The Kunga Is the Oldest Known Hybrid Bred By Humans
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceNews:
Meet the kunga, the earliest known hybrid animal bred by people. The ancient equine from Syro-Mesopotamia existed around 4,500 years ago and was a cross between a donkey and a hemippe, a type of Asiatic wild ass, researchers report January 14 in Science Advances. Horses didn't appear in this region of Asia until 4,000 years ago, centuries after their domestication in Russia. But dozens of equine skeletons were excavated in the early 2000s from a royal burial complex dating back to 2600 B.C. at Umm el-Marra in northern Syria. The animals, whose physical features didn't match any known equine species, appear to be "kungas" -- horselike animals seen in artwork and referenced in clay tablets predating horses by centuries.
"They were highly valued, very expensive," says paleogeneticist Eva-Maria Geigl of Institut Jacques Monod in Paris. Geigl and her colleagues analyzed a kunga's genome, or genetic instruction book, and compared it with those of horses, donkeys and Asiatic wild asses, including the hemippe (Equus hemionus hemippus), which has been extinct since 1929. The kunga's mother was a donkey and its father a hemippe, making it the oldest evidence of humans creating hybrid animals. A mule from 1000 B.C. in Anatolia reported by the same research group in 2020 is the next oldest hybrid. Geigl thinks kungas were created for warfare, as they could pull wagons. Coaxing donkeys into dangerous situations is hard, she says, and no Asiatic wild ass can be tamed. But a hybrid might have had the characteristics people sought.
FedEx Asks FAA To Let It Install Anti-Missile Lasers On Its Cargo Planes
With the right military equipment, a single person can target a plane from three miles away using a heat-seeking missile. While such a nightmare is a rare occurrence, FedEx has applied to the FAA
seeking approval to install a laser-based, anti-missile defense system on its cargo planes as an added safety measure. Gizmodo reports:
FedEx's request to the Federal Aviation Administration, filed on Jan. 4, didn't come completely out of left field, however. In 2008, the company worked with Northrop Grumman to test its anti-missile laser-based defense systems on 12 of the shipping company's cargo planes for over a year. At the time, Northrop Grumman announced that its "system is ready to be deployed on civilian aircraft," although no commercial orders had been placed at the time, according to a company spokesperson. That may have changed, however.
FedEx's application to the FAA (PDF) to allow it to install and use anti-missile systems on its Airbus Model A321-200 cargo planes doesn't specifically mention Northrop Grumman's hardware, so the shipping company could now be working with another company, but the proposed hardware is basically the same as what was tested back in 2008. In the application document (PDF), which is "scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18," FedEx cites "several incidents abroad" where "civilian aircraft were fired upon by man-portable air defense systems" which are nearly impossible to detect given their range of operation, but undoubtedly a serious threat when operating aircraft in some parts of the world.
The biggest problem with FedEx's application seems to be that the FAA's "design standards for transport category airplanes did not envisage that a design feature could project infrared laser energy outside the airplane" and that the "FAA's design standards are inadequate to address this capability." As a result, the defense system is being considered a "novel or unusual design feature" and as such will be subjected to several special safety regulations given how dangerous intense infrared light can be to the skin and eyes of "persons on the aircraft, on the ground, and on other aircraft." These regulations will include the ability to completely disable the system while the airplane is on the ground to prevent "inadvertent operation," a design that prevents inflight use from ever damaging the aircraft itself or risking the safety of the crew and passengers, even in the event of a system failure or accidental operation. They also require extensive markings, labels, warnings, and documentation for everyone from maintenance staff to ground crew, to pilots, warning them of the laser's class and risks, including an addendum to the flight manual explaining the complete use of the system.
