White Dwarf star Sirius B, c 2000.

It's virtually certain that some white dwarfs still have planets in orbit despite their violent histories, but seeing those planets has proven difficult... at least, until now. Astronomers using the Kepler space observatory have spotted a planet circling around WD 1145+017, a white dwarf 570 light years away. Not that it's in great shape, mind you. The unusual light signature from the dying star hints that the planet is disintegrating under the star's gravitational pressure, leaving behind a giant dust cloud. Researchers suspect that it fell into its fatal orbit after the star's rapid change in mass triggered a planetary collision.

Interconnected neurons transferring information with electrical pulses.

A team of researchers at Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) announced on Wednesday that they had taught a robot how to navigate on its own, in much the same way that humans and other animals do. They reportedly accomplished this feat by digitally replicating two types of neurons that help animals geolocate naturally.

Just as it did in 2012, Plex is once again bringing a new look to its desktop app for PCs. Back then the service focused on offering more of a living room-friendly experience, hence the application being renamed to Home Theater. Now, Plex Media Player intends to keep that going, but with an improved user interface that matches its various TV apps that will "leave all that original code behind." To help, it's switched the media playback engine to mpv, and hired the primary contributor from that open source project as a full timer to help out. Aside from the redesigned and speedier UI, which brings it in line with Plex's smart TV, console and set-top apps, there's support for a "true" 4K interface, multi-channel music tracks and improved compatibility with H.265 video files, among other things. PlexPass subscribers can try out an early preview of the app now, before it releases for everyone later on. According to Plex, Home Theater will continue to be available and open source, though the firm doesn't have any plans to continue developing for it.

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Artists paint "Back to the Future Part ll" mural in Denver.

The White House jumped into the Back to the Future Day hooplah by hosting a panel discussion on the feasibility of time travel. Tom Kalil, director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, hosted the half-hour talk, which also featured University of Queensland physicists Tim Ralph and Martin Ringbauer. The trio discuss a variety of topics including quantum mechanics and recent accelerated particle experiments, though they don't dive particularly deeply into any one subject or even get to the part about the self-lacing Nikes. Check out the full discussion below.

[Image Credit: Denver Post via Getty Images]

Marty spots 'Wild Gunman' in 'Back to the Future Part II'

You've probably seen your share of over-the-top publicity grabs on Back to the Future Day, but Nintendo has a subtler one that you might just appreciate. The company's European branch has quietly released a Wii U Virtual Console port of Wild Gunman, better known as the game that Marty McFly dominates when he visits 2015 in Back to the Future Part II. As in the movie, you have to use your hands to play this "baby's toy" -- the big difference is that you're using a Wii remote instead of the NES' Zapper light gun (BTTF2's particular arcade cabinet never really existed, we'd note). You probably won't mind if you're on a nostalgia kick, though. And if you really, truly want to play a game that Hill Valley's kids would enjoy, Microsoft is happy to help.

There's a reason your job wants you to use just your work email for employment-related items. It keeps your personal and career lives separate and lets your IT department lock down job-related correspondences. I'm sure the CIA has the same rules because, you know, national security. But that didn't stop director John Brennan from using an Aol email account to conduct agency business. Because Brennan is such a high profile target, this should have been expected. The government has already had trouble with leaks of employee information including info on intelligence and military personnel. Now WikiLeaks has begun publishing attachments from the breach. Today it posted six documents and intends to add more to the list in the coming days.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few hours, then you know today is Back to the Future Day. In the trilogy's second film, Michael J. Fox's character Martin Seamus McFly, better known as Marty, gave us a glimpse of how things would look on October 21st, 2015. And even though the future according to the movie may have not been fully accurate (which is okay), Marty's power-laced Nike sneakers are indeed a reality. While the sportswear juggernaut did release the Mag in 2011, that version didn't use the self-lacing technology we saw in Back to the Future Part II. But don't worry, the actual Marty McFly shoes are coming in spring 2016, Nike has confirmed. Tinker Hatfield, Nike's VP of creative concepts and the man who designed the Mags, also sent a letter to Fox saying, "Although the project started as science fiction, we're now proud to turn that fiction into fact."

