to your heating and cooling schedule to save energy. In some cases, owning a Nest can entitle you to rebates from your utility provider.  

The sale extends to some of Google’s other smart home devices as well. If you’re looking to expand your smart home ecosystem with Nest cameras or doorbells, this might be the time to dive in. The Nest Security Cam Wired is 30 percent off its usual $100 price tag, bringing it down to $70 for Black Friday. 

As the name suggests, this is the wired version of the smart camera, intended for indoor use. Its smart detection features can tell the difference between your pets wandering around and human visitors. It also lets you see, hear and talk to whomever’s in the room and sends alerts and 1080p HDR video to your phone or other devices using the Google Home app. You get three hours of video history without a subscription, or with a $6-per-month subscription, the Nest cam offers 60 days of video history.   

Buy Nest Security Cam Wired at Amazon – $70

Bring a video doorbell into the mix to keep track of packages and people showing up at your door with the Nest Doorbell Battery. It’s down to an all-time low of $120, with a $60 discount. The doorbell installs using your existing doorbell wiring to continuously power the device, or it can run on the built-in rechargeable battery. Like the Nest camera, the Google Home app sends alerts and video feed from the doorbell to your phone, laptop or smart display. You can see, hear and talk to anyone who shows up, and you can even program the option of using pre-recorded messages to tell visitors you’ll be right there or let delivery people know where to leave your package. 

Buy Nest Doorbell Battery at Amazon – $120

Other versions of the cameras and doorbells are also on sale at Amazon right now. If you’d rather shop direct, the Google Store has Black Friday deals on even more Nest smart home devices. 

Shop the Google Nest Black Friday sale at Amazon

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribing to the Engadget Deals newsletter.

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COP27 conference approves historic climate damage fund for developing nations

Following two weeks of negotiations that felt doomed to go nowhere, the COP27 climate conference delivered a breakthrough deal to help developing nations cope with the often catastrophic effects of climate change. The Washington Post reports dignitaries agreed to create a “loss and damage fund” in the early hours of Sunday morning after two extra days of negotiations. The Alliance of Small Island States, an organization that includes countries whose very existence is threatened by climate change, called the agreement “historic.” However, as with the Glasgow Climate Pact that came out of last year’s COP26 conference, the consensus is that COP27 failed to deliver the action that is desperately needed to meet the demands of the current moment.

For one, the conference failed to see nations agree to new and stronger commitments to reduce their carbon emissions. According to The Post, China and Saudi Arabia were strongly against language calling for a phaseout of all fossil fuels, as were many African nations. Alok Sharma, the chair of COP26, said (via a clause on energy was “weakened, in the final minutes.”

The conference also left many of the most important details related to the loss and damage fund to be sorted out by a committee that will need to answer some difficult questions in the coming months. Among the issues that need to be decided on is how much the United States, historically the greatest emitter of greenhouse emissions globally, should pay out to vulnerable countries. The conference also ended without a clear commitment from China to pay into the fund.

The committee now has a year to draft recommendations for next year’s climate meeting in Dubai. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said governments took “an important step towards justice,” but fell short in pushing for the commitments that would ultimately protect the world’s most vulnerable people from the worst effects of climate change. “Our planet is still in the emergency room,” Guterres said. “We need to drastically reduce emissions now and this is an issue this COP did not address.”

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Epic lawsuit claims Google paid Activision Blizzard $360 million to prevent Play Store rival

Google paid Activision Blizzard approximately $360 million to prevent the troubled publisher from competing directly against the Play Store. The deal was one among at least 24 agreements the search giant signed as part of its Project Hug initiative, according to court documents seen by Reuters.

The financial details of Project Hug – later known as the Apps and Games Velocity Program – are at the center of the ongoing antitrust lawsuit between Epic Games and Google. In 2021, the studio alleged Google had spent millions of dollars in incentives to keep big app developers on the Play Store. This week, a newly unredacted version of Epic’s complaint was made public, providing previously unknown details about the scope of the Apps and Games Velocity Program.

According to the court documents, Google also signed deals with Nintendo, Ubisoft and Riot Games. In the case of Riot, Google paid about $30 million to “stop” the League of Legends studio from pushing forward with its own “in-house ‘app store’ efforts,” Epic alleges. Riot Games did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment.

The lawsuit alleges Google knew signing with Activision would prompt the publisher to “abandon its plans to launch a competing app store,” a claim Activision disputes. “Google never asked us, pressured us, or made us agree not to compete with Google Play,” an Activision spokesperson told Reuters. “Epic’s allegations are nonsense.”

Google did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment. The company previously said it was “looking forward to setting the record straight” on Epic’s “inaccurate” claims.

“The program on which Epic and Match base their claims simply provides incentives for developers to give benefits and early access to Google Play users when they release new or updated content; it does not prevent developers from creating competing app stores, as they allege,” Google told Engadget in October after Epic and Match filed a motion to bring additional charges against the company. “In fact, the program is proof that Google Play competes fairly with numerous rivals for developers, who have a number of choices for operating systems and app stores.”

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Bose’s QuietComfort 45 headphones are $80 off on Amazon before Black Friday

The Bose QuietComfort lineup of headphones is known for its terrific noise cancellation and all-day comfort. In an early Black Friday deal, Amazon has the latest model in that line, the Bose QuietComfort 45, on sale for $249. That’s $80 off the usual price for the high-end wireless cans.

Buy Bose QuietComfort 45 at Amazon – $249

The Bose QC45 was released last year with some of the best ANC we’ve tested, and they’re super comfortable to wear throughout a long flight or day at the office. They have the battery life to support that, with our review unit lasting over 22 hours on a single charge. If you forget to charge them before heading out, Bose includes a quick-charge feature that gives you three hours of use after only 15 minutes of charging.

