MPs ask whether Epic Games does enough to prevent users spending too much time or money on the game.
In a federal lawsuit filed last week, Twitch accuses 100 unnamed defendants of breaking its terms of service by flooding the site's directory of Artifact game streams with inappropriate content, including "a video of the March 2019 Christchurch mosque attack, hardcore pornography, copyrighted movies and television shows, and racist and misogynistic videos."
Inappropriate or irrelevant streams are nothing new on Twitch, of course. The company's Trust and Safety team uses a variety of moderation tools to take down streams that violate the site's terms of service and ban the users behind them. But the company is taking the added step of a lawsuit in this case because, according to the complaint, "Defendants’ actions threatened and continue to threaten Twitch and the safety of the Twitch community."
"Twitch took down the posts and banned the offending accounts, but the offensive video streams quickly reappeared using new accounts," the complaint continues. "It appears that Defendants use automated methods to create accounts and disseminate offensive material as well as to thwart Twitch’s safety mechanisms."
Today we’re presenting the third installment of my conversation with Naval Ravikant about existential risks. This interview first appeared in March, as two back-to-back episodes of the After On Podcast (which now features 50 unhurried conversations with world-class thinkers, founders, and scientists). Naval is one of tech’s most successful angel investors and the founder of multiple startups—including seed-stage investment platform AngelList. Please check out parts one and two of this conversation if you missed them. Otherwise, you can press play on the embedded audio player or pull up the transcript, both of which are below.
In this segment, Ravikant and I move on from yesterday’s topic of AI risk to the dangers inherent in the rise of synthetic biology, or synbio. Here, I should disclose that I am a hopeless synbio fanboy. I’ve gotten to know many of the field’s top figures through my podcast, and I essentially revere both their work and its potential. But even the most starry-eyed synbio booster cannot ignore the technology’s annihilating potential.
A big topic in today’s segment is a genetic hack performed on H5N1 flu. This nasty bug kills a higher proportion of those infected than even Ebola (as discussed in some detail in this piece on Ars yesterday). But since its wild form is barely even contagious to humans, it has historically killed very few of us. But in 2011, independent research teams in Wisconsin and Holland modified H5N1’s genome to make it virulently contagious.
We're running a series of companion posts this week to accompany our special edition Ars Lunch Break podcast. This is the second of three guest posts centered around Rob Reid's TED talk from yesterday. Today, geneticist George Church weighs in with his thoughts and opinions on synthetic biology and a world-wide "DNA detector" net. Tomorrow we'll have a guest post from microbiologist Andrew Hessel.
Since the start of the millennium, we’ve improved the cost and quality of reading DNA 10 millionfold. This technology applies identically to our own genomes and to those of the most deadly pathogens. Yet we’ve barely begun to use this new "superpower" of DNA scrutiny to monitor our environment for threats to human health.
Many of the enabling technologies for highly distributed DNA detection networks are already here. For instance, we now have palm-sized devices that read DNA in nearly real time, and they can be attached to our smartphones—which themselves can append and transmit audio, video, and GPS data. Thousands are already using these new tools. They’re based on nanopore and other single-molecule electronics—which have very low reagent and tiny fabrication costs, and they are super-portable (a fraction the size of a phone).
The images were stored on CD Roms bought at a house clearance sale.
It's no secret that I like cars. I left a career in science policy to come to Ars to write about them, after all. But long before I fell in love with the automobile, there was Lego. I got sucked back into the world of the plastic brick on the eve of the millennium thanks to the first Lego Star Wars sets, but these days I've mostly been building little minifig-scale sports cars, particularly when writer's block strikes. So imagine how excited I was to find out that those Lego Speed Champions cars were coming to the rather excellent Forza Horizon 4.
Expansion packs are no new thing to the Horizon series. Nor are cameos or guest appearances from other franchises—The Fast and the Furious has shown up previously, and the most recent game includes a brief Halo crossover. But this is certainly the most left-field of them, transporting you from Britain to the Lego Valley, a magical place where most everything is built from bricks, and the humans are all now minifigs.
