TIME Infectious Disease

1,000-Year-Old Remedy Could Help Cure Superbug

Mixture of onion, garlic, wine and cow stomach bile found to combat staph infections

A 10th-century medicine that was originally used to treat eye infections may also be able to cure staph infections.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham recreated an ancient potion recipe from Bald’s Leechbook, one of the oldest medical texts in existence. By following the recipe steps precisely, including using a wine from a thousand-year-old vineyard, researchers developed a medicine that was found to kill 90% of MRSA bacteria in mice. MRSA is a particularly hard-to-treat bacterial infection resistant to many modern antibiotics.

“When we got the first results we were just utterly dumbfounded,” microbiologist Freya Harrison told CNN. “We did not see this coming at all.”

Researchers aren’t yet sure exactly why the ancient potion is so effective. The odd mixture of ingredients—onion, garlic, wine and cow stomach bile—may create a new molecule when combined or they may be separately killing off different parts of the bacterial infection.

TIME Money

Soon You’ll Be Able to Pay Bills Right Inside Gmail

US-TECHONOLOGY-GOOGLE
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

Gmail users could pay electric or telephone bills from their inbox

Google has already been experimenting with turning Gmail into a commerce platform. Now, the company may be poised to take the next step down that path by letting users pay their bills using the email service.

Re/code has viewed documents describing a new service dubbed “Pony Express” that would allow users to link up their electricity, phone and other utility bills to their Gmail account. Users would be able to pay the bills within Gmail using a credit card or a bank account withdrawal. The bills would be bundled together in a special Pony Express folder within Gmail or Google’s new email app Inbox, according to the documents.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

Launching a bill-paying service would give Google more access to users’ personal and financial information. It would also keep users more tightly tethered to Google’s services. However, many utilities already offer online payment systems, so it’s not clear whether people would adopt a Google version of online billing en masse.

TIME privacy

Twitter Rolls Out ‘Quality Filter’ to Combat Abuse

Feature targets spam and threatening tweets

Some lucky Twitter users soon won’t have to see tweets that are spammy or abusive.

The social network is rolling out a new feature called the “quality filter,” which will automatically screen out Twitter mentions that come from suspicious accounts, are abusive or threatening or contain duplicate content. The tweets won’t be deleted from Twitter but they will no longer show up in the recipient’s list of notifications. The feature will only be available to verified users, according to Mashable.

The move marks the latest step in Twitter’s campaign to combat abuse on the social network. In December the company introduced new tools to let users more easily report instances of abuse.

[Mashable]

 

TIME Television

The 10 Best Pranks in the History of The Office

The new millennium has seen its fair share of compelling rivalries: Bush vs. Gore, Jay Z vs. Nas, Swift vs. Perry. Standing toe-to-toe with any of these frenemy pairings, though, are Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute. The two longtime Dunder-Mifflin officemates were foes from the start, with Dwight resenting Jim’s lackadaisical attitude and Jim being annoyed by Dwight’s very existence. They’d eventually bury the hatchet — Dwight asked Jim to be the bestest mensch in his wedding, after all — but only after nine grueling years of open hostility, cruel words and an endless litany of pranks.

On the 10th anniversary of The Office, let’s take a moment to remember this epic battle of wits, which gave us big laughs over the years and provides great fodder for anyone’s real-life office hijinks. We’re still waiting for the perfect Thursday to trick a colleague into thinking it’s actually Friday.

  • 10. Quad Desk

    NBC

    Season 6, Episode 19

    Jim returns from paternity leave to find that Dwight has taken over his and Pam’s desks to form a sprawling workspace called “megadesk.” As revenge, Jim stacks the desks together to form an even more monstrous structure, “quad desk.” When Dwight sees that Jim has taken over his workstation, his primary concern, of course, is that you can’t call a three-desk structure “quad” anything. Silly Jim.

  • 9. Pavlov Experiment

    Season 3, Episode 15

    Jim is a patient prankster. Over the course of several weeks he conducts Pavlov’s experiment, a classical conditioning exercise that trains dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell, on the unsuspecting Dwight. Each time Dwight hears the login chime of Windows XP, Jim feeds him an Altoid, and Dwight eventually comes to expect the treat. Even a man that can raise his cholesterol at will is susceptible to base biological impulses, it seems.

