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Hier — 21 juillet 2019Ars Technica

You can’t copyright a cocktail, so what’s a creative bartender to do?

Par Nathan Mattise
Welcome to the conference, this is the 10am panel. Can we interest you in a Dark 'n' Stormy®?

Enlarge / Welcome to the conference, this is the 10am panel. Can we interest you in a Dark 'n' Stormy®? (credit: Nathan Mattise)

NEW ORLEANS—Anyone who fancies themselves a fan of cocktails knows the names: the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Martini, Margarita, on and on and on. In the drinks world, such recipes have stood the test of time and grown into industry icons over decades. But unlike similar cultural colossuses elsewhere—from Mickey Mouse on screen or "Hey Jude" in the stereo—you can find the Negroni being deployed freely at virtually every bar in America. What gives?

"Can you copyright and own a recipe? A recipe in the eyes of the law doesn't have that creative spark," says attorney Andrea Mealey, an intellectual property expert who's done legal work for beverage companies like Gosling's Rum. During a panel on IP in the bar industry at the 2019 Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC) conference, she next points at the ceiling in this conference room. "The design of that chandelier—someone had to come up with it. It's creative, and you can own copyright on that design. I can do a slightly different design and own that as well. But a recipe is like a phone book in the eyes of the law—you can't own something so factual."

In the modern drinks world, Mealey not-so-subtly implies copyright may be the most useless legal tool for enterprising bartenders. (You could at least patent some amazing new tool, in theory.) It's a not-so-dirty secret that many have increasingly become aware of in this modern cocktail renaissance, where a killer recipe at an influential bar can suddenly show up on menus worldwide with little more than a written credit. The US Copyright Office puts it plainly: "A mere listing of ingredients or contents, or a simple set of directions, is uncopyrightable."

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Amazon warns customers: Those supplements might be fake

Par WIRED
Amazon warns customers: Those supplements might be fake

Enlarge (credit: Getty | John Greim)

On the second evening of Prime Day, Amazon’s annual sales bonanza, Anne Marie Bressler received an email from Amazon that had nothing to do with the latest deals. The message, sent from an automated email address Tuesday, informed her that the Align nutritional supplements she ordered two weeks earlier were probably counterfeit. “If you still have this product, we recommend that you stop using it immediately and dispose of the item,” the email reads, adding that she would be receiving a full refund. It’s not clear how many other customers may have purchased the fake supplements. Amazon confirmed that it sent out the email but declined to specify the number of customers impacted.

For years, Amazon has battled third-party sellers who list knockoffs of everything from iPhone charging cables to soccer jerseys on its site. Nutritional supplements are another popular target for fakes, as it’s a largely unregulated industry. The US Food and Drug Administration has been criticized—including by former staff—for declining to test dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness the same way it does pharmaceuticals. In this instance, the problems came together: An Amazon merchant sold dupes of genuine probiotics made by Align, a Procter & Gamble brand.

“We are aware that some counterfeit Align product was sold on Amazon via third parties,” Mollie Wheeler, a spokes­person for Procter & Gamble, said in an email. “Amazon has confirmed they have stopped third party sales of the Align products in question and Amazon is only selling Align product received directly from P&G manufacturing facilities.”

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Can Disney’s Circle really deliver a porn-free Internet?

Par Jim Salter
Can the Mouse keep your house safe from the sketchy parts of the Internet?

Enlarge / Can the Mouse keep your house safe from the sketchy parts of the Internet? (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

Filtering out the bits of human knowledge you don't like and leaving all the bits you do is a deceptively difficult task; it's one of the classic "I may not know art, but I know what I (don't) like" problems. If you have a family with small children and absolutely any adult member of that family is not a complete libertine, though, it's a problem you'll need to address. The latest edition of the Disney-backed Circle filtering platform aims to help, via either a standalone IoT gadget ($35) or a service embedded in higher-end Netgear routers and mesh kits, such as Orbi RBK50 ($300) or Nighthawk R7000P ($160).

  • Netgear's Orbi RBK-50 (left two items) offers embedded Circle functionality, or you can purchase a standalone IoT gadget (right). [credit: Jim Salter ]

Twenty years ago, the problem was trying to keep an up-to-date database of everything on the Internet and whether it was naughty or not. In 2019, we've got the Big Data chops for that, but a larger problem has cropped up—end-to-end encryption. The HTTPS standard treats everything in between the website itself and the device you're viewing it on as potentially hostile. It keeps those potential hostiles from seeing or altering what you're doing. So while your router (or any other device in the middle) might be able to tell—or at least effectively guess—what website you're visiting, it has no idea what you're actually doing there.

That means filtering based on the actual content you're looking at isn't possible, and family filtering is a semi-blind guessing game. Many companies and devices claim to do it, but Circle is the first one I've seen that does it even tolerably well.

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Watch this paper doll do sit-ups thanks to new kind of “artificial muscle”

Par Jennifer Ouellette

A new twist on a special kind of polymer is what enables this paper doll to do calisthenics.

A new twist on lightweight organic materials shows promise for artificial-muscle applications. Chinese scientists spiked a crystalline organic material with a polymer to make it more flexible. They reported their findings in a new paper in ACS Central Science, demonstrating proof of concept by using their material to make an aluminum foil paper doll do sit-ups.

There's a lot of active research on developing better artificial muscles—manmade materials, actuators, or similar devices that mimic the contraction, expansion, and rotation (torque) characteristic of the movement of natural muscle. And small wonder, since they could be useful in a dizzying range of potential applications: robots, prosthetic limbs, powered exoskeletons, toys, wearable electronics, haptic interfaces, vehicles, and miniature medical devices, to name just a few. Most artificial muscles are designed to respond to electric fields, (such as electroactive polymers), changes in temperature (such as shape-memory alloys and fishing line), and changes in air pressure via pneumatics.

Yet artificial muscles typically weigh more than scientists would like and don't respond as quickly as needed for key applications. So scientists are keen to develop new types of artificial muscle that are lightweight and highly responsive. Just this past week, Science featured three papers from different research groups (at MIT, University of Texas at Dallas, and University of Bordeaux) describing three artificial-muscle technologies based on tiny twisted fibers that can store and release energy.

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Game of Thrones goes on a Victory Lap—and an Apology Tour

Par WIRED
You know nothing, Jon Snow—like, maybe wear a hat when conditions are freezing in the North. Even if it musses up your luscious locks.

Enlarge / You know nothing, Jon Snow—like, maybe wear a hat when conditions are freezing in the North. Even if it musses up your luscious locks. (credit: HBO)

Hey. So, um, remember the end of Game of Thrones? If you were a fan of the show, you probably do. And there's a good chance it still stings. Daenerys Targaryen turned into a totalitarian dictator (if that can, indeed, be a thing). Then she died. Then Bran Stark—of all people!—was picked to rule Westeros. His sister Sansa became Queen in the North. And those are just the major plot points, the top of the crap-heap. It was, well, not beloved.

