Rocket Lab Becomes Second Company After SpaceX To Launch and Land Orbital Rocket
Thelasko shares a report from Forbes:
In a major milestone, the New Zealand-based launch company Rocket Lab has successfully recovered an orbital-class rocket after parachuting it back to Earth from near-space -- only the second company in history ever to do so. Yesterday, Thursday, November 20 at 9.20 P.M. Eastern Time, the company's two-stage Electron rocket lifted off from the company's launch site on the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand's North Island.
Named 'Return to Sender', the mission lofted 30 satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit 500 kilometers above the surface of Earth -- the most satellites ever flown on an Electron rocket. Of the satellites launched, 24 were small communications satellites called "SpaceBees" from the California-based company Swarm Technologies. The others included a space junk removal test, a maritime observation satellite, and an earthquake investigation satellite -- while a small gnome also made its way to space for charity. The launch was especially notable, however, for Rocket Lab's recovery efforts. Shortly after the launch, the first stage of the rocket descended back to Earth under parachute, falling into the ocean where it was then recovered by a waiting ship several hours later. Rocket Lab's plan is to catch its smaller rockets with a helicopter as they fall from space under a parachute. At some point, possibly next year, the first helicopter recovery will be attempted.
"First, the company says it wants to perform a few more splashdown tests in the ocean like this one, to check everything is nominal," reports Forbes. "If all goes well, however, SpaceX quite soon might not be the only private company that's able to launch, recover, and re-launch its own rockets."
Tesla Model 3 Crash Hurls Battery Cells Into Nearby Home
According to a
facebook post from the police department of Corvallis, Oregon, a Tesla Model 3 crashed at over 100mph,
causing batteries from the Tesla to enter two different residences by breaking through the windows, one landing on a person's lap and the second landing on a bed, catching the bedding on fire. "A tire was ripped from the car during the collision and struck the second story siding of a nearby apartment complex with such force that it ruptured the water pipes within the wall, destroying the bathroom to the apartment and flooding the downstairs portion of the apartment as well," adds ExtremeTech. From the report:
Tesla goes to some trouble to make certain that the battery cells in its vehicles don't go flying in the event of a collision. But the nature of this impact was obviously sufficient to break whatever solution the manufacturer has developed for dealing with the problem. Previous teardowns of the Model 3 battery pack have shown that the cells are sealed in place with high-strength epoxy.
With that said, there does appear to be a unique problem for BEVs in a situation like this. According to a follow-up post, the Model 3 battery cells can remain hot to the touch and might cause burns for up to 24 hours following involuntary dispersal. That kind of hazard -- specifically, the length of time you might be at risk from harm due to leftover detritus -- seems a potentially significant issue in certain situations. Tesla's epoxy solution shows it has considered the problem, but there may be reason to revisit things. It is unclear if individual cells remain at significant risk for secondary ignition after being separated from the main battery for any length of time or if the majority of fire risk is in the immediate period post-impact. The driver, incidentally, survived, which seems to say something good about Tesla's crash survival measures, at the least. The vehicle, needless to say, did not.
Tech Organizations Back 'Inclusive Naming Initiative'
LeeLynx shares a report from The Register:
A new group called the "Inclusive Naming Initiative" has revealed its existence and mission "to help companies and projects remove all harmful and unclear language of any kind and replace it with an agreed-upon set of neutral terms." Akamai, Cisco, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, IBM, the Linux Foundation, Red Hat, and VMware are all participants. The group has already offered a Word replacement list that suggests alternatives to the terms whitelist, blacklist, slave, and master. There's also a framework for evaluating harmful language that offers guidance on how to make changes.
Red Hat's post announcing its participation in the Initiative links to a dashboard listing all instances of terms it wants changed and reports over 330,000 uses of "Master" and 105,000 uses of "Slave," plus tens of thousands and whitelists and blacklists. Changing them all will be a big job, wrote Red Hat's senior veep and CTO Chris Wright. "On a technical level, change has to be made in hundreds of discrete communities, representing thousands of different projects across as many code repositories," Wright wrote. "Care has to be taken to prevent application or API breakage, maintain backward compatibility, and communicate the changes to users and customers." The Initiative nonetheless hopes to move quickly, with its roadmap calling for best practices to be defined during Q1 2021, case studies to be available in Q3 2021 and a certification program delivered in Q4 2021.