  • 8. Jim puts Dwight’s stuff in the vending machine

    NBC

    Season 2, Episode 11

    We learn that Jim is friends with the vending machine maintenance guy, who kindly helps him pull off a clever prank. Jim puts all of Dwight’s stuff — from his stapler to his beloved bobblehead dolls — in the vending machine alongside bags of chips and pretzels. Dwight decides he’ll just buy all his stuff back before he realizes his wallet is in the machine too. Jim’s a kind soul, though, so he hands Dwight a bag of nickels so he can get to work.

  • 7. Jim puts Dwight’s desk in the bathroom

    Season 2, Episode 6

    When Dwight shows up in the morning, he sees his desk has vanished. Through a game of “hot-cold,” Jim leads Dwight to the bathroom, where his desk is set up right next to the urinals. Jim was meticulous here, arranging all of Dwight’s stuff perfectly and ensuring that his computer and phone worked perfectly. At least Dwight can still be productive.

  • 6. Faxes to Future Dwight

    Season 3, Episode 7

    Before leaving for the Stamford branch of Dunder-Mifflin, Jim swipes some of Dwight’s stationery and proceeds to send him warnings from “Future Dwight.” Dwight, apparently convinced of his own future ability to send office memos across time, believes the faxes without question. The real victim here, though, is clearly Stanley.

  • 5. Dwight gets his revenge

    Season 7, Episode 11

    By season 7, a lot of Office fans had realized Jim isn’t necessarily that great of a guy. So when Dwight snaps after a particularly demeaning attack — Jim throws a snowball at Dwight’s face — there’s a kind of catharsis in seeing Jim get a dose of his own medicine. Dwight plots out an elaborate series of physical and psychological revenge tactics, including dressing up as Pam to launch a surprise snowball attack. But the coup de grace comes at the end of the episode, when Dwight dots the Dunder-Mifflin parking lot with dozens of giant, eerie snowmen. As Jim blindly attacks the snowmen, seemingly descending into madness, Dwight looks on stoically from the office rooftop. Perhaps Schrute has really had the upper hand all along.

  • 4. Dwight gets gaydar

    Season 3, Episode 1

    Following the accidental outing of Oscar, Jim mails Dwight a “gaydar” machine from the Stamford branch (it’s actually just a metal detector). Dwight seems confident in the device’s accuracy after it identifies Oscar as gay, but you can see him questioning his entire identity when he tests himself and gets the same classification.

  • 3. Asian Jim

    Season 9, Episode 3

    In this perfectly-executed scheme, Jim and Pam enlist the help of their actor friend, Steve, to play Jim while he’s at the dentist. Steve’s Asian — and pretends Jim has always been Asian. “Hats off to you for not seeing race,” Steve says to an increasingly confused Dwight, who soon notices a framed photo of Steve, Pam and two Asian children resting on Jim’s desk. Pam helps pull it all off by letting Steve know she got them that special dinner reservation, and even gives him a peck on the lips. Some pranks are about inconveniencing Dwight — but this one is all about messing with his head.

  • 2. Jim impersonates Dwight

    Season 3, Episode 2

    In Season 3, we learn that Jim can find inspiration for pranks just about anywhere. He explains that while shopping at a drugstore he happened upon some glasses that resembled Dwight’s, and then decided to really commit and buy a shirt, tie and watch to create a complete Dwight costume. Then, after showing up to work in the ensemble, Jim busts out his best Dwight impersonation. It takes Dwight about 45 seconds to realize what’s happening and then totally lose his cool. Later in the episode he retaliates by attempting to impersonate Jim.

  • 1. Jim puts Dwight’s stapler in Jell-O

    Season 1, Episode 1

    The first episode of a television series is supposed to set everything up for us: tell us who the characters are and what they’re all about. So, naturally, the very first episode of The Office establishes one of Jim’s chief characteristics. He’s a total prankster — and his favorite target is his deskmate Dwight. After nine seasons of pranks and gags, Jim putting Dwight’s stapler in Jell-O remains a total classic. It’s a striking visual that Jim clearly put some — but not too much — work into, and, most of all, it infuriates Dwight. Though Jim ended up pulling off more elaborate and clever pranks later in the series, this will always be the one that started it all.

