• 5:14 pm

NASA scientists just streamlined the search for Earth-like planets

NASA scientists just streamlined the search for Earth-like planets
[Photo: NASA / Unsplash]

You know that old climate change cautionary bumper sticker about how “there is no Planet B” so we should hug our Mother Earth? In a shocking turn of events, the bumper sticker may not be an entirely trustworthy source of information. NASA is hot on the trail of a Planet B, and they’ve just come up with a new model to streamline the search.

In new research published this week in the Astrophysical Journal, NASA scientists outlined a new search model that calculates conditions for Earth-like planet in three dimensions, making the hunt much speedier. “Using a model that more realistically simulates atmospheric conditions, we discovered a new process that controls the habitability of exoplanets and will guide us in identifying candidates for further study,” said NASA’s Yuka Fujii in a statement.

In the future, the team plans to look for those planetary characteristics that humans like so much, such as gravity, atmospheric composition, surface pressure, and the presence of water. Read more about it here, while remembering to not believe everything you read on a bumper sticker.ML

  • 4:33 pm

Canyon Ranch is going in a new direction with injectable face treatments

Canyon Ranch, the 38-year-old luxury resort brand, is trying something new: injectable facial treatments. It’s a shift in strategy, since Canyon Ranch has so far been known for its focus on natural wellness.

The company recently hired a new CEO, Susan Docherty, who comes from General Motors. She’s helping the brand expand beyond its two U.S.-based resorts in Arizona and Massachusetts. It has already opened a spa in Kaplankaya, Turkey, and is planning to open two dozen more locations both in the United States and around the world. It is also piloting a cruise program in partnership with Celebrity Cruises called Canyon Ranch At Sea.

CR Aesthetics, as the new injectables are called, will use Botox to relax wrinkles, Juvederm to smooth skin, and Latisse to enhance eyelash growth. The company began using these products aboard their Celebrity ships cruises, and they were well received by guests. The focus on injectables came directly from customer requests, Docherty tells Fast Company. The majority of Canyon Ranch’s guests are older than 45, and are actively seeking cosmetic treatments. “We believe that being happy with how you look is an important factor in feeling content,” she says. “This is what our customers were asking of us.”ES

  • 2:33 pm

This luxury e-tailer lets customers build their own shopping street

This luxury e-tailer lets customers build their own shopping street
[Photo: courtesy of Orchard Mile]

The world of online luxury retail is getting crowded. Between Net-a-Porter, Farfetch, 24 Sevres, and Matches, well-heeled shoppers have a wealth of options. All of these brands are coming up with innovative ways to provide customers with the kind of white-glove service they used to get when they still shopped in gleaming brick-and-mortar stores.

Orchard Mile, a three-year-old site, has found one approach that works. It allows customers to create their own “shopping street” that consists of the brands they actually shop at. So rather than having to wade through brands picked by the website’s style editors, the customer can click on their favorite brands–say, Balenciaga, Marni, Marc Jacobs beauty, and Ulla Johnson–and see a customized website that features their idiosyncratic picks. Unlike Net-a-Porter and 24 Sevres, which curate the products available from each designer, Orchard Mile offers that designer’s entire collection. This means the experience is more like actually walking down a street and entering each designer’s store.

Since the company unveiled this new “My Mile” platform several months ago, Orchard Mile has seen impressive results. Sales are growing at a rate of 26.9% a month, while the average purchase is $350, the company says. As retailers struggle to customize the experience for each person who visits its site, Orchard Mile’s approach has been to put those decisions in the customer’s hands–and it appears to be working.ES

  • 2:31 pm

Google is using national search data to help people pick Halloween costumes

Google is using national search data to help people pick Halloween costumes
[Photo: Levi Saunders/ Unsplash]

Google wants to take the hassle out of Halloween with its helpful single-purpose website The Costume Wizard, which is built into the search engine’s Halloween site, Frightgeist. The site helps the overwhelmed among us come up with a costume on the fly, no thought required. The Wizard, whose data is based on national costume search terms, lets you tweak the spookiness and uniqueness levels, focus on what’s popular locally or nationally, and choose either a classic or modern costume. Hit a button and see what emerges. (I got dead bride and zombie bride, but weirdly, never bride of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.)

