Redfin real estate site prices IPO at $15, valuing company at $1.2 billion

 Redfin, the real estate site based in Seattle, has finally raised its IPO. Founded in 2004, this was 13 years in the making. Despite an ugly patent lawsuit from a former co-founder over one of Redfin’s pending patent applications — one filed just this Monday — the company priced above the $12 to $14 range, at $15 per share, a number that values the company at $1.2 billion.… Read More

Mattress startup Purple merges with NY shell company in $1.1 billion deal

 Purple, a Utah-based mattress startup announced today it will merge with Global Partner Acquisition Corp (GPAC) in a deal that would value the company at $1.1 billion. Purple was already well on its way to that valuation when we got to take a sneak peek at operations at the company’s headquarters in the small town of Alpine, Utah and its giant factory an hour away in rural Grantsville… Read More

AltspaceVR social app is shutting down

 Social VR app AltspaceVR is shutting down its main service after running out of cash, saying it “can’t afford to keep the virtual lights on anymore.” The app was one of the first VR social experiences to gain traction and was available across a variety of platforms. In a blog post titled “A Very Sad Goodbye,” the company detailed that the social VR community will… Read More

How the Reply All podcast tracked down a man behind a tech support scam

The following post contains spoilers of Reply All episode #102: Long Distance, which was released on July 27, 2017. If you don’t wish to know what happens in that episode, read no further.

Here at Ars, we are no strangers to online tech support scammers. For years now, we have played along with scammers, cajoled them, and called them out on their tricks. Such scams are notoriously difficult to shut down.

But we never even dreamed of doing what the podcast Reply All has done in an amazing episode that was released Thursday morning: doggedly pursue corporate records, find Facebook profiles of at least one company executive, and even manage to have extended conversations with one of them before trying to confront him. In person. In India.

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Police body cam footage of man tased in back prompts $110K settlement

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Body cam footage of an Aurora, Colorado, cop tasing an unarmed black man in the back paved the way for the city to pay $110,000 to settle police abuse allegations, the man’s lawyers told Ars Thursday.

Footage from September’s tasing shows two black men being questioned by police who are responding to a weapons incident at a nearby apartment building. One of the men is seen and overheard on the video demanding to know why he’s being questioned. “For what… ?” he says.

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Specific area of the brain helps keep the body young

Age may not be a state of mind, but the brain is definitely involved. That’s the conclusion of a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, which provides compelling evidence that a specific structure in the brain, called the hypothalamus, plays a significant role in controlling the entire body’s aging. The results suggest stem cells play a critical role, but only in part via their ability to generate new neurons.

The results come from researchers at the Bronx’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. They, along with several other labs, have generated evidence that suggested the hypothalamus played a key role in aging. That makes a certain amount of sense: aging is a systemic process, and the hypothalamus contains structures like the pituitary that release hormones that influence the entire body. And there’s already been some indications that factors that control the dynamics of aging end up circulating through the blood.

Aging and stem cells

But what controls the timing of aging? One intriguing possibility is that neural stem cells are involved. These stem cells continue to divide and produce new neurons even after the brain is fully developed, but their numbers appear to go down over time (possibly because more of them produce new neurons than are replaced by cell divisions). If the key factors are produced by neural stem cells, then their levels should go down over time, allowing aging to proceed.

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As dominance of launch market looms, SpaceX now valued at $21 billion

After two serious accidents in 2015 and 2016, SpaceX has been on a tear in 2017 with 10 successful launches, including the historic re-flight of two used boosters and a used Dragon spacecraft. These achievements suggest the company is well on its way toward developing low-cost, reusable boosters, and therefore the rocket company founded by Elon Musk may be on the cusp of capturing much of the global launch market.

A new valuation appears to back up this optimism. According to the New York Times, SpaceX recently raised $350 million in additional funding, and during this process the company was valued at $21 billion. This represents a significant increase from 2015, when Google and Fidelity invested $1 billion in SpaceX, valuing the company at $12 billion.

The new report notes that the updated value of SpaceX places the company in rarefied air, as just six other venture-backed companies are valued at $20 billion or more around the world. These companies include US-based companies Uber, Airbnb, Palantir, and WeWork, as well as Chinese firms Didi Chuxing and Xiaomi.

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Jeff Bezos’ brief stint as world’s richest human ends with Amazon’s second quarter whiff

 Amazon reported its earnings today, wherein a whiff in earnings sent the stock down around 3% and brought CEO Jeff Bezos back to reality as the, once again, second richest human in the known Solar System. In all seriousness though, this is a big quarter for Amazon as it looks to close out its $13.7 billion bid for Whole Foods. The company appears to once again be squeezing out a very small… Read More