TIME Aviation

Plane Crashes in French Alps With 150 People On Board

"This is a terrible loss, a tragedy"

A commercial plane plummeted for eight minutes before crashing in the French Alps en route from Spain to Germany on Tuesday, with the 150 people on board believed to be dead.

The Germanwings Airbus A320 airplane was flying from Barcelona to Düsseldorf, carrying 144 passengers, including two babies, along with six crew members, Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said at a news conference. The plane went down near the French village of Digne-les-Bains, high in the mountains, just before 11 a.m. local time, and debris was found nearby.

“We saw an aircraft that had literally been ripped apart,” Bruce Robin, prosecutor for the French city of Marseille, told Reuters after observing the crash zone from a helicopter. There are no pieces of plane debris larger than a “small car,” another French official told CNN.

At least 67 German nationals were on board, officials said. Germanwings, a budget airline, is a subsidiary of Lufthansa. “This is a tragic moment for Lufthansa and it is really a dark day in our history,” Heike Birlenbach, Lufthansa’s vice president for Europe, said at a press briefing.

The cause of the crash is not yet clear. The aircraft had climbed to a cruising altitude of 38,000 ft. before it began its abrupt eight-minute descent, Winkelmann said. The plane lost its signal to air-traffic control at an altitude of about 6,000 ft., shortly before the crash. French aviation officials said the plane never sent out a distress signal, according to the Associated Press (AP). Officials said the black box containing critical flight data was recovered hours after the crash, which should shed more light on what happened.

A spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council told AP that there was no indication the crash was the result of terrorism. At an unrelated news conference about Afghanistan, President Barack Obama offered condolences to the families of the crash victims. “Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends in Europe, especially the people of Germany and Spain,” he said. “It’s particularly heartbreaking because it apparently includes the loss of so many children.” Obama said U.S. officials were still working to determine if there were any American passengers on the flight.

The passengers appeared to include a group of 16 German exchange students who were returning from a visit to a school near Barcelona, according to AP. A spokesperson from the students’ hometown told Reuters there was a “strong suspicion” the students were on the plane but would not officially confirm their presence.

French President François Hollande said that rescue teams did not expect to find any survivors. He later tweeted: “I want to express to the families of victims of the air crash my solidarity. This is a terrible loss, a tragedy.”

The pilot of the aircraft had been flying for Germanwings for more than 10 years and logged more than 6,000 flight hours on the A320, officials said. The aircraft involved in the accident was delivered to Lufthansa in 1991 and was put into use by the subsidiary Germanwings beginning in 2004. The A320 had its last routine safety check on March 23 in Düsseldorf.

Aviation experts said there were several possible scenarios that could have led to Tuesday’s plane crash, though Bruce “Buck” Rodger, president of Aero Consulting Experts and a commercial pilot, described the Airbus A320 as “an extremely safe airplane” that is known for being “pilot-friendly.” The A320 family of aircraft have a fatal accident rate of 0.14 per million departures, which is lower than many other widely used commercial aircraft, according to a study of airplane accidents by Boeing.

The rapid descent of the plane — which Rodger said fell at nearly 5,000 ft. per minute — could mean the plane lost its cabin pressure and had to get to a lower altitude quickly to keep passengers safe.

“It has to descend rapidly to protect everybody,” Rodger said of that scenario, which could have occurred if the plane’s hull was breached.

Another possibility is that the plane malfunctioned and the pilot was unable to control its altitude, Rodger said.

The fact that the crew didn’t send out a distress signal could indicate that the pilots were having difficulty gaining full control of the aircraft or determining their location, says aviation-safety expert Matt Robinson. “When there is a problem, air crews are trained to aviate, navigate, communicate in that order,” he says. “If they were fighting this aircraft or were busy, then communicating the distress would be last on the list.”