Xbox Series X Controller Support Coming To Apple Devices
Apple and Microsoft are
working on adding support for the Xbox Series X controller to Apple devices, according to an
Apple Support page spotted by a
Reddit user. MacRumors reports:
The support page states that Apple devices only support the Xbox Wireless Controller with Bluetooth, Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, Xbox Adaptive Controller, PlayStation DualShock 4 Wireless Controller, and various other MFi Bluetooth controllers. However, small print on the page states: "Microsoft and Apple are working together to bring compatibility for the Xbox Series X controller to customers in a future update." There is no mention of the Sony PlayStation 5 DualSense Controller or the Amazon Luna Controller on the Apple Support page, but MacRumors has spotted code mentioning the controllers in the iOS and iPadOS 14.3 betas.
The US Could Soon Ban the Selling of Carrier-Locked Phones
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired:
In the U.S., a complicated combination of corporate interests and pre-smartphone era legislation has resulted in more than two decades of back and forth about the legality of phone locking. It's looking like that battle could ramp up again next year. The transition to a Biden administration could shake up the regulatory body that governs these rules. The timing also coincides with a congressional proceeding that takes place every three years to determine what tweaks should be made to digital rights laws. 2021 could be the year of the truly unlocked phone. For some activists, it's a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel.
[H]ow could carriers be forced to provide phones that are unlocked by default? There are a couple of promising avenues, though neither are a given. The "agenda" here meaning something to be decided by a regulating body. In the UK, the regulator Ofcom made that call. The US Ofcom equivalent is the Federal Communications Commission. Under its current leadership of Trump appointee Ajit Pai, the FCC has been staunchly pro-business, passing legislation like the repeal of net neutrality at the behest of companies like AT&T. "Getting this done in an Ajit Pai FCC would be extremely difficult and very unlikely, given how friendly that FCC has been toward private companies and broadband providers," Sheehan says. "Whether or not that could happen in a Biden administration, we don't know. I think it would be much more possible."
Another route would be to take the problem back to its source: Section 1201 itself. Every three years, the US Library of Congress and Copyright Office hold a rulemaking proceeding that takes public comment. It's a chance for advocates to make their case for amending Section 1201, assuming they can afford the legal fees necessitated by such an involved, drawn out process. It's a less overtly political process, as the key decisionmakers at the two institutions don't come and go with each presidential administration like they usually do at the FCC. These sessions have already yielded positive outcomes for fans of repairability, like an exemption that took effect in 2016 that made it legal to hack car computers and other devices. The next proceeding is currently underway. If citizens want to urge the government to amend Section 1201, the first round of comments are required to be in by December 14. Responses and additional proposals will go back and forth through the spring of 2021, until the Copyright Office ultimately decides which changes to implement. Both Sheehan and Wiens are working with other advocates to make their case for a future of unlockability.
Flash Animations Live Forever At the Internet Archive
The Internet Archive is now
emulating Flash animations, games and toys in our software collection. Jason Scott writes in a blog post:
Utilizing an in-development Flash emulator called Ruffle, we have added Flash support to the Internet Archive's Emularity system, letting a subset of Flash items play in the browser as if you had a Flash plugin installed. While Ruffle's compatibility with Flash is less than 100%, it will play a very large portion of historical Flash animation in the browser, at both a smooth and accurate rate.
We have a showcase of the hand-picked best or representative Flash items in this collection. If you want to try your best at combing through a collection of over 1,000 flash items uploaded so far, here is the link. You will not need to have a flash plugin installed, and the system works in all browsers that support Webassembly. For many people: See you later! Enjoy the Flash stuff!
IBM Apologizes For Firing Computer Pioneer For Being Transgender... 52 Years Later
On August 29, 1968, IBM's CEO
fired computer scientist and transgender pioneer Lynn Conway to avoid the public embarrassment of employing a transwoman. Nearly 52 years later, in an act that defines its present-day culture, IBM is apologizing and seeking forgiveness. Jeremy Alicandri writes via Forbes reports:
On January 2, 1938, Lynn Conway's life began in Mount Vernon, NY. With a reported IQ of 155, Conway was an exceptional and inquisitive child who loved math and science during her teens. She went on to study physics at MIT and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering at Columbia University's Engineering School. In 1964, Conway joined IBM Research, where she made major innovations in computer design, ensuring a promising career in the international conglomerate (IBM was the 7th largest corporation in the world at the time). Recently married and with two young daughters, she lived a seemingly perfect life. But Conway faced a profound existential challenge: she had been born as a boy.
