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Industry & Technology

A House budget committee has likely killed the 2024 Moon landing

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 5:46pm

Enlarge / NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, right, is seen with Representative José Serrano, D-N.Y., in March, 2019. (credit: NASA)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet with legislators who write the House's version of the space agency's budget. The hearing came after six months of frenetic lobbying by Bridenstine to win support from Congress for his Artemis Program plan to accelerate a human return to the Moon from the year 2028 to 2024.

It appears as though those efforts were unsuccessful.

"I remain extremely concerned by the proposed advancement by four years of this mission," said Jose Serrano, a Democrat from New York who chairs the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. "The eyes of the world are upon us. We cannot afford to fail. Therefore, I believe that it is better to use the original NASA schedule of 2028 in order to have a successful, safe, and cost-effective mission for the benefit of the American people and the world."

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UK porn blacklist is dead after government abandons age verification

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 5:35pm

Enlarge / Nicky Morgan, UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. (credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom is abandoning plans to try to force pornography websites to age-verify UK Internet users. Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan announced the shift in a Wednesday statement.

Morgan claimed that "the government's commitment to protecting children online is unwavering." However, she said, the government will now accomplish that goal "through our proposed online harms regulatory regime." She didn't elaborate on what those regulations would look like.

The age verification requirement was part of the Digital Economy Act that the UK parliament passed in 2017. It was supposed to go into effect last year but was delayed multiple times. Most recently, the government announced in April that the new requirement would go into effect on July 15.

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UK's controversial 'porn blocker' plan dropped

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 4:49pm
A plan to force porn sites to verify users' ages will be shelved, says Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Dark web child abuse: Hundreds arrested across 38 countries

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 4:47pm
The site, run from South Korea, had hundreds of thousands of videos containing child abuse.

Testing Leonardo da Vinci’s bridge: His design was stable, study finds

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 4:01pm

Enlarge / The Vebjørn Sand Da Vinci Project bridge in Ås, Norway, is based on a design by Leonardo Da Vinci. (credit: Åsmund Ødegård/Wikimedia Commons)

Pedestrians and bicyclists in Ås, Norway, use the Da Vinci Bridge to cross the city's E-18 highway, a laminated-wood structure based on an early 16th-century sketch by Leonardo da Vinci. Had Leonardo's bridge ever been built, it would have been the longest bridge span of its time. But would his original design, given the materials available at the time, have been stable enough to support the necessary loads and withstand seismic tremors? According to a team of researchers at MIT, who built a detailed scale model to test that hypothesis, the answer is yes. The group presented its results last week at a conference in Barcelona, Spain.

The MIT group is led by John Ochsendorf, who has been studying ancient architecture and construction for many years and has a particular interest in domes and arches. Several years ago, he adapted particle spring modeling—the same tool often used to recreate the movement of fabrics and hair in CGI animation (like the movement of Yoda's cloak in his battle with Darth Sidious in Revenge of the Sith)—to model those architectural features. Ochsendorf's version reversed the model so that instead of modeling tension, it modeled compression. The software program featured virtual "masses" at key "nodes" connected by virtual "springs," which bounce around until they find equilibrium, indicating that the design can support the requisite loads.

Compression is the key to any stable arch. "An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning one against the other, make a strength," Leonardo once observed. He was describing a delicate balance of opposing forces based on an inversion of a curved geometric shape known as a catenary. Suspend a flexible chain from two points, and it will naturally come to rest in a state of pure tension. Invert that shape, and you have a state of pure compression. Robert Hooke phrased it best in the 17th century: "As hangs the flexible chain, so inverted stands the rigid arch." It's how Gothic architects, for example, were able to design and construct magnificent domes like the one topping the chapel vault at King's College, Cambridge.

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US green economy’s growth dwarfs the fossil fuel industry’s

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 3:29pm

Enlarge / A new solar array at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. (credit: NIST)

While US President Donald Trump may be “the world’s most powerful climate change denier,” our latest research suggests that he took over a thriving green economy.

