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Acid-Spewing Crazy Ants Invading the US May Have Met Their Match

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Tawny crazy ants are wreaking havoc in places where they’re invasive, but scientists have discovered a new way to battle them using a fungus.


Alex Wild

Here’s another one for the “nature is metal” file. Tawny crazy ants — invasive, acid-spewing insects from South America — have spread across the southeastern US over the last couple of decades. They’ve caused damage to homes, pushed out native species and even blinded baby bunnies. There’s a new hope in the fight against crazy ants: a fungal pathogen.

A team led by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin published a study on a natural fungus in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on Monday. The scientists first discovered the pathogen in crazy ants in Florida when they found spores inside the swollen abdomens of some of the insects. The fungus appears to shorten the lives of worker ants.

The fungus, which seems to only impact crazy ants, can lead to the collapse of colonies. “This doesn’t mean crazy ants will disappear,” said lead author Edward LeBrun, a specialist in invasive species, in a UT Austin statement. “It’s impossible to predict how long it will take for the lightning bolt to strike and the pathogen to infect any one crazy ant population. But it’s a big relief because it means these populations appear to have a lifespan.”

Crazy ants are so tough, they displace fire ants by neutralizing fire-ant venom. UT Austin described the species as acting like “an ecological wrecking ball.” They’re pretty much supervillains in the places they invade. A New York Times piece in 2013 revealed how much damage they’d caused to houses in Texas — they love electrical equipment — and suggested they were driving people to divorce. And yes, they can bite people, but don’t sting.

The researchers tested out the pathogen as a control method in the Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, Texas, in 2016. LeBrun said the park’s infestation was “apocalyptic” with “rivers of ants.” The university described the carnage as the ants drove out insects, scorpions, snakes, lizards and birds, and blinded baby rabbits with acid.

The scientists introduced infected ants to nesting sites in the Texas park and used hot dogs as a lure to get the populations to mingle. It worked. The fungus spread and wiped out the ants, making the park safe for native species to return.

The team intends to continue testing the pathogen at other sites in Texas to see if it will have similar results. It could be bad news for the crazy ants, but good news for people and animals affected by the scourge.



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Overwatch 2 Beta Begins Tomorrow: Start Time and What to Expect

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Overwatch 2 starts its second beta on Tuesday, June 28, for PC and console players. The beta begins at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT and runs through Monday, July 18. Sign-ups are still open for a chance to participate, and you can still get guaranteed access if you’re willing to spend some cash.  

The next beta will be our first look at Junker Queen, a new tank hero who first appeared in posters on the Junkertown map that was released in 2017. Fans have been hoping to play her ever since, and five years later, we’re finally getting the chance. The new beta also adds a new hybrid map, Paraiso. The developers have laid out their goals for the beta, which include testing server capacity and hero balance. 

Overwatch 2 is the sequel to Blizzard’s class-based shooter, featuring two teams of five players fighting over objectives. Overwatch devs announced in June that the game will be free to play and will launch in early access on Oct. 4. The first beta injected a frantic pace into the game, which was a welcome change from the slower, more grinding pacing that’s plagued Overwatch in recent years. The free-to-play PvP element will bring the game more in line with other competitive shooters, like Valorant and Apex Legends.

How to sign up for the Overwatch 2 beta

Anyone can sign up for Overwatch 2’s second beta, but it’s not technically an open beta. The game will add people gradually as it ramps up server capacity, and the first big wave of beta access will happen on July 5, according to the beta FAQ page. Even if you were in the previous beta, you’ll need to sign up again. 

Here’s how to sign up:

1. Go to the Overwatch 2 beta site.
2. In the top right corner, log in to your Blizzard Account.
3. At the bottom of the Overwatch 2 beta page, choose your platform (and region for PlayStation players).
4. Then hit Request Beta Access.

