The Missing Link Roundup

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Messier 82 Galaxy

Dead stars at the center of the galaxy Messier 82

The Chalmers University of Technology captured the sharpest astronomical image ever taken at long radio wavelengths, of the Messier 82 galaxy. The Messier galaxy sits 11.5 million light years from Earth. — Gizmodo

Cassini has been hanging out with Saturn for a bit, taking some really awesome photos and teaching us all kinds of things about the outer planets. Check out this picture of Saturn and its moon Rhea. — NASA

Could the orientation of Quasars lead us to some great cosmic answer? Scientists in Belgium are trying to figure out how and why quasars are aligned with each other despite being hundreds of millions of light years apart. — IFLScience

Evolve Beta

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EVOLVEBETA-620x350Evolve, set to release Feb 10th 2015, is the latest character driven, level-up shooter from Turtle Rock Studios and 2k Games.

Rating: 4/5 Giant Lumbering Monsters

Rawwwwwwwwr!!!!

Rawwwwwwwwr!!!!

Dixon’s Thoughts: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Evolve beta. While Turtle Rock’s bread and butter has been online, class based, level-up shooters such as Countersrike and Left 4 Dead, I didn’t really know how they’d pull off a sci-fi shooter. After dealing with the recent letdown of Destiny, I was pleasantly surprised to find a very accessible, fun-to-play game that was as engaging as it was rewarding. Fans of past Turtle Rock productions won’t be disappointed, but there isn’t a lot of new ground broken with the basics of Evolve. You play a character, leveling it up as you gain experience and unlocking variants of whatever class you are currently sinking time into. The beauty of Evolve lies in it’s inherent, natural feeling teamwork aspect. Evolve is a primarily online-only game, much like Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. There are 4 Hunter Types available to players, Assault, Medic, Trapper, and Support. In any match, all 4 character classes are required.

Evolve-Assault-Trapper-Medic-Support-ClassesThe four of you must work together in what is essentially a giant battle arena to track the fifth player, the Monster. The online matchmaking interface focuses on your preference of Hunter or Monster, and which Hunter class you wanted to be. To find a game, you would list your preferences in a 5 item, first-to-last list. The game then attempts to find 4 other people who’s preferences allow you to play your preferred class choices. In about 50 matches or so, I almost always got my first 2 choices right away.

The dynamic between each class is pretty important to the gameplay of Evolve. Each class has a very unique and diverse set of abilities. The medic, for instance, has a healing “gun”, as well as an oh-shit AOE heal. Additionally, it’s given a long-range sniper rifle that punches holes in the Monster’s armor, giving the rest of the team a huge advantage over an otherwise very difficult enemy.

christie

His other weaknesses involve invisible pizzas and speaking in public. RAWWWWWWR!!

Despite the cool teamwork aspect, there isn’t really much that’s groundbreaking about the classes that I was able to play. The Assault class…assaults things, meaning you get TWO guns that can dish out damage to the Monster class, as well as an AOE invulnerability ability. Support class is actually my personal favorite, as it’s a hybrid DPS and buff class that can shield other players from damage. The Tracker is the game’s most unique class. It’s primary role is to track down the monster in the huge battle arena, which is done through an amazingly adorable hunting “dog” pet. Each Trapper variant has a different pet, but they all serve the same purpose, which is allowing the team to actually find the Monster.

While every class is different, they all play relatively in the same manner. Each class has a primary attack/function, as well as a secondary attack or utility ability, and a longer cooldown button that either dishes out damage or prevents it from happening. Playing the monster, on the other hand, is completely (and refreshingly) different. When you play as the monster, your primary goal is to stay undetected long enough to eat as much wildlife as possible and to evolve to the highest level possible. Doing so gives you massive upgrades to your health, strength, and abilities, and makes you much harder to kill. The monster class itself had 2 variants in the Beta, the Goliath and Kraken. The Goliath was a land-based, lumbering hulk who grew to fantastic proportions. A sort of King Kong/Godzilla hybrid, his main attacks were jumping on people’s faces, throwing huge rocks, and breathing fire on people.