And the people who made that final season know it. To be clear, they don't entirely agree with the criticisms of the HBO show, they just know there was some blowback. A murderer's row of fan favorites from Game of Thrones—Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), Conleth Hill (Varys), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Jacob Anderson (Greyworm), Liam Cunningham (Davos), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister)—showed up at Comic-Con International to both take a victory lap and go on a quick apology tour. (Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, who were originally slated to appear, canceled two days ago.)

"I don't regret starting the petition," Hill joked when asked if he had any regrets over comments he made about his own disappointments, referencing the online petition to remake the show's eighth season. But, he added, "for the record I loved all my 10 years on Game of Thrones." Coster-Waldau went further, saying, "You look at the amount of people who are here, and we're here to thank you for watching us for all those years ... I think this is the reality [of how much people enjoyed the show], rather than media-led hate." People cheered.

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Once again, engage: Picard trailer feels like the next Next Generation

Par Sam Machkovech
  • "Engage!" Yes, that's what Sir Patrick Stewart says in this moment, and yes, it's as delightful in action as that sounds. [credit: CBS ]

All eyes were on San Diego Comic Con's Star Trek panel this year, as anticipation continues to build for Star Trek: Picard, the first Trek entry to feature Sir Patrick Stewart since the 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis. And on Saturday, the series' handlers at CBS didn't disappoint.

A whopping two-minute trailer went well past "teaser" status with a smorgasbord of story, action, and detail for this CBS All-Access exclusive, all clarifying what little we knew from the first teaser in May. Picard's retirement to a vineyard was further clarified: it came, in part, because "Commander Data sacrificed his life for me." (This plot point is emphasized in the new trailer by Picard examining Data's body parts, all spread out and disconnected in a storage facility.)

Roughly two decades after that calamity, however, a mysterious, unnamed woman (Isa Briones) finds Picard on his retirement grounds and pleads with him: "Everything inside of me says that I'm safe with you." The woman's shapeshifting powers and athletic prowess are put on display before Picard returns to an apparent Starfleet outpost. That's where he declares his hunch to an admiral: "If she is who I think she is, she is in serious danger."

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The Greatest Leap, part 5: Saving the crew of Apollo 13

Par Eric Berger

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript.

As Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise floated in the tunnel snaking between the Lunar Module and Command Module, he heard—and felt—a loud bang. Around him, the two vehicles began to contort. Then, the metal walls of the tunnel crinkled as the spacecraft shuddered.

Wide-eyed, Haise scrambled from the tunnel into the Command Module alongside Jack Swigert and their commander, Jim Lovell. From his customary position at Lovell's right, Haise quickly assessed something was drastically wrong with the spacecraft's cryogenic tanks—the oxygen was just gone. Fortunately, there didn't seem to have been a chemical explosion, because only a thin wall separated the oxygen tank from the propellant tanks used to power the spacecraft’s main engine.

“It really didn’t explode like something you think of with shrapnel,” Haise told Ars, in an interview. “It just over-pressurized, and then it let go some steam. If it had been a shrapnel-type explosion, I wouldn’t be here today.”

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Operation Avalanche, the only good conspiracy—fake the Moon landing, get promoted

Par Peter Opaskar

With this weekend's 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, it's worth remembering most conspiracy theories are more-or-less the same: a shadowy cabal of all-powerful, all-knowing elites comes together to manipulate us commoners, for whom they have nothing but contempt. The cabal changes—globalists, Lizard People, the media, the Vatican, whatevs—but the song remains the same.

So a few years back when I heard someone had made yet another a low-budget mockumentary about faking the Apollo 11 Moon landing, that's what I was expecting. Maybe even Kubrick would be evoked again. Instead, imagine my surprise when 2016's Operation Avalanche turned out to be light on conspiracy against the sheeple and heavy on a bumbling, baby-faced doofus who comes up with a plan to fake the Moon landing as basically a way to impress his boss.

Psychologists speculate that people are drawn to conspiracy theories because a world controlled by dark forces is still preferable to a world in which no one is at the controls. But truthers will find cold comfort in Operation Avalanche's view that the masters of the universe are more likely to be a grinning nincompoop whose best friend's wife greets him with "Don't touch me."

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Running the numbers on an insane scheme to save Antarctic ice

Par Scott K. Johnson
Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier sheds some icebergs. Could we... sort of... put them back?

Enlarge / Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier sheds some icebergs. Could we... sort of... put them back? (credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Imagine, if you will, the engineers of the king’s court after Humpty Dumpty’s disastrous fall. As panicked men apparently competed with horses for access to the site of the accident, perhaps the engineers were scoping out scenarios, looking for a better method of reassembling the poor fellow. But presumably none of those plans worked out, given the dark ending to that fairy tale.

A recent study published in Science Advances might be relatable for those fairy tale engineers. Published by Johannes Feldmann, Anders Levermann, and Matthias Mengel at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the study tackles a remarkable question: could we save vulnerable Antarctic glaciers with artificial snow?

Keeping our cool

Antarctica’s ice is divided into two separate ice sheets by a mountain range, with the smaller but much more vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet representing one of the biggest wildcards for future sea level rise. In 2014, a study showed that two of the largest glaciers within that ice sheet—known as the Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier—had likely crossed a tipping point, guaranteeing a large amount of future ice loss that would continue even if global warming were halted today.

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À partir d’avant-hierArs Technica

The new Terminator board game is actually worth your time

Par Ars Staff

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.

Even Terminator has a board game now. In the “golden age” of tabletop gaming, companies and licensing have brought us a wealth of titles, including those that no one was asking for (I’m looking at you, Ghostbusters and Wacky Races). Is Terminator Genisys: Rise of the Resistance something to get excited about?

Thankfully, yes.

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Unlicensed “health coach” claims health advice is free speech—court disagrees

Par Beth Mole
Unlicensed "health coach" Heather Del Castillo

Enlarge / Unlicensed "health coach" Heather Del Castillo (credit: Institute for Justice)

A federal court on Wednesday rejected claims by an unlicensed “health coach” that the unqualified health advice she provided to paying clients was protected speech under the First Amendment.

In rejecting her claim, the court affirmed that states do indeed have the right to require that anyone charging for health and medical services—in this case, dietetics and nutrition advice—be qualified and licensed. (State laws governing who can offer personalized nutrition services vary considerably, however.)

Heather Del Castillo, a “holistic health coach” based in Florida, brought the case in October of 2017 shortly after she was busted in an undercover investigation by the state health department. At the time, Del Castillo was running a health-coaching business called Constitution Nutrition, which offered a personalized, six-month health and dietary program. The program involved 13 in-home consulting sessions, 12 of which cost $95 each.

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Netflix lost US subscribers in Q2 over price hikes; how can it win them back?

