New Imaging System Creates Pictures By Measuring Time
An anonymous reader writes:
Photos and videos are usually produced by capturing photons -- the building blocks of light—with digital sensors. For instance, digital cameras consist of millions of pixels that form images by detecting the intensity and color of the light at every point of space. 3-D images can then be generated either by positioning two or more cameras around the subject to photograph it from multiple angles, or by using streams of photons to scan the scene and reconstruct it in three dimensions. Either way, an image is only built by gathering spatial information of the scene. In a new paper published today in the journal Optica, researchers based in the U.K., Italy and the Netherlands describe an entirely new way to make animated 3-D images: by capturing temporal information about photons instead of their spatial coordinates.
Their process begins with a simple, inexpensive single-point detector tuned to act as a kind of stopwatch for photons. Unlike cameras, measuring the spatial distribution of color and intensity, the detector only records how long it takes the photons produced by a split-second pulse of laser light to bounce off each object in any given scene and reach the sensor. The further away an object is, the longer it will take each reflected photon to reach the sensor. The information about the timings of each photon reflected in the scene -- what the researchers call the temporal data -- is collected in a very simple graph.
Those graphs are then transformed into a 3-D image with the help of a sophisticated neural network algorithm. The researchers trained the algorithm by showing it thousands of conventional photos of the team moving and carrying objects around the lab, alongside temporal data captured by the single-point detector at the same time. Eventually, the network had learned enough about how the temporal data corresponded with the photos that it was capable of creating highly accurate images from the temporal data alone. In the proof-of-principle experiments, the team managed to construct moving images at about 10 frames per second from the temporal data, although the hardware and algorithm used has the potential to produce thousands of images per second. Currently, the neural net's ability to create images is limited to what it has been trained to pick out from the temporal data of scenes created by the researchers. However, with further training and even by using more advanced algorithms, it could learn to visualize a varied range of scenes, widening its potential applications in real-world situations.
Should the US Military Be Recruiting On Twitch?
The U.S. military has for years been using streaming channels and video gaming to recruit people. "Several branches of the military -- with the exception of the Marines -- have had esports teams
since 2018," reports The Verge. "And
according to Military.com, the Army's esports efforts alone generated 3,500 recruiting leads in fiscal year 2019."
But the question is...
should they be recruiting on these platforms? According to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the answer is no. She is proposing an amendment that
would ban the U.S. military from recruiting on Twitch. The Verge reports:
"Children should not be targeted in general for many marketing purposes in addition to military service. Right now, currently, children on platforms such as Twitch are bombarded with banner ads linked to recruitment signup forms that can be submitted by children as young as 12 years old," Ocasio-Cortez said on the House floor Thursday. "These are not education outreach programs for the military."
Last week, the Army paused its use of Twitch for recruitment after its channel was criticized for banning viewers who asked about war crimes. The Army told GameSpot: "The team has paused streaming to review internal policies and procedures, as well as all platform-specific policies, to ensure those participating in the space are clear before streaming resumes." And earlier this month, Twitch told the Army to stop sharing phony prize giveaways on its channel that promised an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller, only for users to be directed to a recruitment page when they clicked through. The language of Ocasio-Cortez's draft would make that pause permanent, banning US military organizations from using funds to "maintain a presence on Twitch.com or any video game, e-sports, or live-streaming platform." You can watch the congresswoman's impassioned floor speech
Is Your Chip Card Secure? Much Depends on Where You Bank
A recent series of malware attacks on U.S.-based merchants suggest thieves are
exploiting weaknesses in how certain financial institutions have implemented the technology in chip-based credit and debit cards to sidestep key security features and effectively create usable, counterfeit cards. Brian Krebs reports via Krebs on Security:
Traditional payment cards encode cardholder account data in plain text on a magnetic stripe, which can be read and recorded by skimming devices or malicious software surreptitiously installed in payment terminals. That data can then be encoded onto anything else with a magnetic stripe and used to place fraudulent transactions. Newer, chip-based cards employ a technology known as EMV that encrypts the account data stored in the chip. The technology causes a unique encryption key -- referred to as a token or "cryptogram" -- to be generated each time the chip card interacts with a chip-capable payment terminal.
