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Researchers: It's 'Unlikely' There's Water- or Ice-Saturated Layers Below InSight Mars Lander

1 hour 23 min ago
Did Mars ever support life? One clue might be quantifying just how much ice (and other minerals) are lurking just below the planet's surface, a team of researchers argued this month. "If life exists on Mars, that is where it would be," they said in a news release this week. "There is no liquid water on the surface," but in a contrary scenario, "subsurface life would be protected from radiation." Locating ice and minerals has another benefit too, they write in the journal Geophysical Research Letters: to "prepare for human exploration." And fortunately, there's a tool on the InSight lander (which touched down in 2018) that can help estimate the velocity of seismic waves inside the geological crust of Mars — velocities which change depending on which rock types are present, and which materials are filling pores within rocks (which could be ice, water, gas, or other mineral cements). That's the good news. But after running computer models of applied rock physics thousands and thousands of times, the researchers believe it's unlikely that there's any layers saturated with water (or ice) in the top 300 meters (1,000 feet) of the crust of Mars. "Model results confirm that the upper 300 meters of Mars beneath InSight is most likely composed of sediments and fractured basalts." The researchers reached a discouraging conclusion, reports Space.com "The chances of finding Martian life appear poor at in the vicinity of NASA's InSight lander." The subsurface around the landing zone — an equatorial site chosen especially for its flat terrain and good marsquake potential — appears loose and porous, with few ice grains in between gaps in the crust, researchers said.... The equatorial region where InSight is working, in theory, should be able to host subsurface water, as conditions are cold enough even there for water to freeze. But the new finding is challenging scientists' assumptions about possible ice or liquid water beneath the subsurface near InSight, whose job is to probe beneath the surface. While images from the surface have suggested there might be sedimentary rock and lava flows beneath InSight, researchers' models have uncertainties about porosity and mineral content. InSight is helping to fill in some of those gaps, and its new data suggests that "uncemented material" largely fills in the region blow the lander. That suggests little water is present, although more data needs to be collected. It's unclear how representative the InSight data is of the Martian subsurface in general, but more information may come courtesy of future missions. NASA is considering a Mars Life Explorer that would drill 6 feet (2 meters) below the surface to search for possible habitable conditions. Additionally, a proposed Mars Ice Mapper Mission could search for possible water reservoirs for human missions. And of course, as the researchers point out in their announcement, "big ice sheets and frozen ground ice remain at the Martian poles."

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Categories: Technology

Rust 1.63 Released, Adding Scoped Threads

3 hours 12 min ago
This week the Rust team announced the release of Rust 1.63. One noteable update? Adding scoped threads to the standard library: Rust code could launch new threads with std::thread::spawn since 1.0, but this function bounds its closure with 'static. Roughly, this means that threads currently must have ownership of any arguments passed into their closure; you can't pass borrowed data into a thread. In cases where the threads are expected to exit by the end of the function (by being join()'d), this isn't strictly necessary and can require workarounds like placing the data in an Arc. Now, with 1.63.0, the standard library is adding scoped threads, which allow spawning a thread borrowing from the local stack frame. The std::thread::scope API provides the necessary guarantee that any spawned threads will have exited prior to itself returning, which allows for safely borrowing data. The official Rust RFC book says "The main drawback is that scoped threads make the standard library a little bit bigger," but calls it "a very common and useful utility...great for learning, testing, and exploratory programming. "Every person learning Rust will at some point encounter interaction of borrowing and threads. There's a very important lesson to be taught that threads can in fact borrow local variables, but the standard library [didn't] reflect this." And otherwise, "Implementing scoped threads is very tricky to get right so it's good to have a reliable solution provided by the standard library."