Par Anna Washenko
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

Enlarge / Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. (credit: re:publica)

If you’ve been grumbling about the rising cost of your Netflix account, it seems you’re not alone. Netflix shared its second-quarter financial results and the company indicated that higher prices may have led to dips in the platform’s subscriber counts.

Revenue for the video streaming service totaled $4.92 billion in the second quarter, up 26% year-over-year. Net income was $271 million, with $0.60 earnings per share. Both those figures were down from Q2 in 2018 and from Q1 of 2019.

Netflix added 2.7 million paid members during the period, a big cut from the 5 million it expected to see and from the 5.5 million recorded in the year-ago quarter. “Our missed forecast was across all regions, but slightly more so in regions with price increases,” the shareholder letter read. The company insisted that competition from other platforms was not a concern, but rather that the shows it had for the second quarter weren’t enough to inspire people to subscribe.

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Blizzard’s bad-news year continues with another co-founder’s departure

Par Sam Machkovech
Blizzard’s bad-news year continues with another co-founder’s departure

Enlarge (credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Frank Pearce, one of Blizzard Entertainment's three original founding staffers, announced his intention to leave the game-making company on Friday, effective immediately.

Pearce's announcement came via a Friday blog post at Blizzard's official site, which was appended with a note from current Blizzard president J. Allen Brack. The combined blog post indicates that last year, Pearce "stepped into an advisory role to help with the transition," which seems to indicate that his departure has been some time coming. It's unclear whether this advisory-transition period began anywhere near the time another Blizzard co-founder, Mike Morhaime, left the company in October 2018.

The departure of Pearce as chief product officer leaves only one of Blizzard Entertainment's original co-founders, Allen Adham, at the helm. Adham returned to Blizzard in 2016 after a ten-year game-development hiatus to become the company's senior vice president. Adham, Pearce, and Morhaime founded the company, which was first named Silicon & Synapse, in 1991. Their first video game under the S&S label was RPM Racing for the SNES.

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Verizon wants you to pay $650 plus $85 a month for a 5G hotspot

Par Jon Brodkin
A giant Verizon 5G logo in an expo hall.

Enlarge / A Verizon booth at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles in September 2018. (credit: Verizon)

Verizon's 5G mobile service is available in just a handful of cities, but the carrier is charging premium prices to the few people who live in range of the network.

Verizon yesterday announced its first 5G hotspot, namely the Inseego MiFi M1000 that Verizon is selling for $650. On top of the device cost, the monthly fees for 5G service will be higher than 4G even though Verizon's 5G network barely exists.

Verizon said hotspot-only plans "start at $85 a month (plus taxes and fees)." Verizon describes the $85-per-month hotspot plan as "unlimited" when you go through the online checkout process. But the fine print states that customers get 50GB of high-speed 5G data, and 5G speeds are reduced to 3Mbps after that. The plan treats 5G and 4G data separately; it provides 15GB of high-speed 4G data and slows users down to 600kbps after that. Verizon allows 4K video streaming on 5G, while limiting video on the 4G network to 720p.

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President Trump says NASA should “listen to the other side” of exploration

Par Eric Berger
President Trump, with Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot at far left, listens to Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin on Friday in the Oval Office.

Enlarge / President Trump, with Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot at far left, listens to Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin on Friday in the Oval Office. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On Friday, a day before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, President Trump invited the crew of that mission to the Oval Office. Seated, Trump was flanked by Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and the children of Commander Neil Armstrong.

During the 20-minute ceremony, Trump praised the efforts of the Apollo 11 crew and NASA in achieving the first Moon landing half a century ago. But pretty quickly, he pivoted to his own administration's plans for sending humans to the Moon—and eventually Mars. The administration's Artemis Program, which calls for humans to return to the Moon by 2024, has been heavily promoted by the space agency as of late.

However, Trump seems much more interested in sending humans to Mars, which he considers more inspirational than a trip back to the Moon.

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New York passes its Green New Deal, announces massive offshore wind push

Par John Timmer
Image of wind turbines behind a large bay.

Enlarge / Sights like this may become common on Long Island. (credit: University of Rhode Island)

Yesterday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that's been described as the state's Green New Deal. Unlike the one that's been floated in Congress, this one isn't a grab-bag collection of social and energy programs. Instead, there's a strong focus on energy, with assurances that changes will be made in a way that benefits underprivileged communities.

The bill was passed by both houses of the New York legislature last month, but Cuomo held off on signing it so he could pair it with an announcement that suggests the new plan's goals are realistic. The state has now signed contracts for two wind farms that will have a combined capacity of 1.7 GW. If they open as planned in under five years, they will turn New York into the US's leading producer of offshore wind power.

What’s the (social) deal?

The national Green New Deal did include some energy-focused plans, but it mixed them in with aspirational ideas like a guaranteed basic income. It's hard to understand how New York's plan has picked up the same name given that it's nothing like the national one. While there is some nod to New-Deal-like programs (the law will create a Climate Justice Working Group for instance), those aspects are limited in scope to issues brought up by transitions in the energy economy. Instead, the majority of the law is focused on changing the state's energy landscape.

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How private is your browser’s Private mode? Research into porn suggests “not very”

Par Jim Salter
Thought using Incognito mode might keep such searching private? Facebook, Google, and even Oracle have more of your Web usage in their sights than you might think.

Thought using Incognito mode might keep such searching private? Facebook, Google, and even Oracle have more of your Web usage in their sights than you might think.

A forthcoming research paper [PDF] from researchers at Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Pennsylvania brings up the possibility that Google and Facebook might be tracking your porn history—and, perhaps more worrisome, that using Incognito mode doesn't help.

The paper, set to be published in the journal New Media & Society, does an excellent job of backing up the claim that porn usage ends up being tracked by Google and Facebook. Authors Elena Maris, Timothy Libert, and Jennifer Henrichsen used open source tool webxray to analyze more than 22,000 porn sites, discovering tracking code for Google on 74% and for Facebook on 10% of the sites analyzed. Software giant Oracle's Web tracking code also showed up, appearing on 24% of those sites.

In light of the study, a Facebook spokesperson told CNET, "We don't want adult websites using our business tools since that type of content is a violation of our Community Standards. When we learn that these types of sites or apps use our tools, we enforce against them." Google told The New York Times that the company disallows ads on adult sites and directly prohibits adding information based on sexual interest or activities to any personalized advertising profiles.

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Chrome 76 prevents NYT and other news sites from detecting Incognito Mode

Par Jon Brodkin
A notice on the Boston Globe website that says,

Enlarge / The Boston Globe and some other news sites prevent non-subscribers from viewing articles in a browser's private mode. (credit: Boston Globe)

Google Chrome 76 will close a loophole that websites use to detect when people use the browser's Incognito Mode.

Over the past couple of years, you may have noticed some websites preventing you from reading articles while using a browser's private mode. The Boston Globe began doing this in 2017, requiring people to log in to paid subscriber accounts in order to read in private mode. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other newspapers impose identical restrictions.

