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CERN has discovered a very charming particle

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 11:13pm

Enlarge / Particle tracks from the LHCb detector. (credit: Brookhaven National Lab)

The quark model was an intellectual revolution for physics. Physicists were faced with an ever-growing zoo of unstable particles that didn't seem to have a role in the Universe around us. Quarks explained all that through an (at least superficially) simple set of rules that built all of these particles through combinations of two or three quarks.

While that general outline seems simple, the rules by which particles called "gluons" hold the quarks together in particles are fiendishly complex, and we don't always know their limits. Are there reasons that particles seem to stop at collections of three quarks?

With the advent of ever-more powerful particle colliders, we've found some indications that the answer is "no." Reports of four-quark and even five-quark particles have appeared in different experiments. But questions remain about the nature of the interactions in these particles. Now, CERN has announced a new addition to growing family of tetraquarks, a collection two charm quarks and two anti-charm quarks.

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Yes, Apple silicon Macs will have Thunderbolt ports

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 9:55pm

Enlarge / Tim Cook begins his announcement of Apple Silicon. (credit: Apple)

Macs with Apple silicon will still support Thunderbolt, according to Apple. The clarification came after Intel's Thunderbolt 4 announcement led many to speculate that Macs without Intel CPUs would not have Thunderbolt ports.

Here's Apple's statement, which was provided to The Verge:

Over a decade ago, Apple partnered with Intel to design and develop Thunderbolt, and today our customers enjoy the speed and flexibility it brings to every Mac. We remain committed to the future of Thunderbolt and will support it in Macs with Apple silicon.

Earlier this week, Intel announced the minimum requirements for Thunderbolt 4 certification, as well as the features consumers can expect in Thunderbolt 4-ready devices and a timeline and details about the rollout of the first devices using the standard. It will first arrive later this year in laptops equipped with Intel's Tiger Lake CPUs, and Intel is producing controller chips for computers and peripherals.

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'I left Smile Bank today due to the ongoing outage'

BBC Technology News - July 10, 2020 - 9:47pm
Smile Bank customers have been unable to access their accounts for days due to an ongoing outage.

Amazon bans TikTok on employee phones, then calls it a mistake [Updated]

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 8:57pm

Enlarge / A person using the video-sharing application TikTok on a smartphone in Faridabad in India on June 30, 2020. (credit: AFP)

Update at 5:15pm ET: Amazon now says it sent the email announcing a TikTok ban by mistake, according to The Verge. "This morning's email to some of our employees was sent in error," an Amazon spokesperson said, according to the Verge article. "There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok." We're still waiting to hear back from Amazon.

Original story follows:

Amazon ordered employees to delete TikTok from their phones today, citing "security risks."

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Review: Charlize Theron shines as a world-weary immortal in The Old Guard

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 8:25pm

Four immortal warriors who have secretly protected humanity for centuries become targeted by a corporate CEO keen on extracting and marketing the key to their mysterious powers—just as a new immortal emerges to join their ranks—in The Old Guard. It's the latest action thriller from Netflix, starring Charlize Theron, and very much in the same vein as the Chris Hemsworth vehicle Extraction, which the streaming platform released earlier this year. But in this case, The Old Guard is a solid, entertaining action thriller whose individual parts, while strong, don't quite add up to a compelling whole.

(Some spoilers below, but no major twists revealed.)

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball), the film is an adaptation of the comic of the same name by Eisner-award-winning author Greg Rucka (Lazarus, Wonder Woman), with art by Leandro Fernández (Deadpool, Punisher: MAX). The main protagonist is Andromache of Scythia (Theron), aka Andy, who has been trapped in an immortal life for centuries for reasons that are never explained. The term "immortal" isn't entirely accurate, since these people do eventually die; one day, in some unforeseen future, their bodies will simply stop regenerating as mysteriously as they started. But by typical human lifespan standards, they're pretty much immortal.

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For the second time this year, Amazon Games puts a new title into hiding

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 8:08pm

Enlarge / An ominous explosion of a previous release window, as seen in this New World obelisk. (credit: Amazon Games)

After years of fumbling with game launches, mostly in the mobile and free-to-play sector, Amazon Game Studios seemed poised to make a splash in 2020 with two major new games with heavy online components. Today, that count drops back to zero.

New World, a fantasy MMO that revolves around colonizing a new continent, has seen its public launch pushed back from August 25 to "Spring 2021." The news came in a Friday update at the game's blog from studio director Richard Lawrence, who cited the current game's lack of "middle and endgame experiences" as a reason for the multi-month delay.

Helping players “understand”

This delay means the studio's original plans for a "closed beta" test, set to launch by "July 2020," have been canceled; that test would have been available exclusively to paying pre-order customers. In a way, this is still happening: paying customers will still be allowed into the game's "closed alpha" test on the original retail launch date of August 25, but only for a brief testing period. Lawrence didn't clarify how long this testing period will last, but he did tell fans that such a test will help players "understand why we want to take the extra time to make this experience the best it can be at release."

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IBM has a problem with Google’s Open Usage Commons

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 7:45pm

Enlarge / Nobody from IBM is proposing any lawsuits over Google's addition of Istio to its new Open Usage Commons foundation. But they're not happy about it. (credit: Nick Youngson)

This Wednesday, Google announced a new open source initiative—the Open Usage Commons, a sort of stewardship project for open source trademarks. The move drew immediate criticism from IBM, which claims an interest in Istio, one of the three projects Google seeded the OUC with at launch.