If you need more choices, head to the list of trending costumes, which reveals some interesting tidbits about Halloween costume psychology. For example, while Wonder Woman is rightfully at the top of the list, the Mother of Dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryean, is slightly less popular than a chicken. She also barely squeaks past the Paw Patrol crew for costume choices. There’s also the usual assortment of creepy, crawlies: Zombie bride, vampire, and Chucky all rank fairly high. Strangely, the Hamburger Helper glove—possibly the freakiest thing on the planet—didn’t make the list.


2017 is the year of the maternity bra

2017 is the year of the maternity bra
[Photo: courtesy of Lively]

Maternity bras are getting a major upgrade this year. Over the summer, Thirdlove launched a version–based on its best-selling everyday bra–that gives you the support you need, plus clasps that make it easy to breastfeed your baby. Next week, Lively will start selling bralettes and bodysuits designed with nursing moms in mind. Lively is known for coining the term leisurée, referring to lingerie that can be worn to relax in. In keeping with the brand’s ethos, these products are designed for a more relaxed fit than many of the other maternity products on the market. The band is made of elastic, which can accommodate a woman’s changing shape after pregnancy, and quick-release clasps make it easy to nurse on the go.ES

  • 1:06 pm

Make your resume stand out by passing this ninja proficiency test

Make your resume stand out by passing this ninja proficiency test
[Photo: Scott MacBride / Getty Images]

When asked what they want to be when they grow up, little kids will frequently announce their plans to be superheroes, robots, or ninjas, and then the boring old grownup will laugh at the idea and hand them a copy of Baby’s First GMAT Test Prep. But the laugh is on you, adults, because being a ninja just might be a real possibility—as long as you can pass a ninja proficiency test.

Koka City (which is also translated as Koga city), in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture, is widely considered to be the birthplace of ninjutsu, the fearless warriors who were part of the Koga clan and trained to fight in the shadows. To honor their illustrious heritage, for the last 10 years, the prefecture has been holding ninja exams that test the ninja-related knowledge of all wannabe assassins. Now, as reported by SoraNews24, to mark the 10th anniversary, the test is going to be held in Tokyo for the first time ever. The examination will take place at the Zojoji Temple, and if you don’t know why that’s important to ninja history, we really can’t help you.

The test is 30 minutes long and consists of 50 multiple choice questions, and you’ll earn extra points for dressing like a ninja and for showing off your sick shuriken throwing star skills. If you earn 60 points, you’ll pass the test and earn a spot in ninja lore and a sweet certification to add to your resume. Sign up here and prepare for your new life in the shadows.ML

  • 11:36 am

MasterCard has finally realized that signatures are obsolete and stupid

MasterCard has finally realized that signatures are obsolete and stupid
[Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images]

For years, credit card companies have relied on an illegible squiggly line as the frontline of defense against credit card fraud. Customers are forced to use a pen (how retro!) to scrawl their signature on bills at restaurants and sign digitally at cash registers–as if somehow in the age of chips, PINs, biometrics, and online fraud alerts, a line on a page is still a great tool against fraud prevention. Personally, I have been known to sign on the dotted line with a doodle of a piece of tofu and no one has ever stopped me, because signatures mean very little in this digital age.

Companies are finally seeing the light. Starting in April 2018, MasterCard cardholders will no longer be required to sign their name when they purchase something using their debit or credit cards.

The company has been moving away from requiring signatures for a few years now, with only about 80% of purchases (typically over a certain dollar amount) requiring a signature these days. MasterCard did some digging, though, and per its press release, realized that most of their customers “believe it would be easier to pay and that checkout lines would move faster if they didn’t need to sign when making a purchase.” So they are doing away with signatures entirely, and instead will rely on actually secure measures like “chips,  tokenization, biometrics and other newer and more secure methods” instead of scribbly signatures perfected in middle school.