[W]hile IBM knew of its key role in the Conway saga, the company remained silent. That all changed in August 2020. When writing an article on LGBTQ diversity in the automotive industry, I included Conway's story as an example of the costly consequences to employers that fail to promote an inclusive culture. I then reached out to IBM to learn if its stance had changed after 52 years. To my surprise, IBM admitted regrets and responsibility for Conway's firing, stating, "We deeply regret the hardship Lynn encountered." The company also explained that it was in communication with Conway for a formal resolution, which came two months later. Arvind Krishna, IBM's CEO, and other senior executives had determined that Conway should be recognized and awarded "for her lifetime body of technical achievements, both during her time at IBM and throughout her career."
Dario Gil, Director of IBM Research, who revealed the award during the online event, says, "Lynn was recently awarded the rare IBM Lifetime Achievement Award, given to individuals who have changed the world through technology inventions. Lynn's extraordinary technical achievements helped define the modern computing industry. She paved the way for how we design and make computing chips today -- and forever changed microelectronics, devices, and people's lives." The company also acknowledged that after Conway's departure in 1968, her research aided its own success. "In 1965 Lynn created the architectural level Advanced Computing System-1 simulator and invented a method that led to the development of a superscalar computer. This dynamic instruction scheduling invention was later used in computer chips, greatly improving their performance," a spokesperson stated.
US Emissions To Drop 9% In 2020, Putting Country Back On Track For Paris Commitment
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Greentech Media:
The U.S. economy is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 9 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, BloombergNEF reported Thursday. It's a sign of the impact that COVID-19 shutdowns and the ensuing recession have had on life in the U.S. When workers stayed home and the streets emptied out, it reduced emissions from transportation, which accounted for the largest decline at 4 percent of economywide emissions. The power sector drove another 2.8 percent decline, while reduced industrial activity lowered emissions by another 1.6 percent.
The drastic reduction in planet-warming emissions did not result from concerted action on climate change, so much as an unprecedented and deadly pandemic. Without the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. would have released just 1 percent less carbon than in 2019, BNEF estimated. The mandated cessation of activities to stop the spread of coronavirus led to the additional reduction of 8 percent. Still, the absolute numbers make 2020 the "greenest" year on record, BNEF analysts Tom Rowlands-Rees and Melina Bartels noted. "The economic disruption of 2020 has inadvertently put the U.S. back on track to meet the commitments it made under the 2016 Paris Agreement, prior to President Trump taking the country out of that pact," they wrote. The latest drop in greenhouse gas emissions doesn't take into account the effects of the record wildfire season. "The fires burned enough plant matter to release the equivalent of 2.8 percent of 2019 economywide emissions," the report says. "Accounting for that means 2020 nets out at a 6.4 percent decline in overall U.S. emissions."
GTA Online Is Getting A Big New Heist You Can Play Solo If You Want
Rockstar Games announced that Grand Theft Auto Online's
biggest update ever will be released on December 15, adding a brand new island, new radio stations, a new armed submarine, and a huge heist that can be completed with friends or solo. From a report:
Yesterday, Rockstar teased this new update, The Cayo Perico Heist, with a short video showing off the new location. While GTA Online has had small map expansions, with some new interiors being added to the game world, this is the first major map expansion since the game first released back in 2013. For the first time in GTA Online, players will be able to complete a large heist solo. Previously, all heists required more than one player, which often meant folks would have to rely on random players or corralling friends together.
Google, Facebook and Twitter Threaten To Leave Pakistan Over Censorship Law
Global internet companies Facebook, Google and Twitter and others have
banded together and threatened to leave Pakistan after the South Asian nation granted blanket powers to local regulators to censor digital content. From a report:
Earlier this week, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan granted the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority the power to remove and block digital content that pose "harms, intimidates or excites disaffection" toward the government or in other ways hurt the "integrity, security, and defence of Pakistan." Through a group called the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), the tech firms said that they were "alarmed" by the scope of Pakistan's new law targeting internet firms." In addition to Facebook, Google, and Twitter, AIC represents Apple, Amazon, LinkedIn, SAP, Expedia Group, Yahoo, Airbnb, Grab, Rakuten, Booking.com, Line, and Cloudflare.
