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Industrialization of ancient DNA search sets off a ‘bone rush’

In a race to make gene discoveries about the ancient past, scientists have setup an “industrial” process to extract DNA from old human bones unearthed in caves and pulled from museum collections. Quality control: The work happens in a clean lab with space-suited scientists behind an airlock, so it’s not contaminated by modern DNA, according to a profile in the New York Times of ancient DNA specialist David Reich of Harvard University. Losing history: The best quality ancient DNA is found inside the inner ear.

Getting it destroys the bones. Future scientists with better methods may look back with dismay. Game of bones: The fight to get ahold of ancient specimens–and be the first to a big discovery–has become cutthroat.

On Twitter, paleoanthropologist John Hawks says he’s “strongly uncomfortable” with what’s going on. “Ancient DNA extraction has become an industrial process, grinding through the bones of thousands of ancient people.

It seems that a “bone rush” atmosphere has taken hold. ”

Image credit:

  • Photo by hairymuseummat modified by DrMikeBaxter/Wikimedia Commons

Fortnite surpasses PUBG in monthly revenue with $126 million in February sales

Epic Games’ Fortnite is making boatloads of money on in-app purchases, taking in £126 million in the month of February and surpassing the monthly revenue pull of competitor Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds for the first time, according to game analytics firm Superdata Research. The news should come as no surprise to those who’ve been following the meteoric trajectory of Fortnite and its popular battle royale-style game mode, which puts up to 100 players against one another on a deserted island in a last-person-standing contest.

Though Epic borrowed the concept of parachuting onto an island and competing against a large number of other players from PUBG, the developer has a few key advantages over its PC-focused rival. For one, Fortnite is free-to-play.

So while PUBG earned almost as much revenue in the month of February with £103 million in sales, most of those sales are one-time £30 purchases for the software license of the game itself through Steam. Fortnite, on the other hand, makes a vast majority of its money on an ongoing basis from in-app purchases, mostly of cosmetic items like goofy character skins and emotes.

PUBG also allows people to spend money on cosmetic items, but developer PUBG Corp / Bluehole hasn’t ramped up that initiative quite as fast and successfully as Epic. The developer announced this month that it plans to add emotes to the game in the future, something Fortnite has had since its battle royale game mode launched back in September. Another advantage Fortnite has is its multiplatform accessibility.

The game launched on both PS4, Xbox One, and PC all at the same time last year, and just this month, it added iOS in an invite-only beta phase.

Already, in roughly one week, mobile analytics firm SensorTower estimates Epic has pulled in as much as £1.5 million from the iOS port alone.

“Fortnite also has an easier learning curve and is more kid friendly thanks to its cartoonish looks.

These factors have combined to make Fortnite a bona fide social phenomenon, inspiring high school exams and finding its way into sports celebrations,” writes Superdata Research in its blog post. “The title’s recent mobile launch also appeals to young players without access to game-ready PCs or consoles.” Superdata also makes a good point that PUBG suffers from problems independent of Fortnite‘s success. Cheating in PUBG remains rampant, and Bluehole has been forced to spend resources fighting this instead of creating new content and polishing the core gameplay,” the firm explains.

Epic’s new replay editor for Fortnite is designed for YouTubers and Twitch streamers

Epic Games today announced that it’s developed a new replay editor for its Unreal Engine so that game developers can create more streamlined highlight-making tools for players. The news, announced as part of Epic’s annual “State of Unreal” show at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, means that it will be easier than ever to take recordings of game footage and edit them into professional-looking clips for YouTube. Epic even flew out British YouTube personality and Twitch streamer Alastair “Ali-A” Aiken to demo the feature with a custom Fortnite Battle Royale video he made with help from the Epic team.

Epic is stressing that this tool will be available for all developers using the Unreal Engine, meaning it won’t be restricted to just Epic-made games like Fortnite. However, it does make sense that the company would show it off with Fortnite and design it specifically with that game’s streaming and YouTube audience in mind.

The massively popular survival shooter has in just the last few weeks alone reached an unprecedented level of mainstream popularity, thanks in part to popular streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins playing live on Twitch with Drake followed by Epic’s release of an invite-only beta version of Fortnite for iOS.

The free-to-play game is the top-streamed game on Twitch at the moment, beating out Riot Games’ League of Legends, and it only looks as if it will continue to rise in popularity as it makes its way to mobile in an official capacity.

A big factor in its popularity is how so many moments in the game make for great highlights. Anyone who’s perused gaming circles on Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter over the last six months has likely seen a fair share of Fortnite clips of stunning victories or hilarious missteps. So a replay editor built directly into the back end of the Unreal Engine should allow Fortnite’s dedicated community of YouTube and Twitch streamers to make even more polished videos and share them far and wide.

In turn, that helps boost the popularity of Fortnite, while also advertising the perks of the Unreal Engine.

For every game that uses the Unreal Engine, Epic takes a 5 percent cut of gross revenues.

So it’s a win-win for Epic, and it illustrates how the company’s long and steady investment in the Unreal platform has paid off in a big way with a hit like Fortnite.

The game is now a big driver of technical advancements for Epic’s game developer toolset.

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