Chrome 76—which is in beta now and is scheduled to hit the stable channel on July 30—prevents these websites from discovering that you're in private mode. Google explained the change yesterday in a blog post titled, "Protecting private browsing in Chrome."

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The Greatest Leap, part 4: Catching Apollo fever as a new NASA employee

Par Eric Berger

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript.

As inevitably happens in August, a sweltering heat with the tactility of dog's breath had come over Houston when Raja Chari reported to the Johnson Space Center. Just shy of his 40th birthday, the decorated combat veteran and test pilot had been born too late to see humans walking on the Moon. No matter, he was in awe of the new office.

The son of an immigrant from India, Chari grew up in the heartland of America and grasped onto the American dream. He worked hard in school, and then in the Air Force, to become an astronaut. So when Chari finally got to Johnson Space Center in 2017 as a member of its newest astronaut class, his sense of achievement mingled with reverence. He found himself in the cradle of human spaceflight, where the Mercury 7 and Apollo astronauts had trained. Chari felt a wide-eyed wonderment for the people around him, too. The engineers. The flight controllers. His fellow astronauts.

“Honestly, it’s all about the people,” he told Ars just a few weeks after moving to Houston. “We’re all caught up in this sense of mission. The people here, my colleagues, are what really stand out. I can’t wait to go to work with them every day.”

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Google tries to reassure gamers it’s behind Stadia for the long haul

Par Kyle Orland
Display at industry convention devoted to video games.

Enlarge / A Google Stadia controller sits behind glass with a mock-up of a retro game store. (credit: Kyle Orland)

In a Reddit AMA yesterday, Google Stadia Director of Product Andrey Doronichev provided a few more tidbits about what features will and will not be available when the streaming game service launches in November. But as he did so, he had to convince some skeptical potential customers that Stadia won't end up in the same corporate graveyard as many other Google service experiments.

Doronichev compared Google's commitment to Stadia to services like Gmail, Docs, Music, Movies and Photos, which have persisted for years with no sign of imminent shutdown. "We’ve been investing a ton in tech, infrastructure, and partnerships [for Stadia] over the past few years," Doronichev said. "Nothing in life is certain, but we’re committed to making Stadia a success... Of course, it’s OK to doubt my words. There's nothing I can say now to make you believe if you don't. But what we can do is to launch the service and continue investing in it for years to come."

Doronichev also compared the transition to streaming gaming to similar transitions that have already largely taken place in the movie and music industries, and with cloud storage of personal files like photos and written documents. While acknowledging that "moving to the cloud is scary," he also insisted that "eventually all of our games will be safely in the cloud, too, and we'll feel great about it."

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Extending the savings: Get 20% off an Ars Pro subscription

Par Eric Bangeman
Extending the savings: Get 20% off an Ars Pro subscription

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson)

As I arrived home from a brief trip Thursday night, I had to navigate a small pile of brown boxes—the results of some Amazon Prime Day shopping. Prime Day 2019 may be in the rearview mirror, but one discount is not: Ars is extending the discount for new Ars Pro and Ars Pro++ subscriptions. If you subscribe in the next few days, you'll receive 20 percent off the regular price.

Here's what you get with the $25 $20 Ars Pro:

  • No ads: If you're logged into Ars, you'll never see an ad
  • No tracking scripts: Every last one of those scripts disappears for Ars Pro subscribers, with the exception of those from objects embedded in individual stories like videos from YouTube and tweets from Twitter
  • Full-text RSS feeds: See the whole story and never leave your RSS reader
  • Subscriber-only forum access: Sit back, relax, and vent your geek angst in The Lounge
  • Article PDFs: Read our great long-form content offline
  • Classic reading mode: Read Ars in the old-school way

Ars Pro is compelling on its own, but for $50 $40 Ars Pro++ offers all of the great benefits of Ars Pro, plus:

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The Corvette goes mid-engined—supercar performance for $60,000

Par Jonathan M. Gitlin
  • Chevrolet introduces the 2020 Corvette Stingray, the brand’s first-ever production mid-engine Corvette. [credit: Steve Fecht for Chevrolet ]

TUSTIN, Calif.—On Thursday night, in a 1,000-foot-long (300m) hangar packed with hundreds of attendees, the world got its first proper look at the next Chevrolet Corvette. New for model year 2020, it's the eighth version of "America's sportscar" and one that's radically different to any production Corvette of the past. In the quest for even sharper handling, the engineering team realized the engine would have to move behind the cabin.

This change has been an open secret for some years now, probably to prepare the fiercely loyal and just-as-opinionated fanbase that once freaked out just because the shape of the tail lights changed with the debut of the previous generation car. It's an idea Corvette has played with since the early days, when Zora Arkus-Duntov was in charge. Starting with CERV I in 1960, there has been a stream of experimental concepts with the engine between driver and rear wheels, but none ever made the leap to production car. How times change.

The performance bargain of the century?

Although we've known about the impending layout swap, that was pretty much all we knew. Grainy spy shots from places like the Nürburgring and the Milford Proving Ground filtered out, as did rumors of breathtaking performance. But debate raged over the details, particularly the question of whether a supercar layout and supercar speed meant a supercar price. As it turns out, the answer is no, as a brand new C8 Corvette (as the new generation is known) will start at under $60,000 when it goes on sale next year. But the stuff about the breathtaking performance? That was all spot on: Chevrolet promises the car will do the dash to 60mph in under three seconds. That's as fast as the outgoing Z06, a model that has 650hp (485kW) costing $20,000 more.

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Half a century after Apollo, why haven’t we been back to the Moon?

Par Eric Berger
Since Apollo, NASA's human spaceflight plans for deep space have been all hat and no cattle. Unlike this photo of two cattle in Johnson Space Center's Rocket Park.

Enlarge / Since Apollo, NASA's human spaceflight plans for deep space have been all hat and no cattle. Unlike this photo of two cattle in Johnson Space Center's Rocket Park. (credit: NASA)

The 50th anniversary of NASA’s historic landing on the Moon—this Saturday, July 20th—provokes a decidedly bittersweet feeling. Certainly, this marks an appropriate time to pause and celebrate a singular moment in our shared history, the first time humans ever set foot on another world. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins really did push back the frontier for all of humanity

And yet, for all that this technological and geopolitical tour de force achieved, there has been a decided lack of follow through by the US spaceflight enterprise since Apollo 11. On such an anniversary, this raises uncomfortable questions. Why have we not gone back? Was the Apollo Program really America’s high water mark in space? And will we actually return in the next half century?

Why we went

Beginning with Sputnik in 1957 and continuing through the flights of Yuri Gagarin and other cosmonauts, the Soviet Union ticked off an impressive succession of “firsts” in space during the middle of the Cold War. As the United States waged a hearts-and-minds campaign against the Soviets around the world, technological superiority represented a key battlefront.

