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Industry & Technology

Tiny robot finds an asteroid that’s freakishly free of dust

Ars Technica - 1 hour 9 sec ago

Enlarge / Ryugu's rubble-pile surface, taken by MASCOT shortly before it hit and started bouncing. (credit: JAXA)

For the last few months, Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft has been engaged in various acts of interplanetary aggression, shooting the asteroid Ryugu in order to blast free material for a return to Earth. But Hayabusa2's visit has also featured various less violent activities, as its imaging and characterization of Ryugu has given us a new picture of the body, which is thought to act as a time capsule for material that formed at the earliest stages of our Solar System.

As part of these studies, Hayabusa2 dropped off a French-German robot that was meant to hop across the asteroid's surface in order to sample some of its rocks. Despite landing upside-down, the robot eventually hopped into the right orientation, and a paper describing what it found was published in Thursday's edition of Science.

Hopping, but not like a bunny

If you're like me, then the image of a small robot hopping across the surface of an asteroid brought something adorable and possibly anthropomorphic to mind. You may get rid of those images immediately. MASCOT, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, is a rectangular box. Its ability to hop is provided by an internal weighted device. By rapidly rotating this weight, the robot could generate enough velocity to overcome Ryugu's tiny gravitational field and launch the box to new locations.

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The last single-stick Delta rocket launched Thursday, and it put on a show

Ars Technica - 1 hour 16 min ago

On Thursday morning, United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Medium rocket took flight for the final time. Beneath clear blue skies at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site in Florida, the rocket carried the GPS III satellite safely into orbit. This is the second of the Air Force's next-generation global positioning system satellites to reach space.

As usual, the single-core Delta IV rocket performed its job well. Since 2002, this rocket (which can fly with or without small, side-mounted solid rocket boosters) has flown 29 missions. All have been successful.

But the venerable Delta rocket will fly no more. Put simply, in today's marketplace—in which United Launch Alliance must compete with SpaceX for national security launches and with many other providers for commercial missions—the Delta-IV Medium cannot compete.

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Anti-vaxxer livestreamed alleged assault on pro-vaccine lawmaker

Ars Technica - 1 hour 45 min ago

Enlarge / LOS ANGELES, Calif. - APRIL 14, 2015: Kathleen Miller, 46, right, with her children at a rally of parents and teachers who oppose efforts to end the personal-belief exemption on vaccinations. (credit: Getty / Irfan Khan)

The Sacramento Police Department on Wednesday cited a prominent anti-vaccine advocate on suspicion of assault after he shoved state Sen. Richard Pan from behind while livestreaming the interaction on Facebook, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Along with the streamed Facebook video (which you can watch here), advocate Kenneth Austin Bennett wrote: “... yes, I pushed Richard Pan for lying, laughing at us, and for treason.” He added in the video that if Pan “got what he deserved, he would be hanged for treason for assaulting children, for misrepresenting the truth.”

Bennett had previously accused Pan of treason in a recall petition he filed against Pan earlier this year. In the petition, Bennett cited Pan’s legislation aimed at tightening rules for vaccination exemptions in California. Bennett had also previously challenged Pan in the 2018 primary but did not qualify for the general election.

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Report: Apple will unveil overhauled MacBook Pro, “Pro” iPhones this fall

Ars Technica - 2 hours 25 min ago

Apple has already had a busy year with the launch of the Apple Card and the reveal of the above-pictured Mac Pro, but it's about to get much, much busier. A new report by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu—who have reported reliably on Apple's plans in the past—details numerous upcoming product announcements from Apple.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the report mentions three iPhones, a MacBook Pro, an Apple Watch, iPad Pros, an entry-level iPad, a higher-end iteration of AirPods, and a more affordable alternative to HomePod.

And those are just the as-yet-unannounced products: Apple has already stated its intentions to release a new Mac Pro, an ultra-high-end display for creative professionals, the Apple TV+ streaming service, the Apple Arcade games subscription service, and new versions of its iOS and iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS software—all before the end of the year.

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The FCC has no idea how many people don’t have broadband access

Ars Technica - 2 hours 53 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Bonilla1879)

A new broadband mapping system is starting to show just how inaccurate the Federal Communications Commission's connectivity data is.

