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How many in-game items do you own? That’s a trick question. You don’t really own any of them since they only exist in a digital world controlled by someone else. If the game goes down, or you get tired of it and stop playing, your stuff loses all its value, even if you paid for it with actual currency.

If your game is blockchain-based or connected to a blockchain-powered economy, though, that item, skin, card, or character can outlive the game and change hands freely (with or without money being involved). The Sword of Cryptolight might become a collectible, famous for its role in winning a tournament. It might move between game universes, helping your in-game work outlive any one piece of software. The game itself might even be hosted and run by the players, improving uptime and taking control away from any one company.

This isn’t hypothetical, and it’s not just CryptoKitties: the games being built with blockchains range from relatively simple collectible games to vast MMORPGs with an EVE Online flavor. There are already too many to cover them all, so we’ll just focus on a few examples that represent several different concepts.

Non-fungible tokens: Gods Unchained

Even though it’s not technically out of beta yet, Gods Unchained is one of the most popular blockchain games out there. It’s a card-trading game with a Magic: The Gathering/Hearthstone flavor to it. What sets it apart from similar games in the genre is the fact that players can actually own the cards, which exist as non-fungible tokens (NFTs, meaning each one is unique and can’t be copied) on the Ethereum blockchain. They can be bought, sold, and traded as the players like, with no limits, and will be easy to track the history of each card, which may increase the value of certain items.

The actual gaming is done on centralized servers and built with Unity, as playing an actual game using the Ethereum blockchain would be impractically expensive and slow. It does, however, require some familiarity with cryptocurrency to get into Gods Unchained: you’ll need to be able to set up a MetaMask wallet and fund it with Ethereum to play the game and trade cards.

Play-to-Earn: Hash Rush

Play-to-earn is a game mechanic that flips pay-to-win on its head by actually giving players the chance to make money as they play, and Hash Rush is combining it with a beautifully-designed sci-fi real-time strategy game. The game itself revolves around players building colonies and mining crystals to build wealth, do battle, and complete quests.

Like Gods Unchained, many in-game items exist as NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain and can be traded and even crafted as part of the in-game economy and in other marketplaces like OpenSea. It adds another layer, though, by also distributing cryptocurrency rewards to top players and players who complete certain challenges.

Decentralized gaming platform: XAYA

Most blockchain games have to be run on a central server – they’re far too computationally intensive to economically run on an existing blockchain. XAYA’s main goal is to take the next step and go full serverless, using blockchain tech to enable games to run without a centralized entity being responsible for uptime.

This means developers who work with the platform (it has an SDK and is open-source) will be able to distribute games on a much broader scale than they might otherwise be able to, and users will benefit from more stability and virtual assets that are 100 percent player-owned. XAYA also introduces the concept of “human mining,” which is the idea that human work in provably fair video games can generate cryptocurrency with real value.

The biggest game currently being built on the XAYA platform is Taurion, a space MMORPG with an open economy and an interesting faction system. A few other games have already been released – notably, Treat Fighter – and are running, so XAYA appears to work quite well, though crypto-newbies may face a slight learning curve.

Marketplace: OpenSea

It’s not a blockchain game, but OpenSea is the largest crypto-goods marketplace out there, and as such it’s an important part of the ecosystem. Any Ethereum-backed item can be transacted here, and since the majority of blockchain games have some connection to the Ethereum blockchain, that means you can use it to sell someone a sword, a planet, a special kitty – whatever you have. It requires a bit of crypto-nerdery to use, but the fact that it exists and does a fairly brisk business says something about how ready people are for digital asset ownership.

Is blockchain gaming the future?

There are dozens more blockchain games and gaming-related projects being built right now, including CryptoSpaceCommanders, Decentraland, Enjin, Blankos Block Party, the Loom Network, CryptoAssault, Spells of Genesis, My Crypto Heroes, The Sandbox, Kingdoms Beyond, Horizon Games, 0xUniverse, Neon District, and more. The few mentioned above are just examples of what blockchain games currently look like.