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Barely edging out “shouting rudely and aggressively pointing”

I didn’t get the chance to play the Kraken, but I did play several matches against it and it was kind of insanely terrifying. It was a lot like being assaulted by a flying, electrically based squid demon, but with more shrieking directly from the seventh level of the underabyss.

"Horrifying sea monster that haunts your waking life" was too long for the Ad campaign, but was considered.

“Horrifying electrical sea nightmare that haunts your dreams” was just one of it’s rejected names.

The Beta allowed us to play 2 kinds of games. The first type was a single-game type campaign in which the 4 hunters fought against a single Monster in a one-shot game. At the end the player’s preferences can be adjusted, and a new arena/match area can be selected along with your own character customization. While players wait in the lobby, a top-down battle map displays a sped-up display of the battle that you just finished, complete with deaths and beast movements. It’s fun to watch, but also allows you to observe your opponent’s strategies as they move across the map. Clever players will note other player’s patterns and adapt.

The other game mode was a 5-game mini-story. Here, the hunters play 5 successive rounds on various map spawns against both the Player Monster and a small horde of mini-monsters, and are aided by several environmental bonuses such as automated turrets, extra NPC hunters, and drones. In this mode, winning or losing changes the next match. For instance if the hunters win a match, they might get a bonus to all of the NPC drone or Turret damage, or a 5th hunter player. If the hunters lose, however, the Monster gets dangerous bonuses to strength and damage, or an even larger horde of NPC monsters, along with other map-based bonuses. It’s a high-stakes game that spans a long period of time and is a lot more engaging than the single shot missions. I found that having 2 very different game modes, on top of the ability to play as the Monster or one of several hunter classes results in a game with a lot of replay value. We put together a short set of class-specific playlists that highlight some of the basics of each class. Unfortunately, the Monster footage was lost, but there are dozens of gameplay videos at this point and if you’re really interested, you’ll find them.

Graphically, the game was very enjoyable, with a large variety of alien environments and arenas. The game definitely has it’s own style and aesthetic, which I would place somewhere between Borderlands and Destiny. In a lot of ways, this game IS what Destiny should have been. It has an easy party system, and while it does have quite a few loading screens, they never feel boring or forced. Instead of looking at space ships fly endlessly into night, you’re presented with instant replay maps, short dialogue cut-scenes, and hint screens that are actually useful.

This game has a lot of promise and I personally enjoyed every second of it. There is a tendency for the cut scenes to be repetitive in the single-game mode, and sometimes there is so much going on in such a small area that playing strategically, otherwise required for success in Evolve, is almost fucking impossible. Aside from those minor setbacks, the game is a lot of fun to play. I’m looking forward to playing the full version, which will probably be reviewed here as well. If you’re looking for a solid, class-based shooter that offers short OR medium-to-long style matches, blended PVE and PVP, and a rewarding skill curve, this might be the game for you. Don’t come looking for a well-written story, or much in-depth character development. This game is clearly about shooting your friends in the face or eating them to death, and in that respect it delivers.

The Missing Link Roundup

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CG4 aka the God's Hand Nebula

CG4 aka the God’s Hand Nebula

ESO released a new photo of the God’s Hand Nebula, located 13,000 light years from Earth. Also known as CG4, it is a sub-type of a nebula referred to as a Bok globule, the smallest type of nebula that exists, and it is very cold and very dense.  — ESO

Researchers in Madrid completed a study on ETNOs (extreme trans-Neptunian objects) within our solar system and found that there may be at least two more Earth-sized planets past Pluto. It’s 2015, we landed a robot on a comet, yet we are still discovering what exists in our own solar system! You know what Papa Carl would say* about this. — NBCNews

The Dawn Spacecraft is heading toward a proto/dwarf planet in our asteroid belt named Ceres and we are seeing close up photographs of it for the first time ever. Expect more of these over the next few months! —i09 and CNET

*“Astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” — Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

The Missing Link Roundup

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The Egg NebulaIn November, the Hubble telescope captured a beautiful new image of the Egg Nebula. This star was discovered only 40 years ago and is classified a “preplanetary nebula”. We are lucky to have found this star during such a brief, yet dramatic, moment in it’s lifespan. — ESA