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Categories: Technology

Thieves Stole $23 Million in One of the Largest YouTube Royalties Scams Ever

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 23:53
"Need an easy way to make $23 million?" asks Mashable. "Have you ever considered just claiming music others uploaded to YouTube as your own and collecting the royalties? That's basically all two Phoenix men did to swindle Latin music artists like Daddy Yankee and Julio Iglesias out of millions of dollars in royalties, as detailed in a new piece from Billboard last week. According to Kristin Robinson of Billboard, Jose "Chenel" Medina Teran and Webster Batista set up a media company called MediaMuv and claimed to own the rights to various Latin music songs and compositions. In total, MediaMuv claimed to own more than 50,000 copyrights since 2017, when Teran and Batista began their scheme. In order for MediaMuv to claim these copyrights and collect royalties through YouTube's Content ID system, the fraudulent company needed to partner with AdRev, a third-party company that has access to YouTube's CMS and Content ID tools and helps artists manage their digital copyrights. MediaMuv created a few fake documents and provided AdRev with this paperwork in order to prove ownership over the music it claimed. From there, AdRev not only helped MediaMuv collect royalties for those copyrights but also provided Terana and Batista with direct access to YouTube's CMS so they could claim copyrights on its own. Teran and Batista's four-year-long royalties heist came to an end late last year following an investigation from the IRS. According to Billboard, the two were indicted on "30 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft." Mashable calls it "a huge reminder that online copyright is deeply flawed..." "[J]ust think about how many more careful scammers are still skimming royalties off of an untold number of artists."

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Categories: Technology

Right To Repair Battle Heats Up With Rooting of John Deere Equipment

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 22:42
Long-time Slashdot reader drinkypoo writes: John Deere, current and historic American producer of farming equipment, has long been maligned for their DRM-based lockdowns of said equipment which can make it impossible for farmers to perform their own service. Now a new security bypass has been discovered for some of their equipment, which has revealed that it is in general based on outdated versions of Linux and Windows CE. Carried out by Sick Codes, the complete attack involves attaching hardware to the PCB inside a touchscreen controller, and ultimately produces a root terminal. In the bargain and as a result, the question is being raised about JD's GPL compliance. Sick Codes isn't sure how John Deere can eliminate this vulnerability (beyond overhauling designs to add full disk encryption to future models). But Wired also notes that "At the same time, though, vulnerabilities like the ones that Sick Codes found help farmers do what they need to do with their own equipment." Although the first thing Sick Codes did was get the tractor running a farm-themed version of Doom.

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Categories: Technology

Apple Finds Its Next Big Business: Showing Ads on Your iPhone

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 21:17
"Apple is set to expand ads to new areas of your iPhone and iPad in search of its next big revenue driver," reports Bloomberg. The Verge writes that Apple "could eventually bring ads to more of the apps that come pre-installed on your iPhone and other Apple devices, including Maps, Books, and Podcasts." According to a report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple has internally tested search ads in Maps, which could display recommendations when you search for restaurants, stores, or other nearby businesses. Apple already implements a similar advertising model on the App Store, as developers can pay to have their app promoted on a search page for a particular query, like "puzzle games" or "photo editor." As noted by Gurman, ads on Maps could work in the same way, with businesses paying to appear at the top of search results when users enter certain search terms. Gurman believes that Apple could introduce ads to its native Podcasts and Books apps as well. [Gurman describes this as "likely".] This could potentially allow publishers to place ads in areas within each app, or pay to get their content placed higher in search results. Just like Maps, Podcasts and Books are currently ad-free.... Gurman mentions the potential for advertising on Apple TV Plus, too, and says the company could opt to create a lower-priced ad-supported tier, something both Netflix and Disney Plus plan on doing by the end of this year. Bloomberg points out that Apple is already displaying ads inside its News app — where some of the money actually goes back to news publishers. ("Apple also lets publishers advertise within their stories and keep the vast majority of that money.") And while you can disable ad personalization — which 78% of iOS users have done — Bloomberg notes that "Another ironic detail here is that the company's advertising system uses data from its other services and your Apple account to decide which ads to serve. That doesn't feel like a privacy-first policy." Bloomberg's conclusion? "Now the only question is whether the customers of Apple — a champion of privacy and clean interfaces — are ready to live with a lot more ads."