[H/T Consumerist]ML

  • 10:47 am

Orionid meteor shower: how to watch the celestial event outside or via live-stream

Orionid meteor shower: how to watch the celestial event outside or via live-stream
[Photo: Vincent Guth / UnSplash]

Over the years many people thought the arrival of Halley’s Comet portended the end of the world. The planet survived, though, and Halley’s Comet continues to zip across the sky, leaving a trail of astral debris in its wake. Scientists believe that when the Earth drifts through the debris, it lights up the sky as meteors, specifically the meteors that will illuminate the Orion constellation beginning tonight (October 20) and over the next few days.

The Orionid meteor shower, which appears once a year in October or November, near the Orion constellation (brush up on your Greek mythology here), is known to generate the Usain Bolt of meteor showers—incredibly fast and bright, producing up to 20 meteors per hour. Plus, this meteor shower is great for amateurs star-watchers as you don’t need telescopes to see them. They are visible to the naked eye and can be seen anywhere in the world.

Here’s how to watch the Orionid meteor showers:

When you should look:

The best time to see the Orionid meteor shower is around 1 or 2 a.m., local time, and meteors can typically be viewed until just before sunrise. To maximize your viewing experience, escape from light pollution and head to the great outdoors. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness, which takes about 20 minutes, and then wait for the show to begin.

Where should you look?

The night sky is vast, but it’s pretty easy to spot the Orion constellation with its distinctive three star line-up serving as Orion’s “belt” ( has a good guide to hunting Orion). Orion is in the southwest sky if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, or in the northwestern sky if you are in the Southern Hemisphere. To spot the meteors, though, don’t look directly at the Orion constellation, because it’s brightest star, Betelgeuse (do not say that three times), is the radiant for the comets, a.k.a. the point in the sky where the comets appear to come from. Comets at that point tend to have smaller tails and can be harder to see. Instead, as NASA notes, “It is actually better to view the Orionids from 45 to 90 degrees away from the radiant. They will appear longer and more spectacular from this perspective.” Look away from the constellation toward the eastern sky or the western edge of the Orion constellation.

Watch the Orionid meteor shower on live-stream:

If you’re agoraphobic and/or lazy and/or the weather in your area is bad, feel free to watch the meteor shower from the comfort of your bed. A live broadcast of the Orionids will stream on Ustream starting on Friday, October 20 at 10 p.m. EDT.

Alternatively visit the Slooh website, which says it will have a live-stream of the meteor shower starting at 8 p.m. ET Friday, and will have astronomers on hand to explain the celestial show. They will be watching from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands in Tenerife’s Teide National Park, one of the world’s darkest places.ML


Visa wants to replace bank passwords with face scans

Visa wants to replace bank passwords with face scans
[Photo: Colin Anderson/Getty Images]

The latest smartphones have been built to accommodate fancy biometric authentication techniques like face scans, fingerprints, and voice tests. But as of yet, there aren’t many apps that rely on these new forms of ID.

Enter payments giant Visa, which wants to give these emerging password-killers a boost. Yesterday, the company unveiled an API-based offering called Visa ID Intelligence that makes biometrics available to banks and merchants.

“It’s a way for us to accelerate the adoption of these smarter authentication technologies for our clients around the world,” says Mark Nelsen, Visa’s senior vice president for risk products.

Visa’s new API promises to help companies dealing with financial information be more nimble as they continually adapt to new threats. If one form of authentication becomes compromised, they will be switched to another form, through the API, without having to vet another security vendor on their own.

Plus, simply switching to any form of biometrics improves on our “password123” norms, analysts say. “[Biometrics] are more secure because the deployment of them is device resident,” says Julie Conroy, a research director at the Aite Group. “It’s not something stored up in a cloud somewhere that the bad guys can compromise. They have to copy the biometric and your unique device identity as well.”AH

Micro-investing app Stash will introduce mobile-first banking in early 2018

Micro-investing app Stash will introduce mobile-first banking in early 2018
[Photo Fabian Blank/Unsplash]

Since launching in 2015, micro-investing app Stash has attracted 1.2 million customers. These days, it’s adding 25,000 new customers each week. With Stash, for $1 per month, they can save small-dollar amounts and invest their savings in index funds with catchy names like “Roll with Buffett.”