Pulsar J1906 was discovered several years ago by a team from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy. However, J1906 wasn’t any ordinary pulsar; this star had a companion star and they circle each other in just four hours. The team watched the pulsar every night for five years, before one night it just disappeared. What happened? — BBC News

Impact on Mars! There is a new impact crater in Elysium Planitia that was first discovered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The last picture was taken several years ago, meaning the impact happened sometime between February 2012 and June 2014. — NASA

Hood Canal Vacation

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15685_10152496781474681_2102268827827751149_n There is not a blog entry this week because FYMFB is on vacation in the Hood Canal area of Washington/the Puget Sound! To celebrate our precious time away, I wanted to share a couple of photos from last summer’s camping trip to the same area.

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We stayed at the Scenic Beach State Park campgrounds outside of Seabeck, Washington. The park itself was nice, clean, definitely well maintained, and was only marginally populated at the time we went (late August). The tent camping sites are secluded enough that you cannot see or often times hear your neighbors, unless they are very loud. Our amazing laserdog Kira had a great time camping with us as well! My only real complaint about the entire camping experience was that the tent camping sites were a bit on the expensive end at ~$40/night, which is nearly the cost of a hotel room.

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It was a wonderful trip, my first time really spending time in the Hood Canal area, which is home to some of the warmest salt water beaches in Washington State! We are not camping this time around, as it’s January and fucking cold, but instead are staying in a cabin near Union, Washington which is a bit south of Seabeck.

We will resume our normal posting schedule later this week, so check back soon for new content, and next week for a new porn review!

The Missing Link Roundup: Animals Get Scienced

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kira-and-meThis is a picture of my dog, Kira, and myself (my foot at least!); we were hiking around Deception Pass and stopped to take in the scenery. Kira is one of the best parts of my life, a shadow companion glued to my side at all times. Dogs have been a constant in my life and I’ve wondered for a long time, can they understand us? While some dogs are smarter than others, we can teach even the most scatter brained dog commands that they understand and follow. This video jumps into the science behind dog-human communication and is a must-watch for any dog lover. — It’s Okay to be Smart (YouTube)

Evolutionary science is one of the most fascinating things we study as humans, because it tells the story of how we came to be over millions of years. Researchers in China think they’ve found a missing gap in the evolutionary tree with a recent discovery of a land and water based reptile. — Mother Nature Network

Scientists at Wake Forest have found evidence that bats will jam the sonar of other bats when they are competing with each other for resources. They think that this might be happening with other animals as well, so this discovery could be just the tip of the iceberg! — LiveScience

Cats are jerks, so have you ever wondered about how they became “domesticated”? A new study from geneticists at the Washington University of Medicine in St Louis looks at the genes of ancient cats for answers. — NBC News

Lake Chelan Gold Cider

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Lake Chelan Gold CiderLake Chelan Gold Hard Cider

“The color of this cider is a beautiful pale-straw while the delicious aromas and flavors are robust and balanced as you would expect from the cool climate orchards of eastern Washington. Fragrant apple pie and fermented apple notes form a great presentation.”

Rating: 3.5/5

Location: Chelan, WA
ABV: 7%

Dixon’s Thoughts: Chelan Gold has been one of my go-to ciders for a few years now. It’s a bit of a one-off from our normal fare, due to the fact that it’s a completely un-carbonated (still) cider. It’s also made with champagne yeast, and while that’s not completely uncommon, Chelan Gold is the only champagne-yeast cider that makes it into my regular rotation.
It’s extremely light and smooth, with a finish that borders on watery without being offensive. Drinking it is kind of like eating 6 different apples at once, which is how it’s made. Overall, this is a very drinkable cider that is light enough to be consumed in large quantities, but delicate enough with a strong enough presence to be served with grilled pork or lighter fare.

Mindy’s Thoughts: I rated this lower than Dixon did as it’s not a favorite of mine, but I basically agree with everything Dixon said — Chelan Gold tastes very apply but not overpowering. Really light, almost like apple champagne without the bubbles. Borders on so light that it tastes like water? Or at least not like cider. If you like to pair liquor with food, it would go well with a lot of subtler foods as it’s not overpowering but has sweet apple “notes”.