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Categories: Technology

The Organized Labor Movement Has a New Ally: Venture Capitalists

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 19:54
Union-organizing startup "Unit of Work" received a $1.4-million pre-seed investment led by the venture capital arm of billionaire Mike Bloomberg, reports the Los Angeles Times. The startup's outside investors "have made fortunes backing technologies such as artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies and video games. One is among California's foremost critics of public-sector labor unions." But the head of the startup's lead investment firm says that "whenever a community has a want that's going unfilled, there's an opportunity for companies." [T]hese people used to multibillion-dollar sales and IPOs see a big opportunity in the atomized, restive condition of America's workforce and the possibility of transforming it through a new era of unionization. "We only invest in areas where we think we can get a return," said Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta, the venture arm of billionaire Mike Bloomberg's media empire. Unit's business model works like this: The startup's organizers provide free consulting to groups of workers organizing unions within their own workplaces — helping them build support to win elections, advising them on strategy in contract-bargaining sessions, guiding them through paperwork filings and around legal obstacles. Once a contract is in place, members of the new union can decide to pay Unit a monthly fee — similar to traditional union dues — to keep providing support.... Once the company starts earning income, it plans to buy out its investors and give their equity to the unions it helped organize, effectively transitioning corporate control to the customer base. The approach has attracted some strange bedfellows. The second investment firm in the round, Draper Associates, is led by Tim Draper, a third-generation venture capitalist, bitcoin evangelist and outspoken critic of organized labor... [H]e launched a ballot initiative to ban public-sector unions in California.... "Unit of Work is making unions decentralized," Draper wrote in an email explaining his investment. "That will be awesome. Centralized unions tend to restrain trade, and government unions create bloated bureaucracy and poor government service on the whole.... " Despite Draper's enthusiasm for independent unions, as opposed to nationally affiliated labor organizations, Unit's leaders and its website make clear that they support their clients if they decide to affiliate with a larger union.

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Categories: Technology

Is Germany Ready To Lean Back Into Nuclear Power?

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 18:34
The German news magazine Der Spiegel spoke to a 54-year-old who had always been in favor of the company's plan to phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022. Until now — with fears about Russia curtailing supplies of natural gas. And he's not the only one: A poll commissioned by DER SPIEGEL has revealed some rather shocking numbers. According to the survey carried out by the online polling firm Civey, only 22 percent of those surveyed are in favor of shutting down the three nuclear plants that are still in operation in Germany...as planned at the end of the year. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed are in favor of continuing to operate the plants until the summer of 2023, a variant that is being discussed in the political sphere as a "stretch operation" — in other words, continuing to keep them online for a few months, but without the acquisition of new fuel rods. Even among Green Party supporters, a narrow majority favors this approach.... The answers suggest that the attitude of Germans toward nuclear power has changed significantly. Sixty-seven percent are in favor of continuing to operate the nuclear plants for the next five years, with only 27 percent opposed to it. The only group without a clear majority in favor of running the plants for the next five years are the supporters of the Green Party.... On the question of whether Germany should build new nuclear power plants because of the energy crisis, 41 percent of respondents answered "yes," meaning they favor an approach that isn't even up for debate in Germany. The results are astounding all around, especially compared with past surveys. Thirty-three years ago, a polling institute asked a similar question on behalf of DER SPIEGEL. At the time, only a miniscule 3 percent of respondents thought Germany should build new plants. Officially, Germany is supposed to be transitioning to green energies, but these polling figures suggest that people may be interested in returning to the old energy status quo.... It had already become clear in recent years that support for the nuclear phaseout was already slowly crumbling. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has now accelerated this shift, calling into question many old certainties, or overturning them completely.... The energy security that people took for granted for decades in Germany has been shaken ever since Russia cut gas deliveries and costs rose. The result being that an old German dogma now seems to be crumbling: the rejection of nuclear energy. Concerns are either being put on the backburner or are evaporating. Radiation from nuclear waste? Safety risks? Danger of large-scale disasters? Who cares. Those are things you worry about when you have working heat. Electricity first, then ethics. Thanks to Slashdot reader atcclears for sharing the article

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Categories: Technology

Cellphone at Third Base: Baseball Player Mistakenly Runs the Bases with His iPhone