In Missouri and Virginia, up to 38 percent of rural homes and businesses that the FCC counts as having broadband access actually do not, the new research found. That's more than 445,000 unconnected homes and businesses that the FCC would call "served" with its current system.

Given that the new research covered just two states with a combined population of 14.6 million (or 4.5% of the 327.2 million people nationwide), it's likely that millions of homes nationwide have been wrongly counted as served by broadband. A full accounting of how the current data exaggerates access could further undercut FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's claims that repealing net neutrality rules and other consumer protection measures have dramatically expanded broadband access. His claims were already unconvincing for other reasons.

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Bionic seagull takes flight in Beijing

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 52 min ago
A robot bird is one of the innovations on show at the World Robot Conference in Beijing.

These McLaren F1s and Bugatti EB110s were the stars of Car Week

Ars Technica - 4 hours 20 min ago

CARMEL, Calif.—Quick question: what's the greatest car of all time? If, like me, you got into cars in the 1990s, that's an easy one to answer—it's the McLaren F1, of course. By the late 1980s, the McLaren Formula 1 team had won almost everything there was to win, and its head designer Gordon Murray was getting bored. To keep him on the payroll and entertained, McLaren approved his plan to build a road car without compromise. It would have three seats, with the driver in the middle. There would be a naturally aspirated V12, a six-speed manual transmission, and no driver aids at all. Along the way, Murray and co. created a car that managed to be leagues faster than anything that came before it, and almost everything that has come since. It even proved to be a pretty good racing car, winning Le Mans on its debut in 1995.

So you can imagine the size of my grin when I discovered not one but four McLaren F1s were basking in the sun at this year's Quail Motorsports Gathering, which took place last Friday as part of Monterey Car Week. As you'll see from the photos above, I even ran into Murray himself.

And as you'll note from the photos immediately below this text, the F1s weren't the only megastars of the mid-90s in attendance. There were also four Bugatti EB110s, a car that were it not for the McLaren would have worn the supercar crown throughout the decade. The EB110 also featured a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis, a V12 engine, and a six-speed gearbox, but the V12 was a 3.5L affair with four turbochargers, and the transmission sent power to all four wheels. It's a part of the marque's history that modern Bugatti has shied away from in the past, but as you'll see that's beginning to change. Did I mention there were a ton of photos in this post? You should definitely scroll through all of them because that's where I've hidden the story.

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Vaping-linked lung disease cases jump from 94 to 153 in 5 days, CDC says

Ars Technica - 5 hours 15 sec ago

Enlarge / A person exhales vapor while using an electronic cigarette device in San Francisco, California on Monday, June 24, 2019. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping rose from 94 to 153—a jump of over 60%—in just five days, according to an update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Saturday, August 17, the CDC announced its investigation into the cases, which have puzzled health officials. The cases tend to involve gradual breathing difficulties, coughing, fatigue, chest pain, and weight loss, which leads to hospitalization (no one has died from the condition). Health officials say there’s no evidence pointing to an infectious agent behind the illnesses. The only commonality appears to be recent use of e-cigarettes, aka vaping.

As of August 17, the agency had counted 94 probable cases from 14 states between June 28 and August 15. In an update released late Wednesday, August 21, the CDC said the figures are up to 153 probable cases between June 28 and August 20, spanning 16 states.

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Identical photons generated 150 million kilometers apart

Ars Technica - 5 hours 11 min ago

Enlarge / A nearby source of quantum photons. (credit: NOAA)

Up until the mid-20th century, light was pretty ordinary. Yes, it was both a particle and a wave, but it didn’t do anything very weird. Then scientists, under-employed after the end of World War II, started paying more attention to the properties of light. This was, in part, driven by the availability of surplus searchlights, which could be turned into cheap arrays of light detectors to measure the properties of stars.

That began the photon gold rush, with scientists identifying all sorts of interesting potential behaviors. But actually observing them would require having rather special light sources, which didn’t exist. Now, scientists have shown that our own Sun can be turned into one of these light sources.

