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Comic for February 28, 2020

Dilbert - February 29, 2020 - 12:59am
Categories: Geek

GDC running out of time to cancel as Amazon, Blizzard join no-show list

Ars Technica - 36 min 1 sec ago

Enlarge / The state of GDC 2020 as of 3:00pm (Eastern) on February 28. Most of the major sponsors have withdrawn.

Attempts to contain and mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 are wreaking havoc on travel plans around the globe, and the annual Game Developers Conference is no exception. The majority of major sponsors for GDC 2020 in San Francisco have already pulled out a little more than two weeks ahead of the event's scheduled March 16 start. As of publication time, however, the event is still on, which raises the question: what would it take to make the GDC cancel?

On February 28 (Friday), GDC posted an update saying, "We are closely monitoring the COVID19 (coronavirus) situation and want to assure everyone that your health and safety are a top priority. If our assessment of the situation changes, based on new and evolving developments or updated information, we will promptly update this statement regarding the status of GDC 2020 accordingly."

Sony and Facebook both backed out on February 20, the first of the dominoes to fall. Since then, other cancellations have followed rapidly. EA and Kojima Productions both backed out on February 24, then Unity, Microsoft, Epic Games (and Unreal Engine) bowed out on February 27, with Amazon and Activision/Blizzard following on February 28.

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Boeing acknowledges “gaps” in its Starliner software testing

Ars Technica - 41 min 37 sec ago

Enlarge / Starliner touches down in December. (credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

On Friday during a detailed, 75-minute briefing with reporters, a key Boeing spaceflight official sought to be as clear as possible about the company's troubles with its Starliner spacecraft.

After an uncrewed test flight in December of the spacecraft, Boeing "learned some hard lessons," said John Mulholland, a vice president who manages the company's commercial crew program. The December mission landed safely but suffered two serious software problems. Now, Mulholland said, Boeing will work hard to rebuild trust between itself and the vehicle's customer, NASA. During the last decade, NASA has paid Boeing a total of $4.8 billion to develop a safe capsule to fly US astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

At the outset of the briefing, Mulholland sought to provide information about the vehicle's performance, including its life support systems, heat shield, guidance, and navigation. He noted that there were relatively few issues discovered. However, when he invited questions from reporters, the focus quickly turned to software. In particular, Mulholland was asked several times how the company made decisions on procedures for testing flight software before the mission—which led to the two two mistakes.

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The man behind the sphere, Freeman Dyson, is dead at 96

Ars Technica - 2 hours 18 min ago

Dyson's ideas even made it to where no man has gone before.

Freeman Dyson, a physicist whose interests often took him to the edge of science fiction, has died at the age of 96. Dyson is probably best known for his idea of eponymous spheres that would allow civilizations to capture all the energy radiating off a star. But his contributions ranged from fundamental physics to the practicalities of using nuclear weapons for war and peace. And he remained intellectually active into his 90s, although he wandered into the wrong side of science when it came to climate change.

Degrees? Who needs 'em?

It's difficult to find anything that summarizes a career so broad, but a sense of his intellectual energy comes from his educational history. Dyson was a graduate student in physics when he managed to unify two competing ideas about quantum electrodynamics, placing an entire field on a solid theoretical foundation. Rather than writing that up as his thesis, he simply moved on to other interests. He didn't get a doctorate until the honorary ones started arriving later in his career. His contributions were considered so important that he kept getting faculty jobs regardless.

Freeman Dyson at the introduction of Breakthrough Starshot, an idea with a sci-fi aura that's based on well-understood physics. (credit: Gary Gershoff / Getty Images)

That came after a fairly conventional start to his education: an undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge. Like many other scientists at the time, his career was interrupted by World War II, with Dyson working at the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command, evaluating data from completed missions and finding ways of getting more out of the nation's aircraft. After the war, he returned to Cambridge to finish his degree, then started in a PhD program at Cornell University in the US.

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