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Rocket Report: Falcon 9 beats Pegasus on price, Vega has its first failure

Par Eric Berger
A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (credit: Aurich Lawson/SpaceX)

Welcome to Edition 2.07 of the Rocket Report! On this most historic of rocket-launch weeks, we have news about the next mission to the Moon—India's soft lander and small rover—as well as delays with the rocket America hopes to use to get its astronauts to the Moon, and possibly Mars, one day. There's also this Chinese company that apparently likes asteroids...

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.

Vega rocket launch fails. The 15th launch of a European Vega rocket ended in failure July 10, resulting in the loss of an imaging satellite for the United Arab Emirates, SpaceNews reports. "About two minutes after liftoff, around the [Zefiro]-23 ignition, a major anomaly occurred, resulting in the loss of the mission," Luce Fabreguettes (Arianespace's executive vice president of Missions, Operations & Purchasing) said during the launch webcast.

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Journey creator’s Sky debuts on iPhone and iPad

Par Samuel Axon
  • Sky has a beautiful, dreamy, and minimalist art style. [credit: Samuel Axon ]

This week marks the launch of Sky: Children of Light, a game from famed designer Jenova Chen and beloved studio thatgamecompany, on iOS devices. Intended as an entry point to gaming that upends conventions and seeks new ranges of emotional expression, Sky was revealed during Apple's iPhone keynote in 2017 as a mobile-first game and an iOS exclusive at launch.

The game is expected to arrive on Android, Mac, Apple TV, Windows PC, and consoles sometime in the future, though. Its initial wide launch this week follows a long soft-launch period and a launch-date delay as the game went through some big changes in testing to get its social aspects—a key part of the experience—just right.

In Sky, you play as a nondescript, child-like being who walks and flies through varied 3D environments collecting light, helping beings, solving puzzles, and working with friends to bring light back to your world.

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Microsoft closes fiscal 2019 with revenue spikes driven by cloud services

Par Anna Washenko
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, speaks at the Microsoft Annual Shareholders Meeting in Bellevue, Washington, on November 30, 2016.

Enlarge / Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, speaks at the Microsoft Annual Shareholders Meeting in Bellevue, Washington, on November 30, 2016. (credit: Jason Redmond / Getty Images)

Microsoft has reported its financial results for the final quarter of the 2019 fiscal year. The tech giant saw notable gains in sales for Azure in its Intelligent Cloud division and for Surface in the More Personal Computing unit.

Revenue for the the company reached $33.7 billion, an increase of 12% from the last quarter of 2018. Microsoft’s operating income rose 20% to $12.4 billion while net income jumped 49% to $13.2 billion, with earnings of $1.71 per share.

Each of Microsoft’s three reporting segments saw its revenue grow compared with the fourth quarter of the previous year. The Intelligent Cloud group saw the biggest jump, rising 19% to $11.4 billion.

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Shkreli stays in jail; Infamous ex-pharma CEO quickly loses appeal

Par Beth Mole
Three men stand behind microphones.

Enlarge / Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, center, listens while his attorney Benjamin Brafman, right, speaks to members of the media outside federal court in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US, on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

In a swift 3-0 vote Thursday, a panel of judges in a New York federal appeals court upheld the August 2017 conviction of Martin Shkreli. The infamous ex-pharmaceutical CEO is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for fraud stemming from what prosecutors had described as a Ponzi-like scheme.

Shkreli, 36, must continue to serve his sentence and also still forfeit more than $7.3 million in assets, the judges affirmed.

The judges’ ruling came just three weeks after hearing arguments in the appeal—rather than the normal period of months, Bloomberg notes. The ruling was also an unusually short seven pages.

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As Russian “FaceApp” gobbles up user photos, Schumer asks FBI to investigate

Par Jon Brodkin
A listing for the FaceApp application on Apple's App Store, as shown on an iPhone.

Enlarge / The FaceApp application displayed on Apple's App Store. (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for a federal investigation into FaceApp, saying the Russian-operated mobile application "could pose national security and privacy risks for millions of US citizens."

FaceApp for iOS and Android has been around since 2017 but just recently went viral as celebrities and many other people used it to alter photographs to make themselves look 20 years older. This has raised privacy concerns, as Americans are uploading photographs and device-related data to a service operated by a company based in Russia. The image alterations performed by FaceApp—which calls itself an "AI Face Editor"—are done on the company's servers instead of on user devices.

The app now warns users that "Each photo you select for editing will be uploaded to our servers for image processing and face transformation."

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Facebook is backpedaling from its ambitious vision for Libra

Par Timothy B. Lee
David Marcus, head of blockchain at Facebook, speaks at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

Enlarge / David Marcus, head of blockchain at Facebook, speaks at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

David Marcus, the head of Facebook's new Calibra payments division, appeared before two hostile congressional committees this week with a simple message: Facebook knows policymakers are concerned about Libra, and Facebook won't move forward with the project until their concerns are addressed.

While he didn't say so explicitly, Marcus' comments at hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday represented a dramatic shift in Facebook's conception of Libra. In Facebook's original vision, Libra would be an open and largely decentralized network, akin to Bitcoin. The core network would be beyond the reach of regulators. Regulatory compliance would be the responsibility of exchanges, wallets, and other services that are the "on ramps and off ramps" to the Libra ecosystem.

Facebook now seems to recognize its original vision was a non-starter with regulators. So this week Marcus sketched out a new vision for Libra—one in which the Libra Association will shoulder significant responsibility for ensuring compliance with laws relating to money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes.

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Top Gun: Maverick world premiere trailer: It’s not just F-18s this time

Par Sam Machkovech
  • It's happening... in "2020."

San Diego Comic Con's tentpole Thursday morning panel, dedicated to the Paramount and Skydance film Terminator: Dark Fate, saw an interruption from another big face at that combined film company: Tom Cruise. Tom, apparently, couldn't let Arnold Schwarzenegger have all the fun, as he used the opportunity to reveal the first public footage of next year's Top Gun: Maverick.

The two-minute trailer is at its most impressive when we see Cruise continuing his streak for performing his own stunts, as he's established in so many Mission: Impossible films up until now. Unless Cruise and company have figured out a whole new level of CGI and green-screen trickery, that sure looks like the actor himself piloting an F-18 as it takes off from a Naval aircraft carrier at sea—and then pulling some serious Gs while flying over a snowy mountainside in formation.

In terms of plot, we see a face-off with a rear admiral played by actor Ed Harris. Harris is angry about Cruise's unwillingness to retire after "30-plus years of service" and his continued status as a Navy captain. "You should at least be a two-star admiral by now," Harris says. Eventually, Harris insists that "your kind is headed for extinction," which might hint to the Navy's increased emphasis on automation or remotely controlled crafts.

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Nigerian scammers slide into DMs, so Ars trolls them

Par Sean Gallagher
Super-sketchy social media request.