Germany To Dedicate 2% Of Its Land To Wind Power Development
The new German government is proposing a bold new initiative to dramatically increase onshore wind power in the country by 2030. "If successful, the plan would add up to 10 gigawatts of new onshore wind capacity every year for the rest of the decade," reports CleanTechnica. "In total, 2% of Germany's land area
will be set aside for wind energy generation. [T]he German government also plans to increase its offshore wind target to 30 GW by 2030." From the report:
During a press conference, [the nation's new Green Minister for Economics and Climate, Robert Habeck] made it clear that wind energy, particularly onshore wind, will remain the most important source of electricity in Germany and is the key to further emission reductions, according to WindEurope. "The Energiewende is roaring again. Germany wants a huge expansion of onshore wind. And the Government fully understands that that requires faster permitting of new wind farms -- and they intend to deliver this ASAP with a dedicated new 'Onshore Wind Law.' Today's announcements mark the comeback of German leadership on renewables -- fantastisch!" says WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson.
Habeck intends to remove restraints on onshore wind development caused by concerns about radar installations for civilian and military aviation. He estimates the government plan could free up 4 to 5 GW of new wind projects currently blocked by aviation radar, and an additional 4 GW currently blocked by the military. Support for renewable energies will be paid from the state budget, reducing the burden on low income households and small businesses. The package is also said to define the energy transition as a 'matter of public interest' in order to prioritize wind energy projects over other forms of land use -- an important precondition to streamlining the permit process and finding new sites for wind energy projects.
Germany's Security Watchdog Finds No Evidence of Censorship In Xiaomi Phones
Germany's federal cybersecurity watchdog, the BSI,
did not find any evidence of censorship functions in mobile phones manufactured by China's Xiaomi, a spokesperson said on Thursday. Reuters reports:
Lithuania's state cybersecurity body had said in September that Xiaomi phones had a built-in ability to detect and censor terms such as "Free Tibet," "Long live Taiwan independence" or "democracy movement." The BSI started an examination following these accusations, which lasted several months. "As a result, the BSI was unable to identify any anomalies that would require further investigation or other measures," the BSI spokesperson said.
Tesla Expands Gigafactory Nevada Solar Array Toward Goal To Become World's Biggest
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek:
New satellite images show that Tesla significantly expanded its rooftop solar array at Gigafactory Nevada as it aims for it to become the world's biggest. In 2017, Tesla announced plans for a giant 70 MW rooftop array at Gigafactory Nevada, which would be the largest in the world by a wide margin. The project has been lagging for a long time. Tesla finally started construction of the solar array in 2018 and expanded on it throughout the next few years, but it has never grown near the size Tesla has been talking about. Last summer, the automaker said that it had deployed 3.2 MW at the site. At the time, Tesla also changed its goal to deploy 24 MW instead of 70 MW on the rooftop of the factory, which itself is now smaller than originally planned. The company said that it believes this would still be enough to be the largest rooftop deployment of solar power. To be fair, there are much bigger solar farms than 24 MW out there, but Tesla is specifically talking about rooftop solar arrays and not ground-mounted installations.
Now a few months later, it looks like Tesla has made a lot of progress with several more MW of solar power deployed at Gigafactory Nevada based on new satellite images. The image on the left is from September 2021 and the one on the right is from yesterday, January 12 (via Building Tesla). It's hard to determine exactly how much capacity Tesla deployed, but it looks like a significant increase over the last few months. As for the factory itself, it has been expanding in size for a long time. The factory has been producing a lot of battery cells, packs, and drivetrains for Tesla, but the giant structure has been stuck at ~30% completion for the past four years.
Meta's Oculus Unit Faces FTC-Led Probe of Competition Practices
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and multiple states are
investigating Meta's virtual reality unit Oculus over potential anti-competitive practices. Bloomberg reports:
The FTC and a group of states led by New York have quizzed outside developers that make Oculus apps in recent months as part of the inquiry, the people said. The officials have been scrutinizing how Meta, the world's largest social media company, may be using its market power in the VR space to stifle competition, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn't public. In interviews with several developers, the antitrust enforcers asked how the Oculus app store may be discriminating against third parties that sell apps that compete with Meta's own software. They were also curious about Meta's sales strategy for the Oculus VR headset and how the price of the company's device undercuts competitors. Meta sells the Oculus Quest 2 headset for $299, well below some models from HTC Corp. and others.
