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Industry & Technology

New map shows the strange terrain of Titan

Ars Technica - 1 hour 32 min ago

Enlarge / The map, as viewed from the poles. (Color key shown below.) (credit: Lopes et al/Nature Astronomy)

Saturn’s moon Titan is one of the most wonderfully weird worlds in our Solar System. In the way that Earth has a water cycle of rain and evaporation, frigid Titan has a methane cycle and lakes of the liquid stuff. Unfortunately, its atmosphere is thick with smudgy clouds and organic haze, limiting our view.

But while visible light can’t penetrate the atmosphere, other wavelengths have better luck. When the Cassini probe was still hanging out in the Saturnian neighborhood, radar and infrared instruments were used to scan the surface. In a new study published this week, a team led by Rosaly Lopes compiled that data to make a geologic map spanning Titan’s surface.

After analyzing the data, the team decided to group the terrain into six types of landscapes: craters, lakes, plains, dunes, hummocky (or mountainous) areas, and something they termed "labyrinth terrains."

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SpaceX has lost its first Starship prototype—is this a big deal?

Ars Technica - 1 hour 34 min ago

Enlarge / Here is Starship Mk 1 as revealed on September 28, 2019. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann for Ars)

On Wednesday afternoon, SpaceX loaded nitrogen into a prototype version of its Starship vehicle. The exercise, at the company's facilities near Boca Chica Beach in South Texas, represented the first significant pressurization test of the vehicle fuel tanks.

About halfway during the process, however, some sort of failure occurred as the top bulkhead of the vehicle broke apart and went flying away. This was followed by a large, white cloud of smoke and vapor emanating from the interior of the vehicle, which eventually cleared to reveal a dented, but still shiny Starship. This was the same vehicle the company revealed in late September.

SpaceX sought to play down the accident, noting this was a "max" pressurization test to stress the system. No one was hurt, the company said, and it was not a serious setback in the development of the ambitious vehicle. The company's founder and lead technical designer, Elon Musk, later said on Twitter that this prototype had "some value as a manufacturing pathfinder," but that the flight design of the vehicle would be "quite different."

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Rouen hospital turns to pen and paper after cyber-attack

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 55 min ago
The University Hospital Centre in Rouen says it will not pay the ransom and has taken steps to contain the attack.

Facebook ads: Who is spending money to get you to vote?

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 52 min ago
Different groups on Facebook are spending money to encourage young people to register to vote.

BA passengers face delays after 'technical issue'

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 51 min ago
The airline is booking passengers into hotels after some were stuck for up to 10 hours.

No, Apple isn’t opening a new manufacturing plant in Texas

Ars Technica - 11 hours 7 min ago

Enlarge / Donald Trump speaks at Apple's Mac Pro manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas. (credit: MANDEL NGAN / Getty)

President Donald Trump toured Apple's Mac Pro manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, with CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday.

"We're seeing the beginning of a very powerful and important plant," Trump said during the visit. "I want to see Apple building plants in the United States. That's what's happening."

Trump echoed that theme in a tweet after the tour. "Today I opened a major Apple manufacturing plant in Texas that will bring high paying jobs back to America," he wrote.

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Report: Sacklers using fake doctors, false marketing to sell OxyContin in China

Ars Technica - 13 hours 54 min ago

Enlarge / Bottles of Purdue Pharma L.P. OxyContin medication sit on a pharmacy shelf in Provo, Utah, on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

The mega-rich family behind the OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma is back to selling its highly addictive pain-killer with underhanded tactics and deceptive advertising—this time in China, via its international company, Mundipharma. That’s all according to a searing new investigation by the Associated Press.

The Sackler family, which owns both Purdue and Mundipharma, is embroiled in litigation in the United States over its alleged role in sparking the country’s epidemic of opioid abuse and overdoses. Thousands of plaintiffs—many state and local governments—claim that Purdue and the Sacklers misled patients, doctors, and regulators on the addictiveness of their drugs, aggressively marketed them, and wooed doctors into over-prescribing them.

While Purdue has since declared bankruptcy and stopped promoting OxyContin in the US, the Sacklers seem to be employing the same practices in China.

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E-sports: How gaming helped Liam McCarron live the dream

BBC Technology News - 15 hours 12 min ago
A skin condition forced Liam McCarron to miss a school year, but now he's "on top of the world".

Ubiquiti’s new “Amplifi Alien” is a mesh-capable Wi-Fi 6 router

Ars Technica - November 20, 2019 - 11:30pm

Enlarge / We were also provided an animated version of this image, in which the Alien router bobs up and down gently while levitating. We elected not to use that one. (credit: Amplifi)

Ubiquiti's consumer brand Amplifi has launched a new Wi-Fi 6 product line called "AmpliFi Alien." The original Amplifi products were typically sold as three-piece Wi-Fi mesh kits, so we got a little excited when we saw a price tag of $380 for Alien.