If the message sounds familiar, it's because this is not the first time these tech giants have publicly expressed their concerns over the new law, which was proposed by Khan's ministry in February this year. After the Pakistani government made the proposal earlier this year, the group had threatened to leave, a move that made the nation retreat and promise an extensive and broad-based consultation process with civil society and tech companies. That consultation never happened, AIC said in a statement on Thursday, reiterating that its members will be unable to operate in the country with this law in place.
Apple is Lobbying Against a Bill Aimed at Stopping Forced Labor in China
Apple lobbyists are
trying to weaken a new law aimed at preventing forced labor in China, the Washington Post reported Friday, citing two congressional staffers familiar with the matter, highlighting the clash between its business imperatives and its official stance on human rights. From the report:
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would require U.S. companies to guarantee they do not use imprisoned or coerced workers from the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, where academic researchers estimate the Chinese government has placed more than 1 million people into internment camps. Apple is heavily dependent on Chinese manufacturing, and human rights reports have identified instances in which alleged forced Uighur labor has been used in Apple's supply chain.
The staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks with the company took place in private meetings, said Apple was one of many U.S. companies that oppose the bill as it's written. They declined to disclose details on the specific provisions Apple was trying to knock down or change because they feared providing that knowledge would identify them to Apple. But they both characterized Apple's effort as an attempt to water down the bill. "What Apple would like is we all just sit and talk and not have any real consequences," said Cathy Feingold, director of the international department for the AFL-CIO, which has supported the bill. "They're shocked because it's the first time where there could be some actual effective enforceability."
Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:
The PC revolution started off life 35 years ago this week. Microsoft launched its first version of Windows on November 20th, 1985, to succeed MS-DOS. It was a huge milestone that paved the way for the modern versions of Windows we use today. While Windows 10 doesn't look anything like Windows 1.0, it still has many of its original fundamentals like scroll bars, drop-down menus, icons, dialog boxes, and apps like Notepad and MS paint.
The Few, the Tired, the Open Source Coders
shares a report (and
offers this commentary):
When the open source concept emerged in the '90s, it was conceived as a bold new form of communal labor: digital barn raisings. If you made your code open source, dozens or even hundreds of programmers would chip in to improve it. Many hands would make light work. Everyone would feel ownership. Now, it's true that open source has, overall, been a wild success. Every startup, when creating its own software services or products, relies on open source software from folks like Jacob Thornton: open source web-server code, open source neural-net code. But, with the exception of some big projects -- like Linux -- the labor involved isn't particularly communal. Most are like Bootstrap, where the majority of the work landed on a tiny team of people. Recently, Nadia Eghbal -- the head of writer experience at the email newsletter platform Substack -- published Working in Public, a fascinating book for which she spoke to hundreds of open source coders. She pinpointed the change I'm describing here. No matter how hard the programmers worked, most "still felt underwater in some shape or form," Eghbal told me.
Why didn't the barn-raising model pan out? As Eghbal notes, it's partly that the random folks who pitch in make only very small contributions, like fixing a bug. Making and remaking code requires a lot of high-level synthesis -- which, as it turns out, is hard to break into little pieces. It lives best in the heads of a small number of people. Yet those poor top-level coders still need to respond to the smaller contributions (to say nothing of requests for help or reams of abuse). Their burdens, Eghbal realized, felt like those of YouTubers or Instagram influencers who feel overwhelmed by their ardent fan bases -- but without the huge, ad-based remuneration. Sometimes open source coders simply walk away: Let someone else deal with this crap. Studies suggest that about 9.5 percent of all open source code is abandoned, and a quarter is probably close to being so. This can be dangerous: If code isn't regularly updated, it risks causing havoc if someone later relies on it. Worse, abandoned code can be hijacked for ill use. Two years ago, the pseudonymous coder right9ctrl took over a piece of open source code that was used by bitcoin firms -- and then rewrote it to try to steal cryptocurrency.