The FTC and states including New York, Tennessee and North Carolina began reaching out to developers concerned about Oculus-related antitrust issues last year, one of the people said. [...] Developers have complained that Meta uses its market power to thwart companies that offer competing games and services on Oculus. They allege the company copies the most promising ideas and makes it harder for some apps to work properly on the platform. [...] The antitrust scrutiny could complicate Meta's plans to build out what Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg calls the metaverse -- immersive digital worlds accessed through virtual and augmented reality-powered devices. Zuckerberg has said he thinks the devices will become the next major computing platform for human communication, after mobile phones, eventually replacing some in-person interactions.
John Deere Hit With Class Action Lawsuit for Alleged Tractor Repair Monopoly
A class action
lawsuit filed in Chicago has
accused John Deere of running an illegal repair monopoly. Motherboard reports:
The lawsuit alleged that John Deere has used software locks and restricted access to repair documentation and tools, making it very difficult for farmers to fix their own agricultural equipment, a problem that Motherboard has documented for years and that lawmakers, the FTC, and even the Biden administration have acknowledged. The lawsuit claims John Deere is violating antitrust rules and also alleges that Deere is illegally "tying" farmers to Deere-authorized service centers through arbitrary means.
"Farmers have traditionally had the ability to repair and maintain their own tractors as needed, or else have had the option to bring their tractors to an independent mechanic," the lawsuit said. "However, in newer generations of its agricultural equipment, Deere has deliberately monopolized the market for repair and maintenance services of its agricultural equipment with Engine Control Units (ECUs) by making crucial software and repair tools inaccessible to farmers and independent repair shops."
Forest River Farms, a farming corporation in North Dakota, filed the recent antitrust lawsuit against John Deere, alleging that "Deere's network of highly-consolidated independent dealerships is not permitted through their agreements with Deere to provide farmers or repair shops with access to the same software and repair tools the Dealerships have." "As a result of shutting out farmers and independent repair shops from accessing the necessary resources for repairs, Deere and the Dealerships have cornered the Deere Repair Services Market in the United States for Deere-branded agricultural equipment controlled by ECUs and have derived supracompetitive profits from the sale of repair and maintenance services," the lawsuit, which repeatedly cites some of Motherboard's reporting on the issue, continues. [...] The lawsuit alleges that, though Deere has made some types of software and repair parts available to the public, they are "insufficient to restore competition to the Deere repair services market," and notes that "there are no legitimate reasons to restrict access to necessary repair tools."
Humble Subscription Service Is Dumping Mac, Linux Access In 18 Days
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
Humble, the bundle-centric games retailer that launched with expansive Mac and Linux support in 2010, will soon shift a major component of its business to Windows-only gaming. The retailer's monthly subscription service, Humble Choice, previously offered a number of price tiers; the more you paid, the more new games you could claim in a given month. Starting February 1, Humble Choice will include less choice, as it will only offer a single $12/month tier, complete with a few new game giveaways per month and ongoing access to two collections of games: Humble's existing "Trove" collection of classic games, and a brand-new "Humble Games Collection" of more modern titles.
But this shift in subscription strategy comes with a new, unfortunate requirement: an entirely new launcher app, which must be used to access and download Humble Trove and Humble Games Collection games going forward. Worse, this app will be Windows-only. Current subscribers have been given an abrupt countdown warning (as spotted by NeoWin). Those subscribers have until January 31 to use the existing website interface to download DRM-free copies of any games' Mac or Linux versions. Starting February 1, subscription-specific downloads will be taken off the site, and Mac and Linux versions in particular will disappear altogether. Interestingly, the current Trove library consists of 79 games, but Humble says that the Trove collection will include "50+ games" starting February 1. This week's warning to Humble's Mac and Linux subscribers notes that "many" of the current Trove games will appear on the Humble Launcher, which is likely a nice way of saying that some of the existing games will not -- perhaps around 20 or so, based on the aforementioned numbers. Despite these changes, Trove's selection of games will remain DRM-free. FAQs about the Humble Launcher suggest that subscribers can download Trove files and continue accessing them in DRM-free fashion, no Humble Launcher or ongoing subscription required. The same promise has not been made for the more modern game collection found in the new Humble Games Collection.
