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Industry & Technology

Coronavirus: Exercise bike firm Peloton stops live classes

BBC Technology News - 14 min 43 sec ago
The bike firm has paused live classes just days after an employee tested positive for Covid-19.

Coronavirus: Call for single EU tracking app with data protection

BBC Technology News - 33 min 31 sec ago
EU data watchdog calls for a single, privacy-centred virus app, instead of dozens of national ones.

Experiment finds that gravity still works down to 50 micrometers

Ars Technica - 38 min 29 sec ago

Enlarge (credit: J G Lee)

Gravity is the weakest of the fundamental forces, but it's the only force that operates over very long distances. Hence, planets orbit stars, stars form galaxies, and galaxies cluster. Gravity also operates at the tiniest of scales, too, but its weakness makes it very hard to detect its influence. It's worth trying, though, as violations of the laws of gravity at very small scales would be good evidence for New Physics. So physicists have been looking, though without much luck so far.

Searching for flaws in gravity

The force due to gravity reduces with the square of the distance. If you double the distance, the force is not halved but reduced to a quarter of its original value. This law, called an inverse square law, is based purely on geometry: we live in three spatial dimensions, and therefore the inverse square law holds. However, if the universe has more than three spatial dimensions, the inverse square law would break.

We know that over long distances—the Earth to the Moon, and the distances between stars—the inverse square law appears to be correct. At galactic and cosmological scales, the inverse square law also holds, with the caveat that dark matter and dark energy are required. You might think that what we call dark matter or dark energy would be potential evidence of extra dimensions, but it isn’t quite that simple. At these scales, the hidden dimension would have to be both large and unable to influence anything else, like photons. Since we also require consistency, and large hidden dimensions don’t appear to offer it at the moment, we are restricted to tiny hidden dimensions and changes to gravity at very small scales.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple will battle COVID-19 by designing and making millions of medical face shields

Ars Technica - 51 min 34 sec ago

Apple CEO Tim Cook took to a Twitter video to announce that the company will design and make face shields for medical workers battling the COVID-19 crisis, to the tune of one million shields per week. This announcement follows already publicized efforts to source face masks from the company's supply chains; Cook said that effort has produced 20 million face masks to date.

"We've launched a company-wide effort bringing together product designers, engineering, operations, and packing teams and our suppliers, to design, produce, and ship face shields for health workers," Cook explained in the two-minute video. He added that one shipment has been delivered to Kaiser hospital facilities in the Santa Clara valley and that the company expects to make one million face masks by the end of the week and just as many each following week.

Apple is dedicated to supporting the worldwide response to COVID-19. We’ve now sourced over 20M masks through our supply chain. Our design, engineering, operations and packaging teams are also working with suppliers to design, produce and ship face shields for medical workers. pic.twitter.com/3xRqNgMThX

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) April 5, 2020

Cook went on to explain that the shields "pack flat, one hundred to a box" and that each shield can be assembled in under two minutes. Both materials and manufacturing will be sourced from the United States and China, Apple's two primary countries of operation. For now, Apple is distributing the masks within the United States, but Cook said the company hopes to expand to other countries and regions in the future.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ars Subscription Drive: Success++

Ars Technica - 1 hour 1 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

A career of 22 years in the same gig is uncommon these days. And for that 22 years to be at the same place, online, doing what I do with the awesome people I get to work with, is ludicrous. But I’m no fool: I have had this honor because of the strength, love, and respect of our readership and our community.

That’s why, when we started to see Bad Things in our industry a couple of weeks ago, we knew that we needed to turn to our most important lifeline—you. We picked a big goal: something that would not only impress Condé Nast leadership but would be a meaningful bridge to better times.

I speak for everyone at Ars when I say we are truly humbled, thrilled, amazed, a little “I’m not crying you’re crying,” and extremely grateful. As I write this, we are at 187% of our goal. One hundred and eighty-seven percent! My left brain is soaking in happiness while my right brain is saying, “Dude, you should’ve known this was gonna happen.”

