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For the last year or so, Stratolaunch has conducted a number of ground-based tests on the world's largest aircraft, both inside its gargantuan hangar and on a runway in Mojave, California. If all goes well, the company plans for the aircraft with a 117-meter wingspan to make its maiden flight by the end of this year.
But the aircraft is only a means to an end—sustainably launching rockets into space. Although Stratolaunch appears to have built a fine airplane, questions have lingered for years regarding exactly which rockets will be flown to a cruising altitude, and then released by the airplane. And when you've built an aircraft the likes of which have never been seen before, such curiosity is understandable.
On Monday, the company finally provided some additional clarity. Previously, Stratolaunch announced an agreement to launch small Pegasus rockets from the aircraft, but these boosters can only deliver up to 370kg into low-Earth orbit. (And they are so small, their use could not possibly justify the scale of the Stratolaunch plane, with a wingspan 20 meters greater than even the Spruce Goose).
Google is facing new scrutiny in the wake of revelations that it stores users’ location data even when "Location History" is turned off.
Last Friday, Google quietly edited its description of the practice on its own website—while continuing said practice—to clarify that "some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps."
As a result of the previously unknown practice, which was first exposed by the Associated Press last week, Google has now been sued by a man in San Diego. Simultaneously, activists in Washington, DC are urging the Federal Trade Commission to examine whether the company is in breach of its 2011 consent decree with the agency.
AT&T-owned DirecTV has defeated the bulk of a $4 billion lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission, which wasn't able to convince a judge that DirecTV ads deceived customers about the price of service.
The FTC sued DirecTV in March 2015, alleging that the nation's largest satellite TV provider used deceptive advertising to get consumers to agree to price increases of up to $45 per month and early cancellation fees of up to $480. The FTC was seeking refunds for affected consumers.
But a judge's ruling on Thursday gutted the FTC's case against DirecTV, which has been an AT&T subsidiary since July 2015. "The FTC's ambition in attempting to show that over 40,000 advertisements were likely to deceive substantially exceeded the strength of its evidence," wrote Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr. of US District Court for the Northern District of California. "This case did not involve the type of strong proof the Court would expect to see in a case seeking nearly $4 billion in restitution, based on a claim that all of DirecTV's 33 million customers between 2007 and 2015 were necessarily deceived."
The announcement today of Nvidia's new GPUs with integrated acceleration of ray tracing makes Microsoft's plans for DirectX even more relevant. Ray tracing gives developers access to wide range of effects that the current mainstream approach, rasterization, handles poorly. Shadows, reflections, and glass all set to look much more realistic.
At GDC, Microsoft announced a new feature for DirectX 12: DirectX Raytracing (DXR). The new API offers hardware-accelerated raytracing to DirectX applications, ushering in a new era of games with more realistic lighting, shadows, and materials. One day, this technology could enable the kinds of photorealistic imagery that we've become accustomed to in Hollywood blockbusters.
Whatever GPU you have, whether it be Nvidia's monstrous $3,000 Titan V or the little integrated thing in your $35 Raspberry Pi, the basic principles are the same; indeed, while many aspects of GPUs have changed since 3D accelerators first emerged in the 1990s, they've all been based on a common principle: rasterization.
Ahead of Nvidia's pre-Gamescom keynote on Monday, Internet retailers spilled the beans on the existence of the company's next consumer-grade graphics cards: the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti.
Nearly an hour later, Nvidia unveiled its own product listings for "Founders" editions of the "20-series" video cards. The company confirmed a September 20 launch for those two models and a "coming later" notice for an additional RTX 2070. The prices for the Founders Editions are as follows: $599 for the RTX 2070; $799 for the RTX 2080, and $1,199 for the RTX 2080 Ti. Pre-orders are live at the above Nvidia link.
Nvidia's event concluded by advertising prices "starting" at $499, $699, and $999, respectively, for those same models—assumedly referring to video card partners producing their own models outside Nvidia's own Founders Edition line.
The next time you're stuck in traffic, consider taking a cue from the lowly ant. Fire ants may hold the secret to regulating traffic flow, whether it be dealing with cars packed on a freeway during rush hour, shepherding crowds through narrow passageways, or coordinating swarms of robots.
"Ants that live in complex subterranean environments have to develop sophisticated social rules to avoid the bad things that can happen when you have a lot of individuals in a crowded environment," said Georgia Tech physicist Daniel Goldman, who has been studying fire ants for years and is co-author of a new paper in Science detailing how they optimize their tunnel-digging efforts.In a jam
Physicists have long been fascinated by traffic jams, especially so-called "phantom" traffic jams (aka, "jamitons"), where there doesn't seem to be any good reason for the slowdown. It all comes down to density and the physics of self-organization. Traffic moving freely "flows" like a liquid. Traffic jammed to a standstill is akin to a solid.