Biden Team Lacks Full US Cybersecurity Support in Transition Fracas
When it comes to protecting sensitive information from foreign hackers, President-elect Joe Biden's team is largely on its own. The federal government, which has some of the most sophisticated antihacking technologies in the world, is offering
limited assistance to Mr. Biden's transition operation in securing its email and other communications, despite concerns that the team is likely a top espionage target for Russia, China, and other adversaries,
WSJ reported Friday, citing people familiar with the transition. From the report:
The lack of government cybersecurity support is among the obstacles the Biden transition team has faced as a result of the Trump administration's refusal to acknowledge Mr. Biden's election victory and make available the resources of the federal government ahead of his inauguration in two months. Normally, the General Services Administration would own and manage the setup of government email accounts for a presidential transition team, which are typically assigned the "ptt.gov" domain. The cybersecurity wing of the Department of Homeland Security typically assists in helping a transition to protect those newly created government email accounts, according to current and former officials, and could rely on information from U.S. intelligence agencies to inform its protective efforts. The Trump administration is blocking many of the transition-related resources usually provided to a president-elect, including government email accounts. The GSA so far has declined to identify Mr. Biden as the winner of the election, citing ongoing litigation, even though Mr. Trump has no clear path to victory, according to legal experts. Frozen out of the government network, the transition team is relying on a standard, paid Google Workspace network, the report said.
Study Identifies Reasons for Soaring Nuclear Plant Cost Overruns in the US
A new analysis by MIT researchers details many of the underlying issues that have caused
cost overruns on new nuclear power plants in the U.S., which have soared ever higher over the last five decades. The new findings may help the designers of new plants build in resilience to the factors that tend to cause these overruns, thus helping to bring down the costs of such plants. From a report:
Many analysts believe nuclear power will play an essential part in reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases, and finding ways to curb these rising costs could be an important step toward encouraging the construction of new plants, the researchers say. The findings are being published this week in the journal Joule, in a paper by MIT professors Jessika Trancik and Jacopo Buongiorno, along with former students Philip Eash-Gates SM '19, Magdalena Klemun PhD '20, Goksin Kavlak PhD '18, and Research Scientist James McNerney.
Among the surprising findings in the study, which covered 50 years of U.S. nuclear power plant construction data, was that, contrary to expectations, building subsequent plants based on an existing design actually costs more, not less, than building the initial plant. The authors also found that while changes in safety regulations could account for some of the excess costs, that was only one of numerous factors contributing to the overages. "It's a known fact that costs have been rising in the U.S. and in a number of other locations, but what was not known is why and what to do about it," says Trancik, who is an associate professor of energy studies in MIT's Institute for Data, Systems and Society. The main lesson to be learned, she says, is that "we need to be rethinking our approach to engineering design."
E-scooters Are Getting Computer Vision To Curb Pedestrian Collisions
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Last year, electric scooters were booming in big cities across the United States and other countries as urbanites embraced a relatively novel way of getting around town. The rentable, battery-boosted rides also brought a rising number of pedestrian-involved crashes as some riders illegally zipped down sidewalks and darted around traffic before the craze was interrupted by the pandemic. Downtowns became ghost towns when businesses told workers to stay home, and e-scooter business slowed, dropping as much as 70 percent. As people reemerge from shutdowns, wary of congested trains and buses, the micromobility industry may enjoy a post-pandemic renaissance, analysts say. People are buying more of the two-wheelers in some markets. China-based Niu saw sales rise sales 6.3 percent internationally as cities such as Boston, New York and Minneapolis expanded bike lanes to encourage social distancing, setting the framework for a potential e-scooter comeback.
By the time the novel coronavirus is in the rearview mirror, riders could be encountering a new type of e-scooter, one that picks up safety tools from modern cars. Last week, micromobility companies Luna and Voi Technology came together to kick off a test fleet of e-scooters with pedestrian detection. The test scooters are deployed in Northampton, England. Luna, a Dublin-based start-up, developed the system of cameras and sensors that it says will enable the scooters to learn and respond to their environments. Voi, a Swedish e-scooter manufacturer, integrated Luna's computer vision system into 50 of its e-scooters. [...] The immediate goal for Voi and Luna is to have the devices detect people and objects in a scooter's path, even if the rider doesn't see them. The idea is to make scooter users and pedestrians feel safe as they navigate busy streets, which is the most significant issue plaguing cities with legalized shared e-scooters, according to Fredrik Hjelm, CEO of Voi.