A herd of identical photons

When two photons are indistinguishable, they can be made to play some unexpected tricks. The diagram below shows an example: two identical photons hit a partially reflective mirror at the same time. We cannot predict where they will go, but wherever it is, they go together. If the world was classical, we would expect that each behaves independently, and half the time, they would choose different directions. But we're in a quantum world, so this doesn't happen.

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Unsweetened: Android swaps sugary codenames for boring numbers

Ars Technica - 5 hours 22 min ago

We usually get a fun codename to go along with each big new Android release. The names are based on sugary snacks that started with the letter C in Android 1.5 and have been working their way down the alphabet. Over the history of Android, we've had 1.5 Cupcake, 1.6 Donut, 2.0 Eclair, 2.2 Froyo, 2.3 Gingerbread, 3.0 Honeycomb, 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, 4.1 Jelly Bean, 4.4 KitKat, 5.0 Lollipop, 6.0 Marshmallow, 7.0 Nougat, 8.0 Oreo, and Android 9 Pie (this last one dropped the decimal point!). Usually these names are a big deal. There are jokes and guesses made about them all year, Google often commissions a statue, and sometimes there are media events and huge cross-company, brand-sharing initiatives with companies like Nestle or Nabisco.

This year's Android Q is one of the harder letters to come up with a snack codename for, so today Google has announced it's not going to do snack names anymore. Android is getting a branding rework, and in addition to new logos and colors, the snack-based codenames are dead. Android Q is official as "Android 10" and just Android 10, with no extra names whatsoever. Google says the codename system was fun, but it wasn't "always understood by everyone in the global community:"

For example, L and R are not distinguishable when spoken in some languages. So when some people heard us say Android Lollipop out loud, it wasn’t intuitively clear that it referred to the version after KitKat. It’s even harder for new Android users, who are unfamiliar with the naming convention, to understand if their phone is running the latest version. We also know that pies are not a dessert in some places, and that marshmallows, while delicious, are not a popular treat in many parts of the world.

As a brand, Android is getting new logos and colors. The Android robot is actually part of the logo now, sitting next to or above the newly tweaked wordmark. The robot's green color has been changed significantly, too, moving from a neon green to a more seafoam color. While there is no official word on what will happen to the Android version statues that decorate the Android HQ lawn, Android Police reports the company has commissioned a big number "10" this year.

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Maybe don’t keep your Apple Card in a leather wallet, Apple warns

Ars Technica - 5 hours 33 min ago

Enlarge / There's also a featureless, very Apple-like physical card that you can order. (credit: Apple)

Apple's shiny new credit card boasts many features, such as clear statements, a cash-back program, and an extremely Apple aesthetic. The flat, white titanium design echoes a decade's worth of other Apple products, including the iPhone and MacBook. But while the card is compatible with Apple's virtual wallet, it is apparently not compatible with your actual wallet.

The Apple Card became available to all US consumers who own compatible iPhones earlier this week. It's primarily intended to be a virtual card running inside the Wallet app, but it is also a fully fledged MasterCard, backed by Goldman Sachs, and cardholders can request a physical card to accompany their virtual one.

The digital-first nature of the card becomes clear in the company's support guide for the physical card, which includes handling, care, and cleaning advice that unfortunately runs contrary to the way pretty much everyone uses or stores their credit card.

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Android ditches desserts as Q becomes 10

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 39 min ago
The next version of the Android operating system (OS) will not be named after a dessert.

Spotify sued over 'billions of Eminem streams'

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 13 min ago
Eight Mile Style is seeking £30m from the music streaming service.

Microsoft halts listening in to Xbox gamers

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 17 min ago
The firm said it would no longer listen in to players using the console.

Fake news is 'reinforced by false memories'

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 29 min ago
Research during Ireland's abortion referendum highlights risks for social networks.

Physicists discover hidden text in what was thought to be blank Egyptian papyri

Ars Technica - 8 hours 25 min ago

Enlarge / Physicists at the BESSY-II synchrotron radiation facility in Germany used multiple methods to reveal hidden text in supposedly blank patches on ancient papyri from Elephantine Island in Egypt. (credit: Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin)

A team of German scientists has used a combination of cutting-edge physics techniques to virtually "unfold" an ancient Egyptian papyrus, part of an extensive collection housed in the Berlin Egyptian Museum. Their analysis revealed that a seemingly blank patch on the papyrus actually contained characters written in what had become "invisible ink" after centuries of exposure to light.

