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While air travel is quicker and safer than driving, it's also louder. The continuous low-frequency drone of the engines is why some people invest in noise-canceling headphones. To help reduce that non-stop hum, researchers at North Carolina State University and MIT have developed a thin membrane to be inserted into the lightweight honeycomb structure of planes and helicopters. "At low frequencies – sounds below 500 Hertz – the honeycomb panel with the membrane blocks 100 to 1,000 times more sound energy than the panel without a membrane." said Yun Jing, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State University. The 0.25mm-thick membrane would only add an additional six percent to the overall weight of the honeycomb structure of aircraft. While that doesn't seem like much, every ounce counts to airlines trying to maximize flight costs. It'll be on them to decide whether they'd rather save money on fuel or makes cabins a better place for passengers.

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Alex in 'Minecraft'

Lots of girls play Minecraft, but you wouldn't know it from the default character options. Unless you've been willing to pay up or install a mod, your only real choice so far has been Steve, the game's male mascot. At last, though, things are opening up -- Mojang is giving builders the choice of a free girl character, Alex. She's been around before as a randomly assigned character in the computer version, but the move will help female players on all platforms sculpt their dream worlds using a character they can identify with. PlayStation and Xbox gamers will get Alex as of April 29th, while mobile users playing the Pocket Edition should see her this summer.

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The five new filters that Instagram released back in December have reportedly been such a hit with users, the company has unveiled three more retouching options: Lark, Reyes and Juno. According to Instagram's blog, Lark softens reds in favor of blue and green hues to highlight landscape shots while Reyes washes out the image as a whole to create a weathered and vintage feel. The Juno filter is geared more for portraits. It boosts warm tones and whites while adding a slight green tint to cooler colors.

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Video calls in Facebook Messenger

Facebook is no stranger to video chat, but it's been keeping a low profile as of late. Well, it's no longer content to sit on the sidelines while Skype and Hangouts steal the show -- the company has just introduced video calling in Messenger. Whether you're using Android or iOS, you only need to tap a single button in an existing conversation to start a face-to-face session. The feature is available today in 18 countries (including the UK and the US), so give it a shot if you're a Facebook fan and would rather not fire up another app just to see who you're talking to.

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NBC Sports on a Roku player

You have more than a few ways to watch live sports on Apple TV and Roku boxes, but there are still a few gaps. What if you want to catch lots of golf tournaments? If you live in the US, you won't have to worry quite so much. NBC Sports has launched versions of its Live Extra app for both media hubs, making sure that you won't miss out on the Golf Channel, the Olympics, Sunday Night Football and some internet-only events, such as certain Premier League matches. You'll still need a qualifying TV subscription to watch in the first place, but this beats missing out on some big-screen sports simply because you're visiting friends.

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Snapchat Discover

Snapchat just showed how serious it is about turning its mobile video messaging service into your news hub. The company has hired Peter Hamby, one of CNN's best political reporters, to oversee its news efforts. He'll still contribute to the TV network through 2016, but his top priority will be the internet startup. As to what Hamby will actually do in his new job? He's not spilling the beans, but his interest in Snapchat's live stories suggests that you'll see more on-the-ground coverage of unfolding events. You may well find yourself using a single app to both catch up on the day's happenings and share gossip with your friends.

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Apple Watch Sport

Splurging on a gold or steel Apple Watch might get you a fancier timepiece, but there's one thing you won't get: the best possible display. DisplayMate has taken a close look at the OLED screen in the smartwatch, and it notes that sapphire carries its share of drawbacks over the toughened glass in the Watch Sport. While you're still getting colorful, sharp visuals, the higher-end Watch's sapphire reflects almost twice as much light and washes out the picture in very bright conditions. And no, Apple can't use an anti-glare coating to fix this -- that would scratch easily, which misses the whole point of sapphire. There will eventually be improved sapphire screens that are both scratch- and glare-resistant, but you're currently best off with the Sport (and any other smartwatch with glass, really) if you're an outdoorsy type.

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a professional judge declares...

When a business is finished with a patent or just needs some cash, it often winds up selling its intellectual property to a patent troll. With it, these "non-practicing entities" can then fire courtroom broadsides at outfits like Microsoft and Google in the hope of raising a quick buck. It's become so much of a problem that Google is hoping to tackle it simply by buying those patents before the trolls can get their hands on 'em.

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We knew ESPN wasn't happy with Verizon's recently announced flexible TV plans, and now it is ready to take legal action on the matter. According to CNBC, The Worldwide Leader in Sports is suing Verizon over the FiOS Custom TV package, only days after letting it be known that it objected to it. ESPN isn't alone, either: last week, Fox Sports and NBC also came out against Verizon's offering, which lets subscribers pick channels based on their viewing preferences. In a statement, ESPN said, "We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts." Verizon, meanwhile, has said that FiOS Custom TV does not violate any contract agreements with the TV networks.

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The roster of credit cards that work with Apple's mobile payments platform has always had one notable absentee. Thankfully, the folks at Discover have realized that there's little to be gained from not being available to use on Apple Pay. That's why the firm has signed a deal that'll see its customers be able to buy goods and services with their iPads, iPhones and Apple Watches, which will begin at some point in the fall. Naturally, users are afforded the same offers and protections that they would if they'd paid by card, including Cashback Bonus and Freeze It -- now all we need is for Chipotle to join in and we're all set.

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