According to new data, by 2016 it was generating more than $1.3 trillion in annual revenue and employed approximately 9.5 million people—making it the largest green market in the world. It has been growing rapidly, too—between 2013 and 2016, both the industry’s value and employment figures grew by 20%.

For some time, economic data on the green economy in many countries has been lacking. In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stopped measuring jobs in the green economy in March 2013 due to budget cuts. This meant that US politicians were not able to make informed decisions about the relative merits of supporting green industry or backing fossil fuels—as Trump had pledged to do during his 2016 campaign.

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'Sextortion botnet spreads 30,000 emails an hour’

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 3:16pm
A huge network of hijacked computers is sending out notes threatening to publish compromising images, researchers say.

US claims cyber strike on Iran after attack on Saudi oil facility

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 2:53pm

Enlarge / Saudi defence ministry spokesman Colonel Turki bin Saleh al-Malki displays pieces of what he said were Iranian cruise missiles and drones recovered from the attack site that targeted Saudi Aramco's facilities, during a press conference in Riyadh on September 18, 2019. US officials have now said that the US responded with a cyber attack against Iran's "propaganda" infrastructure. (credit: FAYEZ NURELDINE / Getty Images)

Reuters reports that the United States launched a "secret cyber operation" against Iran in September, following the alleged drone and missile attack by Iran on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. Unnamed officials told Reuters that the late-September cyberattack targeted Iran's "propaganda" infrastructure. The attack, one official said, affected physical hardware. But no further details were provided.

Just how effective this targeted attack was, or if it actually did any damage, is far from clear. When asked about the claimed attack today by Iran's Fars news agency, Iran Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi replied, “They must have dreamt it.”

US, Saudi, German, French and British officials have all concluded that Iran was responsible for the attack on the Aramco Abqaiq oil refinery, based on forensic evidence collected from the missiles and drones involved in the strike and other data related to the direction from which the attack was launched. Iran continues to deny involvement, and the Ansar Allah—the Houthi militia in Yemen—has claimed responsibility.

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Twitter tweaks rules after calls to ban Trump

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 1:59pm
Twitter clarifies how the viral spread of world leaders' tweets could be limited in future

Pixel 4 hands-on—Thumbs up for 90Hz, thumbs down for Project Soli

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 1:00pm

NEW YORK—Google's big hardware event wrapped up yesterday, and, after a brief session with the Pixel 4, I'm back to report my initial findings. It's a phone.

The feel of the Pixel 4 varies greatly based on the color. The black version is the most boring, with a regular glossy, greasy, glass back. The orange and white versions are where things get interesting, though. These have the whole back covered in a soft-touch material (which is still glass) that looks and feels great. It's reminiscent of the soft-touch back that was on the Pixel 3 but with a number of improvements. First, you can't dent it with a fingernail. It feels a lot stronger and tougher than the Pixel 3 back, while still being soft and grippy to the touch. Second, it doesn't seem to absorb and show fingerprint grease at the rate of the Pixel 3 back. It's interesting that the orange and white versions get this soft-touch treatment, while the black version gets a glossy back. The black version is the one with so many problems with the soft-touch coating last year.

The white version, in particular, looks great from the back. It has an alternating white-and-black color scheme: the sides have a grippy black soft-touch coating, the back is a brilliant white, and the square camera bump is black. It's a lovely color scheme. The Google "G" on the back is the only thing that doesn't get a soft-touch coating. There is actual depth to the G, making it seem like it was masked off when the soft-touch coating was applied, leaving it inset on the phone back, exposing the colored white glass.

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In 2019, multiple open source companies changed course—is it the right move?