Enlarge / The heartbreak of being blocked by a romance scammer. The joy of burning an account used in a criminal operation.

I've got a history with Internet scammers. I've spent hours on the phone with tech support scammers, and I've hunted down bot networks spreading fake news. But for some reason, I've lately become a magnet for an entirely different sort of scammer—a kind that uses social media platforms to run large-scale wire-fraud scams and other confidence games. Based on anecdotal evidence, Twitter has become their favorite platform for luring in suckers.

Recently, Twitter's security team has been tracking a large amount of fraudulent activity coming out of Africa, including "romance schemes"—wherein the fraudster uses an emotional appeal of friendship or promised romance to lure a victim into a scam. Thousands of accounts involved in the ongoing campaign have been suspended. But that has hardly put a dent in the efforts of scammers, who move on to set up new accounts and run new scams. And there are dozens of other fraud games being played out on Twitter and other platforms.

I've been gathering anecdotal data from a number of such accounts as they've attempted to prepare me for a lure. They follow a fairly easy-to-spot pattern for anyone who has tracked identity scams. But the scale of these efforts goes far beyond what you'd expect from what are (to those in the know) recognizable cons. This suggests that there's a high level of sophistication to this latest wave of fakers.

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The Greatest Leap, part 3: The triumph and near-tragedy of the first Moon landing

Par Eric Berger

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript.

A vast, gray expanse loomed just a few hundred meters below as Neil Armstrong peered out his tiny window. From inside the spidery lunar lander, a fragile cocoon with walls only about as thick as construction paper, the Apollo 11 commander finally had a clear view of where the on-board computer had directed him to land.

He did not like what he saw there. A big crater. Boulders strewn all around. A death trap.

To make matters worse, Eagle had limited fuel reserves. If Armstrong couldn’t find a safe landing site soon, he would have to ditch the bottom half of the lander and burn like hell for lunar orbit in a dangerous and risky abort procedure. Otherwise, he and Buzz Aldrin would not only become the first humans to land on the Moon, they’d become the first humans to die there, too.

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New trailer for IT Chapter Two ratchets up the horror

Par Jennifer Ouellette

In IT Chapter Two, the Losers Club must confront the horrors of the past and put an end to the unspeakable evil that has terrorized the town for so long.

Pennywise the demonic clown gleefully inflicts all manner of psychological and physical torment on the grown-up members of the Losers Club in a new trailer for IT Chapter Two. The trailer was shown during New Line Cinema's "ScareDiego" event, a prelude to San Diego Comic-Con that has been happening annually for the last three years.

(Some spoilers for first film and novel below.)

Set in 1989, IT essentially adapted half of King's original novel, telling the story of a group of misfit kids calling themselves "The Losers Club." The kids discover their small town of Derry is home to an ancient, trans-dimensional evil that awakens every 27 years to prey mostly on children by taking the form of an evil clown named Pennywise. Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) loses his little brother, Georgie, to Pennywise, and the group decides to take on Pennywise and drive him into early hibernation, where he will hopefully starve. But Beverly (Sophia Lillis) has a vision warning that Pennywise will return on schedule in 27 years, and they must be ready to fight him anew.

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Dealmaster: A handful of good Prime Day deals are still available today

Par Ars Staff
Dealmaster: A handful of good Prime Day deals are still available today

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! Just when the Dealmaster thinks Prime Day is over, the deals pull him back in. Today, we're bringing you a roundup of (mostly) leftover deals that are still live from Amazon's technically expired sales event and the various sales other retailers ran alongside it.

While the vast majority of Prime Day's better offers have drifted away—and while the majority of Prime Day's offers as a whole were middling—there are a handful of worthwhile discounts that are still kicking, including offers on a bunch of board games we like, the latest Apple AirPods, a handful of laptops and headphones, and game consoles like the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One S. Best of all, you don't need to be a Prime member to take advantage of the majority of them.

We'll delve into more detail for a couple of particular highlights below, where you can check out the rest of the rundown.

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Dropbox silently installs new file manager app on users’ systems [Updated]

Par Ron Amadeo
  • This is what Dropbox looks like now. It used to be a folder, now it's a file manager. [credit: Ron Amadeo ]

Update 4:06pm ET: Dropbox says this was a mistake. "We recently announced a new desktop app experience that is now currently available in Early Access. Due to an error, some users were accidentally exposed to the new app for a short period of time. The issue has been resolved, though there might be a short lag for some users to see resolution. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused."

Original Post: Hey Dropbox users, how has Dropbox been for you lately? Major changes are coming to the Dropbox desktop app. The company announced its "New Desktop Experience" in June, and previously it was opt-in. Recently, though, a number of users on Twitter and at the Ars Orbiting HQ have reported silently being "upgraded" to this radically different version of Dropbox.

This new version of Dropbox wants to be... a file manager? Instead of the minimal sync app, the Dropbox icon now opens a big, multi-panel, blue and white window showing all your Dropbox files. It kind of looks like Slack, if Slack was a file manager. You can now "star" folders as important so they show up in the left panel (again, like a Slack chat room). The middle panel shows your Dropbox files, and the right panel shows a file preview with options for comments and sharing. You can search for files, sort by name or date, and do all the usual file operations like cut, copy, and paste. It's a file manager.

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Warming climate likely leading to larger California fires

Par Scott K. Johnson
The 2018 Camp Fire burned more buildings and claimed more lives than any other fire in California's history.

Enlarge / The 2018 Camp Fire burned more buildings and claimed more lives than any other fire in California's history. (credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

The last couple years have seen devastating and record-setting wildfires in California, leaving many in the region to wonder what to expect in the future. Elsewhere in the US West, research has found that fires were increasing due to a combination of climate change and other human activities, which exacerbate both the fires and the damage they cause. But California is a different beast from much of the West and requires its own analysis.

A new study from a team led by Park Williams and John Abatzoglou—also the scientists behind a recent study of western US fires—uses government records of California wildfire areas going back to 1972, along with weather data and climate model simulations. The work breaks California into four different regions based on vegetation. The coast is split into a forested northern section, separate central and southern shrublands, and the forested Sierra Nevada rounding out the list.

Big changes

Overall, the average area burned by fires each year in California has increased by a factor of five since 1972—a remarkable increase. However, this is mostly due to an even larger increase in the forested parts of the state, as the central and southern coastal regions haven’t really seen an increase.

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More on DataSpii: How extensions hide their data grabs—and how they’re discovered

Par Dan Goodin
You can trust us!

Enlarge / You can trust us! (credit: Irakli Kalandarishvili / EyeEm / Getty)

In our 5,000 word piece on "DataSpii," we explained how researcher Sam Jadali spent tens of thousands of dollars investigating the murky Internet ecosystem of browser extensions that collect and share your Web history. Those histories could end up at sites like Nacho Analytics, where they can reveal personal or corporate data.