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 17:34
Last year Rodolfo Castro made baseball history. Called up to the Major Leagues in April, the 22-year-old eventually recorded his first hit — a home run. But his next four recorded hits were all also home runs, something no player had done since 1901. CBS News reports that this week, finally called back up to the Major Leagues, Castro again made history — of another sort: Modern technology has allowed people to take their phones, as well as the power of the internet, with them anywhere they go. Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Rodolfo Castro took his around the bases against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night. Yep — an iPhone made a bizarre cameo in the 4th inning, reports the Associated Press: Castro and third base coach Mike Rabelo stood and stared, mortified.... Even third base umpire Adam Hamari had the perfect reaction, pointing at the phone that came flying out of Castro's back pocket during a head-first slide, trying not to giggle at the absurdity of the situation. Those around the sport cringed along with them. "That's obviously not something that should happen," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.... This faux pas just happened to be at a televised big league game, creating a video clip seen by millions. "I just remember getting dressed, putting my pants on, getting something to eat, using the restroom," the 23-year-old Castro said through a translator Tuesday night after the Pirates lost 6-4 to Arizona. "Never did it ever cross my mind that I still had my cellphone on me...." It's far from the first time a phone has made a cameo on a pro sports field. One of the most famous examples came nearly 20 years ago when New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn pulled out a flip phone — remember those? — that he had hidden in the padding around the goalpost and then acted like he was taking a call after scoring a touchdown.

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Categories: Technology

Gen Z is Over Facebook, Finds Pew Research. But YouTube Dominates Among Teens

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 16:34
NBC News reports: Facebook, once the go-to social media platform for many, has plummeted in popularity among younger users, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.... The share of 13- to 17-year-olds who said they use Facebook dropped from 71% in the 2015 study to 32% today, Pew found. As Facebook's popularity sinks, YouTube has become the dominating platform among teens, who are also using social media apps like TikTok, Snapchat and [Meta-owned] Instagram... While Facebook still beats out Twitter among Gen Z teens, Snapchat and Instagram have dwarfed its popularity. Sixty-two percent of teens use Instagram and 59% use Snapchat, according to Pew. TikTok also beats Facebook in popularity, with 67% of respondents saying they use the short-form video app, Pew reported.... The most popular platform among 13- to 17-year-olds is YouTube, which is used by 95% of teens, the research found. There's an interesting graph showing trends in Pew's announcement. It's handy way to visualize that over the last seven years usage has dropped for Facebook, Twitter, and Tumbler — while usage increased for Instagram and Snapchat. But YouTube hovers above them all with 95% usage.

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Categories: Technology

Gen Z is Over Facebook, Finds Pew Research Center. But YouTube Dominates Among Teens

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 16:34
NBC News reports: Facebook, once the go-to social media platform for many, has plummeted in popularity among younger users, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.... The share of 13- to 17-year-olds who said they use Facebook dropped from 71% in the 2015 study to 32% today, Pew found. As Facebook's popularity sinks, YouTube has become the dominating platform among teens, who are also using social media apps like TikTok, Snapchat and [Meta-owned] Instagram... While Facebook still beats out Twitter among Gen Z teens, Snapchat and Instagram have dwarfed its popularity. Sixty-two percent of teens use Instagram and 59% use Snapchat, according to Pew. TikTok also beats Facebook in popularity, with 67% of respondents saying they use the short-form video app, Pew reported.... The most popular platform among 13- to 17-year-olds is YouTube, which is used by 95% of teens, the research found. There's an interesting graph showing trends in Pew's announcement. It's handy way to visualize that over the last seven years usage has dropped for Facebook, Twitter, and Tumbler — while usage increased for Instagram and Snapchat. But YouTube hovers above them all with 95% usage.

