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After a partial attempt to get the Food and Drug Administration to ease up on its complaints, the personal genetics company 23andMe took a rather substantial step yesterday: it pulled all medically relevant information from its site, replacing its normal home page with a disclaimer. This move doesn't meet the FDA's original demand—that the company stop selling testing kits entirely—but it does suggest that 23andMe is now taking the issue seriously.
In late November, the FDA sent an open letter to 23andMe, noting that the company is offering a service that fits the legal definition of a medical device and is therefore subject to regulatory oversight. In fact, the company and agency had been negotiating for years regarding how best to bring the genetic tests into compliance. However, it seems that 23andMe stopped returning the agency's calls sometime earlier this year, and it then launched a new advertising campaign in which it promoted the medical relevance of its tests.
The FDA's letter seemed to alternate between disappointment and annoyance at these developments, but its proposed solution came down clearly on the annoyance end of the spectrum: it gave the company two weeks to stop offering its product. As a conciliatory gesture, 23andMe announced that it would stop promoting its products through advertising. Yesterday, it followed that up with a more dramatic step by removing all medical information from the Web portal that helps users interpret the results of the tests. Today, a visit to the company's website will bring up a dialog that asks the visitor to acknowledge the following:
Stock in Electronic Arts fell more than six percent yesterday after the company said developer DICE was placing other projects on hold as it struggles to fix server and gameplay issues with the recent release of Battlefield 4.
In a statement released late Wednesday, a DICE representative said the company was “not moving onto future projects or expansions until we sort out all the issues with Battlefield 4.” That means the development of announced games like Star Wars Battlefront and a new Mirror’s Edge is on the back burner while Battlefield issues get the developer’s full attention. The new focus also puts a hold on the development of three planned future BF4 expansions; the China Rising expansion, released earlier this week to Premium subscribers, was already in the final stages of development when issues with the base game arose.
"We know we still have a ways to go with fixing the game—it is absolutely our #1 priority,” the DICE representative said. “The team at DICE is working non-stop to update the game… We know many of our players are frustrated, and we feel your pain. We will not stop until this is right."
Once again, as we near the shortest day of the year, I'm heading quite a bit closer to the Arctic Circle. I've been invited to take part in the Nobel Week Dialog, an event organized by the Nobel Foundation to give the public a chance to join discussions regarding the role of science in understanding some of the biggest challenges facing our global society. Last year, the focus was on genetics and genomics, topics that are changing how we understand who we are and how we remain healthy.
This Monday, the Dialog will be focused on a topic that may dictate how thoroughly we get to enjoy the advances in genetics: energy. We're currently in the midst of a major transition where many countries are working toward a transition to sustainable energy sources, while others are trying to provide power for more of their citizens without becoming overly reliant on fossil fuels.
(If any readers live in or near Gothenburg, it's probably worth trying to attend. If that's not possible, many of the panels will be streamed live.)
Spotify will soon allow its ad-supported users to stream music on demand for free on their mobile devices, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch. The company is reportedly holding an event next week to announce the service tweak, which takes a bit of the incentive away from subscribing.
The Journal reports that Spotify has been negotiating for nearly a year to get new mobile streaming rights, and it finally has the blessing of Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group. The rights holders and Spotify not only had to agree on rates but on how the music could be used.
Part of the beauty of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is its incredible smoothness. But like most things, if you look closely, cracks appear in this facade. In Europa’s case, the cracks come in the form of jumbled pieces of ice that make up what are called the moon's “chaos terrains.” Just what caused the chaos is an open question.
There is, however, an obvious candidate. Europa’s most exciting characteristic is probably the ocean of liquid water that is thought to exist beneath that icy crust. It seems likely that the ocean has something to do with the chaos terrain, especially given the presence of salt there. To figure that out, however, we’d have to know something about how water circulates in that ocean. And, unlike our own oceans, you can’t just chuck a buoy in and see where it goes.
Circulation in the ocean would be driven by the heat from Europa’s interior. It’s been thought that the big-picture pattern might look something like the atmosphere of Jupiter, with alternating bands of eastward or westward flow. Ultimately, this pattern carries the greatest amount of internal heat to Europa’s polar regions. A new study, led by University of Texas at Austin researcher Krista Soderlund, suggests the circulation pattern could actually look quite different.