Few cars are quite as legendary as the Aston Martin DB5. It's not because they sold well—just over a thousand were built between 1963 and 1965. And it's not because they won famous races. Instead, the DB5 became such an icon thanks to an early example of product placement, because it's the car that James Bond drove in the film Goldfinger. And now, Aston Martin has said it's going to build 25 of them, complete with gadgets. But they won't be cheap—each will cost $3.51 million (£2.75 million) plus tax.
In the film, 007's car was modified by Q Branch and equipped with revolving number plates, machine guns, an oil slick dispenser, and even an ejector seat. In reality, the car used in the film—actually one of Aston Martin's pre-production prototypes—was modified by John Stears, who won an Oscar for his work. No one knew at the time quite how much the DB5 would steal the show, and after the film the gadgets were removed from the car and then reinstalled some years later.
Apple removed thousands of gambling apps from China's App Store after the company came under fire from state-run media. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the tech giant removed as many as 25,000 illegal gambling apps, many of which were disguised as official lottery apps, from China's App Store after China Central Television criticized the company for not doing more to catch and remove banned content.
"Gambling apps are illegal and not allowed on the App Store in China," Apple said in an emailed statement to The Wall Street Journal. "We have already removed many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps on our App Store, and we are vigilant in our efforts to find these and stop them from being on the App Store."
While Apple occasionally cleans up its App Stores to remove spam apps and content, this recent situation shows another way that the company has bent to the rules of the Chinese government. Last year, Apple removed VPN apps from its Chinese App Store after the local government banned services that were not already approved by the state. VPN apps allowed Chinese users to bypass the Great Firewall to get uncensored access to blocked websites.
This week, for the first time since the early '00s, Sega's Shenmue games will be available on modern platforms. Both original games, 1999's Shenmue and 2001's Shenmue II, arrive on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC on Tuesday, August 21, as a $30 compilation.
Chances are, you never got to dive into either, owing not only to their age but also their exclusive launches on largely unpopular consoles in the West (the Dreamcast and original Xbox, respectively). This week's compilation changes the access-half of the equation (and comes to tide fans over while waiting for the crowdfunded Shenmue III). But does it deliver a must-play return to Sega's console swan song?
Not really. The team responsible for restoring this pair of games has erred on the side of authenticity. In good news, that means everything from the original games—art, dialogue, presentation—has been shined up as much as humanly possible. These are the best versions of Shenmue games in the world. But hundreds of open-world games have surpassed Yu Suzuki's classic in the days since, and none of those later games' successes have inspired Sega to fix what's broken here.
Relativity is one of the most ambitious companies in the rocket industry. It seeks to manufacture the entirety of its rockets using 3D printing techniques, hoping to one day print a rocket on the surface of Mars to launch from there. But are either of these goals achievable?
Some new moves by the company suggest they just might be. On Monday morning, Relativity will announce the hiring of Tim Buzza as an adviser to shepherd the company's launch vehicle execution. These duties will include finalizing the selection of a US-based launch site (a decision will come before the end of this year) and overseeing development of ground launch systems at that site.
Buzza is a well-known figure in the aerospace industry. He was employee number five at SpaceX, having hired on in 2002, and over a 12-year career he ended up as the company's vice president of launch operations. In an oral history interview in 2013 with NASA, Buzza explained his early duties at SpaceX.
Update (8/20/2018 10:55am ET): The discount looks to have expired for now; we'll update this post if it returns.
Original story: Essential really seems to want to get rid of whatever phones it has left in stock. Last month we highlighted a deal in which the struggling startup’s first and only Android phone was marked down to $250 on Amazon Prime Day. On Monday, the device is going for even less than that, as Amazon is selling the “Halo Gray” edition of the handset for $224.
The Essential Phone first sold for $699 when it launched last summer and has undergone a couple of permanent price drops after sales reportedly fell well short of expectations. To be clear, the device still has its share of issues: there’s no waterproofing, no microSD slot, no headphone jack, and some users have reported issues with reception on T-Mobile. Battery life is just okay, and even after several updates the camera isn’t really competitive with any other flagship phone from last year. Essential’s modular accessory system has been a total bust, too.
It has been two years since Fitbit updated its Charge 2 fitness tracker, the $150 device that represents the most advanced activity band in Fitbit's lineup before you enter smartwatch territory. Today, Fitbit announced the Charge 3, a new tracker that maintains the Charge 2's spot but further bridges the gap between fitness tracker and smartwatch.
Fitbit made subtle changes to the Charge 2's design to come up with the Charge 3. Immediately noticeable in my short demo of the Charge 3 is its lightness—at 20-percent lighter than the Charge 2, you can barely feel it when it's on your wrist as you're wearing it.
Logitech on Monday announced the MX Vertical, the first vertical mouse to come from the popular peripheral maker.
The mouse costs $99.99 and is available to pre-order on Logitech’s website as of Monday. Logitech says it will start shipping the MX Vertical to customers sometime in September.