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

What OneWeb’s failure tells us about space resiliency in the age of COVID-19

Ars Technica - 1 hour 26 min ago

Enlarge / Soyuz ascends from the Spaceport in French Guiana in February, 2019, carrying the first six satellites for OneWeb. (credit: Arianespace)

Last week, one of the leading companies attempting to build a satellite mega-constellation, OneWeb, filed for bankruptcy and laid off all of its employees. This was the largest failure in the aerospace industry of late, but it's hardly the only one, as other prominent companies such as LeoSat and Bigelow Aerospace lay off staff and potentially shutter operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated financial pressures on the space industry, where many small and medium-sized businesses already live on the edge, needing regular infusions of private capital or government contracts to remain afloat. To get a sense of what OneWeb's failure means for this industry, Ars spoke with Chuck Beames, executive chairman of York Space Systems and chairman of the SmallSat Alliance (of which OneWeb was a member).

Beames also previously managed more than $1 billion in assets during his time at Vulcan Aerospace, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's fund to support space ventures. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

British government starts pushing social distancing via in-game ads

Ars Technica - 2 hours 8 min ago

Enlarge / Why would you ever go outside when you have Dirt Rally to play inside?

As governments around the world urge their citizens to "Stay at home, save lives," the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is using in-game advertising to get that message in front of a younger audience of video game players.

The messaging is already appearing through in-game banners in Codemasters' Dirt Rally 2.0, which will be offered as a free PlayStation Plus title this month. Rebellion titles like Sniper Elite and Strange Brigade, meanwhile, will display the message before the start of each game. And King's Candy Crush Saga will insert the PSA amid the usual interstitial advertising for millions of free-to-play players.

"At Codemasters we came to realize that technology within our games, which enables the remote updating of banners within the virtual environment, could be repurposed to assist with the coronavirus communication effort," Codemasters VP of Business Development Toby Evan-Jones said in a statement. "It’s fantastic to see conversations already being sparked amongst our community."

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Elderly Israelis beat isolation with tech lessons

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 55 min ago
Tech innovators are giving older Israelis online lessons to overcome Covid-19 isolation.

Aircraft carrier captain lost his command because of “Catch-22” COVID-19 dilemma

Ars Technica - 4 hours 27 min ago

Enlarge / Captain Brett Crozier addresses the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on November 1, 2019. (credit: Sean LYNCH / US NAVY / AFP)

There has been a great deal of outrage expressed over acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly’s decision to “relieve” Captain Brett Crozier of his command over the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt after Crozier raised the alarm over a COVID-19 outbreak aboard his ship. Crozier’s letter was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, and Modly called the letter "poor judgement" by Crozier.

Modly had said on April 1 that Crozier’s actions "would absolutely not result in any type of retaliation," stressing the need for commanding officers to be candid about their concerns. But that was apparently an April Fool’s prank, as Modly moved the next day to dismiss Crozier because he had gone outside the chain of command.

There are two schools of thought on Crozier’s dismissal. The Navy’s official position is that Crozier stepped out of line by blasting a letter to "20 or 30" people in the Navy, didn’t walk down the passageway to go through his direct superior to elevate the request, and created unneeded panic. His own crew and many observers not hampered by their office believe that Crozier did the right thing and that the Navy—and the Trump administration—are shooting the messenger of bad news.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Airbnb hosts defy lockdown laws with 'Covid-19 retreats'

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 39 min ago
Government criticises "dangerous and irresponsible" listings of coronavirus isolation properties.

Quibi, day one: This phone-focused TV service really isn’t that bad

Ars Technica - 4 hours 57 min ago

Enlarge / They want us to pronounce it "kwib-ee." We're going to pronounce it "kee-bee" to spite them. But silly as the name is, the service isn't that bad. (credit: Quibi)

If you're a frequent TV watcher, you may have noticed a significant change in daily and weekly series over the past month. TV crews have scrambled in the face of coronavirus shutdowns to generate content without their usual tools or studios, and, gosh, it's been sloppy. The results from most major networks have featured problems with lighting, microphones, camera resolutions, and editing across the board as hosts transition to filming themselves from home.