Apple Stores Mark Earth Day, Day After Announcing New Green Initiative

The Department of Homeland Security announced a substantial policy change Wednesday regarding how it employs cellphone-tracking tools like the Stingray system. These cell-site simulators have been in use for more than a decade. They allow law enforcement to find cell phones either by directly searching for a known device or find an unknown device by sniffing for signaling information from the simulator's immediate vicinity and triangulating that data. The new policy explicitly demands that DHS personnel acquire a warrant before deploying the devices unless an exception, such as the imminent loss of human life, destruction of evidence, or to prevent the escape of a fugitive felon. Wednesday's announcement follows a similar decision by the Department of Justice last month.

[Image Credit: Getty]

The Domino's Pizza DXP delivery car

You have to sympathize with pizza delivery drivers. They're rarely driving more than an everyday car (often their own), which won't do much to help them get a pizza to your door on time. Clearly, Domino's Pizza feels their pain. The food giant has unveiled the DXP (Delivery ExPert), a heavily modified Chevy Spark that's focused on pie transport. The star attraction is an outward-facing oven in the back -- drivers can grab your piping-hot pizza without skipping a beat. There's also storage space for a whopping 80 pizzas (office party, anyone?), an out-for-delivery light and a puddle light to prevent any rude surprises when stepping outside.

Workers carrying steel beam in manufacturing plant

You'd think that stretching metal would make it weaker, but just the opposite is true... on a very small scale. Researchers have developed a technique that pulls nanoscopic metal crystals to eliminate defects. By gently and repeatedly stretching the crystal, scientists move "dislocations" (rows of atom-level defects) to free surfaces, where they're ultimately forced out. The result is a metal that is considerably less likely to crack or otherwise fail over time.

Mythbusters will go off the air at the end of its 14th season in 2016, Entertainment Weekly reports. Mythbusters is Discovery's quirky, science-centric show starring special-effects and physics superstars Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. Each episode tackles a few weird science myths and laws, such as curving a bullet, whether a bullet dropped hits the ground at the same time as a bullet fired, the phrase "you can't polish a turd," if a stick of dynamite can clean the inside of a cement truck, and all manner of other (usually explosive) legends. They even filmed a few episodes in 360-degree VR. Hyneman and Savage were able to plan a special goodbye episode, which Savage describes as follows: "Our finale will go out with a bang, as everyone would expect."

[Image credit: DCL]


Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article that raised some questions surrounding startup lab Theranos' claims that it can run a variety of blood tests with just a single finger-prick. Apparently the aforementioned finger-prick test have so far only been used to diagnose herpes (not the hundreds once promised) and some customers have reported wild inaccuracies with tests. Former employees have also come forward to the Journal accusing Theranos of poor practices like diluting blood samples for testing on commercially available machines. Today, Theranos CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes attended an interview at WSJD Live (which is a conference put on by the Wall Street Journal) to address these accusations head on.

The Paranormal Activity movie series may be over after the upcoming 3D-infused Ghost Dimension entry, but it will live on in virtual reality. VRWERX announced today that it will be bringing its VR Paranormal Activity game to select AMC theaters in major markets this weekend, October 22 to 24, coinciding with the release of the new film. Even more intriguing, the demo will be powered by HTC's Vive Steam VR headsets. We still don't have specifics on the game yet, but judging from the Paranormal Activity series so far, you can expect plenty of jump scares and creepiness right on the edge of your field of vision. The game likely won't reach the dramatic heights of Paranormal Activity 3 (which is seriously great), but as far as horror franchises go, it's pretty much built for VR. The finished game will be available next spring on PlayStation VR and Oculus, and non-VR versions will be coming to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam. Check out a list of the 15 participating theaters after the break.