Now Stash is eyeing new territory: banking services. Cofounder and CEO Brandon Krieg says the startup is laying the groundwork for current accounts, debit cards, bill payment, and more, with the intention of launching the new features in Q1 of next year. A banking partner, yet to be named, will manage operations on the back-end.

“We keep learning what our clients need, and what they’re asking for is more help around how to live a better financial life,” Krieg says.

Mobile-first banking has been relatively slow to take off in the U.S., but it is quickly gaining traction in the rest of the world. In Kenya, there is M-Pesa, which works on even the most basic of phones. In South Korea, there is KakaoBank, an offshoot of popular messaging app KakaoTalk. In Europe, there is N26.

Here in the U.S., big banks’ mobile apps have improved in recent years. But Krieg sees room for a product that gives more “actionable” advice.

“How to create a better budget, how to spend less, how to think about your short-term goals and your long-term goals—our customers need help with that,” he says. “What we’re building is much more than a bank.”

Stash, unlike robo-advisors, does not seek out the affluent; its average customer has no prior investing experience, but is now putting away $22 per week. The company raised $40 million in Series C funding in July.AH

  • 6:03 am

Lyft just raised $1 billion led by Alphabet’s investment fund

Lyft just raised $1 billion led by Alphabet’s investment fund
[Photo: Mark Cruz/Unsplash]

The Uber rival grabbed the fish bail of cash from Alphabet’s CapitalG investment fund, reports Reuters. CapitalG has previously backed tech companies including Airbnb and Stripe. The financing will give Lyft the cash needed to help grow its presence and take on archrival Uber. Lyft and Alphabet already have an existing relationship through a partnership with Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving car unit, which it struck in May. There have been rumors for a while now that Lyft is in preparations for its IPO, but now that the company just got another billion dollars, plans for the IPO could be delayed, Reuters speculates. “We will go public when it’s right for us,” a Lyft spokeswoman said.MG

  • 5:54 am

Mad about Playboy’s first trans Playmate? People were mad about the first black one too

Mad about Playboy’s first trans Playmate? People were mad about the first black one too
[Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Playboy]

French model Ines Rau, 26, will appear as the November centerfold, reports the New York Times. Rau, who has previously appeared in magazines including  Vogue in both the U.S. and Italy, will be the magazine’s first transgender Playmate.  Cooper Hefner, Playboy’s chief creative officer, said choosing Rau “very much speaks to the brand’s philosophy. It’s the right thing to do. We’re at a moment where gender roles are evolving.”

Predictably, there has been some backlash on social media, with some saying they’ll cancel their Playboy subscription now. However, Playboy has countered by saying these are the exact same threats people made when it decided to feature its first African-American Playmate back in 1965.


  • 5:42 am

3.5 million fewer Americans have health insurance since Trump became president

The uninsured rate among adults has risen to 12.3% since Trump took office–that’s 1.4% higher than when Obama was president, according to a Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index survey. That equates to 3.5 million more adults who are not uninsured across the country. The rise in uninsured is highest among those with self-paid plans. Depressingly, the survey concluded: “Without Congress and President Donald Trump taking steps to stabilize the insurance markets, the number of uninsured Americans likely will continue to rise.” The chances of that happening? Not good.MG

  • 5:27 am

Following Bush, former president Obama rebukes Trump

Following Bush, former president Obama rebukes Trump
[Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images]

It seems like the former presidents of the United States are growing concerned about the country’s current leader. After former Republican president George W. Bush called out the current president’s policies yesterday  (without mentioning Trump’s name), former president Barack Obama has now done the same. As the Guardian reports, speaking at a rally in Virginia for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, Obama told the crowd:

“Instead of our politics reflecting our values, we’ve got politics infecting our communities. Instead of looking for ways to work together to get things done in a practical way, we’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short- term tactical advantage.

“The question now, at a time when our politics seem so divided and so angry and so nasty, is whether we can recapture that spirit, whether we support and embrace somebody who wants to bring people together. Yes, we can.

