Here in 2019, only the most fringe reactionaries are able to claim with a straight face that climate change is not a thing. But after years of the media doing its "two sides" thing, recalcitrant policy makers dragging their heels, a continued lack of investment in public transport, and intense, well-funded opposition from vested interests like the oil industry, there has been a heavy cost on attempts to decarbonize. When it comes to the transportation sector, even with the best will in the world, it will be decades before we see the end of the internal combustion engine. So when a new technology comes along that offers a really meaningful improvement in fuel efficiency when fitted to existing engines, my interest gets piqued. Such is the case with a new ignition system from a company called Transient Plasma Systems.
The company has its roots in pulsed power technology developed for the Department of Defense at the University of Southern California, specifically nanosecond-duration pulses of power. Since 2009, it has been working on commercializing the technology for the civilian market in a number of applications, but obviously it's the automotive one that interests me.
In a conventional four-stroke internal combustion gasoline engine, which works on the principle of suck-squeeze-bang-blow, the bang is created by a spark plug igniting the fuel-air mixture in the cylinder. That spark typically lasts several milliseconds, and although the control of that spark is now controlled electronically rather than mechanically, the principle is the same today as it was in 1910 when Cadillac added it to its engines.
Bitcoin has risen above $12,500, its highest level in 2019. The new milestone comes just five days after bitcoin rose above $10,000.
Bitcoin's value has risen by almost a factor of four since last December, when the price bottomed out around $3,200. Bitcoin's price is still well below the all-time high of around $19,500 reached in December 2017.
Bitcoin's rise is part of a broader rally in cryptocurrency markets. The price of ether, the currency of the Ethereum network, is up 11% over the last 24 hours to nearly $350. Bitcoin Cash, a bitcoin spinoff optimized for higher transaction volumes, is now worth more than $500 for the first time since the start of 2019.
This month, the European Commission revealed a new three-year project to develop technologies needed for two proposed reusable launch vehicles. The commission provided €3 million to the German space agency, DLR, and five companies to, in the words of a news release about the project, "tackle the shortcoming of know-how in reusable rockets in Europe."
This new RETALT project's goals are pretty explicit about copying the retro-propulsive engine firing technique used by SpaceX to land its Falcon 9 rocket first stages back on land and on autonomous drone ships. The Falcon 9 rocket's ability to land and fly again is "currently dominating the global market," the European project states. "We are convinced that it is absolutely necessary to investigate Retro Propulsion Assisted Landing Technologies to make re-usability state-of-the-art in Europe."
SpaceX began testing supersonic retro-propulsion as far back as September 2013, when the company first flew its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, v1.1. This involves relighting the rocket's Merlin engines as the Falcon thunders toward Earth through the atmosphere at supersonic speeds. Relighting a rocket's engines and controlling its descent with aerodynamic surfaces was a huge engineering challenge that the company has now mostly mastered.
When I reviewed the first Super Mario Maker in 2015, I lamented that the game didn't debut years earlier as a Wii U console launch title. No other game before or since so easily showed off the benefits of that 2012 system’s tablet controller and online community features. And though the Wii U’s retail life fizzled shortly after Super Mario Maker’s release, a dedicated community of makers and players kept their aging consoles plugged in, carefully pushing the game’s course-making systems as far as they could go with truly inventive and imaginative levels.
This week, Nintendo is finally bringing a Mario Maker sequel to a platform with a healthy future ahead of it, rebuilding the game for a Switch tablet that can also be played on the go. The long-awaited sequel brings enough new features and quality-of-life improvements to justify the impending permanent loss of literally millions of levels created for the first game. But the package is still missing some key features that have me worried about how easy it will be to discover quality levels after launch.
One of the biggest additions in Super Mario Maker 2 is an offline Story Mode. Seemingly inspired by the similar (and excellent) course collection in the wholly offline Super Mario Maker for 3DS, Story Mode here comprises over 120 pre-built courses, all made with the game’s construction set.
In this, Story Mode acts as an extended tutorial not just on individual building parts, but on how to build those parts into a quality course. Most of these courses aren’t long, and most aren’t all that challenging for those with some Mario experience, but they’re built with the kind of guided care and internal thematic consistency that you don’t reliably find when playing random online levels. Spending a few hours working through them is great inspiration for your own course construction efforts.
Weather forecasters think parts of the 5G network could interfere with meteorology communications.
Chipmaker Micron has restarted some shipments to Huawei despite US sanctions.
After a crazy week where T-Mobile handed over my phone number to a hacker twice, I now have my T-Mobile, Google, and Twitter accounts back under my control. However, the weak link in this situation remains and I'm wary of what could happen in the future.
Lake City becomes the second Florida town in two weeks to pay up after a ransomware attack.
Israeli security firms Check Point and CyberInt partnered up this week to find, exploit, and demonstrate a nasty security flaw that allows attackers to hijack player accounts in EA/Origin's online games. The exploit chains together several classic types of attacks—phishing, session hijacking, and cross-site scripting—but the key flaw that makes the entire attack work is poorly maintained DNS.
If you have a reasonably good eye for infosec, most of the video speaks for itself. The attacker phishes a victim over WhatsApp into clicking a dodgy link, the victim clicks the shiny and gets owned, and the stolen credentials are used to wreak havoc on the victim's account.
What makes this attack different—and considerably more dangerous—is the attacker's possession of a site hosted at a valid, working subdomain of ea.com. Without a real subdomain in their possession, the attack would have required the victim to log in to a fake EA portal to allow the attacker to harvest a password. This would have immensely increased the likelihood of the victim becoming alert to a scam. With the working subdomain, the attacker was able to harvest the authentication token from an existing active EA session before exploiting it directly and in real time.
A huge acceleration in the use of robots will affect jobs around the world, Oxford Economics says.
A live stream tour of a tiny museum open only one day a week attracts nearly half a million viewers.