Although their “Dad on a business trip” design may look a bit dated, you can choose from black, white, gray and blue color options to find a variant that matches your style. They also offer impressive audio with Bose’s signature warm, crisp and balanced tuning that can work well with just about any musical genre. At launch, we criticized the Bose QC45 headphones for lacking equalizer controls, but the company added EQ adjustments in a firmware update earlier this year.

The QC45 does still have some notable omissions. For example, they don’t automatically pause your music when you remove them and won’t automatically switch playback between paired devices. They also lack speak-to-chat and don’t automatically adjust noise canceling based on your activity or location. If those features are deal breakers for you, you may want to check out the excellent Sony WH-1000XM5, currently on sale for $350.

Amazon’s QC45 deal isn’t quite an all-time-low price — they dropped to $229 during the Prime Early Access Sale last month — but this is still a solid deal on one of our top recommendations for wireless headphones.

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribing to the Engadget Deals newsletter.

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The ASUS ROG Phone 6 gets a ‘Diablo Immortal’ edition

If you’re looking for an excuse to throw more cash at all things Diablo Immortal, ASUS has got your back. Following the ROG Phone 6 Batman Edition, the Taiwanese brand has since teamed up with Blizzard to bring us the ROG Phone 6 Diablo Immortal Edition, which is basically a specced-out ROG Phone 6 decorated with elements from the mobile game — both externally and internally, down to the notification sounds. In other words, you’re getting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, 16 GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage, along with the ROG Phone series’ signature AirTrigger 6 shoulder controls and front-facing stereo speakers. You’ll be missing out on the 6 Pro’s tiny screen on the back, but then again, there’s plenty else for showing off here.

The ROG Phone 6 Diablo Immortal Edition features a “Hellfire Red” semi-matte finish on the back, which gives off a special flame effect when viewed at different angles. There’s also an RGB-lit Diablo Immortal logo next to the game’s titular demon, though I personally would have preferred some light trick on the Lord of Terror itself instead. Everything else — including the 65W charger and cable — remain the same.

ROG Phone 6 Diablo Immortal Edition

This wouldn’t be a special edition phone if it didn’t have matching accessories. In addition to the gold-colored “Immortality Ejector Pin” for the SIM tray, there’s also a “Fahir’s Light” UV torch for revealing hidden details on the Diablo-themed phone case. You can pull the same optical trick with the “Map of Sanctuary,” though its real purpose is for wrapping the charger and cable — a handy bundle for travelling. The phone, case and pin are tucked inside a blood red “Worldstone” phone box, which is itself packaged alongside the map in a larger “Horadric Cube” box. Alas, much like the original ROG Phone 6, the Peltier-powered AeroActive Cooler 6 isn’t included here — it’ll cost you an extra $100.

The ROG Phone 6 Diablo Immortal Edition will be available on ASUS’ online store from November 18, though it’ll cost you $1,299 — that’s $200 more than the regular version. For the same price, you can actually get a specced-out ROG Phone 6 Pro (with 18GB of RAM and 512GB of storage), but if you understood all the aforementioned Diablo references, then chances are you don’t mind.

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Xbox Game Pass Ultimate now includes free trials for Apple Music and Apple TV+

Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Perks now include freebies from an erstwhile rival. The company now offers Ultimate subscribers three-month free trials of Apple Music and Apple TV+ to newcomers for either media service. You can stream tunes in the background while you’re playing Halo Infinite, or catch up on Ted Lasso in between cloud gaming sessions.

You can claim either or both Apple trials until March 31st, 2023. They’re available on consoles and the Xbox app for Windows. You can use the promos everywhere Apple Music and Apple TV+ is available except for Russia and (for Apple TV+) Turkey.

The bonuses come weeks after Apple Music launched on Xbox consoles. In that light, the trials represent Microsoft’s chance to spread the word about availability. The company was relatively late to Apple Music, which came to the PS5 a year earlier — this makes clear that you don’t need a PlayStation to have console games and Apple streaming on the same machine.

It also comes as Apple and Microsoft have bolstered interoperability. You can now access iCloud Photos libraries in Windows 11’s native Photos app, for instance. While the tech companies still compete against each other (see Apple’s reluctance to support Game Pass streaming), they’re now willing to cooperate when it serves their mutual interests.

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Arturia’s instruments and effects are 50 percent off until December 6th

Now might be a good moment to splurge on music-making tools. Arturia is running a Black Friday sale that offers 50 percent off its “flagship” virtual instruments, effects and software. The 33-instrument V Collection 9 set has dropped from $599 to $299 for newcomers, while FX Collection 3’s 26 effects plugins are $199 instead of the usual $399. And if you’re looking for an accessible synthesizer, Pigments is down from $199 to $99. The promo runs until December 6th, and you’ll get personalized offers if you already use the company’s products.

We’ve considered these tools to be valuable even at their regular prices. V Collection 9 offers a range of pianos, classic synths and other instruments that offer substantial flexibility, including new items like a Korg MS-20 emulator and the cinematic Augmented Strings. FX Collection 3 brings vintage distortions and lo-fi effects. Pigments, meanwhile, encourages you to create synth sounds from scratch with the help of extras like a distortion module.

You can use the V Collection and Pigments tools by themselves, but all of the software on sale can work with other digital audio workstations through support for formats like AAX, Audio Unit, NKS and VST. With these discounts, Arturia’s audio packages could make more sense if you’re either new to music production or determined to expand your toolset for the lowest price possible.

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