Even as of press time, many of these shows still feature awkward pauses and silences, not to mention grainy, compression-filled video feeds captured from online chat platforms. It seems like networks don't know what to do in a world where "social distancing" means not taping in front of a live studio audience, and the results look quite bad compared to home-filmmaker stars on YouTube. Major TV networks have long been accused of not understanding the streaming landscape, and that accusation has rung all the more true recently.

Which brings us to the latest streaming-exclusive service: Quibi. Unlike most other streaming services of the past few years, which have largely battled over which classic TV exclusives they can secure, this one has been built out of new, celeb-filled series with one thing in common: the "mini-sode" concept. Every Quibi video clocks in at 10 minutes or less.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Final Fantasy VII Remake spoiler-free review: Our kind of Cloud gaming

Ars Technica - 7 hours 15 min ago

Enlarge / We're going back to Midgar. (credit: Square Enix)

This week's Final Fantasy VII Remake, in spite of its flaws and oddities, does the unimaginable: it delivers to just about any audience who might be interested in this specific RPG series and this specific game. That's good news for anyone who has awaited this popular game's return for 23 years. But big as that niche may be, it's still a niche.

Are you a series veteran who has followed the Warriors of Light since the NES era? Maybe you're a JRPG diehard who knows your way around every inscrutable Final Fantasy spinoff (VII or otherwise)? Or, what if you're a lapsed player who got swept up in 1997's FFVII fever hoping this new game will be a cool, modernized reason to return to your PlayStation 1 heyday?

If so, you count among the millions who will likely enjoy what FFVIIR has to offer. The production values, at their best, are exhilarating. The updated combat system sees Square Enix get its closest yet to nailing battles in a JRPG, with a system that runs at a bombastic-yet-smooth clip. And it's nice to get to know some familiar faces in a stretched-out return to the iconic fantasy city of Midgar. Even better, you can rest assured that Square Enix has avoided two of its usual sins this time around. FFVIIR doesn't "take 10 hours to get good," and its plot doesn't devolve into a Kingdom Hearts-like mess of indecipherable gibberish.

Read 42 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Coronavirus: Defence firm Babcock to make 10,000 ventilators

BBC Technology News - 10 hours 9 min ago
The move comes as tech giant Apple says it will start making face shields for medical workers.

Zoombombing is a crime, not a prank, prosecutors warn

Ars Technica - 17 hours 20 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Charlotte Nation / Getty)

Coronavirus-related social distancing measures have given a big popularity boost to Zoom, a video conferencing platform that's known for its ease of use but not necessarily strong security or privacy protections. Internet trolls and other troublemakers have responded with "Zoombombing": joining Zoom meetings uninvited and disrupting them. Zoombombers have exposed themselves to schoolchildren and shouted racial slurs.

In a Friday statement, federal prosecutors in Michigan warned the public that Zoombombing isn't a harmless prank; it's a crime.

"Hackers are disrupting conferences and online classrooms with pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language," wrote the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. "Anyone who hacks into a teleconference can be charged with state or federal crimes."

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Coronavirus: Video games add 'stay at home' Covid-19 adverts

BBC Technology News - 18 hours 11 min ago
Candy Crush Saga, Dirt Rally 2.0 and Sniper Elite 4 are among titles that show a government campaign.

Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus [Updated 4/5]

Ars Technica - April 5, 2020 - 5:35pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

More than 1.2 million people have been infected with a new coronavirus that has spread widely from its origin in China over the past few months. Over 67,000 have already died. Our comprehensive guide for understanding and navigating this global public health threat is below.

This is a rapidly developing epidemic, and we will update this guide periodically to keep you as prepared and informed as possible.

March 8: Initial publication of the document.