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Categories: Technology

California Startup Sells 'Subscriptions' to Electric Vehicles

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 15:34
In January a California startup named Autonomy began "stocking up on EVs from pretty much every company that makes them," reports Bloomberg (including Tesla, Ford, and Polestar). Their plan? Collect a $5,900 "start fee," then charge $490 to $690 a month for an electric vehicle subscription with up to 1,000 miles of driving (but with no maintenance or registration fees): The subscription model has some logic for consumers. In part because of fast-evolving technology, EVs have traditionally shed value much quicker than gas-powered cars. On a depreciation scale, consumers typically lump them in with cell phones.... But EV ownership is also looking better by the day. The depreciation curve is flattening thanks to longer-range machines, and car companies are getting more vocal about things like battery longevity. A three-year-old Chevrolet Bolt, for example, will recoup 84% of its value today, in line with the average resale of all three-year-old cars in North America, according to CarEdge.com, a consumer-facing market research platform. That could be why auto executives are pushing to round up that sweet, sweet software revenue in smaller chunks. BMW, to much outcry, is selling an $18-a-month subscription for heated seats in the UK, and General Motors turned its OnStar voice navigation into a $1,500 "mandatory" subscription on every new Buick, GMC and Cadillac Escalade. Even without a la carte add-ons, one of the major forces propping up prices for used EVs is, ironically, their ability to update remotely — the same technology carmakers are using to nickel-and-dime drivers with subscription services. A contemporary car is nothing if not a dense stack of software, which means subscriptions on wheels are not entirely bonkers. But a car is also an appliance, and consumers aren't accustomed to renting a refrigerator, let alone paying a monthly fee to use the ice-maker. Luckily for Autonomy, the simplest pitch may be the best one. If it can bigfoot individual EV orders by jumping to the head of the queue, the startup could find scads of subscribers — simply because it will have available cars.

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Categories: Technology

Parts of Europe's Largest Nuclear Plant 'Knocked Out' By Russia-Ukraine Fighting

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 12:34
On Thursday the International Atomic Energy Agency's director "warned that parts of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant had been knocked out due to recent attacks, risking an 'unacceptable' potential radiation leak," according to CNN: "IAEA experts believe that there is no immediate threat to nuclear safety," but "that could change at any moment," Grossi said.... Ukraine's nuclear agency Energoatom said 10 shells landed near the complex on Thursday, preventing a shift handover. "For the safety of nuclear workers, the buses with the personnel of the next shift were turned back to Enerhodar," the agency said. "Until the situation finally normalizes, the workers of the previous shift will continue to work." Energoatom said radiation levels at the site remained normal, despite renewed attacks. Several Western and Ukrainian officials believe that Russia is using the giant nuclear facility as a stronghold to shield their troops and mount attacks, because they assume Kyiv will not return fire and risk a crisis. Later CNN added: Ukraine and Russia again traded blame after more shelling around the plant overnight on Thursday, just hours after the United Nations called on both sides to cease military activities near the power station, warning of the worst if they didn't. "Regrettably, instead of de-escalation, over the past several days there have been reports of further deeply worrying incidents that could, if they continue, lead to disaster," UN secretary general, António Guterres, said in a statement.... Energoatom, Ukraine's state-run nuclear power company, accused Russian forces on Thursday of targeting a storage area for "radiation sources," and shelling a fire department nearby the plant. A day later, the company said in a statement on its Telegram account that the plant was operating "with the risk of violating radiation and fire safety standards." Ukraine's Interior Minister, Denys Monastyrskyi, said Friday that there was "no adequate control" over the plant, and Ukrainian specialists who remained there were not allowed access to some areas where they should be.... Last weekend, shellfire damaged a dry storage facility — where casks of spent nuclear fuel are kept at the plant — as well as radiation monitoring detectors, making detection of any potential leak impossible, according to Energoatom. Attacks also damaged a high-voltage power line and forced one of the plant's reactors to stop operating. Tonight the BBC reported on a response from Ukraine's president. In his nightly address on Saturday, Volodymyr Zelensky said any soldier firing on or from the plant would become "a special target" for Ukraine. He also accused Moscow of turning the plant into a Russian army base and using it as "nuclear blackmail"... Zelenskiy added that "every day" of Russia's occupation of the plant "increases the radiation threat to Europe".... A BBC investigation revealed earlier this week that many of the Ukrainian workers at the site are being kept under armed guard amid harsh conditions.