There are some Lego-specific tweaks—in addition to in-game currency and reputation points, you also need to earn bricks to build yourself a Lego house. But by and large, the gameplay remains identical: drive around wherever you want, entering races and challenges as you go and listening to the radio while you do it. (Sadly, or perhaps happily, that catchy number so beloved by Emmett in The Lego Movie is absent from the soundtrack.) There's still dynamic weather, day turns into night, and each week the in-game season changes.
As NASA talks up its Artemis Program to return humans to the Moon by the year 2024, a new report from the US Government Accountability Office raises questions about the space agency's ability to build the spacecraft and rockets intended to carry out that mission.
Instead of launching in 2020, the Artemis-1 mission that will see a Space Launch System rocket boost an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the Moon will instead launch as late as June 2021, the GAO report finds. NASA also appears to have been obscuring the true cost of its development programs, particularly with the large SLS rocket, which has Boeing as its prime contractor.
"While NASA acknowledges about $1 billion in cost growth for the SLS program, it is understated," the report found. "This is because NASA shifted some planned SLS scope to future missions but did not reduce the program’s cost baseline accordingly. When GAO reduced the baseline to account for the reduced scope, the cost growth is about $1.8 billion."
Ars yesterday wrote a big feature on the concept of "Industry 4.0," the fancy-sounding name that describes the ongoing shift in how products are created from raw materials and distributed along the supply chain to customers.
What the "4.0" revision adds compared to Industries 1.0 through 3.0 is a complex set of linkages between information and operational technologies. (IT stores, transmits, and manipulates data, while "OT" detects and causes changes in physical processes, such as devices for manufacturing or climate control.)
It's a modular and flexible approach to manufacturing that creates digital links among "smart factories" that are powered by the industrial Internet of Things, big data, and machine learning. And that's almost enough fancy CEO words to make bingo. At least in this case, the buzzwords aren't just important-sounding but ultimately meaningless concepts. Similar to how the rise of devops welded programming with operations, making the manufacturing process smarter by stuffing in all those buzzwords really is causing fundamental changes in how things are made.
The social network has disabled a large number of accounts in error, according to reports.
A US lawmaker asks Facebook to wait before launching its digital currency, hours after it was announced.
Human beings derive intense pleasure from bubbles and all kinds of foamy products, and scientists have long found them equally fascinating, given the complicated underlying physics. Most recently, a group of Japanese researchers published a paper in Scientific Reports describing two distinct mechanisms by which simple foams collapse. And in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, physicists at MIT and Princeton University demonstrated how to develop spherical bubbles uniformly by confining them in a narrow tube.
Individual bubbles typically form a sphere, because that's the shape with the minimum surface area for any volume and hence is the most energy-efficient. Back in the 19th century, Lord Kelvin proposed a bizarre soccer-ball shape called a tetrakaidecahedron (Greek for "fourteen faces" and sometimes translated "tetradecahedron"), with six square and eight hexagonal faces, to describe a bubble's natural geometry. It's known as "Lord Kelvin's cell," and while it was a valiant effort, that exact structure has yet to be observed in real-world bubbles, although physicists from Trinity College Dublin proposed a better solution to the conundrum in a 1993 paper.
Foams are ubiquitous in everyday life, found in foods (whipped cream), beverages (beer, cappuccino), shaving cream and hair-styling mousse, packing peanuts, building insulation, flame-retardant materials, and so forth. All foams are the result of air being beaten into a liquid formula that contains some kind of surfactant (active surface agent), usually fats or proteins in edible foams, or chemical additives in non-edible products. That surfactant strengthens the liquid film walls of the bubbles to keep them from collapsing.
There are slightly fewer Chinese machines, and some more US ones, in the list of top supercomputers.
The game - considered appealing to under 18s - gave players the chance to earn "gems" by viewing ads.
Social media companies know approval can be addictive, so how should we manage the compulsion to be liked?
Around a dozen prominent stem-cell experts said this week that they have been duped into appearing in a documentary series some described as an infomercial for the unproven and dangerous stem-cell treatments peddled by clinics now facing federal charges.