If you want guaranteed beta access on June 28, you can purchase the Watchpoint Pack ($40). In addition to beta access on day one, you’ll also get two legendary character skins, a unique player icon and enough digital currency to buy the first two battle passes.

How do I download the Overwatch 2 beta?

Blizzard hasn’t released details on downloading the second beta, but it should follow the same process as the first beta. Here’s how that worked:

1. Log in to your Battle.net account and navigate to Overwatch on the game launcher.

2. In the bottom left, click the Game Version drop-down.

3. Select Overwatch 2 Tech Beta to install.

4. When the download is complete, hit the blue Play button to start.

Junker Queen spinning her axe

Junker Queen’s ultimate ability helps her close distance and end fights quickly.


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Junker Queen abilities

The new beta finally gives fans a chance to play as Junker Queen, a hero we’ve all been excited about and/or thirsting over since she was first teased on the Junkertown map. Here’s what we know about Junker Queen’s abilities, from the Overwatch Twitter account:

New Hybrid Map: Paraiso

The beta also adds Paraiso, a new hybrid map that explores Lucio’s home, including the DJ’s Clube Sinestesia. As with all hybrid maps, players will start by attacking or defending a control point, and if the attackers succeed, players will spend the rest of the map attacking or defending a payload. 

An underground club with light-up floor

Clube Sinestesia is where support hero Lucio found fame as a DJ.


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For more Overwatch 2 news, check out everything we learned from the Overwatch 2 reveal event.



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Icebergify: How To Create an Iceberg of Your Most Listened to Spotify Artists

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Been on social media today? Seen those bizarre musical Icebergs floating around in your feed? You’re not alone. Screenshots like this have been doing the rounds today, particularly on Twitter. 

It’s all created via the magic of a website called Icebergify.

Using the data from your Spotify listening habits, Icebergify creates an Iceberg of your most listened to artists ranked by popularity. At the tip of the iceberg? Your favourite “mainstream” artists. Your Taylor Swifts, your Beyonces, your Drakes, etc. The further down you go, the more obscure it becomes. It looks a little like this…

If you want to see your own iceberg, you can head to the website directly. Be warned: it does require your Spotify log-in. 

The Icebergify website was developed by Akshay Raj, a freshman studying Computer & Data Science at Rice University. He says he has no plans to monetize the site or use the data collected — which is limited to your username, Spotify account ID and the top 50 tracks and artists listened to over the past few years. 

How does it work? It’s fairly simple. Icebergify takes your most listened to artists and sorts them according to popularity rankings. Streams, shares, saves, likes, and followers are all taken into account. This is why Beyonce might be at the top of your iceberg, but lesser known artists are at the bottom, beneath the ocean. Also worth noting: It seems like Icebergify is being flooded due to its surprising popularity. Head back later if it doesn’t immediately work.





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Apple’s First Mixed-Reality Headset May Sport New M2 Processor

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Apple’s first mixed-reality headset could come with the company’s flagship M2 processor, just one of the “deluge” of new products the company is expected to unveil in the next year, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported Sunday.

The M2, unveiled in June, features redesigned central processing units and a significant memory increase, which would provide a significant boost to the much-rumored headset over the previous M1 chip.

The much-rumored headset incorporating both virtual and augmented reality environments is expected to provide a boon to the gaming industry. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier week that the headset — expected to be announced in January 2023 — would be the most complicated product Apple has designed yet.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been vocal about his excitement about AR. Earlier this week, he explained that the tech industry is still in the “very early innings” of this technology’s possibilities.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we’ve seen in this space, and sort of stay tuned and you’ll see what we have to offer,” Cook told China Daily.

Other products Gurman expects to debut in the next 12 months include four iPhone 14 models, three Apple Watch variations, several Macs with M2 and M3 chips, iPads, updated AirPods Pro earbuds, a fresh HomePod, and an upgraded Apple TV. 

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read moreApple AR, VR Headset Rumors: WWDC, Release Rumors, M1 Chip and More



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