Studio Ghibli Film Catalog Now Available on Digital Rental Platforms

Some of the most acclaimed films in animation history are finally available to rent online. GKIDS, the animation specialist distributer, has released the catalog of acclaimed Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli starting Tuesday. From a report: 22 films from the studio — including Oscar winner “Spirited Away” and nominees such as “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “When Marnie Was There” — will be made available to rent on all major digital platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon VOD, Vudu, Google Play and Microsoft. The films will be be priced at $4.99 per title, and all will be available in HD, with most being offered in the original Japanese language as well as English dubs.

The news marks the first time that Ghibli’s films have been made available via digital rental. The catalogue has been one of the pillars of GKIDS’ business since the distributer acquired the North American film distribution rights to the studio’s films in 2011, followed by the home media rights in 2017 — previously, the majority of Studio Ghibli films were distributed via the Walt Disney Company. Since 2017, GKIDS has partnered with Fathom Events to host a series of limited run screenings of the studio’s films throughout the year. The catalog was made available for digital purchase in 2019, and GKIDS has an exclusive deal to stream the films in the United States on HBO Max, where they have been included since 2020.

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AMD Launches Zen 4 Ryzen 7000 CPUs

AMD unveiled its 5nm Ryzen 7000 lineup today, outlining the details of four new models that span from the 16-core $699 Ryzen 9 7950X flagship, which AMD claims is the fastest CPU in the world, to the six-core $299 Ryzen 5 7600X, the lowest bar of entry to the first family of Zen 4 processors. Tom’s Hardware reports: Ryzen 7000 marks the first 5nm x86 chips for desktop PCs, but AMD’s newest chips don’t come with higher core counts than the previous-gen models. However, frequencies stretch up to 5.7 GHz – an impressive 800 MHz improvement over the prior generation — paired with an up to 13% improvement in IPC from the new Zen 4 microarchitecture. That results in a 29% improvement in single-threaded performance over the prior-gen chips. That higher performance also extends out to threaded workloads, with AMD claiming up to 45% more performance in some threaded workloads. AMD says these new chips power huge generational gains over the prior-gen Ryzen 5000 models, with 29% faster gaming and 44% more performance in productivity apps. Going head-to-head with Intel’s chips, AMD claims the high-end 7950X is 11% faster overall in gaming than Intel’s fastest chip, the 12900K, and that even the low-end Ryzen 5 7600X beats the 12900K by 5% in gaming. It’s noteworthy that those claims come with a few caveats […].

The Ryzen 7000 processors come to market on September 27, and they’ll be joined by new DDR5 memory products that support new EXPO overclocking profiles. AMD’s partners will also offer a robust lineup of motherboards – the chips will snap into new Socket AM5 motherboards that AMD says it will support until 2025+. These motherboards support DDR5 memory and the PCIe 5.0 interface, bringing the Ryzen family up to the latest connectivity standards. The X670 Extreme and standard X670 chipsets arrive first in September, while the more value-oriented B650 options will come to market in October. That includes the newly announced B650E chipset that brings full PCIe 5.0 connectivity to budget motherboards, while the B650 chipset slots in as a lower-tier option. The Ryzen 7000 lineup also brings integrated RDNA 2 graphics to all of the processors in the stack, a first for the Ryzen family.

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Twitter Is Becoming a Podcast App

Twitter has launched a test version of Twitter Spaces today that includes podcasts, “letting you listen to full shows through curated playlists based on your interests,” reports The Verge. From the report: The redesigned Spaces tab opens with Stations, topic-based playlists combining podcast episodes pulled from RSS with Twitter’s social audio events and recordings. It functions like a Pandora station but for spoken word and is pretty different from the a la carte listening podcast consumers are used to on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Live and upcoming spaces are still in the tab, further down the page. The test will roll out to a random group of users across the world, initially only in English. The more users listen, the more tailored the audio Stations will become. But Twitter isn’t starting from square one — the company is relying on what it already knows about its users’ interests to curate the playlists. It’ll draw from the interests of people they follow, as well.

“What we’re really trying to capture here is as if it’s like another user recommending you something,” Twitter senior product manager Evan Jones, who focuses on audio, told Hot Pod. Podcast discovery is notoriously difficult, limited either to top 100 charts, hand-picked selections on apps, or — more often than not — word of mouth. No platform has managed to crack it, yet. It’s easy to imagine the promotional possibilities around being able to share and listen to podcasts in the same app, but it’s not quite there yet. The test does not yet have a clipping capability, and listening can only happen in the Spaces tab, not on the timeline. That being said, Spaces has a clipping feature that could be applied to podcasts at some point.

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Soon Electric Vehicles Could Charge Faster Than Your iPhone

The Washington Post shares a little-acknowledged downside to electric cars: recharging takes “upward of 15 to 30 minutes.”

But scientists are already working on improvements:

In a report released this week, government researchers said they have found a way to charge electric car batteries up to 90 percent in just 10 minutes. The method is likely five years away from making its way into the market, scientists said, but would mark a fundamental shift. “The goal is to get very, very close to [times] you would see at the gas pump,” said Eric Dufek, a lead author of the study and scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory, a research center run by the Department of Energy….

