Apple unveils 3 new iPhones and the Apple Watch Series 4
Apple unveiled the new Apple Watch Series 4 and three new iPhones during their keynote event on Wednesday, and they are chock-full of goodies.
Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Series 4 and three new iPhones at its annual keynote event on Wednesday.
Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the event, which comes a year after the introduction of iPhone X, by touting how the company is approaching its 2 billionth connected iOS device, and then handed off the presentation to other executives who introduced new products, which include features like heart-monitoring technology approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the new A12 Bionic chip, “the smartest, most powerful chip in a smartphone,” according to Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing.
Apple is introducing three new iPhones: the XS ($999), XS Max ($1,099), and XR ($749).
The XS and XS Max, which will be available for pre-order on September 14, share the following specs:
- Display: OLED HDR ‘Super Retina’ display features 5.8-inch diagonal (458 ppi), and the XS Max features a 6.5-inch diagonal (458 ppi), which is the biggest iPhone display available
- Body: Thinner, rounded corners, curved design
- Colors: Gold, silver, and gray
- Camera: 12 megapixel dual camera with wide-angle and telephoto lenses
- Computational photography: Users can change the depth of field of photos after they’re taken
- Processor: A12 Bionic chip is said to execute "5 trillion operations per second" and launches apps 30% faster than older models
- Storage options: 64 GB, 128 GB, and 512 GB (prices start at 64 GB)
- IP68 water-resistance rating (resistant down to 2 meters for up to 30 minutes in liquid)
- Battery life: iPhone XS is expected to last 30 minutes longer than older models
- Pressure-sensitive screen
- Improved and wider stereo sound
- Protected by the “most durable glass ever in a smartphone”
- Features “the most secure facial authentication ever in a smartphone”
Upgraded hardware in the new iPhones also enables improved video game experiences, including a new mobile iteration of The Elder Scrolls saga dubbed Blades...
... and augmented reality versions of older games like Galaga.
Apple Watch Series 4
Boasting that the Apple Watch is the world’s “number one watch, period,” the company is branding its latest iteration of the smart watch as an “intelligent guardian for your health.” That’s primarily because the watch features electrical heart sensors that allow you to take an electrocardiogram (or ECG) that can check for signs of heart disease and other conditions.
“This is the first ECG product offered over the counter, directly to consumers,” said Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer. “Now, you can take an ECG anytime, anywhere, right from your wrist. You just open your app and put your finger on the digital crown.”
Dr. Ivor J. Benjamin, president of the American Heart Association, called the heart-monitoring feature “game-changing” at the event. The heart-monitoring feature can also detect signs of atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that increases the risk of stroke and other heart-related conditions.
The new Apple Watch can also detect when a person trips, slips, or falls and is able to automatically call emergency services if a user is unresponsive following such an accident.
Other features of the Apple Watch Series 4 include the following:
- Display: 30% larger screen that stretches to the face’s edges
- Body: Thinner
- Speed: 64-bit dual-core processor is expected to give twice as fast performance as previous watches
- Digital crown: Newly equipped with haptic feedback
- Colors: Silver, gold, and space gray
- Speakers: Redesigned to be 50% louder
- Battery life: Same 18-hour lifespan as Series 3
- Improved cellular reception
- Prices: GPS $399, cellular $499
- Availability: Order 9/14, available 9/21
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Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.
- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
- They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
- The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?
But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.
What's dead may never die, it seems
The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.
BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.
The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.
As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.
The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.
"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.
An ethical gray matter
Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.
The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.
Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.
Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?
"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."
One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.
The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.
"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.
It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.
Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?
The dilemma is unprecedented.
Setting new boundaries
Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."
She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.
- Prejudice is typically perpetrated against 'the other', i.e. a group outside our own.
- But ageism is prejudice against ourselves — at least, the people we will (hopefully!) become.
- Different generations needs to cooperate now more than ever to solve global problems.
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