Virtually all chip-based cards still have much of the same data that's stored in the chip encoded on a magnetic stripe on the back of the card. This is largely for reasons of backward compatibility since many merchants -- particularly those in the United States -- still have not fully implemented chip card readers. This dual functionality also allows cardholders to swipe the stripe if for some reason the card's chip or a merchant's EMV-enabled terminal has malfunctioned. But there are important differences between the cardholder data stored on EMV chips versus magnetic stripes. One of those is a component in the chip known as an integrated circuit card verification value or "iCVV" for short -- also known as a "dynamic CVV." The iCVV differs from the card verification value (CVV) stored on the physical magnetic stripe, and protects against the copying of magnetic-stripe data from the chip and the use of that data to create counterfeit magnetic stripe cards. Both the iCVV and CVV values are unrelated to the three-digit security code that is visibly printed on the back of a card, which is used mainly for e-commerce transactions or for card verification over the phone. The appeal of the EMV approach is that even if a skimmer or malware manages to intercept the transaction information when a chip card is dipped, the data is only valid for that one transaction and should not allow thieves to conduct fraudulent payments with it going forward.
However, for EMV's security protections to work, the back-end systems deployed by card-issuing financial institutions are supposed to check that when a chip card is dipped into a chip reader, only the iCVV is presented; and conversely, that only the CVV is presented when the card is swiped. If somehow these do not align for a given transaction type, the financial institution is supposed to decline the transaction. More recently, researchers at Cyber R&D Labs published a paper detailing how they tested 11 chip card implementations from 10 different banks in Europe and the U.S. The researchers found they could harvest data from four of them and create cloned magnetic stripe cards that were successfully used to place transactions. There are now strong indications the same method detailed by Cyber R&D Labs is being used by point-of-sale (POS) malware to capture EMV transaction data that can then be resold and used to fabricate magnetic stripe copies of chip-based cards.
The Gig Economy Is Failing. Say Hello to the Hustle Economy.
An anonymous reader shares a report:
"We have nothing to sell besides physical touch." The thought jarred Amber Briggle awake some nights. It kept her from eating in the first week of the Covid-19 shutdown when she lost six pounds fretting over the sudden collapse of the business she'd built up her "entire adult life." For seven years, Briggle has owned a massage studio called Soma in Denton, Texas. She grew the operation from a pop-up in her house to a mini-empire with a wall of local "best of" awards. But when Texas Governor Greg Abbott closed businesses statewide on March 21, Briggle realized in an instant it could all be over. Her bills totaled more than $3,000 per month, and it wasn't as if she could give massages from home. "I had nothing, literally nothing," Briggle said. "And this is my life's work. I spent the entire first week crying. What else could I do about it?" Then, in the second week of the shutdown, during a pro-bono consultation with a local business advisor, she was asked if she'd ever considered a Patreon.
As the consultant explained, the digital-subscription platform -- once home mainly to YouTubers and podcast hosts -- had also become an ad hoc safety net for thousands of teachers, cashiers, line cooks, and hairstylists who lost work with the onset of stay-at-home orders. It wasn't just Patreon, either, which added more than 100,000 new users between mid-March and July. OnlyFans reported daily six-figure sign-ups on its popular cam site. Etsy logged 115,000 new sellers in the first three months of the year, more than double the past two years' user growth. Teachable, which lets people make and sell online courses, signed on 14,000 new creators between March and July, and in July reported its first quarterly revenue over $10 million.
GOP Congressman Turns Antitrust Hearing Into Personal Tech Support Session
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VICE News:
We all have trouble with our email sometimes. We don't typically get to harangue the CEO of Google about why, say, Dad's Gmail is acting up, though. You have to be a member of Congress to pull that. Rep. Greg Steube, Republican from Florida, went there during Wednesday's high-profile congressional hearing about tech giants' market dominance and anti-competitive behavior. Handed the chance to throw any question at some of the most powerful people in the world, Steube pressed Google CEO Sundar Pichai to troubleshoot his parents' recent email issues. Specifically, they weren't getting his campaign emails, which Steube seemed to think was because of an anti-conservative bias among Silicon Valley titans. Pichai responded by implying that Steube and his dad don't understand how Gmail tabs work.