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 12:30pm

Enlarge / Stock photos continue to be a gift to the world. Maybe it's sometimes on par with open-source software. (credit: cnythzl / Getty Images)

Free and open source software enables the world as we know it in 2019. From Web servers to kiosks to the big data algorithms mining your Facebook feed, nearly every computer system you interact with runs, at least in part, on free software. And in the larger tech industry, free software has given rise to a galaxy of startups and enabled the largest software acquisition in the history of the world.

Free software is a gift, a gift that made the world as we know it possible. And from the start, it seemed like an astounding gift to give. So astounding in fact that it initially made businesses unaccustomed to this kind of generosity uncomfortable. These companies weren't unwilling to use free software, it was simply too radical and by extension too political. It had to be renamed: "open source."

Once that happened, open source software took over the world.

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Unmanned ship to go on 400-year-old journey across the Atlantic

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 12:01pm
UK-based team to chart unprecedented waters with fully autonomous sea journey.

Germany will not bar Huawei from its 5G networks

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 10:45am
The ruling is welcomed by the Chinese company, which warned against "politicising security".

Why scientists are ‘listening’ to the Matterhorn

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 8:00am
Sparked by an unexpected rockfall, researchers placed sensors on the mountain to monitor the site.

After a decade of League of Legends, Riot to expand with new games

Ars Technica - October 16, 2019 - 4:34am

For a decade now, Riot Games has been known almost exclusively for League of Legends, the ultra-successful MOBA that can still attract 8 million simultaneous players at its daily peak. But in an anniversary livestream tonight, the company confirmed a veritable smorgasbord of new gaming and entertainment projects for the first time, all set in the same League of Legends universe.

Those projects include:

  • League of Legends: Wild Rift: A new version of the MOBA built from the ground up with a twin-stick control scheme designed for consoles and mobile phones and a focus on 15- to 18-minute games. Due on mobile phones in 2020.
  • Legends of Runeterra: A competitive card game set in the League of Legends universe. Cards will not be unlocked via randomized pack purchases, Riot said.
  • "Project A": Described as "a stylish, competitive, character-based tactical shooter for PC," this sounds like Riot's answer to Overwatch or Team Fortress 2. More information is expected next year.
  • "Project L": "A fighting game set in the LoL universe" that's "in early stage development." Likely being developed by the remnants of Rising Thunder developer Radiant Entertainment, which Riot acquired in 2016.
  • "Project F": "A very early development project that explores the possibilities of traversing the world of Runeterra with your friends," as Riot describes it. Brief streamed footage looked reminiscent of Diablo and other third-person action RPGs.
  • League of Legends Esports Manager: A team management game that lets players manage a team of simulated LoL pros that sounds similar to the Football Manager series. Planned to launch with League of Legends Pro League support next year.
  • Teamfight Tactics Mobile: A smartphone port of Riot's recent autobattler game mode, planned for the first quarter of 2020.
  • Arcane: An animated series set in the League of Legends universe, planned for 2020.
  • League of Legends Origins: A "feature-length documentary" highlighting the game's growth, available now on Netflix.

The rapid project expansion, after a full decade of existence as a de facto single-game company puts the Tencent-owned conglomerate and its 2,500 employees immediately in a class with multi-franchise publishing behemoths like Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft. Unlike those companies, though, Riot is currently focusing all of its efforts on games in a single shared universe, building on ten years of lore and character design as it attempts to rapidly expand to other popular genres.

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'Send nudes' Boohoo ad banned after complaint

BBC Technology News - October 16, 2019 - 12:01am
The advert for clothes in skin tones was not socially responsible, the UK advertising watchdog rules.

Man agrees to pay $25,000 for abusing YouTube’s takedown system

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 11:15pm

Enlarge (credit: Toolstotal)

A Nebraska man has agreed to pay $25,000 for abusing YouTube's takedown system under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, YouTube said in an emailed statement Tuesday. The man, Christopher Brady, also signed a public apology admitting to "falsely claiming that material uploaded by YouTube users infringed my copyrights."