Unfortunately, that price is for a single router, not a kit—which means that Amplifi Alien, like Orbi AX6000, is still in stratospheric "you probably don't want this yet" territory where price is concerned. We have a sneaking suspicion both these price points are a bit of a gouge, since TP-Link's Broadcom BCM6750-based AX1500 Wi-Fi 6 router is already available for under $100.

Like Amplifi's earlier products, Alien features a small touchscreen on the router which can display the time, speed-test results, and offer some simple direct network control. Its power and WAN ports are recessed inside the base of the unit with a cable-management tunnel, but the four LAN ports are arranged along the back side of the barrel, opposite the touchscreen.

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Ars talks fighting games with Guilty Gear creator Daisuke Ishiwatari

Ars Technica - November 20, 2019 - 11:09pm

Enlarge / Daisuke Ishiwatari takes the stage at ArcRevo 2019 in Irvine, CA (credit: Arc System Works / Aurich Lawson)

A little over 20 years ago, when Daisuke Ishiwatari created Guilty Gear, popular fighting games like Street Fighter or King of Fighters tended to have a similar premise: gather the strongest warriors in the world and pit them against each other in a test of skill. Daisuke wanted a fighting game that was less grounded in the real world and reflected the wilder possibilities of manga and anime. (Guilty Gear was less grounded in a literal sense, too: characters could practically fly about the screen with mid-air moves, later leading to people referring to this style of anime-based fighters as "air dashers.") His vision was a war-torn future, full of magic, man-made bioweapons that turned on their creators (the eponymous Gears), and a diverse cast of heavy-metal-inspired characters players could choose from.

Guilty Gear games are both very difficult to master and also very rewarding for those who put in the hours of study. If fighting games are music, Guilty Gear is jazz, free form and technical, allowing players to improvise and develop their own styles and personalities. It's beautiful in motion but difficult for outsiders to follow, and the hardcore reputation has led to many feeling intimidated about learning or following the games.

In summer 2019, a new Guilty Gear game was announced, and Daisuke began hinting that this time around, the game would be simpler and more accessible. He wanted more players to pick up the game, more people to be able to follow along with tournaments and play. That perhaps comes as welcome news for those curious about the game but put off by the effort required to learn. The long-time player base, however, expressed consternation. Was the game they know and love going to be dumbed down? Was the freedom of expression they adore going to be removed?

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It’s the user’s fault if a Ring camera violates your privacy, Amazon says

Ars Technica - November 20, 2019 - 10:58pm

Enlarge / Your local police might like to interest you in this product. (credit: Amazon)

Amazon subsidiary Ring, which makes home surveillance equipment and cameras, has "partnerships" with more than 600 law enforcement agencies nationwide, allowing those police access to users' footage. And while Ring says it sets terms around how and when it will share that footage with police, anything the police do with it afterward is entirely out of its hands, the company says.

The partnerships between Ring and police, and the terms of the agreements, have not been transparent to the general public. Instead, they've come out in bits and pieces in media reports throughout the year. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in September demanded clearer answers from Amazon about Ring and published the company's responses this week.

In the pair of replies (PDF 1, PDF 2), Ring repeatedly deflects responsibility for the contents of captured footage to the consumers who capture it and the police departments that acquire it.

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The people with voices that tech needs to recognise

BBC Technology News - November 20, 2019 - 10:07pm
Project Understood aims to improve voice recognition software for users with Down's syndrome.

Huawei: US grants more exemptions to Chinese phone ban

BBC Technology News - November 20, 2019 - 9:27pm
The ban meant that Huawei's latest smartphones launched without many of the typical apps.

EverQuest lead producer and designer Brad McQuaid has passed away

Ars Technica - November 20, 2019 - 9:25pm

Enlarge / The original promotional art for EverQuest. (credit: Daybreak Games)

Brad McQuaid, the lead developer for the groundbreaking massively multiplayer online (MMO) game EverQuest, has died, according to an update from his development team. He was 51.

Details about the circumstances of his death have not been shared publicly, other than a mention that he passed away in his home. The Twitter account for Pantheon, McQuaid's project at the time of his death, and Visionary Realms, the company behind it, tweeted out the following announcement:

It is with deep regret we share that Brad McQuaid passed away last night. He will be deeply missed and forever remembered by gamers worldwide.

Thank you for bringing us together through your worlds. Rest in peace @Aradune.

VR offers our deepest condolences to Brad’s family.

McQuaid worked as a game programmer and designer starting back in the late 1980s, but he is most well-known for his role as lead programmer, producer, and designer (at various times) on EverQuest, the 1999 massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that defined the genre to this day. EQ, which adapted the DikuMUD formula from text games for a 3D persistent graphical virtual world, was a breakthrough moment for MMORPGs. Its success codified that model for the genre as other, different ideas of what MMORPGs might look like (such as those posited by Meridian 59Underlight, or Ultima Online) largely faded into memory.