Microsoft's Next Phase of Climate Lobbying
Microsoft has brought on the government affairs firm Lot Sixteen to lobby on sustainability and climate change, a newly public filing shows. From a report:
While Microsoft has lots of in-house and outside lobbyists working on all sorts of things, it's the first time an outside firm will be lobbying only on climate and environmental topics, Microsoft confirmed. "The company made bold, new climate commitments this year. Adding a firm dedicated to this effort reflects this priority issue," said Kate Frischmann, a Microsoft spokeswoman. The company has made new environmental commitments and funding announcements this year including... in January, Microsoft pledged to become "carbon negative" by 2030 and announced a $1 billion fund for technologies and methods that pull CO2 directly from the atmosphere. They also set a goal of having "zero waste" from their operations, products and packaging by 2030.
Microsoft Teams Takes on Zoom With Free All-Day Video Calling on the Web
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Microsoft is making a big push to entice fans of Zoom over to Microsoft Teams with a new all-day video calling option that can be used for free. While the software giant launched Microsoft Teams for consumers on mobile earlier this year, it's now bringing Teams' friends and family features to the desktop and web allowing you to create a Microsoft Teams meeting for up to 300 friends and family that can run all day free of charge. You won't need a Microsoft Account or the Microsoft Teams app to join calls, as you can join free via a web browser. Microsoft Teams will also support seeing up to 49 friends or family members in a gallery view or through its Together Mode feature that puts you side by side in a virtual environment. With Thanksgiving just a week away, it's clear Microsoft is positioning Teams as a way for families to connect virtually during the pandemic.
Solar Power Stations in Space Could Be the Answer To Our Energy Needs
Amanda Jane Hughes, Lecturer, Department of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering at University of Liverpool Stefania, and Soldini Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at University of Liverpool,
A space-based solar power station could orbit to face the Sun 24 hours a day. The Earth's atmosphere also absorbs and reflects some of the Sun's light, so solar cells above the atmosphere will receive more sunlight and produce more energy. But one of the key challenges to overcome is how to assemble, launch and deploy such large structures. A single solar power station may have to be as much as 10 kilometres squared in area -- equivalent to 1,400 football pitches. Using lightweight materials will also be critical, as the biggest expense will be the cost of launching the station into space on a rocket. One proposed solution is to develop a swarm of thousands of smaller satellites that will come together and configure to form a single, large solar generator. In 2017, researchers at the California Institute of Technology outlined designs for a modular power station, consisting of thousands of ultralight solar cell tiles. They also demonstrated a prototype tile weighing just 280 grams per square metre, similar to the weight of card.
Recently, developments in manufacturing, such as 3D printing, are also being looked at for this application. At the University of Liverpool, we are exploring new manufacturing techniques for printing ultralight solar cells on to solar sails. A solar sail is a foldable, lightweight and highly reflective membrane capable of harnessing the effect of the Sun's radiation pressure to propel a spacecraft forward without fuel. We are exploring how to embed solar cells on solar sail structures to create large, fuel-free solar power stations. These methods would enable us to construct the power stations in space. Indeed, it could one day be possible to manufacture and deploy units in space from the International Space Station or the future lunar gateway station that will orbit the Moon. Such devices could in fact help provide power on the Moon. The possibilities don't end there. While we are currently reliant on materials from Earth to build power stations, scientists are also considering using resources from space for manufacturing, such as materials found on the Moon.
YouTube, Facebook and Twitter Align To Fight Covid Vaccine Conspiracies
YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have said they will join forces with fact-checkers, governments and researchers to
try to come up with a new way of tackling misinformation. From a report:
Vaccine misinformation has been rife on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with many questioning their efficacy. At the same time, countries are preparing to roll out coronavirus vaccines in a bid to end the pandemic. It is unclear how the initiative will improve the fight against fake news. Fact-checking charity Full Fact will co-ordinate the collaboration. Taking part in the effort alongside Facebook, Google-owned YouTube and Twitter are the UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism; Africa Check; Canada's Privacy Council Office; and five other international fact-checking organisations. With funding from Facebook, an initial framework will launch in January, setting out new standards for tackling misinformation, as well as a set of aims on the best way to respond to such information.
