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Star Wars Celebration 2015: Props, Costumes, Collectibles

I was at Star Wars Celebration over the weekend in Anaheim, where Lucasfilm debuted footage and information about the next two Star Wars films. It was unlike any fan convention I've attended, in its focused scope and fan fervor--this concentrated a dose of Star Wars is intense, even for Comic-Con veterans. We shot a bunch of videos at the show, which we'll start publishing later this week. In the meantime, here are some photos I took, previewing those videos. My highlights: the Force Awakens props and costumes on display, and Sideshow Collectibles' R2-ME2 art project.

Awesome Jobs: Meet Ann Ross, Forensic Anthropologist

When someone is murdered, the medical examiner isn't always able to discover the cause of death. Sometimes, especially in cases where a body has been buried for a long time, they have to call in a scientist that specializes in understanding how bones work. Ann Ross is a forensic anthropologist and the co-director of the Forensic Sciences Institute at North Carolina State University. It's her job to help authorities find buried bodies and inspect their bones to help puzzle out what brought about their demise. Ross chatted with us about what it's like to adapt tricks of the archaeological trade to find success in her unconventional field work.

What's a forensic anthropologist?

That's a good question because I always ask people what they think it is and I get so many different answers! It's the applied discipline of biological anthropology or skeletal biology. We are experts on bones. A lot of skeletal biologists are dealing with prehistoric or past populations but we apply that to contemporary issues or issues of the law.

What kind of law? Is it crimes that have happened recently?

Not necessarily recent. A lot of time we're experts in the tools that make some kind of pattern on the bone or a trauma. The medical legal community, the medical examiner, or law enforcement need our help in identifying the class of weapon that make the wound. Or was the fracture made at around the time of death or post mortem.

The skeleton can tell us so much. We can tell everything that you do in life--it's almost mapped on your bones.

Where is your lab? Do you work out of police offices?

Most of us work in the university context. Quite a few of us work in medical examiner offices. There are other government agencies that contract forensics or have one on staff. I work at North Carolina State and when there's a case I get a phone call or an email. It can be from a medical examiner's office or the sheriff's department or the SBI. Generally it's remains that I need to see. I either go pick them up or bring them to the laboratory. A lot of times we reexamine cold cases. So it can be as old as the 70s or as recent as a year ago.

Inside the Workshop of a Modern Swordmaker

Gizmodo visited the shop of John Lundemo, a self-taught blacksmith who makes swords under the moniker Odinblades: "Down a stretch of country road in upstate New York there is a shed. The shed itself is nothing spectacular, a whitewash number with years of weather wear and tear. But inside sparks fly, fires breathe, and slabs of steel are fashioned into capable killing machines." Read Giz's story about how swords are made in the accompanying feature.

Android Wear's Second Big Update Adds Wi-Fi Support

Google today announced a that its Android Wear smartwatch software would be getting a major update in the coming weeks--the second since the platform's launch last year. All seven of the current Android Wear devices will get some of these features, which include a streamlined app list, wrist-flicking gestures, emoji drawing (to send canned symbols, not actual sketches), and always-on apps (like the low-power mode of the watch face). Watches that have a Wi-Fi radio (including many existing models) will get Wi-Fi pairing support, meaning the watch doesn't have to be close to the phone to get updates, as long as they're both connected to the internet.

Wi-Fi pairing is the feature I'm most excited about, but I would still prefer Google optimize Android Wear for smoother performance over adding new features. After using the Apple Watch in store for a little bit, the UI on my Asus Zenwatch feels sluggish. LG's Watch Urbane will be the first device to get this update, and I expect that rollout to other devices to be just as slow as the last major software patch.

Google Play App Roundup: Trepn Profiler, Space Marshals, and Implosion

There's no reason you wouldn't want the best apps on your Android device, but the Google Play Store makes that hard sometimes. Don't worry, though. That's what the weekly app roundup here on Tested is all about. This is where you can come to find out what the best apps are, and why they're the best. Click on the app name to go right to the Play Store web site to grab the app for yourself.

This week Qualcomm demystifies your phone's hardware, there's a prison break in space, and a battle suit gets serious.

Trepn Profiler

Qualcomm is mostly known as a maker of ARM chips, cellular radios, and other bits of silicon that power many phones and tablets. However, the company has also produced a few system tools of Android. These are usually exclusive to Snapdragon chips made by Qualcomm, but the new Trepn Profiler app runs on all chips to help you take a closer look at your hardware and system performance.

Trepn Profiler includes six different system monitoring tools. You get a CPU frequency overlay, mobile data analysis, performance graph, CPU usage monitor, CPU load overlay, and network activity monitor. Several of these profiling presets can be used in the app as a way to monitor system activity while you do other things. For example, you can start a profile for CPU usage, and use your phone normally for a few minutes. When you check back with Trepn Profiler, you can see if an app you don't need is eating up a chunk of your CPU with background processes.

Most of the tests in Trepn Profiler can be activated in overlay mode, which positions a floating chart or graph on top of whatever you're doing. This is great for seeing what your phone or tablet is up to internally while you're actively using it. The CPU tests are particularly cool in overlay mode as you get a small graph for each main core in your device. Each of the graphs can be collapsed and moved around to keep them out of the way temporarily.

This is just the simple "presets" mode of Trepn Profiler. More technical users and developers might want to dig around in the advanced mode, which allows you to build your own presets to see how an app or the total system is working. When you create one of these custom presets, there are more than 30 different data points that can be logged including individual CPU core frequencies, memory use, screen state, battery power, and more. There are also a few extra automation and code auditing features for developers who are testing apps.

The app has a persistent notification when a profile is active, which you'll want to watch for. Accidentally leaving Trepn running in the background will chew through battery. It should shut down fine as long as you don't leave any floating windows or background profiles active. Trepn Profiler is a little more complicated than other system diagnostic tools, but there's a lot more power too. The app is completely free in the Play Store.

Show and Tell: Navy SPH-3 Flight Helmet

For this week's Show and Tell, Adam shares the latest addition to his helmet collection: an SPH-3 flight helmet. It belonged to Tested viewer David Wratchford, who wore it as a rescue swimmer for the Navy in the 1980s while serving with the "Eightballers" helo squadron. Thanks, David!

How and Why of Aluminum Cans

This video is interesting on two fronts. It explains the physics and logistics forces that shaped the design of the ubiquitous aluminum can with incredible information density. (via kottke)

Sphero Tech Likely Used In Practical Star Wars BB-8 Droid

After we learned that the BB-8 robot from the Force Awakens trailers wasn't a CG construct, but (at least sometimes) a practical effect, we've spent a lot of time speculating on the methods behind its design. Based on hints from Celebration yesterday, it's likely that Sphero developed the technology used in the practical version of the droid. Disney invested in Sphero, makers of remote controlled balls in 2013. I don't know about you, but I'd be shocked if a toy version of BB-8 isn't out in time for the release of the Episode VII this winter.

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