What is the Open Usage Commons?

Before we can really get into IBM's beef, we need to spend some time investigating what the Open Usage Commons is trying to do in the first place. From its own FAQ:

The Open Usage Commons gives open source projects a neutral, independent home for their project trademarks, and provides assistance with conformance testing, establishing mark usage guidelines, and handling issues around trademark usage that projects encounter.

The Open Usage Commons does not provide services that are outside the realm of usage, such as technical mentorship, community management, project events, or project marketing.

In some ways, this sounds like a standard item from the open source playbook: establish a conservancy to manage things neutrally and keep them free for all. But so far, trademarks have largely been the one thing that open source projects have kept to themselves, and for good reason—tarnishing a project's brand damages the project itself in difficult or impossible to repair ways.

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Google’s new Nest smart speaker is all cloth

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 7:19pm

Say hello to Google's next smart speaker, which is expected to be a replacement for the original Google Home. Earlier this week, the speaker leaked via testing at Japan's FCC equivalent (which has the way-cooler name of "Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications" or "MIC"), and because MIC took some pretty unflattering pictures, Google decided to set the record straight and send an official press shot and a video to various press outlets.

9to5Google previously mentioned the existence of this device in June. The report said the speaker was codenamed "Prince" and would be a replacement for the original Google Home. According to the report, the speaker had a "high excursion speaker with 2-inch driver" which would supposedly be a sound upgrade over the current Google Home.

The new speaker has an all-cloth design, with four lights on the front, which matches the Nest Mini/Google Home Mini and the Google Home Max. The old Google Home is the one outlier in Google's lineup, with a hard plastic top and 12 lights. There's not much to the design other than the cloth exterior. On the back, you'll find a DC barrel connector for power, a "G" logo, and a mute switch.

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Charter’s hidden “Broadcast TV” fee now adds $197 a year to cable bills

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 7:03pm

(credit: Getty Images | DonNichols)

Charter Communications is raising the "Broadcast TV" fee it imposes on cable plans from $13.50 to $16.45 a month starting in August, Stop the Cap reported.

Charter says the Broadcast TV fee covers the amount it pays broadcast television stations (e.g. affiliates of CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox) for the right to carry their channels. But for consumers, it is essentially a hidden fee because Charter's advertised TV prices don't include it.

Charter has raised the fee repeatedly—it stood at $9.95 in early 2019 before a series of price increases. At $16.45 a month, the fee will cost customers an additional $197.40 per year. Charter sells TV, broadband, and phone service under its Spectrum brand name and is the second largest cable company in the US after Comcast.

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Commerce “Sharpiegate” report finally released without redaction

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 6:54pm

Enlarge / Hurricane Dorian on September 3, 2019. (credit: NASA EO)

Recent weeks have seen some additional drama over last September’s hurricane dust-up between President Trump and the National Weather Service. Last week, the Commerce Department’s inspector general was crying foul over leadership stonewalling the release of her report on any legal issues arising from the dustup. That report is now out, and it brings some resolution to the tale.

If you’re unfamiliar with the background, as Hurricane Dorian approached the US coast, President Trump tweeted that Alabama would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated”—a statement that was untrue, as the storm was set to turn north and up the Eastern Seaboard. His statement, however, prompted calls from concerned people in Alabama, who wondered if the forecast had changed. In response, the Birmingham National Weather Service office tweeted, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

Annoyance and investigations

This tweet perturbed the White House, eventually resulting in a controversial, unsigned statement released by NOAA that essentially said the president was technically right and the Birmingham office should have qualified their tweet. (There was also an incident in which a hurricane forecast map in the Oval Office was modified with a black marker to make it look like Alabama might have been in danger.)

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Florida men charged with selling bleach as COVID-19 cure, threatening “a Waco”

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 6:07pm

Enlarge / Bottles of MMS, the bleach product that Genesis II Church of Health and Healing was ordered to stop selling. (credit: Genesis II Church of Health and Healing)

Four members of the infamous “Church of Bleach”—a father and his three adult sons—are facing fraud and contempt charges in Florida in connection to selling industrial bleach as a “miracle cure-all.”

Mark Grenon, 62, and his sons, Jonathan Grenon, 34, Jordan Grenon, 26, and Joseph Grenon, 32, all from Bradenton, Florida, were charged Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors in Miami allege that the men have been selling their industrial bleach product—called “Miracle Mineral Solution” or MMS—as a treatment for COVID-19 and other conditions. The prosecutors say the men willfully violated a federal order made in April that they stop selling and distributing the product. The family also allegedly sent letters threatening violence to the federal judge who issued the order and warned that they may stage “a Waco.”

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Tesla rival Rivian raises $2.5 billion to make electric trucks and SUVs

Ars Technica - July 10, 2020 - 5:45pm

Enlarge / Rivian's R1T at the New York Auto Show in 2019. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin / Ars)

Upstart electric vehicle maker Rivian has added $2.5 billion to its war chest, the company announced on Friday.

It's Rivian's fifth fundraising round in just 18 months. The company raised $2.85 billion in four previous fundraising rounds between February and December of 2019. This gives Rivian more than $5 billion to spend on manufacturing capacity for its forthcoming electric trucks and SUVs.

Rivian is planning to build two consumer vehicles that were both introduced to the public in 2018. There's an electric truck called the R1T and an SUV called the R1S. Both are based on the same battery-powered all-electric skateboard platform and boast ranges up to 400 miles.

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