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Categories: Technology

Why Alphabet's 'Smart City' in Toronto Failed

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 08:34
Alphabet's "urban innovation" arm Sidewalk Labs planned to build a model "smart city" along a 12-acre patch of Toronto waterfront known as Quayside. But they abandoned the project in 2020, points out MIT's Technology Review, "at the tail end of years of public controversy over its $900 million vision for a data-rich city within the city." Sidewalk's big idea was flashy new tech. This unassuming section of Toronto was going to become a hub for an optimized urban experience featuring robo-taxis, heated sidewalks, autonomous garbage collection, and an extensive digital layer to monitor everything from street crossings to park bench usage. Had it succeeded, Quayside could have been a proof of concept, establishing a new development model for cities everywhere. It could have demonstrated that the sensor-Âladen smart city model embraced in China and the Persian Gulf has a place in more democratic societies. Instead, Sidewalk Labs' two-and-a-half-year struggle to build a neighborhood "from the internet up" failed to make the case for why anyone might want to live in it.... The project's tech-first approach antagonized many; its seeming lack of seriousness about the privacy concerns of Torontonians was likely the main cause of its demise. There is far less tolerance in Canada than in the U.S. for private-sector control of public streets and transportation, or for companies' collecting data on the routine activities of people living their lives. "In the U.S. it's life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," says Alex Ryan, a senior vice president of partnership solutions for the MaRS Discovery District, a Toronto nonprofit founded by a consortium of public and private funders and billed as North America's largest urban innovation hub. "In Canada it's peace, order, and good government. Canadians don't expect the private sector to come in and save us from government, because we have high trust in government." With its very top-down approach, Sidewalk failed to comprehend Toronto's civic culture. Almost every person I spoke with about the project used the word "hubris" or "arrogance" to describe the company's attitude. Some people used both. In February Toronto announced new plans for the area, the article points out, with "800 affordable apartments, a two-acre forest, a rooftop farm, a new arts venue focused on indigenous culture, and a pledge to be zero-carbon.... Indeed, the philosophical shift signaled by the new plan, with its emphasis on wind and rain and birds and bees rather than data and more data, seems like a pragmatic response to the demands of the present moment and the near future." The article calls it "a conspicuous disavowal not only of the 2017 proposal but of the smart city concept itself."

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Categories: Technology

Are Things 'Looking Grim' For Movies Based on DC Superheroes?

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 04:49
"The fate of Warner Bros. DC Comics movies is looking grim," writes the Verge. Since April's merger between Warner Brothers and Discovery, they call it "fairly obvious" that "the new guard at Warner Bros. Discovery wants to jettison or at the very least put some distance between itself and the DC Extended Universe's current iteration (along with all the baggage associated with the endeavor.)" The DC Extended Universe was plagued by a number of issues long... like a general lack of cohesion, subpar storytelling, and an association with a toxic fandom whose obsession eventually devolved into harassment campaigns against studio executives. Looking back, Justice League as it was released in 2017 was a haphazard attempt to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that put far too much faith in the power of people's general familiarity with characters like Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman who didn't really have presences in the DC Extended Universe at the time. Screen Rant calls Justice League "a movie that polarized audiences and was less successful than Man of Steel at the box office" — then explains what happened next: The DC Extended Universe had been struggling with highly divisive or critically panned movies, such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, but it was not until Justice League that the franchise really took a significant financial hit. In addition, Justice League was also the start of a series of behind-the-scenes controversies, and at this point, it is difficult to picture the Justice League cast all returning for a sequel.... With Ben Affleck seemly done with Batman and the studio wanting to move away from everything Justice League-related, DC needed a way to combine what had been working, such as Jason Momoa's Aquaman and Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, with new strategies, such as Michael Keaton's [appearing in the upcoming Flash movie as] Batman. The answer seemed simple — the multiverse.... The fact that Batgirl, a movie that would have shown the aftermath of The Flash's multiverse journey, was canceled [last week] proves that the multiverse is no longer a priority for DC. Not only that but right before Batgirl's cancelation was announced, it was reported that Ben Affleck would replace Michael Keaton's rumored cameo in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.... During Warner Bros. Discovery's earning calls on August 5, CEO David Zaslav mentioned that the new management will make upcoming DC Extended Universe movies like Black Adam and The Flash "even better", suggesting that reshoots could be on the way.

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Categories: Technology

Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough Confirmed: California Team Achieved Ignition. Research Continues

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 02:34
"A major breakthrough in nuclear fusion has been confirmed a year after it was achieved at a laboratory in California," reports Newsweek: Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) recorded the first case of ignition on August 8, 2021, the results of which have now been published in three peer-reviewed papers.... