You May Have Forgotten Foursquare, But It Didn't Forget You
nj_peeps shares an excerpt from a report via Wired:
[Foursquare cofounder Dennis Crowley says the company is working on a new game.] Think Candyland, but instead of fantasy locations like Lollipop Woods, the game's virtual board includes place categories associated with New York City neighborhoods. There's a Midtown Bar, a Downtown Movie Theatre, Brooklyn Coffeeshop, Uptown Park, and so on. As in Candyland, you move your game piece forward by drawing cards. But in Crowley's version, the cards are the habits and locations of real people whose data has been turned into literal pawns in the game. Foursquare knows where their phones are in real time, because it powers many widely used apps, from Twitter and Uber to TripAdvisor and AccuWeather. These people aren't playing Crowley's game, but their real-world movements animate it: If one of them goes into a bar in midtown, for example, the person playing the game would get a Midtown Bar card.
Ask someone about Foursquare and they'll probably think of the once-hyped social media company, known for gamifying mobile check-ins and giving recommendations. But the Foursquare of today is a location-data giant. During an interview with NBC in November, the company's CEO, Jeff Glueck, said that only Facebook and Google rival Foursquare in terms of location-data precision. You might think you don't use Foursquare, but chances are you do. Foursquare's technology powers the geofilters in Snapchat, tagged tweets on Twitter; it's in Uber, Apple Maps, Airbnb, WeChat, and Samsung phones, to name a few.
Scientists Have Discovered a Shape That Blocks All Sound
Scientists have developed an "acoustic meta-material" that can catch certain frequencies passing through the air and reflect them back toward their source. When a loudspeaker was placed into one end of a PVC pipe with a 3D-printed ring of the metamaterial, the ring "
cut 94% of the sound blasting from the speaker, enough to make it inaudible to the human ear," reports Fast Company. From the report:
Typical acoustic paneling works differently, absorbing sound and turning the vibrations into heat. But what's particularly trippy is that this muffler is completely open. Air and light can travel through it -- just sound cannot. The implications for architecture and interior design are remarkable, because these metamaterials could be applied to the built environment in many different ways. For instance, they could be stacked to build soundproof yet transparent walls. Cubicles will never be the same.
The researchers also believe that HVAC systems could be fitted with these silencers, and drones could have their turbines muted with such rings. Even in MRI machines, which can be harrowingly loud for patients trapped in a small space, could be quieted. There's really no limit to the possibilities, but it does sound like these silencers will need to be tailored to circumstance. "The idea is that we can now mathematically design an object that can blocks the sounds of anything," says Boston University professor Xin Zhang, in a press release. You can see a demo of the noise cancellation device
Google's New Voice Recognition System Works Instantly and Offline (If You Have a Pixel)
Google's latest speech recognition works entirely offline,
eliminating the delay that many other voice assistants have to return your query. "The delay occurs because your voice, or some data derived from it anyway, has to travel from your phone to the servers of whoever operates the service, where it is analyzed and sent back a short time later," reports TechCrunch. "This can take anywhere from a handful of milliseconds to multiple entire seconds (what a nightmare!), or longer if your packets get lost in the ether." The only major downside with Google's new system is its limited availability. As of right now, it's only available to people with a Pixel smartphone. From the report:
Why not just do the voice recognition on the device? There's nothing these companies would like more, but turning voice into text on the order of milliseconds takes quite a bit of computing power. It's not just about hearing a sound and writing a word -- understanding what someone is saying word by word involves a whole lot of context about language and intention. Your phone could do it, for sure, but it wouldn't be much faster than sending it off to the cloud, and it would eat up your battery. But steady advancements in the field have made it plausible to do so, and Google's latest product makes it available to anyone with a Pixel.
Google's work on the topic, documented in a paper here, built on previous advances to create a model small and efficient enough to fit on a phone (it's 80 megabytes, if you're curious), but capable of hearing and transcribing speech as you say it. No need to wait until you've finished a sentence to think whether you meant "their" or "there" -- it figures it out on the fly. So what's the catch? Well, it only works in Gboard, Google's keyboard app, and it only works on Pixels, and it only works in American English. So in a way this is just kind of a stress test for the real thing. "Given the trends in the industry, with the convergence of specialized hardware and algorithmic improvements, we are hopeful that the techniques presented here can soon be adopted in more languages and across broader domains of application," writes Google
in their blog post.
Microsoft Brings DirectX 12 To Windows 7
announced a form of DirectX 12 that will support Windows 7. "Now before you get too excited, this is currently only enabled for World of Warcraft; and indeed it's not slated to be a general-purpose solution like DX12 on Win10," reports AnandTech. "Instead, Microsoft has stated that they are working with a few other developers to bring their DX12 games/backends to Windows 7 as well. As a consumer it's great to see them supporting their product ten years after it launched, but with the entire OS being put out to pasture in nine months, it seems like an odd time to be dedicating resources to bringing it new features." From the report:
For some background, Microsoft's latest DirectX API was created to remove some of the CPU bottlenecks for gaming by allowing for developers to use low-level programming conventions to shift some of the pressure points away from the CPU. This was a response to single-threaded CPU performance plateauing, making complex graphical workloads increasingly CPU-bounded. There's many advantages to using this API over traditional DX11, especially for threading and draw calls. But, Microsoft made the decision long ago to only support DirectX 12 on Windows 10, with its WDDM 2.0 driver stack.
Today's announcement is a pretty big surprise on a number of levels. If Microsoft had wanted to back-port DX12 to Windows 7, you would have thought they'd have done it before Windows 7 entered its long-term servicing state. As it is, even free security patches for Windows 7 are set to end on January 14, 2020, which is well under a year away, and the company is actively trying to migrate users to Windows 10 to avoid having a huge swath of machines sitting in an unpatched state. In fact, they are about to add a pop-up notification to Windows 7 to let users know that they are running out of support very soon. So adding a big feature like DX12 now not only risks undermining their own efforts to migrate people away from Windows 7, but also adding a new feature well after Windows 7 entered long-term support. It's just bizarre.
Chrome 73 Arrives With Support For Hardware Media Keys, PWAs and Dark Mode On Mac
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat:
Google today launched Chrome 73 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The release includes support for hardware media keys, PWAs and dark mode on Mac, and the usual slew of developer features. You can update to the latest version now using Chrome's built-in updater or download it directly from google.com/chrome. Chrome 73 supports Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) on macOS. These apps install and behave like native apps (they don't show the address bar or tabs). Google killed off Chrome apps last year and has been focusing on PWAs ever since. Adding Mac support means Chrome now supports PWAs on all desktop and mobile platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS. Chrome now also supports dark mode on Apple's macOS; dark mode for Windows is on the way, the team promises.
The VentureBeat report includes a long list of developer features included in this release, as well as all the security fixes found by external researchers. Chrome 73 implements a total of 60 security fixes.
Facebook's Cryptocurrency Could Be a $19 Billion Revenue Opportunity, Barclays Says
Barclays internet analyst Ross Sandler says the
new cryptocurrency that Facebook is working on
could be part of a multibillion-dollar revenue opportunity. "Sandler forecasted as much as $19 billion in additional revenue by 2021 from 'Facebook Coin,'" reports CNBC. "Conservatively, the firm sees a base-case of an incremental $3 billion in revenue from a successful cryptocurrency implementation. 'Merely establishing this revenue stream starts to change the story for Facebook shares in our view,' Sandler said." From the report:
Facebook is reportedly developing a cryptocurrency for global payments that will be tied to the value of traditional currencies and available to use through its messenger "WhatsApp," according to Bloomberg and The New York Times. Facebook has not publicly commented on the reports. Price volatility has been one major roadblock to bitcoin's widespread adoption as an everyday payment option. But Facebook's digital currency, a "stable coin," would likely be less attractive to speculators because of its fixed price tied to a currency like the U.S. dollar.
"Any attempt to build out revenue streams outside of advertising, especially those that don't abuse user privacy are likely to be well-received by Facebook's shareholders," Sandler said. Barclays based its Facebook revenue estimates off of Google's digital distribution service, which is also the official app store for Android's operating system. "Google Play," as it's called, generates $6 in "net" revenue per user now. Facebook could see a "similar cadence," across its nearly 3 billion users in 2021. A Facebook virtual currency would allow for more premium content to find its way back to Facebook, Sandler said, as companies re-establish themselves on the social network as a strategic partner.
Windows 10 Could Automatically Uninstall Buggy Windows Updates
Microsoft is reportedly working on a new functionality that
will automatically remove botched updates from Windows 10 to fix startup issues and other bugs preventing the PC from booting. "The
support document was quietly published a couple of hours ago and for some reasons, Microsoft has also blocked the search engines from crawling or indexing the page," reports Windows Latest. "In the document, Microsoft explains that Windows may automatically install updates in order to keep your device secure and smooth." From the report:
Due to various reasons, including software and driver compatibility issues, Windows Updates are vulnerable to mistakes and hardware errors. In some cases, Windows Update may fail to install. After installing a recent update, if your PC experience startup failures and automatic recovery attempts are unsuccessful, Windows may try to resolve the failure by uninstalling recently installed updates. In this case, users may receive a notification with the following message: "We removed some recently installed updates to recover your device from a startup failure."
Microsoft says that Windows will also automatically block the problematic updates from installing automatically for the next 30 days. During these 30 days, Microsoft and its partners will investigate the failure and attempt to fix the issues. When the issues are fixed, Windows will again try to install the updates. Users still have the freedom to reinstall the updates. If you believe that the update should not be removed, you can manually reinstall the driver or quality updates which were uninstalled earlier.
Portland City Council May Ask FCC To Investigate Health Risks of 5G Networks
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse:
Fearing unknown health risks, members of the City Council in Portland, Oregon, will vote Wednesday to oppose the rollout of 5G wireless networks. In a proposed resolution, Mayor Ted Wheeler, along with Commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Amanda Fritz, write that there's evidence suggesting wireless networks can cause health problems -- including cancer. They express concern that the Federal Communications Commission has not conducted enough research to demonstrate that 5G networks are safe, while at the same time prohibiting state and local governments from passing their own regulations on telecommunications technology. And while Wheeler, Eudaly, and Fritz are correct about the FCC's power to dictate how state and local governments manage wireless networks, the connection between 5G networks and cancer is a lot more complicated than they say it is.
"There is evidence to suggest that exposure to radio frequency emissions generated by wireless technologies could contribute to adverse health conditions such as cancer," reads the proposed resolution. This evidence comes from a large-scale study conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The final results of this study, published in November 2018, showed a strong association between the type of radiation used for mobile phone signals and certain types of cancerous tumors in lab rats. But that's where the situation gets tough. The NTP study, which took place over 10 years and involved exposing more than 7,000 rats and mice to radio-frequency radiation, focused on signals used by wireless technology under the 2G and 3G standards. It's nearly impossible to say whether these results will apply to 5G hardware.
"Since the available research doesn't address 5G, the Portland City Council's resolution demands that the FCC embark on another such research project to assess the health effects of 5G," reports Inverse. "Presumably, it would take just as long to conduct another study on the hypothesized connection between 5G and cancer, but by that time, the industry will almost certainly have moved on to 6G -- or 7G."
Researchers Find Critical Backdoor In Swiss Online Voting System
An international group of researchers who have been examining the source code for an internet voting system that Switzerland plans to roll out this year have found a
critical flaw in the code that would allow someone to alter votes without detection. New submitter
eatmorekix shares a report:
The cryptographic backdoor exists in a part of the system that is supposed to verify that all of the ballots and votes counted in an election are the same ones that voters cast. But the flaw could allow someone to swap out all of the legitimate ballots and replace them with fraudulent ones, all without detection. "The vulnerability is astonishing," said Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins University and did not do the research but read the researchers' report. "In normal elections, there is no single person who could undetectably defraud the entire election. But in this system they built, there is a party who could do that."
The researchers provided their findings last week to Swiss Post, the country's national postal service, which developed the system with the Barcelona-based company Scytl. Swiss Post said in a statement the researchers provided Motherboard and that the Swiss Post plans to publish online on Tuesday, that the researchers were correct in their findings and that it had asked Scytl to fix the issue. It also downplayed the vulnerability, however, saying that to exploit it, an attacker would need control over Swiss Postâ(TM)s secured IT infrastructure "as well as help from several insiders with specialist knowledge of Swiss Post or the cantons."
Fast-Growth Chickens Produce New Industry Woe: 'Spaghetti Meat'
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Chicken companies spent decades breeding birds to grow rapidly and develop large breast muscles. Now the industry is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to deal with the consequences ranging from squishy fillets known as "spaghetti meat," because they pull apart easily, to leathery ones known as "woody breast." [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source.] The abnormalities pose no food safety risk, researchers and industry officials say. They are suspected side effects of genetic selection that now allows meat companies to raise a 6.3-pound bird in 47 days, roughly twice as fast as 50 years ago, according to the National Chicken Council.
That efficiency drive has helped U.S. meat giants such as Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride, Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms produce a record 42 billion pounds of chicken nuggets, tenders and other products in 2018. Now, it's adding an estimated $200 million or more in annual industry expenses to identify and divert breast fillets that are too tough, too squishy or too striped with bands of white tissue to sell in restaurants or grocery stores, according to researchers at the University of Arkansas.
Intel CPU Shortages To Worsen in Q2 2019: Research
Shortages of Intel's CPUs are expected to worsen in the second quarter compared to the first as demand for Chromebooks, which are mostly equipped with Intel's entry-level processors, enters the high period, according to Digitimes Research. From the report:
Digitimes Research expects Intel CPUs' supply gap to shrink to 2-3% in the first quarter with Core i3 taking over Core i5 as the series hit hardest by shortages. The shortages started in August 2018 with major brands including Hewlett-Packard (HP), Dell and Lenovo all experiencing supply gaps of over 5% at their worst moment. Although most market watchers originally believed that the shortages would gradually ease after vendors completed their inventory preparations for the year-end holidays, the supply gap in the fourth quarter of 2018 still stayed at the same level as that in the third as HP launched a second wave of CPU inventory buildup during the last quarter of the year, prompting other vendors to follow suit. Taiwan-based vendors were underprepared and saw their supply gaps expand from a single digit percentage previously to over 10% in the fourth quarter. With all the impacts, the notebook market continued suffering a 4-5% supply gap in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Boeing To Make Key Change in 737 MAX Cockpit Software
Boeing is making an extensive change to the flight-control system in the 737 MAX aircraft implicated in October's Lion Air crash in Indonesia, going beyond what many industry officials familiar with the discussions had anticipated. From a report:
The change was in the works before a second plane of the same make crashed in Africa last weekend -- and comes as world-wide unease about the 737 MAX's safety grows. The change would mark a major shift from how Boeing originally designed a stall-prevention feature in the aircraft, which were first delivered to airlines in 2017. U.S. aviation regulators are expected to mandate the change by the end of April.
Boeing publicly released details about the planned 737 MAX software update late Monday [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. A company spokesman confirmed the update would use multiple sensors, or data feeds, in MAX's stall-prevention system -- instead of the current reliance on a single sensor. The change was prompted by preliminary results from the Indonesian crash investigation indicating that erroneous data from a single sensor, which measures the angle of the plane's nose, caused the stall-prevention system to misfire. Then, a series of events put the aircraft into a dangerous dive.
Actresses, Business Leaders, and Other Wealthy Parents Charged in Massive College Admissions Scandal
Federal prosecutors charged dozens of people on Tuesday in a major college admission scandal that involved wealthy parents, including Hollywood celebrities and prominent business leaders, paying bribes to get their children into elite American universities. From a report:
Federal officials have charged dozens of well-heeled parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, in what the Justice Department says was a multimillion-dollar scheme to cheat college admissions standards. The parents allegedly paid a consultant who then fabricated academic and athletic credentials and arranged bribes to help get their children into prestigious universities. "We're talking about deception and fraud -- fake test scores, fake credentials, fake photographs, bribed college officials," said Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
Lelling said 33 parents "paid enormous sums" to ensure their children got into schools such as Stanford and Yale, sending money to entities controlled by a man named William Rick Singer in return for falsifying records and obtaining false scores on important tests such as the SAT and ACT. Describing how Singer worked to present his clients' children as elite athletes, Lelling said, "In many instances, Singer helped parents take staged photographs of their children engaged in particular sports. Other times, Singer and his associates used stock photos that they pulled off the Internet -- sometimes Photoshopping the face of the child onto the picture of the athlete" and submitting it to desirable schools.
Amazon's Alexa has 80,000 Apps -- and No Runaway Hit
Amazon's Echo-branded smart speakers have
attracted millions of fans with their ability to play music and respond to queries spoken from across the room. But almost four years after inviting outside developers to write apps for Alexa,
Amazon's voice system has yet to offer a transformative new experience. From a report:
Surveys show most people use their smart speakers to listen to tunes or make relatively simple requests -- "Alexa, set a timer for 30 minutes" -- while more complicated tasks prompt them to give up and reach for their smartphone. Developers had less trouble creating hits for previous generations of technology.
Think Angry Birds or Pokemon Go on the iPhone, or, decades ago, spreadsheets on the first Windows computers. Amazon counts some 80,000 "skills" -- its name for apps -- in its marketplace. It seems impressive, but at this point in their development, Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store each boasted more than 550,000 applications and minted fortunes for many successful developers. "This platform is almost four years old, and you can't point me to one single killer app," says Mark Einhorn, who created a well-reviewed Alexa game that lets users operate a simulated lemonade stand and is one of 10 developers interviewed for this story.
Microsoft Will Now Pester Windows 7 Users To Upgrade To Windows 10 With Pop-ups
Mark Wilson writes:
Anyone who is still using Windows 7 doesn't have much longer until the operating system is no longer supported by Microsoft. Come January 14, 2020 only those enterprise customers who are willing to pay for Extended Security Updates will receive any kind of support. Microsoft has already done a lot to encourage Windows 7 diehards to make the move to Windows 10, and now it is stepping things up a gear. Throughout 2019, the company will show pop-up notifications in Windows 7 about making the switch to the latest version of Windows.
Chrome's Lite Pages Speed Up HTTPS Webpages on Slow Connections
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Frustrated by web pages that never seem to load properly? Well, Google hopes to make them a thing of the past. Today, the company announced that Chrome on Android's Data Saver, a feature that automatically improves page loading using "built-in optimizations" and dedicated servers -- speeding them up by a factor of two and reducing data usage by up to 90 percent -- now supports encrypted HTTPS webpages. Previously, it only worked with unencrypted HTTP content. The latest stable version of Chrome on Android indicates in the URL bar when a lightweight version of a web page -- a Lite page -- is being displayed. Tapping the indicator shows additional information and provides an option to load the original version of the page. Google says that Chrome will automatically disable Lite pages on a per-site basis when it detects that "users frequently opt to load the original page."
Node.js and JS Foundations Are Merging To Form OpenJS
The Linux Foundation today unveiled several major collaborative partnerships as it looks to cement the development of various open source projects that power much of the web. From a report:
the report: The Linux Foundation has created CHIPS Alliance, a project that aims to host and curate open source code relevant to design of chips that power mobile, IoT, and other consumer electronic devices; and the Continuous Delivery Foundation, which aims to serve as a platform for vendors, developers, and users to frequently engage and share insights and best practices to spur the development of open source projects.
It also announced that the GraphQL Foundation is collaborating with Joint Development Foundation to encourage "contributions, stewardship, and a shared investment from a broad group in vendor-neutral events, documentation, tools, and support for the data query language."
Microsoft is Preparing To Test Android App-Mirroring on Windows 10
Microsoft showed off the ability to mirror applications running on an Android phone to a Windows 10 PC last fall. Windows Insiders could begin testing this feature as soon as this week. From a report:
MSPoweruser reports that the Android app-mirroring feature initially will be available on certain Android phones running Android 7.0 or greater, specifically the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, S9 and S9+. Supported Windows 10 PCs need to have the "Bluetooth radio supports Low Energy Peripheral Role" on their systems in order to get the app-mirroring feature to work. Users will need to have Microsoft's Your Phone app installed for the feature to work. Only Windows Insiders running the latest test builds on certain devices will be able to test app-mirroring at first.The app-mirroring feature potentially could be available to Insiders as soon as this week.
Firefox Send Lets You Share 1GB Files With No Strings Attached
In 2017, Mozilla experimented with a service that
let you transfer 1GB files by sharing a web address with the recipient. Firefox Send is now
out of testing and boasts a magnified 2.5GB file-size limit if you log into your Firefox account. From a report:
Firefox Send is handy for those moments when you need to share video, audio or photo files that can be too big to squeeze into an email attachment. [...] Firefox Send, which will also be available as an Android app, illustrates one of Mozilla's efforts to diversify beyond the Firefox browser. Mozilla touts Firefox Send as focusing on privacy and uses encryption to protect files. Firefox Send files are available for up to seven days and can be password-protected. You can also limit the number of times they're downloaded.
Tim Berners-Lee Says World Wide Web Must Emerge From 'Adolescence'
The fraying World Wide Web needs to
rediscover its strengths and grow into maturity, its designer Tim Berners-Lee said on Monday, marking the 30th anniversary of the collaborative software project his supervisor initially dubbed "vague but exciting." From a report:
Speaking to reporters at CERN, the physics research center outside Geneva where he invented the web, Berners-Lee said users of the web had found it "not so pretty" recently. "They are all stepping back, suddenly horrified after the Trump and Brexit elections, realizing that this web thing that they thought was that cool is actually not necessarily serving humanity very well," he said. "It seems we don't finish reeling from one privacy disaster before moving onto the next one," he added, citing concerns about whether social networks were supporting democracy. People who had grown up taking the internet's neutrality for granted now found that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump had "rolled that back."
Microsoft Asks Users To Call Windows 10 Devs About ALT+TAB Feature
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer:
Microsoft has started to display notifications in the Windows 10 Action Center asking users to have a phone call with Microsoft developers and provide direct feedback about the ALT+TAB feature in Windows. While using a Windows 10 Insider build today, I was shown a Feedback Hub notification stating that "Microsoft wants to hear your opinions! To set up a phone call with Windows engineers, go to: http://www.aka.ms/alttab." This link then redirects to a web page at https://ux.microsoft.com/?AltTab. It is not known if this is only being shown to Windows Insiders users at this time.
When users visit this link they will be shown a Microsoft User Research page stating that a Windows 10 product team is looking to "understand our customer needs" and would like to have an anonymous 5-10 minute phone call with the user. In this particular case, the phone call will be with Microsoft engineers to discuss how users use the ALT+TAB feature to switch between apps. Microsoft states they are performing these calls in order to get a better understanding of how a feature is being used while they are in development. According to the web site, Windows engineers will be available on 3/11/2019 between 11:15 AM and 1:00 PM PST and on 3/12/2019 between 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM PST to schedule a call. The page goes on to say that users can expect a 5-10 minute call, but that it could last longer if there is more to discuss. They also state that the calls are not being recorded, are anonymous, and the content of the call will not be stored.
US Tells Germany To Stop Using Huawei Equipment Or Lose Some Intelligence Access
The Wall Street Journal
is reporting that the United States has
told Germany to drop Huawei from its future plans or risk losing access to some U.S. intelligence. The U.S. says the Chinese company's equipment could be used for espionage -- a concern that Huawei says is unfounded. "The Trump administration has been
pressing allies to end their relationships with Huawei, but Germany, moving ahead with its plans, has not moved to ban the company from its networks," reports The Verge. From the report:
According to the Journal, a letter sent from the U.S. Ambassador to Germany warns the country that the U.S. will stop sharing some secrets if it allows Huawei to work on its next-generation 5G infrastructure. The letter, according to the Journal, argues that network security can't be effectively managed by audits of equipment or software. While the U.S. plans to continue sharing intelligence with Germany regardless, the Journal reports, officials plan to curtail the scope of that information if Huawei equipment is used in German infrastructure.
Surprising Discovery Hints Sonic Waves Carry Mass
jbmartin6 shares a report from Scientific American:
In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, a group of scientists has theorized that sound waves possess mass, meaning sounds would be directly affected by gravity. They suggest phonons, particle-like collective excitations responsible for transporting sound waves across a medium, might exhibit a tiny amount of mass in a gravitational field. "You would expect classical physics results like this one to have been known for a long time by now," says Angelo Esposito from Columbia University, the lead author on the paper. "It's something we stumbled upon almost by chance."
Esposito and his colleagues built on a previous paper published last year, in which Alberto Nicolis of Columbia and Riccardo Penco from Carnegie Mellon University first suggested phonons could have mass in a superfluid. The latest study, however, shows this effect should hold true for other materials, too, including regular liquids and solids, and even air itself. And although the amount of mass carried by the phonons is expected to be tiny -- comparable with a hydrogen atom, about 10^-24 grams -- it may actually be measurable. Except, if you were to measure it, you would find something deeply counterintuitive: The mass of the phonons would be negative, meaning they would fall "up." Over time their trajectory would gradually move away from a gravitational source such as Earth. "If their gravitational mass was positive, they would fall downward," Penco says. "Because their gravitational mass is negative, phonons fall upwards." And the amount they would "fall" is equally small, varying depending on the medium the phonon is traveling through. In water, where sound moves at 1.5 kilometers per second, the negative mass of the phonon would cause it to drift at about 1 degree per second. But this corresponds to a change of 1 degree over 15 kilometers, which would be exceedingly difficult to measure.