Monitor-IO is a $100 IoT gadget that tells you whether your Internet is working well, poorly, or not at all. The idea is you put this little black box next to (and plugged directly into) your router, and a quick glance at its color-coded screen will let you know if the Internet's working solidly, if it's having some problems, or if everything is just plain out. Monitor-IO even promises to tell users granular details like how long a connection has been up, or sketchy, or out.
All of this raises the question: do you need a gadget for that?
I've been a musician for the past 20 years, but I've been an electronic musician for a lot less than that. I use Apple's Logic Pro and a variety of software synthesizers to record songs these days, but coming from an electric guitar, I've missed the natural expressiveness that comes from playing a traditional instrument—particularly a stringed one.
I wasn't sure entirely what I expected an electric helicopter to look like, but what I found waiting for me at New York's Flatiron Plaza wasn't it. It's not because it didn't look like a helicopter; to an extent, it did. It just looked more like a grossly oversized drone with seats.
Workhorse, the company that makes the helicopter, wasn't giving anyone rides in the hardware, which is still undergoing FAA testing. But company CEO Steve Burns was there to talk about the 'copter, which is being called the SureFly. And, for good measure, he also showed off an electric pickup truck, which went by the less dramatic monicker W-15.
If pickup trucks and helicopters seem largely unrelated, it's only because they're at opposite extremes of the company's business interests. Workhorse is currently building electric delivery vans and testing one with a drone-based delivery system integrated into the van roof. (During our conversation, Burns mused about the prospect of using a drone to deliver burgers from a nearby Shake Shack to a 25th-floor balcony on one of the buildings that overlooked the plaza.) So both are in keeping with the company's interests.
We need bees to pollinate the plants that feed us. And bees need us to stop inadvertently poisoning them with the insecticides we use to keep those plants healthy. Unfortunately, just as we start to make progress on reducing the worldwide use of neonicotinoids (a class of insecticides that are toxic to bees), it seems like we might be at risk of rolling out an alternative insecticide that causes similar problems.
“Sulfoximine-based insecticides are the most likely successor [to neonicotinoids]” write the University of London’s Harry Siviter and his colleagues in a paper published in Nature this week. And that’s not great, as they found that bumblebee colonies exposed to a sulfoximine-based insecticide called sulfoxaflor suffered severe effects compared to a control colony. The insecticide didn’t kill the bees, but it damaged their ability to run a successful colony—a similar effect to neonicotinoids.Contamination
When insecticides are sprayed on crops, they settle not just on the crops themselves but also nearby wildflowers. Crops grown from insecticide-treated seeds also result in contaminated dust, soil, and pollen. This all exposes foraging bumblebees to the insecticide and also means that contaminated pollen and nectar make their way back to the bee colony, where larvae are exposed.
You can now feast your eyes on a festering chunk of solidified sewage as it ages, not-so-gracefully, inside a specially-designed isolation case that is being livestreamed from a museum in London.
Is there anything more 21st century than that?
The rancid refuse was chipped off an infamous sewer clog discovered in London late last year called the Whitechapel “Fatberg”—the preferred term for such muck monsters. The complete clog clocked in as an epic 250-meter-long, 130-metric ton mass of congealed excrement and waste, thought to be one of the largest—if not the largest—fatbergs ever identified. Authorities found it blocking a Victorian-era sewer line in the eastern Whitechapel area of the city. They spent nine long weeks in a subterranean war, hacking and blasting away the hardened blob of feces, fats, wet wipes, and various other detritus.
Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.
Few moments linger in my brain like a particular scene in John Carpenter’s movie The Thing. In the cold of an Antarctic night, the group corners and confronts a mutated imitation of their pal Bennings, its eyes wide and mouth gaping. They give it the torch and burn it down. The moment is as unsettling as the film is iconic.
Carpenter’s work was an imaginative take on the novella Who Goes There? by John Campbell. As good as the transition to film was, we now have another interpretation—one made of cardboard and plastic. The new board game from Certifiable Studios means you too can now snuff out an insidious alien life form.
Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back this weekend with another round of deals to share. This time, we're putting our focus on back to school sales; yes, the little Arsians are heading back to campus in the coming weeks (if they haven't left already), which means it's time for the annual rush of students and parents looking to find the proper gear.
Ars' Jeff Dunn curated a buying guide of recommended back to school tech earlier this week, but if the goods there don't work for you, it's worth noting many retailers are still running gadget sales that could prove useful to college students. Various laptop makers are running deals on their notebooks, Amazon has kicked off another round of discounts on its Fire TV and Echo devices, and Best Buy is currently holding its annual "anniversary sale."
Because he only wants the best for you and your kids, the Dealmaster has scoured the Web and rounded up a few highlights from these sales below, all of which could be handy to a returning student. We've emphasized good laptop sales, but the deals also cover video games, headphones, media streamers, and storage solutions. Have a look for yourself below.