The researchers said they had originally agreed to do interviews for the project believing it was for a sober, educational documentary on legitimate stem-cell research—which holds medical potential but is still largely unproven to benefit patients. Just days before the documentary’s intended release of June 17, however, researchers say they were horrified to learn that the 10-part series, titled The Healthcare Revolution, hypes dubious stem-cell treatments as miracle cures and gives false hope to desperate patients. The revelation was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The researchers soon after discovered that the series was partially funded by the Cell Surgical Network, a for-profit chain of clinics currently facing federal charges for selling stem-cell treatments without approval from the Food and Drug Administration and failing to adhere to safety regulations. Hundreds of such questionable clinics have popped up around the country in recent years.
Sure, some users will appreciate iOS 13's dark mode, but features that relate to privacy, quality of life, and user advocacy are likely to be the ones that make the biggest difference for people when Apple's new iPhone, iPad, and iPod software arrives later this year.
To that point, uninstalling an app to which you have a paid subscription in iOS 13's latest beta release will lead to a prompt to potentially unsubscribe from that app. This might be a good idea because odds are decent that if you're deleting the app, you're not planning to use the related service anymore.
Of course, that won't always be the case: you could just be removing the app temporarily, you could still plan to use it on another device, or you could even just wish to keep supporting the developer who made it. The prompt just says "Manage Subscription," which is what copywriters might call a soft call-to-action—it's not telling you to unsubscribe, it's just making it an option.
In the last week, two different people have captured video of Tesla vehicles traveling down a freeway with an apparently sleeping driver behind the wheel.
Both incidents happened in California. Last week, local television stations in Los Angeles aired footage from viewer Shawn Miladinovich of a Tesla vehicle driving on LA's 405 freeway. The driver "was just fully sleeping, eyes were shut, hands nowhere near the steering wheel," said Miladinovich, who was a passenger in a nearby car, in an interview with NBC Channel 4.
Miladinovich said he saw the vehicle twice, about 30 minutes apart, as both cars traveled along the 405 freeway. The driver appeared to be asleep both times. He wrote down the vehicle's license plate number and called the information in to 911, but the California Highway Patrol had not reacted by the time the vehicles went their separate ways.
Yesterday on Twitter, Samsung's US support team reminded everyone to regularly—and manually—virus-scan their televisions.
Samsung's team followed this up with a short video showing someone in a conference room going 16 button-presses deep into the system menu of a Samsung QLED TV to activate the television's built-in virus-scan, which is apparently "McAfee Security for TV."
Unsurprisingly, Samsung got immediate pushback on these tweets and almost as immediately deleted them.
The Linux and FreeBSD operating systems contain newly discovered vulnerabilities that make it easy for hackers to remotely crash servers and disrupt communications, researchers have warned. OS distributors are advising users to install patches when available or to make system settings that lower the chances of successful exploits.
The most severe of the vulnerabilities, dubbed SACK Panic, can be exploited by sending a specially crafted sequence of TCP Selective ACKnowledgements to a vulnerable computer or server. The system will respond by crashing, or in the parlance of engineers, entering a kernel panic. Successful exploitation of this vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2019-11477, results in a remote denial of service (DoS).
A second vulnerability also works by sending a series of malicious SACKs that consumes computing resources of the vulnerable system. Exploits most commonly work by fragmenting a queue reserved for retransmitting TCP packets. In some OS versions, attackers can cause what’s known as an “expensive linked-list walk for subsequent SACKs.” This can result in additional fragmentation, which has been dubbed “SACK slowness.” Exploitation of this vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2019-11478, drastically degrades system performance and may eventually cause a complete DoS.
A New Zealand court today sentenced a man to 21 months in prison for sharing a video of the white-supremacist terrorist attacks that killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch.
As we noted in previous coverage, New Zealand and many other countries don't have US-style free-speech protections. After the mosque shootings on March 15, New Zealand's chief censor determined that a 17-minute video livestreamed during the shooting is objectionable under the country's law.
"It's illegal to have a copy of the video or document, or to share these with others," the New Zealand government explained.