Eventually, the idea that the work you put into your games should have some meaning outside the game itself might become widespread enough that it becomes the norm for some types of games. As with everything crypto, these ideas are still taking shape, and they’re not quite full products yet, but the general quality of this early generation of blockchain games bodes well for the future.

Andrew Braun

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Just How Fat Are We?

After a quarter-century rise, obesity prevalence has not increased since 2004. Still, 72 million adults (34%) are obese. Efforts are under way to reduce this to 15%, a level not seen since 1980.


** State Lines**

Obesity, defined as a body-mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, is not equally distributed across the U.S. Check out this map to find out which state is the fattest (hint: it’s the namesake of mud pie), which is the thinnest (think Coors Light), and which spends the most money on obesity-related health care (its governor pumps iron).

Read on, after the break, for more of America’s (and the world’s) fat facts.

Hit the Ceiling?

After a quarter-century rise, obesity prevalence has not increased since 2004. Still, 72 million adults (34%) are obese. Efforts are under way to reduce this to 15%, a level not seen since 1980.

Big Little Kids

Obesity rates in Americans ages 12 to 19 have more than tripled since 1980.


Fat Happy Meals

Children should consume only around 1,300 calories a day, or about 430 calories per meal. But kiddie combos at most top fast-food chains far exceed that recommended limit. One meal- chicken fingers, cinnamon apples and chocolate milk from Chili’s- delivers 1,020 calories. Here, the percentage of meals on kids’ menus that exceeds the 430-calorie limit.

How Many Calories Does the Average American Consume Each Day?

We eat more than we need. Although the average person requires 2,000 calories a day, by one estimate Americans consume 3,766.


Obese and Overweight Adults by Country

Believe it or not, the U.S. isn’t the most obese country on the planet (we’re sixth). We’re not even the most overweight (defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9). Here, the top eight countries in each category: obese or overweight.


Trouble at Work

Obese workers cost employees more in medical, disability, and workers’-compensation claims.

The Bill

What an average firm with 1,000 employees faces per year in extra costs associated with obesity


Percent of American adults who have reported weight discrimination

The Hidden Toll

Are We Alone? Have We Always Been? How Do We Know?

ST. LOUIS — It’s the loneliest question in the cosmos: Are we, creative and intelligent and flawed as we are, really all there is? Are we alone, and have we always been? Is there anybody else out there?

Leave it to the people of DARPA to think not only of answers, but of completely new ways to ask this question.

We might not be alone at all, but we probably won’t find out by doing what we’ve been doing for the past few decades, said Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago who works on the Kepler Space Telescope. Walkowicz spoke on a panel Friday on the last day of Wait, What? — a future technology forum sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s blue-sky wing.

“We haven’t really looked,” she said. “Astrobiology is a wonderful hot new thing in astronomy, but to say that you’re looking for intelligent life in the universe is still actually a pretty fringe-y thing to do. We have this image that we’ve been listening for radio signals, that we’ve been searching for life in the universe, but actually we’ve been resource poor in that area.”

We assume that other intelligent civilizations would broadcast radio signals like we do, she said — but we’ve been radio-loud for a short time, and we’re actually getting quieter as our technology improves. And it’s more complex than that anyway. We assume other intelligent civilizations would want to talk to us at all, or that they would even know to look. But what if other planets play host to hyper-intelligent space dolphins, who, in an attempt to evade dangerous stellar radiation, never left the sheltering waters of their world? They wouldn’t even know there were other stars, Walkowicz said. Our interest in whether life is out there stems from our ability to see the stars, and recognize that we are a planet orbiting just one of them.

“There is a lot of leeway to understand what kinds of life may be out there, and what other biosignatures might we be looking for,” she said. “Pressing that frontier forward, understanding what other signatures might be out there, is something we could potentially do experimentally.”

Lucianne Walkowicz, left, describes new ways we might want to look for aliens at a DARPA future technology forum in St. Louis Sept. 11. Rebecca Boyle

Jeff Gore, a physicist at MIT, and Mark Norell, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, joined Walkowicz in chatting about the Fermi paradox, the Great Filter, and other cosmic condundrums. The Great Filter is the concept that something, which we can’t understand yet, may prevent life from expanding into the universe; the Fermi paradox is the contradiction between the apparently great likelihood of finding alien life and the fact that we haven’t.

It may be that we’re not listening properly, as Walkowicz said. Or it may be that everyone else is just too far away, Gore suggested.

“Maybe it’s just not practical to get to neighboring planets,” he said.

Closer to home, many scientists think if life still exists elsewhere in our solar system, or if it ever did, there’s a very good chance it was on Mars. So how should we treat the fourth planet? If it’s barren, we might feel less hesitation to terraform or colonize it, Gore said. But Walkowicz said it should be protected if for no other reason than to help us understand life’s possible origins.

“The way we should default to thinking about Mars is thinking about it as a nature preserve,” she said. “It is our most reachable target for understanding the possible independent origin of life, or the independent evolution of life. …If we were to go to Mars and terraform it, we lose the ability to answer the question of whether there is an independent origin of life.”

“The way we should default to thinking about Mars is as a nature preserve.”

Although nobody has found life elsewhere yet, there’s not necessarily reason to despair, said Norell. Mass extinctions have wiped out vast majorities of species in our planet’s 5-billion-year history, yet here we are.

“The one thing replicating DNA seems to have in common on this planet is it is very resilient. The rebound has been fast,” he said, adding that this resilience may be true for alien worlds, too. “You would be pretty hard-pressed to go to a place on another planet and only find fossil life, and find everting on the entire planet totally exterminated.”

Why talk about all these things at the Defense Department’s research wing? Moderator Geoff Ling of DARPA said thinking about distant civilizations fits into the agency’s mandate: “To go and think of things that others really don’t.”

“You won’t find unless you explore,” he said. “Biology is a very rich discipline, and is a place where, I would argue, surprise is waiting for us. If somebody is going to do it, let it be DARPA.”

How Displays Are Raising The Game At Sports Concession Counters

If you’re familiar with the song “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” you know that it resonates with anyone in the sports venue business. Stadium and arena operators want their fans to have a great time. They also want fans to buy a lot of peanuts and cracker jack — as well as nachos, hot dogs, soft drinks, beer and countless other items for sale at sports concession stands.

Sports concessions is a huge business, and it’s critical to the bottom lines of both professional and amateur sports around the globe. For example, more than 82,500 people attended the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, generating a whopping $94.60 per attendee in food and beverage revenues.

Making the Case for Digital Displays

In the last few years, the industry, which had previously had all its menus on analog signs and backlit posters, has converted to digital signage displays primarily due to the financial and experiential benefits. Compliance is the primary argument for upgrading sports concession stands with digital displays. Digital screens provide assurance that the right products and prices are displayed where and when they need to be. When screens are mapped to specific locations and managed from a central computer, worries about putting up or taking down printed material all but disappear.

In the past, when concession stands rarely sold anything other than hot dogs, popcorn and soda, signs could stay up for months or years. Changes to the menus were rarely made. Modern sports facilities, however, often host multiple teams, with multiple sponsors and multiple demographic profiles, in addition to concerts and other special events. When sales reports are generated, the tallies on what people ordered at the counter can look very different from event to event.

For instance, there are events where beer sales are big, and there are other events — such as U.S. college sports — at which beer sales are prohibited. This presents a problem for venues that have beer listed on all printed menu displays at concessions. For venues using digital displays, it’s a simple scheduling task that can be done for a season’s worth of games as soon as the schedules become available.

Digital displays also give concession stand operators much more flexibility in how food items are marketed, which is growing more important as sports venues move upmarket. Today, menus offer broad choices, including options for patrons looking for fresh, healthy foods. Leading national brands now compete for sales with regional, even local, companies. That makes for a lot more information that needs to be displayed.

Digital Displays Improve the Fan Experience

U.S. Cellular Field, home to the Chicago White Sox, has updated its concession stands from analog to digital signs, using more than one hundred 40-inch and 48-inch screens around the ballpark. The facility had been using aging backlit posters that were increasingly hard to read. Lines slowed because fans couldn’t see the menus until they neared the counter, and there was confusion when the menus were still promoting items that were out of stock. Since installing digital displays, the stadium has increased sales from coordinated promotions, decreased wait times at stands, improved overall customer satisfaction and enabled high-margin cross-promotions with the fan store.