Apple Defends Delay of Privacy Feature, Slams Facebook
Apple has slammed Facebook and other internet giants
for their ad-targeting practices in response to a letter questioning a decision by the iPhone maker to delay a new privacy feature. From a report:
The Cupertino, California-based technology company criticized Facebook's approach to advertising and user tracking, according to a written reply sent to several human rights and privacy organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch: "By contrast, Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting. Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads. Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetize detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products."
Apple's letter, reviewed by Bloomberg News, defended the company's decision to delay an iPhone feature that requires users to give explicit permission before letting apps track them for advertising purposes. The enhancement was added as part of the company's iOS 14 operating system in September, but a requirement that all apps use it was delayed until early 2021 after several developers, including Facebook, said the change would hurt their businesses. The human rights and privacy organizations criticized the delay in a letter earlier this year to Apple.
SoftBank CEO Says He Doesn't Understand Bitcoin, and Watching the Price Fluctuate Was 'Distracting My Focus On My Own Business'
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider:
Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son said that he "doesn't understand" bitcoin, and that he spent a good chunk of his time tracking its movement while invested in the cryptocurrency. Son, who made the remarks at The New York Times DealBook conference, said he was told by a friend to invest "1% of his personal assets" into bitcoin, meaning he invested "about 200 million." After investing the money, Son said he would spend about five minutes each day looking at bitcoin prices fluctuate.
While speaking with host Andrew Ross Sorkin, Son said he found the investment to be "distracting [his] own focus on [his] own business." Son quickly grew tired of checking the price of bitcoin every day. This reoccurring distraction from checking prices every day led Son to sell his stake in bitcoin, and he estimates that he lost around $50 million. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Son lost closer to $130 million when he sold his stake in 2018, citing sources who are familiar with the matter. "I feel so much better," Son said of exiting the cryptocurrency. "I think digital currency will be useful," Son added. "But I don't know what digital currency, what structure, and so on."
Twisted Graphene Could Power a New Generation of Superconducting Electronics
sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine:
In 2018, a group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) pulled off a dazzling materials science magic trick. They stacked two microscopic cards of graphene -- sheets of carbon one atom thick -- and twisted one ever so slightly. Applying an electric field transformed the stack from a conductor to an insulator and then, suddenly, into a superconductor: a material that frictionlessly conducts electricity. Dozens of labs leapt into the newly born field of "twistronics," hoping to conjure up novel electronic devices without the hassles of fusing together chemically different materials. Two groups -- including the pioneering MIT group -- are now delivering on that promise by turning twisted graphene into working devices, including superconducting switches like those used in many quantum computers. The studies mark a crucial step for the material, which is already maturing into a basic science tool able to capture and control individual electrons and photons. Now, it is showing that it could one day be the basis of new electronic devices.
Scientists Produce Rare Diamonds In Minutes At Room Temperature
While traditional diamonds are formed over billions of years deep in the Earth where extreme pressures and temperatures provide just the right conditions to crystalize carbon, scientists are working on more expedient ways of forging the precious stones. An international team of researchers has succeeded in whittling this process down to mere minutes, demonstrating a new technique where they not only form quickly, but do so at room temperature.
This latest breakthrough was led by scientists at the Australian National University (ANU) and RMIT University, who used what's known as a diamond anvil cell, which is a device used by researchers to generate the extreme pressures needed to create ultra-hard materials. The team applied pressure equal to 640 African elephants on the tip of a ballet shoe, doing so in a way that caused an unexpected reaction among the the carbon atoms in the device. "The twist in the story is how we apply the pressure," says ANU Professor Jodie Bradby. "As well as very high pressures, we allow the carbon to also experience something called 'shear' -- which is like a twisting or sliding force. We think this allows the carbon atoms to move into place and form Lonsdaleite and regular diamond."
These regular diamonds are the type you might find in an engagement ring, while Lonsdaleite diamonds are rarer and found at meteorite impact sites. Using advanced electron microscopy, the team was able to examine the samples in detail, and found that the materials were formed within bands they liken to "rivers" of diamond. The team hopes the technique can enable them to produce meaningful quantities of these artificial diamonds, particularly Lonsdaleite, which is predicted to be 58 percent harder than regular diamonds. "Lonsdaleite has the potential to be used for cutting through ultra-solid materials on mining sites," Bradby says. The research was published in the journal Small, while you can hear from the researchers in this video.