People Building 'Blockchain City' in Wyoming Scammed by Hackers
CityDAO -- the group that bought 40 acres of Wyoming in hopes of "building a city on the Ethereum blockchain" -- announced this week that its
Discord server was hacked and members' funds were successfully stolen as a result. From a report:
"EMERGENCY NOTICE. A CityDAO Discord admin account has been hacked. THERE IS NO LAND DROP. DO NOT CONNECT YOUR WALLET," the project's Twitter account declared. CityDAO is a "decentralized autonomous organization" that hopes to collectively govern a blockchain city, offering citizenship and governance tokens in exchange for the purchase of a "land NFT" bestowing ownership rights to a plot of land. Like many other cryptocurrency, NFT, and DAO projects, CityDAO's community lives on Discord, a popular service chiefly designed for gamers but which has become an indispensable part of the crypto ecosystem. On Discord, CityDAO issues announcements, updates, answers questions, hosts a community, and issues alerts for "land drops," or opportunities to buy NFTs that represent parcels of land.
The attack worked by compromising the Discord account of a moderator, a core-team member and early investor who goes by Lyons800. They detailed the angle of attack in a Twitter thread the following day. First, the attacker posted a doctored screenshot showing a conversation with Lyons800 in another Discord server, claiming that he was scamming people there. Lyons800 offered to prove it wasn't him and got on a voice call with the scammer, who convinced the moderator to let them inspect their console. From there, the scammer obtained Lyons800's Discord authentication token that let them hijack the account. In a tweet, Lyons800 described this as "a ridiculous security breach from Discord." From here, the scammer launched a webhook attack to exploit CityDAO and BaconDAO -- a group that describes itself as an "investors guild" that educates its members -- where Lyons800 is a co-founder. Webhooks are best thought of as tools that connect Discord servers to other websites, and are often used to send automated messages and updates.
Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli Banned For Life From Drug Industry in Monopoly Case, Ordered To Pay $64.6 Million
A federal judge on Friday ordered notorious "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli banned for life from the pharmaceutical industry and also ordered him to pay $64.6 million in profits he earned from hiking the price of the life-saving drug Daraprim by more than 5,000% overnight. The ruling in U.S. District Court in Manhattan came in response to a lawsuit alleging illegal and monopolistic behavior connected with Daraprim by the incarcerated securities fraudster Shkreli.
The plaintiffs in the case were the Federal Trade Commission, and seven states, including New York and California. Those same plaintiffs last month obtained a $40 million settlement for the same claims from Vyera Pharmaceuticals, the company that Shkreli had founded. "Americans can rest easy because Martin Shkreli is a pharma bro no more," said New York Attorney General Letitia James. Shkreli is serving a seven-year federal prison term for financial crimes unrelated to his controversial price increase of Daraprim, a drug used to treat parasitic infections in pregnant women, babies, HIV patients, and others. Shkreli controversially raised the drug's price from $13.50 per pill to a whopping $750 per pill in 2015.
Netflix Raises Monthly Subscription Prices in US, Canada
Netflix has raised its monthly subscription
price by $1 to $2 per month in the United States depending on the plan, the company said on Friday, to help pay for new programming to compete in the crowded streaming TV market. From a report:
The standard plan, which allows for two simultaneous streams, now costs $15.49 per month, up from $13.99, in the United States. Prices also went up in Canada, where the standard plan climbed to C$16.49 from C$14.99. The price increases, the first in those markets since October 2020, took effect immediately for new customers. Existing members will see the new prices in the coming weeks when they receive their monthly bills.
FAA Issues First Aircraft-Specific Limits Due To 5G Signals
U.S. aviation regulators published the first aircraft-specific restriction related to new 5G service expected to begin next week, ordering operators of Boeing 737 Max jets to update landing requirements. From a report:
Equipment on the planes that could be subject to interference from 5G radio waves could alter how the jet stops after touching down, the Federal Aviation Administration said in an airworthiness directive posted on a government website Friday. Interference from 5G could result in "degraded deceleration performance and longer landing distance than normal," the FAA said.