Food services operator Delaware North, which runs the concession stands for the White Sox, said the move to digital displays made sense on many levels. “In addition to reducing costs, we really wanted to use the digital menu boards to showcase what we had around the park,” said Joey Nigro, Delaware North Sportservice’s general manager. “We conducted a return on investment analysis on the cost to maintain our existing menu boards compared to the cost of new digital displays. When looking at the numbers over a six-year period, the costs were about the same. Same cost, but better experience.”

There are two to three displays at each concession stand showing menu items and promoting other food offers around the park, something that helps balance lines before games and between innings. The displays also run promotions driving awareness of the Chicago Sports Depot, which sells White Sox fan gear.

Beyond menus and promotions, sports venues are also using concession stand screens to replay videos of highlights, so fans don’t have to miss the action. Screens are also being added at venues for things like mobile food orders and express pickup counters, notifying fans when orders are ready. Those screens will also raise awareness of new apps, and educate fans on how to use them for an improved game experience.

Read the full case study below to find out how Delaware North Sportservice selected and deployed its new digital signage menu boards.

Digital Signage Menu Boards Help Drive Concession Sales for Delaware North from Samsung Business USA

Are Cryptocurrencies Safe For Kids? Or Are We Believing So?

Cryptocurrencies are some of the most in-demand investment assets among children and teen

The year 2023 witnessed a lot of milestones with respect to the growth and adoption of


on a global basis. The most popular digital coin, Bitcoin, exploded like never before, taking the

crypto market

to new highs. But the market collapsed instantly due to several factors including China’s ban on


and the fact that the Indian government almost restricted the use of private digital currencies among Indian investors. Nonetheless,

crypto assets

emerged as the decentralized alternatives to fiat currencies. Over time, their use cases evolved exponentially and now, even after witnessing extreme levels of volatility, more and more new investors are entering the market. Surprisingly, the

crypto market

has welcomed a new host of the investor class, i.e., young, college students and kids who wish to start earning early and secure their financial careers by investing in the most popular asset class in the market. 

This craze is especially prominent among Indian teens and kids. Their pocket money and zeal towards becoming young profit earners in the market are fueling India’s acceleration in the

crypto market

space. Experts believe that they are generally drawn towards the promise of heavy profits by Bitcoin and other tokens and are quickly getting acquainted with market ups and downs. Besides, the combination of accessible tools and constant media attention towards the market, fawning over every major dip or price hike has also created a deep interest within them. Even children below the age of 18 are seeking the opportunity to start investing now and reap the benefits of longer investment opportunities. 

The good news is that parents can have access to open custodial accounts for their children. Their children own the assets, but the account is managed by the parents. They can buy cryptos on behalf of their kids. This is because most crypto exchanges that provide the simplest way to acquire crypto require the traders to be of at least 18 years of age to set up an account. This step is especially taken by the crypto exchange authorities to ensure security and fraud prevention. But as cryptocurrencies are becoming a popular concept for kids and teens, is it actually safe for them? 

Replacing Piggy Banks with Cryptocurrencies?

Crypto went mainstream only a few years ago. Crypto analysts believe that 2023 will witness an influx of new investors in the market. While the increased interest in cryptocurrency is quite noteworthy, it is also raising concerns about its impact on those under the age of 18, and how they are interacting with digital assets. Currently, there are no regulations specifically meant for children, experts believe that exchanges and crypto platforms should consider the important factors concerning the fact that children should be protected from frauds and scammers. Given the anonymity around crypto transactions, crypto leaders are quite aware of the fact that anybody can set up and access a cryptocurrency wallet. 

Also, technically, there are no age restrictions when it comes to crypto, most major cryptocurrency exchanges require KYC to ensure that the users are 18 years of age or older. The only positive step that parents can take is to make sure that they introduce cryptocurrencies to their kids in a proper manner. 

Should Kids Invest in Cryptocurrencies?