Samsung has opened the floodgates to its mobile payment solution in the US. The company announced today that Samsung Pay now works with all major US carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular and, despite some drama, Verizon. In order to take advantage of this feature, which is Samsung's answer to Apple Pay, you'll of course need to have a compatible smartphone -- like the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+ or Galaxy Note 5. Samsung Pay first became available Stateside in beta on September 28th, but as of today anyone on one of the big networks can start using it. To do so, download the app from Google Play, enter your debit/credit card information and you'll be set.

Night Runner

Fitbit trackers may have a vulnerability that can let somebody within Bluetooth range quickly hack them, according to security company Fortinet. Worse yet, once the attackers are in, the device could infect any computer that tries to sync with the device. Via Twitter, Senior Fortinet researcher Axelle Apvrille told Engadget "you don't need physical access (to the tracker), but you do need to be close (Bluetooth range). It does not matter if it is paired (to another device) or not." When in range, a bad actor could infect the device in as little as 10 seconds. Apvrille informed Fitbit of the vulnerability back in March, but the wearable outfit has yet to fix the issue, according to the Register.

When Twitter launched Moments, it talked briefly about its launch partners and how eventually anyone would be able to build their own moments. Until that happens, Twitter is launching an ecosystem using the same tools used by Moments to help publishers, developers and really anyone who's wanted to put together a collection of tweets for a post. Using Tweetdeck or the newly launched Curator tool, people can find tweets they would like to build into a story. The Curator tool also includes 20 different filters to help find relevant tweets and put those updates in whatever order you want. Then you can drop the URL or collection ID of your tweet compilation into publish.twitter.com for an embed code. Drop that code into any site and you're good to go.

Predator Drones in Afghanistan

Last week, The Intercept released a trove of classified documents (provided by an unnamed source) relating to America's use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as weapons of assassination. These activities took place between 2011 and 2013, throughout both active combat areas in Iraq and Afghanistan and nations like Yemen and Pakistan. And while plenty of people are discussing the shortcomings of human-controlled UAVs, nobody's talking about how to fix them. Could the answer be more technology like the fully autonomous weapon and surveillance platforms that the Department of Defense (DoD) is developing? Or, when it comes to aerial assassinations, is less more?

By Cat DiStasio

Want to see the state of the art in solar-powered architecture? Then head to the Solar Decathlon in Southern California where the US Department of Energy challenges students from around the world to create the most efficient solar-powered house. These tiny, high-tech homes are designed to be affordable and attractive while utilizing solar energy for all the amenities of comfortable indoor living, including temperature control, hot water and household appliances. In all, each home is expected to produce at least as much energy as it consumes, which is also known as "net zero" energy status. Read on for a look at some of the most incredible houses from this year's competition.

Some of the new emoji in iOS 9.1 and OS X 10.11.1

If you've ever wanted to text taco pics from your iPhone or give the middle finger from your Mac, today's your lucky day. Apple has released iOS 9.1 and OS X El Capitan 10.11.1, both of which add a slew of new Unicode emoji ranging from Mexican food through to rude gestures. There are some important under-the-hood fixes, too. Your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus is now smart enough to stop recording Live Photos when you lower the device, and OS X shouldn't run into trouble with Office 2016. Whichever platform you're using, you'll likely want to update pronto -- if just to see the cutesy characters you'd otherwise miss.

[Image credit: Emojipedia]

Twitter will finally update its OS X app later this year

While Twitter's iOS and Android apps have gotten regular updates, the OS X version has languished -- the company has shown it very little love in the past few years. But, today at Twitter's Flight developer conference, developer platform lead Jeff Seibert announced that the OS X application would be receiving a refresh before the end of the year. In particular, it'll have native gif and Vine playback, as well as a "dark mode." Hopefully that theme will make its way to the Android and iOS apps.