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Nikki Haley lost her password, so she sent confidential info over unclassified system

Ars Technica - November 20, 2019 - 8:41pm

Enlarge / Ambassador Nikki Haley listens at the United Nations. (credit: United States Mission Geneva / Eric Bridiers / Flickr)

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley sent confidential material over a network reserved only for unclassified material because she forgot her password for classified communications, The Daily Beast reported.

The event happened on July 4 and July 5, 2017, after North Korea had tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting Alaska. As she and her staff scrambled to draft a statement responding to the test, Haley reportedly used her BlackBerry 10 to trade comments over the OpenNet, a State Department network for communicating sensitive, but not classified, information.

“Can’t find my password,” she wrote on July 5. Other messages instructed staff to make changes to the preliminary statement versions they had drafted.

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England boss Gareth Southgate reveals high-tech tips

BBC Technology News - November 20, 2019 - 7:10pm
Gareth Southgate says analysis of data has changed how his team trains - including for penalties.

New antibiotic found in bacteria inside a worm inside an insect egg

Ars Technica - November 20, 2019 - 7:00pm

Enlarge (credit: BSIP/Universal Images Group)

The last antibiotics generated against Gram-negative bacteria—which tend to be the more dangerous type—were developed in the 1960s. Thanks to the rise of antibiotic resistance, we need more. But rather than going through the trouble of trying to make our own, scientists have looked to other species that might need to kill the same bacteria that we do—we can just swipe theirs. Our own guts and soil bacteria have yielded a few recent hits.

The latest organisms that researchers have looked to are bacteria in the microbiomes of roundworms that parasitize insects (technically termed enteropathogenic nematodes). They were considered promising candidates because the worms invade insect larvae and release bacteria. Those bacteria then have to fend off the ones already living in the insect larva, as well as all the other bacteria the nematodes just spewed out. Conveniently for us, those species include common pathogens in our own guts, like E. coli

Usually, when microorganisms are being screened to see if they make effective antibiotics, they are grown on a plate along with the pathogenic bacteria to see if the ones being screened thwart the growth of the ones being targeted. The species taken from the nematodes’ guts did not stop the growth of E. coli in this traditional assay. But the scientists speculated that maybe they still made antibiotics, just not at high enough levels.

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Google Earth gets content creation tools for geography-focused presentations

Ars Technica - November 20, 2019 - 6:21pm

Enlarge / A Google Earth presentation in action. (credit: Google)

Google Earth is getting a new content creation feature set. You'll now be able to make presentations using Google's vast 3D Earth imagery and point-of-interest information. It's sort of like a geography-focused Powerpoint.

Back in 2017, Google Earth was completely rebuilt from a desktop application to a WebGL-based browser app at Starting today, on the left side of the website, you'll see a new "Projects" button, which will let you create a presentation. Just like a Google Doc or Sheet or Slide, these Google Earth Projects get saved as files on your Google Drive.

And like a normal presentation, you can create slides and attach text, images, and videos. Since this is Google Earth, though, all the text and images get overlaid on top of Google's terabytes of Earth imagery. You can pick from Google Earth's 3D views or Street View, set the camera just right, and capture a view. As you click through slides in your presentation, Google Earth will smoothly fly from point to point as your slides pop up.

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Did Neanderthals make eagle talon necklaces 120,000 years ago?

Ars Technica - November 20, 2019 - 5:20pm

Enlarge (credit: José Antonio Lagier Martin)

At Foradada Cave in northeast Spain, Neanderthal fossils lie mingled with stone tools and animal bones. Here, archaeologists recently unearthed the tip of a 39,000-year-old eagle toe with its claw missing. The phalanx (toe bone) came from the end of a Spanish imperial eagle’s big toe (the left one, to be exact), and cut marks along the length of the bone suggest that someone had cut off the large, curved talon at the end of the toe.

Archaeologist Antonio Rodriguez, of the Institute of Evolution in Africa, and his colleagues suggest that the missing talon ended up on a Neanderthal necklace.

The case of the missing jewelry

Along the top side of the toe (a proximal phalanx, if you’re an anatomy fan), 11 deep cut marks run diagonally across the bone; a shallower twelfth cut crosses the others, parallel with the bone’s length. Under the microscope, the cuts have v-shaped cross-sections, leaning to one side—the signature shape of tool-made cuts rather than predator teeth or damage from scraping against rocks or other bone. In fact, the cuts look almost exactly like the marks archaeologists left behind when they used stone tools to separate a raptor’s claw from its toe (because of course they did, for science).

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Iran's internet blackout reaches four-day mark

BBC Technology News - November 20, 2019 - 4:28pm
Almost all internet connectivity in the country has been switched off since Saturday.

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