. . . .

“If we’re going to talk about our history then we should do it in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds, not in a way that divides. We shouldn’t use the most painful parts of our history just to score political points. We saw what happened in Charlottesville, but we also saw what happened after Charlottesville when the biggest gatherings of all rejected fear and rejected hate and the decency and goodwill of the American people came out. That’s how we rise. We don’t rise up by repeating the past. We rise up by learning from the past and listening to each other.

“We can acknowledge that Thomas Jefferson, one of Virginia’s most famous sons, owned and sold slaves–that’s not disputable. And we can also acknowledge that he also wrote those words: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ And we can recognize that even if our past is not perfect we can honor the constitutional ideals that have allowed us to come this far and to keep moving toward a more perfect union. That’s what America is. That’s who we are.

“What we can’t have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before that dates back centuries. Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That has folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century. Come on!”

Now we’re just waiting for George H. W., Bill, and Jimmy to speak up.MG

The Stitch Fix IPO is a go—here’s how much money it makes

The Stitch Fix IPO is a go—here’s how much money it makes
[Photo: courtesy of Stitch Fix]

Stitch Fix, the subscription clothing startup that launched in 2011, filed for an initial public offering today. As MarketWatch reports, the company’s SEC filing reveals that it was targeting for $100 million in proceeds (though this might change in future filings) and its financial disclosures reveal a company that has very strong revenues.

In 2014, it brought in $73.2 million, and by the 2017 fiscal year, it had hit $977.1 million. Stitch Fix was profitable in 2015 and 2016, but went back to a loss of roughly $600,000 this year.

As Bloomberg’s Shira Ovide points out on Twitter, one of the most impressive things about Stitch Fix is that while it is bringing in close to $1 billion in revenue, it has only raised a total of $42.5 million in its entire history. That’s much more sustainable growth than many high-growth fashion startups like Bonobos, which raised more than $127 million in funding, but ended up selling itself to Walmart.

Ovide also mentions that Stitch Fix is trying to pitch itself first as a technology company, and second as a fashion brand. She counted that the word “data science” appears 64 times in its IPO.


Read George W. Bush’s full speech calling out white supremacy

This morning, George W. Bush gave a speech in New York. His words didn’t mention President Trump’s name once, yet his message was clearly calling out the current president’s policies. “Bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed,” said the former president.

“We need to recall and recover our own identity,” he went on. “Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.”

Social media has lit up in reaction to Bush Jr.’s speech, and not everyone is happy. Many, rightfully, are calling out the irony that the Republican whose presidency gave us the Iraq war–killing hundreds of thousands of people and destabilizing the world–is now railing against bigotry.

Still, Bush had searing words about the current state of things. Politico has a transcript of the full speech. You can check it out here.CGW


Verizon’s still figuring out how to deal with cord-cutters

Verizon says it lost 18,000 pay-TV subscribers last quarter, largely because of cord-cutting, yet the company reportedly won’t try to win those customers back with a streaming channel bundle until at least next spring.

A half-dozen streaming bundles are already available–with more on the way–yet those services aren’t offsetting the decline of cable and satellite TV, as people opt for cheaper services like Netflix and Hulu. It’s hard to fault Verizon for approaching with caution, but the pressure’s on now that the telco is shedding subscribers in what’s traditionally been a strong quarter for pay TV.JN

Xmas shopping for billionaires: The best of the 2017 Neiman Marcus catalogue

Xmas shopping for billionaires: The best of the 2017 Neiman Marcus catalogue
[Photo: Car Culture, Inc./Getty Images]

If you’re too busy doing the Scrooge McDuck backstroke through your billions of dollars to find the time for Christmas shopping, Neiman Marcus is here to help. That’s right, it’s the most wonderful time of the year when in addition to their $15,000 faux moose heads and $6,200 stalking lion figurines, the company releases their annual Christmas book that turns gift shopping into a bloodsport for billionaires.

