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Industry & Technology

Actually, NASA is looking at all options for the Moon—including prizes

Ars Technica - 2 hours 21 min ago

Enlarge / NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, far right, tours the Blue Origin facilities near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2019. (credit: NASA)

On Thursday, former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich expanded upon his ideas to use multi-billion dollar prizes to accelerate the Trump administration's goal of sending humans to the Moon by 2024, and then Mars by the 2030s. He positioned the idea to promote commercial space as an alternative solution to NASA's current plans for using the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

"To be clear: Our proposal does not suggest cancelling any current proposal," Gingrich wrote. "It does suggest that for the cost of one—or at most two—SLS launches, it may be possible to incentivize a competition to land on and start developing the Moon in less time and for less money. It is based on the principle of paying only for the achievement. If no one is able to reach the Moon and begin developing it, then the taxpayer would not pay a cent."

The basic idea is that if SpaceX, Blue Origin, or another company were able to independently develop its own launch systems (like SpaceX's Starship or Blue Origin's New Glenn) and then land humans on the Moon, they would receive a payment of $2 billion or more for the achievement. This would offer a back-up option if NASA's existing plans for the Artemis Program—which uses more traditional contracting and is expected to cost at least $30 billion—are delayed or run over budget.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Guidemaster: Finding the best gaming monitors you can buy in 2019

Ars Technica - 4 hours 50 min ago

Enlarge / The LG 34GK950F, our favorite ultrawide gaming monitor. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

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.

Any monitor can work for gaming, but a good gaming monitor will make your virtual exploits more polished. With their high refresh rates and adaptive sync, they can bring your games to a new level of fluidity. But since the market is flooded with confusingly-named choices, it can be tough to find the ones worth buying.

So for Ars Gaming Week, we set out to help. After spending the last three months researching dozens of gaming monitors and ultimately testing 14, we’ve come up with a few recommendations that should suit players of all kinds, whether you’re more into fast-paced online shooters or contemplative stories.

Read 35 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Guidemaster: The best keyboards, mice, and more for your gaming PC

Ars Technica - 5 hours 5 min ago

Enlarge / So many fingers have been typing and clicking in the name of journalism... (credit: Valentina Palladino)

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.

Creating the best PC gaming environment to suit your needs is more complicated than just building the ultimate PC from scratch. Once you have your dream machine, you'll need a mechanical keyboard, a gaming mouse, a high refresh-rate monitor, and other accessories. But deciding on the peripherals to invest in has become more difficult—sure, you have more options now than ever before, but the other side of that coin has birthed a congested world of PC gaming devices.

PC OEMs have embraced gaming with open arms, so much so that most PC companies have their own lines of gaming devices, and those often include desktops and laptops in addition to keyboards, mice, and the like. These new participants, along with the well-known gaming device OEMs, have made the pool of potential peripherals so large that one person alone could not sift through all of it.

Read 65 remaining paragraphs | Comments

YouTube disables 210 accounts spreading misinformation about Hong Kong

Ars Technica - 5 hours 10 min ago

Enlarge / Students attend a rally at Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong on August 22, 2019. (credit: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)

YouTube has disabled 210 accounts linked to the recent protests in Hong Kong, Google announced in a carefully worded blog post on Thursday. Google says the removals are "consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter."

Earlier this week, Twitter deleted hundreds of accounts connected to the Hong Kong protests. Twitter described it as a "significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong." Twitter tipped off Facebook, which deleted several accounts.

In plain English, Twitter suspected that the Chinese government created or hijacked a bunch of accounts to post propaganda defending Hong Kong's police and attacking Hong Kong's pro-democracy protestors. Facebook and YouTube followed up by deleting accounts on their platforms with similar patterns of misinformation.

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Rocket Report: Single-core Delta IV is no more, fully automated Soyuz

Ars Technica - 5 hours 36 min ago

Enlarge / The Rocket Report is published weekly. (credit: Arianespace)

Welcome to Edition 2.12 of the Rocket Report! This week's report might as well be brought to you by United Launch Alliance—but never fear, dear readers, no one influences the report—because there is a lot going on with the Colorado-based company. This week, ULA flew its final single-stick Delta IV rocket, and the company is in the midst of transitioning to its new Vulcan-Centaur booster.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Air Force seeks bids for small, medium payloads. The US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's Launch Enterprise is requesting industry bids for the Orbital Services Program-4, intended to launch payloads of 180kg or larger into orbit. The Air Force will procure about 20 missions over the next nine years, SpaceNews reports. Bids are due August 29.

Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tesla and Walmart address solar panel fire issues

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 49 min ago
The supermarket chain had issued a lawsuit against Tesla over a series of solar panel fires.

Pigs' emotions could be read by new farming technology

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 17 min ago
New technology has been developed to detect how happy the animals are.

Facial recognition technology aims to cut passport queue times

BBC Technology News - 17 hours 21 min ago
The UK Home Office is considering a system which would let you walk through immigration without showing your passport.

Porsche finally shows the interior of its new electric car

Ars Technica - 18 hours 34 min ago

I know, the slow drip of news from Porsche about its forthcoming Taycan electric car is starting to grate. "Just show us the damn car," you're probably thinking. I am, but I don't set the embargoes, and so here we are again. I've just gotten back from a long day's briefings about the new electric car, but I still can't tell you most of what I learned yet. However, today the company has allowed us to share these images of the interior.

It's unmistakably a Porsche to look at; the original 911 was a heavy influence for both the driving position and also the shape of the dashboard. But it's also unmistakably futuristic—the main instrument panel is a single, slightly curved 16.8-inch display. Not only is it the biggest screen I've seen used like this in a production car, but it sits naked, without a cowl to shade it from bright sunlight. To combat glare, the screen is coated with a polarized layer, and it is angled slightly off-vertical to minimize reflections.

The Taycan's design team has created a radically simple new look for the main instrument panel. The "Classic" mode—seen in these studio shots—is a minimalist take on the traditional horizontal cluster of round dials and gauges. You can replace the center dial with a moving map—also minimalist white-on-black, and oh so tasteful, or go the whole hog and make the entire main display the map. And there's a Pure mode, which just gives you your speed, cutting out all the other distractions like you were able to do with a Saab. Around left and right edges of the main instrument display are icons for functions like the headlights, ride height, and so on. (These are also the buttons to control them, but this is not a touchscreen, and those icons never move.)

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Valve says turning away researcher reporting Steam vulnerability was a mistake

Ars Technica - August 22, 2019 - 9:20pm

Enlarge (credit: Timothy Brown / Flickr)

In an attempt to quell a controversy that has raised the ire of white-hat hackers, the maker of the Steam online game platform said on Thursday it made a mistake when it turned away a researcher who recently reported two separate vulnerabilities.

In its statement, Valve Corporation references HackerOne, the reporting service that helps thousands of companies receive and respond to vulnerabilities in their software or hardware. The company also writes:

We are also aware that the researcher who discovered the bugs was incorrectly turned away through our HackerOne bug bounty program, where his report was classified as out of scope. This was a mistake.

Our HackerOne program rules were intended only to exclude reports of Steam being instructed to launch previously installed malware on a user’s machine as that local user. Instead, misinterpretation of the rules also led to the exclusion of a more serious attack that also performed local privilege escalation through Steam.

We have updated our HackerOne program rules to explicitly state that these issues are in scope and should be reported. In the past two years, we have collaborated with and rewarded 263 security researchers in the community helping us identify and correct roughly 500 security issues, paying out over $675,000 in bounties. We look forward to continuing to work with the security community to improve the security of our products through the HackerOne program.

In regards to the specific researchers, we are reviewing the details of each situation to determine the appropriate actions. We aren’t going to discuss the details of each situation or the status of their accounts at this time.

Valve’s new HackerOne program rules specifically provide that “any case that allows malware or compromised software to perform a privilege escalation through Steam, without providing administrative credentials or confirming a UAC dialog, is in scope. Any unauthorized modification of the privileged Steam Client Service is also in scope.”

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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

Ars Technica - August 22, 2019 - 8:36pm

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.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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

Ars Technica - August 22, 2019 - 8:20pm

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.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Anti-vaxxer livestreamed alleged assault on pro-vaccine lawmaker

Ars Technica - August 22, 2019 - 7:50pm

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.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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

Ars Technica - August 22, 2019 - 7:10pm

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.

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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

Ars Technica - August 22, 2019 - 6:42pm

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% 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.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Bionic seagull takes flight in Beijing

BBC Technology News - August 22, 2019 - 5:43pm
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 - August 22, 2019 - 5:15pm

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 - August 22, 2019 - 4:36pm

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 - August 22, 2019 - 4:25pm

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 - August 22, 2019 - 4:13pm

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.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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