With investigators now having obtained the aircraft’s black box, piecing together what happened should be achievable, unlike the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed in the Indian Ocean a year ago. “It’s not going to be months or years,” Rodger said. “We will have this information quickly.”

— With reporting by Julie Shapiro and Laura Stampler

TIME Smartphones

Your Next Phone Could Stay Unlocked As You Carry It

US-TECHONOLOGY-GOOGLE
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

Google might bring the feature to more Android phones

Google wants to make unlocking your phone less of a hassle.

The company is introducing a new Android feature called “on-body protection” that will allow a phone to remain unlocked as long as a person is carrying it in their hands, purse or pocket. The feature makes use of smartphones’ accelerometers to detect when the phone is in motion. When the phone comes to a standstill for a while, like when it’s placed on a desk, the lock screen will reappear.

There’s a tradeoff for the added convenience, of course. On-body protection could make it easier for a pickpocket or phone-snatcher to gain access to your device after they swipe it.

The new option was first spotted on Nexus phones but is expected to roll out to other Android devices soon, according to The Verge.

TIME Gadgets

You’ll Try On the Apple Watch in a 15-Minute Appointment

Apple Watch
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The new Apple Watch is displayed during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California.

Devices will be demoed in Apple Stores starting April 10

Trying an Apple Watch before you buy one may not be as simple as strolling into an Apple Store and slapping one on your wrist.

According to 9to5Mac, Apple customers will be encouraged to schedule 15-minute appointments to try on an Apple Watch with the assistance of an Apple Store employee. Walk-in appointments will be accepted, but it’s likely those people will end up waiting a long time to try the device, given the care Apple is taking in presenting it to customers.

Stores are expected to have at least 10 “try-on stations” for the Apple Watch, where employees will guide customers through the device’s featureset and give them an opportunity to pre-order the watch. For the gold Apple Watch Edition, which starts at $10,000 and will only be sold in select stores, specially-trained Apple Store employees called “Experts” will pitch big-spending customers on the device.

Employees are expected to walk through the health, communication and timekeeping features of the device, according to 9to5Mac. Apple Stores will dedicate most of their employees to selling or explaining the Apple Watch for the device’s initial launch period.

Apple will begin in-store previews of Apple Watch on April 10. The device goes on sale April 24 and can be pre-ordered at physical Apple Stores or on Apple’s website.

Read next: Tim Cook: The Apple Watch Is the First Smartwatch ‘That Matters’

TIME Media

Sony’s New TV Streaming Service Is Way Easier to Use Than Your Cable Box

PlayStation Vue is out Wednesday in three major cities

Sony’s slick new cable competitor is finally here.

PlayStation Vue, which launches Wednesday in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, is Sony’s attempt to bring the traditional cable bundle online. It boasts a streamlined, personalized interface and an emphasis on recording shows automatically so users can binge-watch at their leisure. The service brings a much-needed overhaul to the clunky cable box interfaces to which we’ve all grown accustomed, but the price tag of $50 per month to start and lack of key channels may keep cord-cutters from hopping on board.

Vue, which will be available initially for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, attempts to marry cable’s wide selection of live content with the ease-of-use of online platforms like Netflix and Hulu. The service boasts more than 50 live channels, including CBS, Fox, NBC, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, with AMC on the way next month. A cloud-based DVR-system automatically records at least three days of content for most of the channels. Users can also record 28 days’ worth of programming for up to 500 shows. Couple these features with Vue’s on-demand movie and TV show libraries — which Sony says are comparable to what you’d get with a typical cable subscription — and Vue comes packed with an absolutely massive trove of content.

Sony simplified navigating its humongous offering by focusing on content rather than channel numbers and showtimes. In the midst of a live show, users can bring up a menu that will show the current program, upcoming shows on the same channel, recently watched shows across all of PlayStation Vue, and Netflix-like recommendations based on the show currently airing. Users can also select individual channels to view their lineups and most popular shows, or select “Live TV” to see all the shows on air at a given moment. “Live TV” can be sorted by real-time popularity, making it easier to quickly flip to a March Madness basketball game or the latest episode of Empire. Dwayne Benefield, head of the PlayStation Vue service, says pretty much any show can be accessed within three or four clicks.