Spider-Man Comic Page Sells for Record $3.36M Bidding
A single page of artwork from a 1984 Spider-Man comic book sold at auction Thursday
for a record $3.36 million. From a report:
Mike Zeck's artwork for page 25 from Marvel Comics' "Secret Wars No. 8" brings the first appearance of Spidey's black suit. The symbiote suit would eventually lead to the emergence of the character Venom. The record bidding, which started at $330,000 and soared past $3 million, came on the first day of Heritage Auctions' four-day comic event in Dallas. The previous record for an interior page of a U.S. comic book was $657,250 for art from a 1974 issue of "The Incredible Hulk" that featured a tease for the first appearance of Wolverine.
Google Misled Publishers and Advertisers, Unredacted Lawsuit Alleges
misled publishers and advertisers for years about the pricing and processes of its ad auctions, creating secret programs that deflated sales for some companies while increasing prices for buyers, according to newly unredacted allegations and details in a lawsuit by state attorneys general. From a report:
Meanwhile, Google pocketed the difference between what it told publishers and advertisers that an ad cost and used the pool of money to manipulate future auctions to expand its digital monopoly, the newly unredacted complaint alleges. The documents cite internal correspondence in which Google employees said some of these practices amounted to growing its business through "insider information." The unredacted filing on Friday in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York came after a federal judge ruled this week that an amended complaint filed last year could be unsealed. The lawsuit was first filed in December 2020, with many sections of the complaint redacted. Since then, the redactions have been stripped away in a series of rulings, providing fresh details about the states' argument that Google runs a monopoly that harmed ad-industry competitors and publishers.
Intel's Dropping of SGX Prevents Ultra HD Blu-Ray Playback on PCs
Intel removed the security feature SGX from processors of the 11th and newer generations. Problem is, the feature is
one of the requirements to play Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs on computer systems. From a report:
The Ultra HD Blu-Ray format, often referred to as 4K Ultra HD or 4K Blu-Ray, supports 4K UHD playback with a pixel resolution of 3840x2160. One of the requirements for playback of Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs on PCs is that SGX is supported by the installed processor and by the motherboard firmware. The Blu-Ray Disc Association defined DRM requirements for Ultra HD Blu-Ray disc playback. Besides SGX, playback is protected by HDCP 2.2 and AACS 2.0, with some discs using AACS 2.1. Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) "allow user-level as well as operating system code to define private regions of memory, called enclaves, whose contents are protected and unable to be either read or saved by any process outside the enclave itself, including processes running at higher privilege levels" according to Wikipedia.
Apple's New VR/AR Headset Risks Being Delayed Until 2023
Apple is considering pushing back the debut of its
mixed-reality headset by at least a few months, potentially delaying its first major new product since the Apple Watch in 2015,
Bloomberg News reported Friday, citing people familiar with the situation. From the report:
The headset -- a high-end device that blends virtual and augmented reality -- was targeted for an unveiling at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, followed by a release later in the year. But development challenges related to overheating, cameras and software have made it harder to stay on track, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. That could push the announcement until the end of 2022 or later, with the product hitting shelves by 2023, the people said.
PayPal Faces Lawsuit For Freezing Customer Accounts and Funds
Three PayPal users who've allegedly had their accounts frozen and funds taken by the company without explanation have
filed a federal lawsuit against the online payment service. From a report:
The plaintiffs -- two users from California and one from Chicago -- are accusing the company of unlawfully seizing their personal property and violating racketeering laws. They're now proposing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all other users who've had their accounts frozen before and are seeking restitution, as well as punitive and exemplary damages. Lena Evans, one of the plaintiffs who'd been a PayPal user for 22 years, said the website seized $26,984 from her account six months after it got frozen without ever telling her why. Evans had been using PayPal to buy and sell clothing on eBay, to exchange money for a poker league she owns and for a non-profit that helps women with various needs. Fellow plaintiff Roni Shemtov said PayPal seized over $42,000 of her money and never got an acceptable reason for why her account was terminated. She received several different explanations when she contacted the company: One customer rep said it was because she used the same IP and computer as other Paypal users, while another said it was because she sold yoga clothing at 20 to 30 percent lower than retail. Yet another representative allegedly said it was because she used multiple accounts, which she denies.