In reality, Brady didn't have any legitimate claim to the material, YouTube charged in an August lawsuit. YouTube said that Brady targeted at least three well-known Minecraft streamers with a series of takedown requests.

Under YouTube's rules, a series of three takedown requests in a short period of time can lead to the loss of a YouTube account—a serious penalty for someone who has built up a large following on the platform. According to YouTube, Brady would submit two bogus takedown requests against a target's videos. Then he would send the victim a message demanding payments—$150 in one case, $300 in another—to prevent the submission of a third request. For some reason, Brady allegedly offered victims a discount if they paid with bitcoin.

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On the road with Audi’s new Q5 and A8 TFSI e plug-in hybrids

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 10:16pm

MUNICH—That we need to do something about the transportation sector's carbon impact should be beyond clear by now. With luck, that means a lot more people walking, cycling, and taking public transport for the short trips that make up so much of our lives. But America's infrastructure and culture is heavily biased toward the personal automobile and the need to make road trips, even if few drive more than 100 miles a day.

But even if we can't get to a full battery EV fleet any time soon, there's still plenty of low-hanging fruit. Like the big and inefficient luxury vehicles bought by the upper-middle class—if there's a way to make the short trips that people do in those less actively damaging to the planet, I think that's a positive. Which is where these two Audis come in.

I was in Munich to learn more about PPE, the modular electric-car architecture that Audi, Porsche, and perhaps Bentley and Lamborghini will use to build EVs to escape the massive fines looming for OEMs that can't get their European fleet CO2 average down to below 95g/km. But not everyone can or will want a BEV as their next car. Fortunately for those with serious range anxiety, there's always the option of a plug-in hybrid EV. So it was handy that the company had some of its new PHEVs on hand for us to try out.

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Bringing in the big gun: Army paves way for “strategic cannon”

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 9:00pm

Enlarge / US Army troopers assigned to the Field Artillery Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, fire their M777 Howitzer. The Army is looking for a gun with a bit more range—over 1,000 nautical miles. (credit: US Army)

In 2017, the US Army established a collection of cross-functional teams (CFTs) aimed at rapidly pushing forward key technologies to advance the services' next generation of capabilities. One of those teams was the Long Range Precision Fires "pilot," an effort to develop the next generation of Army artillery—including "deep fires," an artillery capability that can strike at strategic targets well within an adversary's defenses.

That effort has spawned what Army Futures Command chief Gen. John Murray described to Congress last year as "the Strategic Long Range Cannon, which conceivably could have a range of up to 1,000 nautical miles" (1,150 miles, or 1,850 kilometers).

The Strategic Long Range Cannon program is now advancing through its first set of technical hurdles. Col. John Rafferty, head of the Long Range Precision Fires CFT, told Defense News in advance of this week's Association of the US Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting that the Army wants to demonstrate a prototype of the gun system by 2023. Currently, the Army is working with the Center for Army Analysis and the Research and Analysis Center at White Sands Missile Range to confirm the technical feasibility of the cannon. The Army is preparing to perform early tests at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, the site of the Navy's test range for naval artillery.

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Washington State keeps enforcing net neutrality as it hails FCC court loss

Ars Technica - October 15, 2019 - 8:41pm

Enlarge / Washington State Capitol building in Olympia, Washington. (credit: Getty Images | Richard Cummins)

Although the Federal Communications Commission abandoned its regulation of net neutrality, it wouldn't be accurate to say there are no net neutrality laws anywhere in the United States.

No one enforces net neutrality in Washington, DC, but on the opposite coast, the state of Washington imposed a net neutrality law in June 2018 that remains in effect today. The Washington State law prohibits home and mobile Internet providers from blocking or throttling lawful Internet traffic and from charging online services for prioritization.

The Washington State law cleared its biggest hurdle on October 1 when a federal appeals court vacated the Federal Communications Commission's decision to preempt all state net neutrality laws.

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