“We wanted to take out the frustration of finding what you want,” Benefield says.

Vue also sports a more traditional TV Guide-like schedule listing and a search option. There’s an “Explore” tab that lets users filter shows by genre, channel and age-appropriateness (an option we’d love to see on Netflix’s apps). Sony is clearly trying to serve users who want to quickly find a specific program as well as those who want to lean back and channel surf, and it appears as if Vue’s speedy interface may be flexible enough to do both (Sony demoed Vue for TIME on a PlayStation 4, the most powerful platform that runs the service; Benefield says menus will be similarly snappy on PS3).

While Sony has developed a user interface that puts most traditional cable operators’ to shame, Vue comes with big caveats. Sony has yet to work out a carriage deal with Disney, meaning ABC, Disney Channel and ESPN are nowhere to be seen. ESPN is the most valuable television property by a huge margin, and a staple of nearly every cable package. It’s a glaring omission in a service aimed at young, male gamers.

“We do recognize that there are other channels our user group wants,” Benefield says, though he won’t directly mention ESPN. “We’re in discussions with networks.”

Another issue may be price. The basic-tier version of Vue costs $50 per month. A version that includes additional sports channels is $60 per month and an expanded cable equivalent that includes dozens more niche channels is $70 per month. In New York, Time Warner Cable offers a cable package that costs $40 per month for the first year and includes ESPN. But adding in the cost of renting a cable box that includes On-Demand shows and DVR functionality boosts the cost to $64 per month, to say nothing of installation fees. By avoiding these fees and their associated headaches (you don’t have to wait for a cable guy to come install Sony’s service), Vue can undercut its most direct competitors on price slightly. But it’s still more expensive than services like Netflix and Hulu, or even Dish Network’s live-TV streaming service Sling TV, which includes ESPN but not broadcast networks.

Vue is also limited in reach by being tied to PlayStation consoles. There’s a version in the works for Apple’s iPad, and Benefield says Vue will eventually spread to other streaming devices as well. For now, the app is aimed at a narrow base of consumers. To lure a big fish like ESPN, Vue may need to build up a subscriber base so large it can’t be ignored. But with Sony only vaguely committing to expanding Vue to more cities at some point later in the year, 2015 seems like an experimental year for the service.

Despite the question marks, Sony’s new TV service seems robust and well-implemented. It’s an important early step ushering in an era where consumers where have considerably more choice in how they pay for TV. However, those choices will be much more convoluted than the old cable bundle. In addition to Vue and Sling TV, Apple is reportedly prepping a similar cable-like service, while networks like HBO, CBS and Nickelodeon are planning to offer their content on a stand-alone basis.

“What we’re beginning to see is a continuum of offers,” says Dan Cryan, a broadband media analyst at IHS. “I dont think we know yet what the sweet spots are along that spectrum.”

Read next: 5 Things Apple’s TV Streaming Service Will Need to Kill Cable

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Media

More Channels Could Be Coming to Apple’s TV Service

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents Democalypse 2014: South By South Mess
Rick Kern—Getty Images for Comedy Central Host Jon Stewart at "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" covers the Midterm elections in Austin with "Democalypse 2014: South By South Mess" at ZACH Theatre on October 28, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Comedy Central)

Discovery and Viacom are reportedly in talks with Apple

Apple’s rumored upcoming pay-TV service may be getting a more robust channel offering than originally thought.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the new service, now says that Discovery Communications (owner of Discovery Channel and Animal Planet) and Viacom (owner of Nickelodeon and Comedy Central) are in talks to partner with Apple, a move that could bring programs like MythBusters and The Daily Show to the platform.

The Journal had earlier reported that Disney, CBS and 21st Century Fox were considering bringing their channels to the service, which would deliver content via the Internet on Apple devices such as the Apple TV and iPad.

The price of Apple’s service is still up in the air, but figures ranging from $25 to $40 per month have been floated so far in media reports. If the new service actually launches, Apple will be competing not only with traditional cable operators but also other tech companies like Sony that are also planning on launching pay-TV offerings.

(Read more: 5 Things Apple’s TV Streaming Service Will Need to Kill Cable)

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