Here, we want to offer more detail for the technically curious reader on exactly how these browser extensions work—and how they were discovered.

Obscurity

Discovering which browser extensions were responsible for siphoning up this data was a months-long task. Why was it so difficult? In part because the browser extensions appeared to obscure exactly what they were doing. Both Hover Zoom and SpeakIt!, for instance, waited more than three weeks after installation on Jadali’s computers to begin collection. Then, once collection started, it was carried out by code that was separate from the extensions themselves.

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My browser, the spy: How extensions slurped up browsing histories from 4M users

Par Dan Goodin
My browser, the spy: How extensions slurped up browsing histories from 4M users

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

When we use browsers to make medical appointments, share tax returns with accountants, or access corporate intranets, we usually trust that the pages we access will remain private. DataSpii, a newly documented privacy issue in which millions of people’s browsing histories have been collected and exposed, shows just how much about us is revealed when that assumption is turned on its head.

DataSpii begins with browser extensions—available mostly for Chrome but in more limited cases for Firefox as well—that, by Google's account, had as many as 4.1 million users. These extensions collected the URLs, webpage titles, and in some cases the embedded hyperlinks of every page that the browser user visited. Most of these collected Web histories were then published by a fee-based service called Nacho Analytics, which markets itself as “God mode for the Internet” and uses the tag line “See Anyone’s Analytics Account.”

Web histories may not sound especially sensitive, but a subset of the published links led to pages that are not protected by passwords—but only by a hard-to-guess sequence of characters (called tokens) included in the URL. Thus, the published links could allow viewers to access the content at these pages. (Security practitioners have long discouraged the publishing of sensitive information on pages that aren't password protected, but the practice remains widespread.)

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Microsoft warns 10,000 customers they’re targeted by nation-sponsored hackers

Par Dan Goodin
Glass and steel skyscraper with flags of multiple nations in front of it.

Enlarge / United Nations HQ in New York. (credit: Javier Carbajal)

Microsoft said on Wednesday that it has notified almost 10,000 customers in the past year that they’re being targeted by nation-sponsored hackers.

According to a post from Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Customer Security & Trust Tom Burt, about 84% of the attacks targeted customers that were large “enterprise” organizations such as corporations. The remaining 16% of attacks targeted consumer email accounts. Burt said some of the 10,000 customers were successfully compromised while others were only targeted, but he didn’t provide figures.

“This data demonstrates the significant extent to which nation-states continue to rely on cyberattacks as a tool to gain intelligence, influence geopolitics, or achieve other objectives,” Burt wrote. Microsoft presented the figures Wednesday at the Aspen Security Forum.

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Zombifying fungus bypasses the brain to make ants its puppets, study finds

Par Jennifer Ouellette
A dead ant that has been taken over by a species of <em>Cordyceps</em> in the Rio Claro Reserve in Colombia.

Enlarge / A dead ant that has been taken over by a species of Cordyceps in the Rio Claro Reserve in Colombia. (credit: National Geographic/Justin Maguire)

Pity the poor unsuspecting carpenter ant who unwittingly becomes infected with spores scattered by a parasitic fungus in the Cordyceps genus. The spores attach to the ant and germinate, spreading through the host's body via long tendrils called mycelia. Cordyceps essentially turns its host into a zombie slave, compelling the ant to climb to the top of the nearest plant and clamp its tiny jaws in a death grip around a leaf or twig.

The fungus then slowly devours the ant, sprouting through its head in one final indignity. Then the bulbous growths on the ends of the mycelia burst, releasing even more spores into the air, to infect even more unsuspecting ants. It's not a great way to go: the entire process can take four to 14 days.

There are more than 400 different species of Cordyceps fungi, each targeting a particular species of insect, whether it be ants, dragonflies, cockroaches, aphids, or beetles. The zombification aspect has made the fungus a favorite of nature documentaries. It has also worked its way into popular culture, such as the zombie-apocalypse video game, The Last of Us (2013), in which a parasitic fungus mutates so that it also infects humans. But scientists are keen to study Cordyceps to learn more about the origins and intricate mechanisms behind these kinds of pathogen-based diseases.

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WHO declares Ebola outbreak an international emergency

Par Beth Mole
Health workers communicate information about Ebola at an Ebola screening station on the road between Butembo and Goma on July 16, 2019, in Goma, DRC.

Enlarge / Health workers communicate information about Ebola at an Ebola screening station on the road between Butembo and Goma on July 16, 2019, in Goma, DRC. (credit: Getty | John Wessels)

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the nearly year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The declaration could boost funding and support for outbreak-response efforts, which have been hampered by violence and community distrust in the affected areas. Since January, officials have reported 198 attacks on health responders, which left seven dead and 58 healthcare workers and patients injured.

“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today in a statement. “Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances. We all owe it to these responders—coming from not just WHO but also government, partners, and communities—to shoulder more of the burden.”

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Painted-on salt provides glowing thermometer for tiny things

Par Chris Lee
Painted-on salt provides glowing thermometer for tiny things

Enlarge (credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Temperature is notoriously difficult to measure, mostly because it's an average quantity. The temperature of a room is often recorded at a single point, when it's meant to be a measure of the average energy of the air in the room—a room that will have spatial and temporal fluctuations around that average.

As anyone who has argued over the thermostat will know, measuring the average is difficult enough. But what if I want to measure the actual fluctuations and temperature differences in the room? Then I need a thermometer that provides a temperature image.

You might be thinking "get an IR camera, dummy." But there is a much cooler option than an infrared camera. It's a (nearly) normal camera coupled with a laser that measures temperature from the emission of visible light.

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DEA tracked every opioid pill sold in the US. The data is out—and it’s horrific

Par Beth Mole
Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters hold signs while protesting during the McKesson Corp. annual meeting at the Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce in Irving, Texas, US, on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

Enlarge / Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters hold signs while protesting during the McKesson Corp. annual meeting at the Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce in Irving, Texas, US, on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Between 2006 and 2012, opioid drug makers and distributors flooded the country with 76 billion pills of oxycodone and hydrocodone—highly addictive opioid pain medications that sparked the epidemic of abuse and overdoses that killed nearly 100,000 people in that time period.

As the epidemic surged over the seven-year period, so did the supply. The companies increased distribution from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012, a jump of roughly 50%. In all, the deluge of pills was enough to supply every adult and child in the country with around 36 opioid pills per year. Just a 10-day supply can hook 1 in 5 people into being long-term users, researchers have determined.

The stunning supply figures were first reported by the Washington Post and come from part of a database compiled by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracked the fate of every opioid pill sold in America, from manufacturers to individual pharmacies. A federal court in Ohio released the data this week as part of a massive consolidated court case against nearly two-dozen opioid makers and distributors, brought by nearly 2,000 cities, towns, and counties. The local governments allege that the opioid companies conspired to saturate the country with the potent painkillers to soak up billions in profits. The companies deny the allegations, arguing generally that they were serving the needs of patients.