At issue is the delicate balance of trying to charge an electric vehicle battery quicker, but not doing it so fast that a rapid charge does long-term damage to the battery or plays a role in causing them to explode. Charging electric batteries fast can cause damage, reducing the battery’s life span and performance, scientists said. “You’ve had batteries when you first got it, they were great, but after a couple years or a few hundred charge cycles, they don’t perform as well,” said Eric D. Wachsman, director of the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute, an energy research organization at the University of Maryland. To try to solve this, Dufek and his team used machine learning to figure out how batteries age when charging fast. Their algorithm was trained to analyze 20,000 to 30,000 data points which indicated how well the battery was charging and whether it was aging or degrading….

Wachsman said the new research is helpful for the field. “Not too fast, not too slow,” he said of Dufek’s charging approach. “It’s just right in that Goldilocks [zone].” But the bigger benefit, he said, would be if this method spurs car companies to make electric vehicles with smaller batteries, since they’d now have batteries that could be charged quicker and allow consumers to feel less worried about stopping periodically to get a quick recharge.

“Smaller batteries are cheaper cars,” he said.

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Are Plants ‘Intelligent’?

Long-time Slashdot reader Dr_Ish writes: It is not too common for the world of academic philosophy to be changed by a new discovery, or innovation. Perhaps the last time this happened in a major way can be traced back to Turing’s famous (1950) “Computational Machinery and Intelligence” paper “Mind,” where Turing proposed that computational systems could exhibit mind-like properties. However, it appears to be in the process of happening again.

In a series of recent papers and a book that was published last week, philosopher Prof. Paco Calvo from the University of Murcia, has made a compelling case that plants exhibit cognitive properties, such as memory, planning, intelligence and perhaps even numerical abilities… His book, Calvo, P. with Lawrence, N. “Planta Sapiens: The New Science of Plant Intelligence was published in the UK last week. It will appear in North America in March next year.

From the Guardian’s review of the book:
Calvo writes that intelligence is “not quite as special as we like to think”. He argues that it’s time to accept that other organisms, even drastically different ones, may be capable of it….

In the course of his book, Calvo describes many experiments that reveal plants’ remarkable range, including the way they communicate with others nearby using “chemical talk”, a language encoded in about 1,700 volatile organic compounds…. Other studies show that some plants retain a memory of where the sun will rise, in order to turn their leaves towards the first rays. They store this knowledge — an internal model of what the sun is going to do — for several days, even when kept in total darkness. The conclusion must be that they constantly collect information, processing and retaining it in order to “make predictions, learn, and even plan ahead”.

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Are More Than Half of All Bitcoin Trades Fake?

Bitcoin represents 40% of the $1 trillion outstanding crypto assets, according to Forbes’ director of data and analytics. “An estimated 46 million adult Americans already own it according to New York Digital Investment Group…”

“But can you trust what your crypto exchange or e-brokerage reports about trading in the most important digital currency?”
One of the most common criticisms of bitcoin is pervasive wash trading (a form of fake volume) and poor surveillance across exchanges. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission defines wash trading as “entering into, or purporting to enter into, transactions to give the appearance that purchases and sales have been made, without incurring market risk or changing the trader’s market position.” The reason why some traders engage in wash trading is to inflate the trading volume of an asset to give the appearance of rising popularity. In some cases trading bots execute these wash trades in tokens, increasing volume, while at the same time insiders reinforce the activity with bullish remarks, driving up the price in what is effectively a pump and dump scheme. Wash trading also benefits exchanges because it allows them to appear to have more volume than they actually do, potentially encouraging more legitimate trading.

There is no universally accepted method of calculating bitcoin daily volume, even among the industry’s most reputable research firms. For instance, as of this writing, CoinMarketCap puts the latest 24-hour trading of bitcoin at $32 billion, CoinGecko at $27 billion, Nomics at $57 billion and Messari at $5 billion….

As part of Forbes research into the crypto ecosystem using 2021 data, we ranked the 60 best exchanges in March. More recently we conducted a deeper-dive into the bitcoin trading markets…. Our study evaluated 157 crypto exchanges across the world. Here are our main findings:

– More than half of all reported trading volume is likely to be fake or non-economic. Forbes estimates the global daily bitcoin volume for the industry was $128 billion on June 14. That is 51% less than the $262 billion one would get by taking the sum of self-reported volume from multiple sources….

– The biggest problem areas regarding fake volume are firms that tout big volume but operate with little or no regulatory oversight that would make their figures more credible, notably Binance, MEXC Global and Bybit. Altogether, the lesser regulated exchanges in our study account for approximately $89 billion of the true volume (they claim $217 billion).

Forbes adds that their report “builds on top of the important work done by other digital asset researchers such as Bitwise, which estimated in a March 2019 white paper that 95% of CoinMarketCap’s bitcoin trading volume was fake and/or non-economic.”

Their article includes some other interesting findings, including an observation that Tether “continues to be a dominant player in the crypto trading economy, especially when it comes to trades against bitcoin. Its current market capitalization is $68 billion, despite questions about its reserves.”

Thanks to Slashdot reader rrconan for sharing the article…

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