Here are the highlights:

  • Yours & Mine Rolls-Royce Limited Edition Dawns. Choose either Blue ($439,625) or Orange ($445,750), or just take one of each.
  • Head to Zambia and London with master jeweler Stephen Webster and bring home a 7.2-carat emerald as a souvenir: $300,000
  • Head to Paris for the Ryder Cup with U.S. team captain Jim Furyk as your guide: $250,000
  • Spend New Year’s Eve on the rooftop of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Times Square for a cool $1,600,000. While most New Yorkers would rather clean the F train station with their tongue than pass New Year’s in Times Square, this package will let you and 299 of your closest friends ring in 2018 with  drinks,  dinner, and a DJ, and 150 hotel rooms to pass out in when they’re done.
  • Get drunk in style with a trip to Champagne for four of your friends and a custom cuvée with Armand de Brignac: $150,000
  • Get ready for next year’s Christmas card by heading out on an aerial photo adventure with photographer Gray Malin over the beaches of Malibu: $35,000
  • Skip the trip to Toys R Us and have a year’s worth of Madame Alexander dolls shipped to your house complete with a dollhouse by KidKraft and a doll designed in the child’s likeness, which is definitely not creepy: $8,000.

Really want to spend your money on something worthwhile? Right this way.ML

3D-printed rockets could mean cheaper trips to space

3D-printed rockets could mean cheaper trips to space
[Photo: NASA on Unsplash]

Many of us have dreamed of building a rocketship in our backyard, but we never dreamed a giant 3D printer could make that possible. Relativity Space wants to cut the going rate for a rocket launch from about $100 million to around $10 million, Bloomberg reports, all thanks to 3D printing.

Relativity isn’t the only space company using 3D printers. Rocket Labs, one of our Most Innovative Companies in the space industry, 3D prints its engines. But Relativity wants to print whole rockets.

Founded by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone–who honed their chops at Blue Origin and SpaceX respectively–the company has figured out that when it comes to building a rocket, “80 to 90 percent of the cost is labor.” To reduce costs, they built their own 3D printers capable of building a fuel tank in just a few days, and an engine in only 1.5 weeks. If things go as planned, they hope to be able to build an entire rocket in less than a month. The whole process costs less than traditional rocket-building, because it cuts out the pesky humans-need-paychecks-and-overtime factor. While we’re all for humans having jobs, cheaper rockets mean cheaper space travel.

Still, the company has a long way to go: It successfully test-fired its printed engine at a NASA facility in Mississippi earlier this year. It hopes to print a 90-foot rocket with 2,000 pounds of carrying capacity by mid-2020, and then launch a prototype by 2021.ML

You can now book your hotel room with an emoji on Slack

You can now book your hotel room with an emoji on Slack
[Photo: courtesy of Marriott Vacation Club]

Way back in 2015, travel biz site Skift was reporting that Slack was the future of travel. Turns out they might be right.

Marriott has just unveiled a new service that lets groups book travel via Slack. So if your entire startup is heading to, say, the Fast Company Innovation Festival, simply pull up Marriott Rewards’ Slack extension, type your city and dates, and the extension will give you a few options. Everyone in the chat votes—using Slack’s thumbs-up emoji, of course. When the votes are tallied, the boss can book the hotel right there with the assurance that they are booking the lowest possible rate, according to the hotel.

A startup called Roomino tried a similar service in 2015, billing itself as the first Slack team group-hotel-booking service. It had high hopes, including adding Uber, flights, bus, Airbnb, and even integrating expense-reporting, according the founders. It’s unclear how that went: Roomino’s website doesn’t exist and it hasn’t tweeted since 2016.

Now Marriott Rewards is testing the waters on Slack itself. The hotel chain has been quick to adopt tech and mold it to its needs. Its Aloft brand launched ChatBotlr, a text-based chatbot that lets guests request services, earlier this year. Marriott also unveiled a booking bot for Facebook Messenger and will be adding booking bots on We-Chat and Google Assistant soon. And earlier this year, they introduced an original Snapchat video series to inform people about updates in the travel industry—and advertise their loyalty program, natch.

[H/T Mashable]ML

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