Read 264 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Flagship sedans like the Audi A8 are a dying breed

Ars Technica - April 5, 2020 - 2:30pm

The flagship sedan has been one of the more tragic victims of the SUV craze. Cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, and the Audi A8 used to be considered the ultimate expression of a carmaker's craft. Advanced technologies like anti-lock brakes, airbags, and infotainment systems would show up in these expensive machines years before they trickled down to the rest of us. But two decades into the 21st century, sedans are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Much of the most interesting new car technology—to us at least—is now found in plug-in powertrains and in the mass-market, like the Model 3, Polestar 2, or VW's ID family. So each year, fewer and fewer flagship sedans find homes, particularly as those same OEMs offer supersized luxury SUVs as well.

The A8 is a perfect example. Despite its Ronin connection, the biggest Audi has never been as popular as the S-Class, 7 Series, or Lexus LS. In 2019, the first full calendar year when the car was on sale in the United States, Audi sold 2,963 A8s. Over the same 12 months, the company sold 14,256 Q8s, the five-seat range-topping SUV that gets all the same gadgets but in much more on-trend packaging. You should be able to read Managing Editor Eric Bangeman's review of that SUV in the next few weeks, but having sampled both vehicles from the driver's seat and also riding as a passenger in the back, my take is that the sedan should come out ahead on both counts.

Despite its 17.3-foot (5.3m) length and 6.3-foot (1.9m) width, you only have to drive an A8 for a day or two before its bulk seems to shrink around you. And a curb weight of at least 4,773lbs (2,164kg) for the lightest variant (the $85,200 A8 55 TFSI, which uses a 3.0L V6 gasoline engine) makes it no featherweight, but it feels nimble nonetheless. And as long as you tick the $3,500 option for the rear-seat comfort package, the back seat of an A8 will outdo many business-class airline seats when it comes to comfort and adjustability, with heating, ventilation, and lumbar massages thrown in.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

How to refuel a nuclear power plant during a pandemic

Ars Technica - April 5, 2020 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / The Palo Verde Nuclear generating plant, the nation's largest nuclear power plant. (credit: Jeff Topping / Getty)

Each spring, nearly 1,000 highly specialized technicians from around the US descend on the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station near Phoenix, Arizona, to refuel one of the plant’s three nuclear reactors. As America’s largest power plant—nuclear or otherwise—Palo Verde provides around-the-clock power to 4 million people in the Southwest. Even under normal circumstances, refueling one of its reactors is a laborious, month-long process. But now that the US is in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the plant operators have had to adapt their refueling plans.

Palo Verde is expected to begin refueling one of its reactors in early April—a spokesperson for Arizona Public Service, the utility that operates the plant, declined to give an exact start date—but the preparations began months in advance. The uranium fuel started arriving at the plant last autumn, delivered in the cargo bay of an unmarked semi truck. The fuel arrives ready for the reactor as 1,000-pound rectangular bundles of uranium rods that are 12 feet tall and about 6 inches on each side.
The latest shipment of fuel arrived at the plant well before the coronavirus pandemicbrought the world to a standstill, says Greg Cameron, the nuclear communications director at Palo Verde. The biggest change with this refueling cycle, he says, is the scope of the operation. “We’ve tried to trim down the amount of work to just what is necessary to ensure that we run for the next 18 months without impacting the reliability of the plant,” Cameron says.

Each of Palo Verde’s three nuclear reactors are ensconced in their own bulbous concrete sarcophagus and operate almost entirely independent of one another. This allows plant operators to periodically take one of the reactors offline for refueling and maintenance without totally disrupting the flow of energy to the grid. Each reactor is partially refueled every year and a half, with about one-third of the fuel in the reactor core being swapped out for a fresh batch.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Coronavirus: Tech firms summoned over 'crackpot' 5G conspiracies

BBC Technology News - April 5, 2020 - 10:54am
Government will tell social media firms to take down posts more quickly after attacks on masts.

Pixar pioneers behind Toy Story animation win 'Nobel Prize' of computing

BBC Technology News - April 5, 2020 - 12:07am
The men who made Toy Story and Finding Nemo possible speak to the BBC about their Turing Award win.

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