Last Of Us Voice Actor Pisses Everyone Off With NFT Push
Troy Baker, best known as the voice behind The Last Of Us Parts 2's Joel Miller, made trouble for himself overnight when he
announced his support for a new NFT venture around monetizing artists' voice work. From a report:
"You can hate. Or you can create. What'll it be?" he standoffish-ly tweeted. It didn't take fans long to decide. "I'm partnering with VoiceverseNFT to explore ways where together we might bring new tools to new creators to make new things, and allow everyone a chance to own and invest in the IP's they create," Baker -- who's voiced dozens of video game characters from Final Fantasy XIII's Snow to Fortnite's Agent Jones -- wrote overnight. "We all have a story to tell."
In China, You Can Go To College To Become a Social Media Influencer
An anonymous reader
shares a report:
As colleges around China approach their final few weeks before the winter break, frequent users of Douyin (TikTok's Chinese version) may have noticed a new type of post in their feeds: students asking for likes and followers to pass their final exams. Xu Maomao, for example, posted a video hash-tagged "SOS," where she pled for 10,000 followers in order to complete a course called "Self-Made Media Content Creation and Operation" that she is taking at the Communication University of Zhejiang (CUZ). "I am now an ordinary college student forced to become a social media influencer," joked Xu Maomao. As influencers in Europe struggle to balance the weight of selling a brand and remaining âoeauthenticâ to their followers, their Chinese counterparts are taking college courses that will help them secure a career path towards the lucrative profession of social media influencers.
From China's e-commerce hub Hangzhou, to the inland agricultural base of Henan Province, and even in far-off Tibet, vocational colleges across China are training young people to become professional influencers. Semesters are now spent on entry-level courses on topics such as short-video editing, social media marketing, e-commerce, and other aspects of the new "trade," and are often taught in cooperation with industry players such as the social media platforms themselves. By offering these courses, the Chinese higher education system is now part of the driving force for the professionalization of Chinese social media influencers and is producing a large talent pool that is now pouring into the country's flourishing digital economy. By December 16, two days before the deadline, Xu Maomao was still half way to go towards the goal of 10,000 followers. Her course instructor eventually agreed that anyone with 5,000 followers could get a 90 for the final exam, perhaps because too few had achieved the original target.
FSB Arrests 14 Members of REvil Ransomware Gang
An anonymous reader writes:
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said today that it has raided and shut down the operations of the REvil ransomware gang. Raids were conducted today at 25 residents owned by 14 members suspected to be part of the REvil team across Moscow, St. Petersburg, Leningrad, and the Lipetsk regions. Authorities said they seized more than 426 million rubles, $600,000, and 500,000 euro in cash, along with cryptocurrency wallets, computers, and 20 expensive cars. The REvil gang is responsible for ransomware attacks against Apple supplier Quanta, Kaseya, and JBS Foods.
Cyberattack Hits Ukrainian Websites as Russia Tensions Mount
Ukraine's worst cyberattack in four years
brought down the websites of scores of government agencies for hours. Authorities didn't immediately identify the source of the hacks, which took place as tensions with Russia intensified over its troop buildup across the border. From a report:
Seventy government agencies were were hit, including the Foreign and Agriculture Ministries, Viktor Zhora, the deputy head of the state agency in charge of special communication and information protection, said Friday. Authorities are investigating and will have their first conclusions later in the day, he said. "There was no leak of important data, the content of the websites was not damaged," Ukraine Zhora said. "We are collecting digital evidence and analyzing data to understand the full chain of this attack." Ukraine has previously accused Russia of mounting major cyberattacks against its digital infrastructure. Relations between the two former Soviet partners have worsened since the ouster of a Russian-backed president in 2014 and Moscow's subsequent annexation of Crimea.