Most of the papyri in the collection were excavated around 1906 by an archaeologist named Otto Rubensohn, on Elephantine Island, near the city of Aswan. They've been gathering dust in storage for much of the ensuing decades, and because they are so fragile, more than 80% of the text within remains undeciphered. “Today, much of this papyrus has aged considerably, so the valuable texts can easily crumble if we try to unfold or unroll them,” said co-author Heinz-Eberhard Mahnke of Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin. That makes noninvasive imaging methods essential to the project.

In 2016, an international team of scientists developed a method for "virtually unrolling" a badly damaged ancient scroll found on the western shore of the Dead Sea, revealing the first few verses from the book of Leviticus. The so-called En Gedi scroll was recovered from the ark of an ancient synagogue destroyed by fire around 600 CE. To the naked eye, it resembled a small lump of charcoal, so fragile that there was no safe way to analyze the contents. The team's approach combined digital scanning with micro-computed tomography—a noninvasive technique often used for cancer imaging—with segmentation to digitally create pages, augmented with texturing and flattening techniques. Then they developed software (Volume Cartography) to virtually unroll the scroll.

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Staffsource: Ars staffers reminisce on the games that made them gamers

Ars Technica - 8 hours 35 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Photo Illustration by Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff full of gamers and game-lovers, we'll be serving up extra reviews, guides, interviews, and other stories all about gaming from August 19 to August 23.

While it's exciting (and a bit overwhelming) to think about all the new games we want to play, it's fun to occasionally walk down memory lane and remember the first games we ever played. For the Ars staff, our lists of nostalgic games are exhaustive, but a few titles still stand out as the true gateways to the years of gaming that followed.

These might not be the very first games we played, or even the games we played the most during our youth, but they do hold a special place in our hearts for sparking something inside of us that made us continue to seek out games to feed our needs for action, adventure, strategy, escape, and more.

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Apple Card can be damaged by wallets and jeans

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 3 sec ago
Apple advises owners of its new credit card to keep it away from leather and denim.

The ten best console racing games of all time

Ars Technica - 9 hours 6 min ago

Enlarge / It's never a bad time to bust out your wheel—here's the T-GT wheel. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff full of gamers and game-lovers, we'll be serving up extra reviews, guides, interviews, and other stories all about gaming from August 19 to August 23.

Have your gaming tastes changed as you age? Mine have. Back in the early days, before starting an accidental love affair with the car, I'd play anything. In fact, I don't even remember my first racing game, although Outrun is probably a safe guess considering my age and where I grew up. But as I've gotten older and time for gaming has become scarce, that's all gone, and I exist on a diet that's almost exclusively racing. Console racing at that. Blame fear of having to learn something new if you like.

So when I was asked to write something for Ars Gaming Week, it seemed like a good opportunity to make a list—in this case, the ten best console racing games of all time. There is no scientific method behind my ranking. We did not assemble a crack panel of industry experts to stank-rank the field. I don't have celebrity anecdotes. And if a particular game was on a platform I never had, it won't be on the list, either.

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YouTube flags robot battle videos as “animal fights”

Ars Technica - 9 hours 51 min ago

Enlarge / The "Great White" bot from King of Bots.

On Monday, several YouTube users had their videos removed from the service due to YouTube's restrictions on animal fight footage. This was confusing, because the videos in question showed no animals fighting; instead, they showed robots battling.

Robot combat has been around ever since Marc Thorpe launched the inaugural Robot Wars in San Francisco back in 1994. It has become popular around the world through shows like BattleBots in the US, Robot Wars in the UK, and the more recent King of Bots in China.

The big televised events usually showcase heavy (200lb/80kg+) bots, but those competitions are infrequent, so smaller weight classes have become popular. These classes require less money and less arena space, and some of the more popular events feature small bots in the "insect weight" classes (150 grams for Ant [UK]/Flea [US]), 1 pound for Ant [US], and 3 pounds for Beetle). Naturally, builders like to record and share videos of these robotic tussles.

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