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Turkey crosses “red line,” gets booted from F-35 partnership

Par Sean Gallagher
Turkey's planned purchase of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters has been vetoed in the wake of the Turkish purchase of Russian anti-air defenses.

Enlarge / Turkey's planned purchase of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters has been vetoed in the wake of the Turkish purchase of Russian anti-air defenses. (credit: US Air Force)

Today, the White House officially announced that Turkey would not be allowed to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The US government had warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that his government's purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia would be incompatible with NATO systems and would trigger an exclusion of Turkey from the F-35 program. Turkey was a financial contributor to the F-35 development program and already had pilots in the US in training to fly the aircraft; those pilots were kicked off US training bases in June.

US and NATO partners are concerned that the S-400 systems, supported by Russian technicians, will essentially amount to an intelligence collection system for Russia on NATO aircraft and military operations. But Erdoğan has been steadily marching away from NATO since the July 2016 coup attempt against his government. That coup led to the arrest of many military officers who were the backbone of the Turkish military and had long relationships with NATO partners. Former head of the Turkish air force Akin Ozturk was one of over 2,000 former members of the military given life sentences.

In a speech on July 15 (the third anniversary of the coup attempt), Erdoğan welcomed the first components of S-400 systems to Turkey, saying that "the S-400s are the strongest defense system against those who want to attack our country... God willing, we are doing this as a joint investment with Russia and will continue to do so.” He added that "with God’s permission," the missile systems would be fully deployed by April 2020.

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Xiaomi’s Mi A3 brings stock Android, OLED display for €249

Par Ron Amadeo
  • The Xiaomi Mi A3. [credit: Xiaomi ]

Today Xiaomi announced the Xiaomi Mi A3, the latest phone in its "A" line. In the past, Xiaomi's A line has been a good bet if you're looking for a midrange smartphone. This latest model comes in at €249 (~$280) and is launching in Europe on July 24. Decent phones in the sub-$300 price range are tough to come by, so any serious device priced this low is worth paying attention to. Just looking at the spec sheet, though, we do have some concerns.

As you'd guess, the A3 is a third-generation Xiaomi A phone, and in many ways, these represent the least "Xiaomi" phones Xiaomi makes. Instead of Xiaomi's iOS-inspired "MIUI" Android skin, these phones are in Google's "Android One" program, which means they come with stock Android and get two years of OS updates. The phones usually get a wider distribution than your typical Xiaomi phones (watch out for the LTE bands, though), so even if you're not in Europe, they're usually easy to pick up on a site like Amazon.

Xiaomi is going with a notched front design for the Mi A3. There's a tiny teardrop notch at the top of the phone, a medium-sized bottom bezel, and rounded display corners. The front and back of the phone is made of Gorilla Glass 5. On the back, you'll find a triple camera setup, and on the front is an optical fingerprint reader in the display. Xiaomi is taking a page out of Google's playbook with wacky color names. There are three colors: "More than White," "Kind of Gray," and "Not just Blue." Xiaomi says there's a "nano-level holographic pattern" on the blue and white models.

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Censored Chinese search project is “terminated,” Google rep testifies

Par Timothy B. Lee
Censored Chinese search project is “terminated,” Google rep testifies

(credit: Sam Churchill / Flickr)

Google has ended all work on its censored Chinese search engine, a company representative testified on Tuesday.

“We have terminated Project Dragonfly,” said Karan Bhatia, Google's vice president of public policy, at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The secret project was first revealed by the Intercept a year ago. The new search engine would have initially been offered as an Android app, and it would have reportedly blacklisted "websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest," according to the Intercept.

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New archaeological layer discovered at L’Anse aux Meadows

Par Kiona N. Smith
Paul Ledger and Véronique Forbes examining the cultural horizon.

Enlarge / Paul Ledger and Véronique Forbes examining the cultural horizon. (credit: Linus Girdland-Flink)

L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland is famed for being a site where Norse travelers set up a colony hundreds of years before Europe at large became aware of North America's existence. The colony was thought to be short-lived, but a new find may extend the length of its occupancy.

While taking sediment cores from a nearby peat bog to help study the ancient environment, archaeologist Paul Ledger and his colleagues discovered a previously unknown chapter in the story of L’Anse aux Meadows. Buried about 35cm (14 inches) beneath the modern surface, they found signs of an ancient occupancy: a layer of trampled mud littered with woodworking debris, charcoal, and the remains of plants and insects.

Based on its depth and the insect species present, the layer looks like similar surfaces from the edges of Viking Age Norse settlements in Greenland and Iceland. But organic material from the layer radiocarbon dated to the late 1100s or early 1200s, long after the Norse were thought to have left Newfoundland for good.

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The Greatest Leap, part 2: The 50/50 bet that won the Space Race for America

Par Eric Berger

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript.

By the summer of 1968, a sense of deep unease had engulfed the American republic. Early in the year, the Tet Offensive smashed any lingering illusions of a quick victory in the increasingly bloody Vietnam conflict. Race relations boiled over in April when a single rifle bullet took the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Two months later, as Bobby Kennedy walked through a hotel kitchen, he was shot in the head. The red, white, and blue threads that had bound America for nearly two centuries were faded and fraying.

Amid this national turmoil, senior planners at the country’s space agency were also having a difficult year. Late that summer they quietly faced their most consequential decision to date. If NASA was going to meet the challenge laid out by President John F. Kennedy, its astronauts would soon have to take an unprecedented leap by leaving low-Earth orbit and entering the gravity well of another world—the Moon. Should they do it?

Such a bold step could provide a glimmer of hope to a fractured nation. It would cement America's lead in the "Space Race" against the Soviet Union and remind Americans of their potential for greatness on the world stage. But a romp around the Moon also carried tremendous risks. If NASA failed, its Moon dreams would expire. The agency might, too. NASA had already lost three astronauts during a launch pad fire in early 1967. Neither the public—nor Congress—would accept three more dead astronauts.

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OneWeb’s low-Earth satellites hit 400Mbps and 32ms latency in new test

Par Jon Brodkin
Illustration of a OneWeb satellite in space.

Enlarge / Illustration of a OneWeb satellite. (credit: OneWeb)

OneWeb says a test of its low-Earth orbit satellites has delivered broadband speeds of more than 400Mbps with average latency of 32ms.

"The tests, which took place in Seoul, South Korea, represent the most significant demonstration of the OneWeb constellation to date, proving its ability to provide superior broadband connectivity anywhere on the planet," OneWeb said in an announcement yesterday.

The company said it's on track toward creating "a fully functioning global constellation in 2021 and delivering partial service beginning as early as 2020." The test described yesterday involved six OneWeb satellites that were launched in February. OneWeb says its commercial network "will start with an initial 650 satellites and grow up to 1,980 satellites."

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