Federal Investigators Say They Used Encrypted Signal Messages To Charge Far-Right Militia Group Leader
JoeyRox shares a report from CNBC:
Federal investigators claimed to access encrypted Signal messages used to help charge the leader of the Oath Keepers, an extremist far-right militia group, and other defendants in a seditious plot on Jan. 6, 2021. It's not clear how investigators gained access to the messages. One possibility is that another recipient with access to the messages handed them over to investigators. The complaint references group messages run on the app, so it's possible another participant in those chats cooperated.
Tesla Removes 2022 Production Date From Cybertruck Website
X2b5Ysb8 shares a report from The Verge:
Tesla has never been fantastic at meeting deadlines, so it's not too surprising that the company's ambitious electric pickup -- the Cybertruck -- is running a little late. Recently, reference to a 2022 production schedule was scrubbed from its website. The Cybertruck was originally announced in 2019, with Tesla promising that the vehicle would be rolling off production lines in late 2021. Then, in August that year, full production was delayed to some time in 2022. Now, that deadline seems to have been waived, too.
Lots of factors could contribute to a delay. These include external challenges, like the ongoing pandemic and global chip shortage (which has affected all automakers), as well as Cybertruck-specific problems. The vehicle's angular look is controversial, attracting awe and scorn in equal measure, but it certainly comes with unique design challenges, like the problem of creating a huge windshield wiper to cover the mammoth front window. Ramping up production on the Cybertruck might also be a relatively low priority for Tesla considering its other vehicles have had fantastic years. [...] We should know more about the vehicle's future soon, though. Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised to share a "Product roadmap update" for the Cybertruck on the next Tesla earnings call. That's scheduled for January 26th. Not long to wait.
Astronomers Have Found Another Possible 'Exomoon' beyond Our Solar System
Astronomers say they have
found a second plausible candidate for a moon beyond our solar system, an exomoon, orbiting a world nearly 6,000 light-years from Earth. Scientific American reports:
Called Kepler-1708 b-i, the moon appears to be a gas-dominated object, slightly smaller than Neptune, orbiting a Jupiter-sized planet around a sunlike star -- an unusual but not wholly unprecedented planet-moon configuration. The findings appear in Nature Astronomy. Confirming or refuting the result may not be immediately possible, but given the expected abundance of moons in our galaxy and beyond, it could further herald the tentative beginnings of an exciting new era of extrasolar astronomy -- one focused not on alien planets but on the natural satellites that orbit them and the possibilities of life therein.
Kepler-1708 b-i's existence was first hinted at in 2018, during an examination of archival data by David Kipping of Columbia University, one of the discoverers of Kepler-1625 b-i, and his colleagues. The team analyzed transit data from NASA's Kepler space telescope of 70 so-called cool giants -- gas giants, such as Jupiter and Saturn, that orbit relatively far from their stars, with years consisting of more than 400 Earth days. The team looked for signs of transiting exomoons orbiting these worlds, seeking additional dips in light from any shadowy lunar companions. Then the researchers spent the next few years killing their darlings, vetting one potential exomoon candidate after another and finding each better explained by other phenomena -- with a single exception: Kepler-1708 b-i. "It's a moon candidate we can't kill," Kipping says. "For four years we've tried to prove this thing was bogus. It passed every test we can imagine."
The magnitude of the relevant smaller, additional dip in light points to the existence of a moon about 2.6 times the size of Earth. The nature of the transit method means that only the radius of worlds can be directly gleaned, not their mass. But this one's size suggests a gas giant of some sort. "It's probably in the 'mini Neptune' category," Kipping says, referring to a type of world that, despite not existing in our solar system, is present in abundance around other stars. The planet this putative mini Neptune moon orbits, the Jupiter-sized Kepler-1708 b, completes an orbit of its star every 737 days at a distance 1.6 times that between Earth and the sun. Presuming the candidate is genuinely a moon, it would orbit the planet once every 4.6 Earth days, at a distance of more than 740,000 kilometers -- nearly twice the distance our own moon's orbit around Earth. The fact that only this single candidate emerged from the analysis of 70 cool giants could suggest that large gaseous moons are "not super common" in the cosmos [...].