It is quite a complex question to answer since kids generally will not be to take charge of their crypto wallets themselves. Given the risks associated with cryptocurrencies and mishandling blockchain in regard to minors, it is quite obvious that not just the parents but even the community members will have to step forward in order to protect these young crypto enthusiasts. Experts think that blockchain applications should have built-in KYC requirements. Besides, having more educational tools for crypto might also help children and trends get a grasp of crypto investment, volatility, and scams in a more enhanced and efficient manner.  

Something In The Water Is Feminizing Male Fish. Are We Next?

It’s one thing to worry about pollutants in our freshwater supply. It’s another to find out that all across the country, male fish swimming in some of that water are becoming “intersex,” their male sex organs producing immature female eggs. Although the condition occurs naturally in some species, it shouldn’t happen to black bass. But a new study shows that it is, and in numbers far greater than ever suspected. The phenomenon raises serious concerns about the pollution levels in our rivers and could threaten several species.

Cow Farm

Cattle in feeding pens

The nine-year study, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, provides the first nationwide count of intersex fish in American rivers. Overall, 44 percent of the largemouth and smallmouth bass dissected turned out to be intersex, but at some sites 91 percent of the male largemouth bass were affected. Biologist Jo Ellen Hinck’s team found intersex males at 34 of 111 sites in eight of nine major river basins, including the Columbia, the Colorado and the Mississippi. The Southeastern U.S. was hit hardest, with intersex bass at every location sampled along the Apalachicola, Savannah and Pee Dee rivers. “Now we need to figure out why,” says Hinck, the study’s leader.

The discovery raises some tough questions. Scientists don’t know whether the growing number of feminized fish could hinder reproduction enough to disturb the rest of the ecosystem or even drive bass into extinction. Even scarier, the culprit is still unknown. The prime suspect? Our toilets. Previous research indicates that wastewater treatment plants flush endocrine-disruptive compounds (EDCs), including pharmaceuticals, pesticides and hormones, into rivers. Even minuscule amounts of EDCs can trigger powerful hormonal shifts that deform male fishes’ reproductive organs. During a seven-year study, for instance, scientists added parts-per-trillion amounts—the levels emitted by treatment plants—of the synthetic estrogen used in birth-control pills to a closed lake. The resulting sex changes collapsed the entire fish population.

Given that intersex fish were found both upstream and downstream of wastewater treatment plants, some scientists also think agricultural runoff could be the cause. Another USGS biologist, Vicki S. Blazer, has found 100 percent of smallmouth bass to be intersex along parts of the Shenandoah River, where rain washes waste laden with hormones excreted from millions of chickens and cattle into the water. Blazer worries that there’s a connection between the intersex findings and another health crisis among bass: weakened immune systems, suspected of killing 80 percent of the smallmouth bass in the Shenandoah in 2004 and 2005. She notes that the white blood cells that fight disease in the piscine immune system have receptors for hormones, making them susceptible to the same toxins believed to be driving the sex changes. “Intersex is simply another indicator that there’s a problem,” she says.

Hinck is now investigating the mechanisms that could be transforming the fish, but we’re just beginning to learn what this means for those of us with opposable thumbs, many of whom drink water from these rivers. The same compounds can interfere with the human endocrine system, but there are no regulations for controlling hormones in drinking water.

In September, for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency identified nine hormones as possible contaminants in our water, but it’s much too early for the agency to declare whether they’re dangerous at the trace amounts that have been detected. Mae Wu of the Natural Resources Defense Council is not comforted. “A trace level of one chemical [might not be so bad], but a whole soup of them?” she says. “Hundreds or thousands of different chemicals all at trace levels—we have no idea what that does to humans.” At the very least, we can hope that the thought of drinking water that turns male fish into females will spur us to clean up our rivers.

Fish Farm

Spokane’s main waste water treatment plant discharges into the Spokane River, Monday, April 12, 2004 in Spokane, Wash. An environmental group, American Rivers, has identified the river as one of the ten most endangered rivers in the country. Five sewage treatment plants in the area discharge into the river, depleting oxygen content of the water. (AP Photo/Jeff T. Green)

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