"Suddenly, I get elected to Congress, and I'm now up here in Washington, D.C., and my parents, who have a Gmail account, aren't getting my campaign emails," Steube said. "Why is this only happening to Republicans?" Pichai responded by talking about how Gmail automatically sorts emails by their source, breaking out messages from personal contacts into a folder separate from those sent by self-promoting groups like a congressional campaign. "We have a tabbed organization," Pichai said, veering into tech-support mode. "The primary tab has emails from friends and family, and the secondary tab has other notifications, and so on." Steube interrupted to point out that it was his dad who complained that the campaign emails weren't showing up. And that meant Pichai's statement that the Primary tab should feature all emails from family members didn't make any sense to him. "Clearly, that familial thing that you're talking about didn't apply to my emails," Steube said, glossing over the fact that the emails were coming from his campaign, not from his personal account. "Our systems, probably, are not able to understand that it's your father," Pichai deadpanned.
Google's $2.1 Billion Fitbit Deal Faces Full-Scale EU Antitrust Investigation
According to CNBC sources, Google's
$2.1 billion bid for fitness tracker maker Fitbit
will face a full-scale EU antitrust investigation next week. From the report:
Alphabet unit Google this month offered not to use Fitbit's health data to help it target ads in an attempt to address EU antitrust concerns. The opening of a full-scale investigation suggests that this is not sufficient. The deal, announced last November, would see Google compete with market leader Apple and Samsung in the fitness-tracking and smart-watch market, alongside others including Huawei and Xiaomi.
The European Commission, which will launch the probe following the end of its preliminary review on Aug. 4, is expected to make use of the four-month long investigation to explore in depth the use of data in healthcare, one of the people said. Google reiterated previous comments, saying the deal is about devices and not data. "The wearables space is crowded, and we believe the combination of Google and Fitbit's hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector, benefiting consumers and making the next generation of devices better and more affordable," a spokeswoman said.
One Mystery of Stonehenge's Origins Has Finally Been Solved
For more than four centuries, archaeologists and geologists have sought to determine the geographical origins of the stones used to build Stonehenge thousands of years ago. Pinning down the source of the large blocks known as sarsens that form the bulk of the monument has proved especially elusive. From a report:
Now researchers have resolved the mystery: 50 of the 52 extant sarsens at Stonehenge came from the West Woods site in the English county of Wiltshire, located 25 kilometers to the north of Stonehenge. The findings were published on Wednesday in Science Advances. Geologists can often use macroscopic and microscopic features of rocks to match them to the outcropping from which they were taken. Such techniques have allowed researchers to determine that many of Stonehenge's smaller "bluestones" were brought from southwestern Wales. But "the trouble with sarsen stone is that it's all the same," says study co-author Katy Whitaker, a graduate student at the University of Reading in England and an assistant listing adviser at Historic England. "When you look at it under the microscope, you see quartz sand grains stuck together with more quartz."
So the team turned to x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, a nondestructive technique that bombards a sample with x-rays and analyzes the wavelengths of light that sample emits in response, which can show its chemical makeup. The technique revealed the presence of trace elements, or those found in minute quantities, on the surface of Stonehenge's sarsens. Almost all of those stones shared a remarkably similar chemical composition, indicating that they originated together. The data were insufficient to pinpoint where that source was, however. The team's breakthrough came unexpectedly in 2018, when a sample core that had been drilled from one of Stonehenge's sarsens during a 1958 restoration project was returned to England after it spent 60 years in a private collection. The researchers were granted permission to destroy part of the core for a more detailed analysis. "We quietly jumped up and down with excitement," says lead author David Nash, a physical geographer at the University of Brighton in England. Using two types of mass spectrometry, the team determined the levels of 22 trace elements in the core and compared them with the levels in sarsen samples from 20 different sites dotting southern England. The chemical signature of the core exactly matched that of one of the sites -- West Woods, which encompasses about six square kilometers.
US Adults Who Mostly Rely On Social Media For News Are Less Informed, Exposed To More Conspiracies: Study
According to a
new report from Pew Research, U.S. adults who get their news largely from social media platforms tend to fllow the news less closely and
end up less informed on several key subjects when compared to those who use other sources, like TV, radio, and news publications. TechCrunch reports:
The firm first asked people how they most commonly get their news. About one-in-five (18%) said they mostly use social media to stay current. That's close the percentages of those who say they use local TV (16%) or cable TV (16%) news, but fewer than those who say they go directly to a news website or app (25%). Another 13% said they use network TV and only 3% said they read a newspaper. To be clear, any study that asks users to self-report how they do something isn't going to be as useful as those that collect hard data on what the consumers actually do. In other words, people who think they're getting most of their news from TV may be, in reality, undercounting the time they spent on social media â" or vice versa.
That said, among this group of "primarily" social media news consumers, only 8% said they were following the key news story of the 2020 U.S. election "every closely," compared with 37% of cable TV viewers who said the same, or the 33% of print users who also said this. The social media group, on this topic, was closer to the local TV group (11%). On the topic of the coronavirus outbreak, only around a quarter (23%) of the primarily social media news consumers said they were following news of COVID-19 "very closely." All other groups again reported a higher percentage, including those who primarily used cable TV (50%), national network TV (50%), news websites and apps (44%), and local TV (32%) for news.
Related to this finding, the survey respondents were also asked 29 different fact-based questions about news topics from recent days, including those on Trump's impeachment, the COVID-19 outbreak, and others. Those who scored the lowest on these topics were the consumers who said they primarily used social media to get their news. Across 9 questions related to foundational political knowledge, only 17% of primarily social media news consumers scored "high political knowledge," meaning they got 8 to 9 of the questions right. 27% scored "middle political knowledge" (6-7 right) and 57% scored "low political knowledge" (5 or fewer right.) The only group that did worse were those who primarily relied on local TV. 45% of who got their news from news primarily via websites and apps, meanwhile, had "high political knowledge," compared with 42% for radio, 41% for print, 35% for cable TV, and 29% for network TV. The social media group of news consumers was also more exposed to fringe conspiracies, like the idea that the pandemic was intentionally planned.
Alphabet Reports First Revenue Decline In Company History
Google parent-company Alphabet beat expectations for its second quarter earnings Thursday,
marking its first revenue decline in the company's history. CNBC reports:
Here's how it did against Refinitiv consensus estimates:
EPS: $10.13 (non-GAAP), vs. $8.21 estimated.
Revenue: $38.30 billion vs. $37.37 billion estimated.
Although the company reported its first annual revenue decline in history (a drop of 2%), the stock rose slightly after-hours. As a result of the customer pullbacks and the general maturing ad market, Alphabet itself cut marketing spending by half and instituted hiring freezes for the second half of the year in anticipation of a slowdown, CNBC reported. Around that time, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said Google would be pulling back on some of its investments for the rest of the year amid the Covid-19 crisis, starting with hiring.
Apple Halved App Store Fee To Get Amazon Prime Video On Devices
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
Apple agreed in 2016 to halve its App Store fee for Amazon as part of a deal to put the e-commerce giant's Prime Video app on Apple's mobile devices and TV set-top box. Eddy Cue, an Apple senior vice president, and Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos negotiated directly on the deal, according to emails released Wednesday as part of a congressional hearing on anticompetitive behavior. The companies agreed to a 15% revenue share for customers who signed up through the app and no revenue share for users who already subscribed via Amazon or elsewhere, the emails showed.
The deal, announced in December 2017, also allowed Amazon's video service to integrate with Apple's voice-activated digital assistant, Siri, and the iPhone maker's TV app, which launched in 2016. In addition, the agreement gave Apple a 15% cut of subscriptions to Amazon Prime partners like Showtime for users who signed up originally through Apple. Apple generally receives a 30% cut for the first year of an app's subscriptions made through the platform. That fee drops to 15% after the first year. The agreement with Amazon is similar to a program Apple announced earlier this year letting select developers avoid the 30% fee in exchange for integrating with certain features. Amazon is part of that program. The report also reveals that Apple once
considered taking a 40 percent cut from some subscription apps, according to
documents shared today by the House Judiciary Committee.
A Year After an HR Crisis, Microsoft Backs Away From Releasing a Transparency Report
An anonymous reader shares a report:
On March 20, 2019, a Microsoft employee who had been at the company for three years sent an email to a collection of listservs for women at the company, asking how to move up in the organization. She had worked for years without a promotion, and said that her career had been limited because she was a woman. It was a spark to a tinderbox. In the next few days, dozens and dozens of other women replied to the message, each sharing frustration and stories of discrimination and harassment at the company. Some said they had been subject to overt abuse, like being called a "bitch" during business functions, and others said they had been sexually harassed with no ramifications to the harassers. Microsoft's top executives, including CEO Satya Nadella and top Human Resources (HR) exec Kathleen Hogan, were quickly CC'd on the chain. "This thread has pulled the scab off a festering wound. The collective anger and frustration is palpable. A wide audience is now listening. And you know what? I'm good with that," a Microsoft employee wrote in the email chain at the time.
On April 15, 2019, Nadella responded with an email to the entire company, promising reforms to HR that would better serve employees, as well as an annual transparency report that would tell employees how many cases were investigated and how they were resolved. More than a year later, Microsoft has not released this transparency report, and a company spokesperson would not commit to Microsoft doing so when directly asked by OneZero. It's also unclear how much better life is for employees who have faced discrimination and harassment. Five former and current employees who have interacted with Microsoft's human resources department in the last year say there hasn't been a noticeable difference in the way cases have been handled since last March. Two of the former employees left the company during the last year, and told OneZero that a lack of HR action was a primary reason for leaving.
Apple Emails Reveal Internal Debate on Right to Repair
Tim Cook didn't reveal anything new during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. But emails his company shared with the committee spoke volumes. These internal discussions reveal that what looks like Apple's united
front against Right to Repair is really an internal debate, rife with uncertainty. From a report:
The New York Times editorial in favor of Right to Repair last April set off a fire alarm inside Apple's public relations team. When Binyamin Appelbaum reached out to research the issue, Apple's VP of communications said in an internal email that "We should get him on the phone with [Apple VP Greg] Joz [Joswiak] or [Senior VP] Phil [Schiller]." That spawned an instant debate. "The larger issue is that our strategy around all of this is unclear. Right now we're talking out of both sides of our mouth and no one is clear on where we're headed."
The emails show the high profile of Right to Repair inside Apple as leaders debate how to respond to a request for comment on an upcoming column. "The piece is using [Senator] Warren's new right to repair for agriculture to talk about the broader right to repair effort and plans to use Apple as a symbol in that fight. We're meeting with everyone shortly about the overall strategy and then I'll connect with [Greg 'Joz' Joswiak]." The email goes on, "Appelbaum has, of course, talked with iFixIt [sic] and others." They're right about that! The conversation resulted in a set of talking points that Kaiann Drance, VP of Marketing, talked through with Appelbaum. Afterwards, Apple PR wrote, "Kaiann did a great job and emphasized the need for a thoughtful approach to repair policy because of how important it is to balance customer safety with access to more convenient repairs." Apple was less convincing than they hoped. The editorial, carrying the weight of the Times' entire Editorial Board, came out forcefully in favor of Right to Repair. Of Apple specifically, the Times remarked, "The company is welcome to persuade people to patronize its own repair facilities, or to buy new iPhones. But there ought to be a law against forcing the issue."
Google's Web App Plans Collide With Apple's iPhone, Safari Rules
Google and Apple, which already battle over mobile operating systems, are opening a new front in their fight. How that plays out may determine the future of the web. From a report:
Google was born on the web, and its business reflects its origin. The company depends on the web for search and advertising revenue. So it isn't a surprise that Google sees the web as key to the future of software. Front and center are web apps, interactive websites with the same power as conventional apps that run natively on operating systems like Windows, Android, MacOS and iOS. Apple has a different vision of the future, one that plays to its strengths. The company revolutionized mobile computing with its iPhone line. Its profits depend on those products and the millions of apps that run on them. Apple, unsurprisingly, appears less excited about developments, like web apps, that could cut into its earnings.
The two camps aren't simply protecting their businesses. Google and Apple have philosophical differences, too. Google, working to pack its dominant Chrome browser with web programming abilities, sees the web as an open place of shared standards. Apple, whose Safari browser lacks some of those abilities, believes its restraint will keep the web healthy. It wants a web that isn't plagued by security risks, privacy invasion and annoyances like unwanted notifications and permission pop-ups. Google leads a collection of heavy-hitting allies, including Microsoft and Intel, trying to craft new technology called progressive web apps, which look and feel like native apps but are powered by the web. PWAs work even when you have no network connection. You can launch PWAs from an icon on your phone home screen or PC start menu, and they can prod you with push notifications and synchronize data in the background for fast startup. PWA fans include Uber, travel site Trivago and India e-commerce site Flipkart. Starbucks saw its website usage double after it rolled out a PWA.
The split over native apps and web apps is more than just a squabble between tech giants trying to convert our lives online into their profits. How it plays out will shape what kind of a digital world we live in. Choosing native apps steers us to a world where we're locked into either iOS or Android, limited to software approved by the companies' app stores and their rules. Web apps, on the other hand, reinforce the web's strength as a software foundation controlled by no single company. A web app will work anywhere, making it easier to swap out a Windows laptop for an iPad. "What you're seeing is the tension between what is good for the user, which is to have a flexible experience, and what's good for the platform, which is to keep you in the platform as much as possible," said Mozilla Chief Technology Officer Eric Rescorla.
Microsoft To Remove All SHA-1 Windows Downloads Next Week
Microsoft announced this week plans to
remove all Windows-related file downloads from the Microsoft Download Center that are cryptographically signed with the Secure Hash Algorithm 1 (SHA-1). From a report:
The files will be removed next Monday, on August 3, the company said on Tuesday. The OS maker cited the security of the SHA-1 algorithm for the move. "SHA-1 is a legacy cryptographic hash that many in the security community believe is no longer secure. Using the SHA-1 hashing algorithm in digital certificates could allow an attacker to spoof content, perform phishing attacks, or perform man-in-the-middle attacks," it said. Most software companies have recently begun abandoning the SHA-1 algorithm after a team of academics broke the SHA-1 hashing function at a theoretical level in February 2016.
Libraries Lend Books, and Must Continue To Lend Books: Internet Archive Responds To Publishers' Lawsuit
in a blog post:
Yesterday, the Internet Archive filed our response to the lawsuit brought by four commercial publishers to end the practice of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), the digital equivalent of traditional library lending. CDL is a respectful and secure way to bring the breadth of our library collections to digital learners. Commercial ebooks, while useful, only cover a small fraction of the books in our libraries. As we launch into a fall semester that is largely remote, we must offer our students the best information to learn from -- collections that were purchased over centuries and are now being digitized. What is at stake with this lawsuit? Every digital learner's access to library books. That is why the Internet Archive is standing up to defend the rights of hundreds of libraries that are using Controlled Digital Lending. The publishers' lawsuit aims to stop the longstanding and widespread library practice of Controlled Digital Lending, and stop the hundreds of libraries using this system from providing their patrons with digital books. Through CDL, libraries lend a digitized version of the physical books they have acquired as long as the physical copy doesn't circulate and the digital files are protected from redistribution. This is how Internet Archive's lending library works, and has for more than nine years. Publishers are seeking to shut this library down, claiming copyright law does not allow it. Our response is simple: Copyright law does not stand in the way of libraries' rights to own books, to digitize their books, and to lend those books to patrons in a controlled way.
"The Authors Alliance has several thousand members around the world and we have endorsed the Controlled Digital Lending as a fair use," stated Pamela Samuelson, Authors Alliance founder and Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law at Berkeley Law. "It's really tragic that at this time of pandemic that the publishers would try to basically cut off even access to a digital public library like the Internet Archive ... I think that the idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong." These publishers clearly intend this lawsuit to have a chilling effect on Controlled Digital Lending at a moment in time when it can benefit digital learners the most. For students and educators, the 2020 fall semester will be unlike any other in recent history. From K-12 schools to universities, many institutions have already announced they will keep campuses closed or severely limit access to communal spaces and materials such as books because of public health concerns. The conversation we must be having is: how will those students, instructors and researchers access information -- from textbooks to primary sources? Unfortunately, four of the world's largest book publishers seem intent on undermining both libraries' missions and our attempts to keep educational systems operational during a global health crisis.
Top Antitrust Democrat: There's a Case To Break Up Facebook
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who ended Wednesday's hearing by saying some Big Tech companies need to be broken up, says that Facebook in particular lacks significant competitors and
should not have been allowed to buy Instagram and WhatsApp. From a report:
Cicilline chairs the antitrust subcommittee, which has been looking into competition issues in the digital space. "Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged in this hearing that his acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram were part of a plan to both buy a competitor and also maintain his money, power, or his dominance. That's classic monopoly behavior," Cicilline said on the "Axios Re:Cap" podcast. Cicilline's criticisms weren't limited to Facebook, pointing to the power Google and Amazon also hold in their respective markets. "I think what we saw today was confirmation that these large technology platforms have enduring monopoly power," he said in the interview with Axios' Dan Primack. A key issue remains whether existing antitrust law is broad enough to address the modern tech industry, especially companies that provide their products at no direct charge to consumers. "Congress is going to have to 'think outside the box' in a comprehensive way about what antitrust laws should look like in the 21st century," Neguse told Axios' Ashley Gold after the hearing.
Telegram Hits Out at Apple's App Store 'Tax' in Latest EU Antitrust Complaint
Apple has another antitrust charge on its plate. Messaging app Telegram has joined Spotify in
filing a formal complaint against the iOS App Store in Europe -- adding its voice to a growing number of developers willing to publicly rail against what they decry as Apple's app "tax." From a report:
A spokesperson for Telegram confirmed the complaint to TechCrunch, pointing us to this public Telegram post where founder, Pavel Durov, sets out seven reasons why he thinks iPhone users should be concerned about the company's behavior. These range from the contention that Apple's 30% fee on app developers leads to higher prices for iPhone users; to censorship concerns, given Apple controls what's allowed (and not allowed) on its store; to criticism of delays to app updates that flow from Apple's app review process; to the claim that the app store structure is inherently hostile to user privacy, given that Apple gets full visibility of which apps users are downloading and engaging with. This week Durov also published a blog post in which he takes aim at a number of "myths" he says Apple uses to try to justify the 30% app fee -- such as a claim that iOS faces plenty of competition for developers; or that developers can choose not to develop for iOS and instead only publish apps for Android.
NASA Launches New Rover, Perseverance, To Look For Ancient Life on Red Planet
heading back to the Red Planet. The agency launched a new rover, a car-size robotic explorer named Perseverance, to Mars on an ambitious mission to scour the planet for evidence of ancient life. From a report:
The rover, which launched into orbit Thursday at 7:50 a.m. ET, is designed to study the geology and climate of Mars. NASA says the mission and its subsequent discoveries could lay the groundwork for eventual human exploration of the Red Planet. Perseverance is loaded with seven scientific instruments to explore the Martian landscape and assess whether the planet was ever able to sustain life. The six-wheel rover is also carrying a small helicopter, dubbed Ingenuity, to perform experimental test flights in Mars' thin atmosphere, which, if successful, would mark a milestone in powered flight.
"For the first time ever, we're going to fly a helicopter on another planet," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Monday in a news briefing, adding that future missions to other worlds could use similar helicopters as airborne scouts. The Perseverance rover launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Typically, crowds gather along beaches near Cape Canaveral to witness NASA launches, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, the agency encouraged space fans to stay home and participate virtually, instead -- particularly as new infections continue to surge in Florida and across the country. Matt Wallace, the mission's deputy project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said the rover has already lived up to its name, as engineers persevered through the pandemic to ready the spacecraft for its much-anticipated launch. "Nothing prepared us for what we had to deal with in the middle of March as the pandemic struck -- not just our team, but communities across the country and the world," Wallace said. "At that point in the mission, we were in our final assembly activities."
Huawei Overtakes Samsung as World's Biggest Smartphone Vendor
For the first time ever, Huawei has shipped
more smartphones worldwide over a quarter than any other company, according to a new report from analyst firm Canalys. From a report:
Huawei has long harbored ambitions to overtake Samsung as the world's biggest smartphone seller, and going by the numbers from Canalys, that's just what happened during the April-June period this year. That doesn't mean Huawei will hold onto the top spot for long, as the results were clearly influenced by the ongoing pandemic. Canalys' figure of 55.8 million Huawei smartphones shipped is actually down 5 percent year-on-year, while Samsung slid 30 percent to 53.7 million. More than 70 percent of Huawei's devices are now sold in China, which hasn't been hit as hard by COVID-19 as many of Samsung's major markets. Samsung, meanwhile, is a tiny player in China. "Our business has demonstrated exceptional resilience in these difficult times," Huawei said in a statement to The Verge. "Amidst a period of unprecedented global economic slowdown and challenges, we've continued to grow and further our leadership position by providing innovative products and experience to consumers."
Trump Suggests Delaying Election Amid Fraud Claims, But Has No Power To Do So
President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested that perhaps the United States would
need to "delay the election" on November 3, claiming that mail-in voting would make this fall's election "the most inaccurate and fraudulent in history." From a report, shared by numerous readers:
Trump has no power to unilaterally delay elections, which were set for the day after the first Monday in November through a mid-19th century law passed by Congress. Since then, it has never changed, said presidential historian Michael Beschloss. But Trump is trailing in the polls by double digits to Democrat Joe Biden, and election experts have long worried that the president would actively try to interfere with the election in order to prevent a potential loss. As states grapple with how to help citizens vote safely during the coronavirus pandemic, many have turned to mail-in voting as a potential solution that allows people to cast their ballots without waiting in long lines at potentially crowded polling places.
Scientists Solve Mystery of the Origin of Stonehenge Megaliths
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR:
Researchers have announced that they have solved a centuries-long mystery surrounding the origin of most of the large stones that make up the outer ring of Stonehenge, in an article published to the journal Science Advances on Wednesday. Using geochemical data, researchers have determined that 50 of the 52 large stones, sarsen megaliths, originated from the West Woods in Wiltshire, England, some 15 miles from where the prehistoric monument stands. The smaller stones near the center of the structure, called bluestones, had previously been traced to Wales, nearly 125 miles away. Researchers still don't know exactly how the 30-ton stones were transported. "How they were moved to the site is still really the subject of speculation," David Nash, University of Brighton geomorphologist and lead researcher on the study,
"Given the size of the stones, they must have either been dragged or moved on rollers to Stonehenge. We don't know the exact route but at least we now have a starting point and an endpoint."
A Plunge In Incoming Sunlight May Have Triggered 'Snowball Earths'
Jennifer Chu writes via Phys.Org:
At least twice in Earth's history, nearly the entire planet was encased in a sheet of snow and ice. These dramatic "Snowball Earth" events occurred in quick succession, somewhere around 700 million years ago, and evidence suggests that the consecutive global ice ages set the stage for the subsequent explosion of complex, multicellular life on Earth. Scientists have considered multiple scenarios for what may have tipped the planet into each ice age. While no single driving process has been identified, it's assumed that whatever triggered the temporary freeze-overs must have done so in a way that pushed the planet past a critical threshold, such as reducing incoming sunlight or atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels low enough to set off a global expansion of ice.
But MIT scientists now say that Snowball Earths were likely the product of "rate-induced glaciations." That is, they found the Earth can be tipped into a global ice age when the level of solar radiation it receives changes quickly over a geologically short period of time. The amount of solar radiation doesn't have to drop to a particular threshold point; as long as the decrease in incoming sunlight occurs faster than a critical rate, a temporary glaciation, or Snowball Earth, will follow. These findings, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, suggest that whatever triggered the Earth's ice ages most likely involved processes that quickly reduced the amount of solar radiation coming to the surface, such as widespread volcanic eruptions or biologically induced cloud formation that could have significantly blocked out the sun's rays.
Airbus To Build 'First Interplanetary Cargo Ship'
Airbus-France will build the huge satellite that
brings the first Martian rock samples back to Earth. The BBC reports:
This material will be drilled on the Red Planet by the US space agency's next rover, Perseverance, before being blasted into orbit by a rocket. It'll be the Airbus satellite's job to grab the packaged samples and then ship them home. The joint American-European project is expected to cost billions and take just over a decade to implement. But scientists say it's probably the best way to confirm whether life has ever existed on the Red Planet. Any evidence is likely to be controversial and will need the powerful analytical tools only found in Earth laboratories to convince the doubters, the researchers argue.
The Airbus satellite will be a Goliath among spacecraft. The Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) will weigh 6.5 tonnes at launch in 2026 and use a mix of chemical and electric propulsion to get to Mars, orbit the planet and then return to Earth with its rock consignment. Thales Alenia Space of Italy will be a lead subcontractor working on this aspect of the design. The inclusion of a powerful ion engine will require a lot power, hence the use of immense solar arrays. These panels will give the satellite a "wingspan" of 39m, more than 120ft. But the really remarkable facet of the satellite's mission is the game of catch it will have to play high above Mars. Nasa will put a rocket on the planet later this decade to fire the rocks collected by Perseverance into orbit. The Airbus spacecraft will have to manoeuvre itself into a position to capture these samples that will be packaged inside a football-sized container. After ingesting this container, the satellite must then prepare it for return to Earth. "This is not just twice as difficult as any typical Mars mission; it's twice squared - when you think about the complexity involved," said Dr David Parker, the director of human and robotic exploration at the European Space Agency (Esa). "And this satellite that Airbus will build -- I like to call it 'the first interplanetary cargo ship,' because that's what it will be doing. It's designed to carry cargo between Mars and Earth," he told BBC News.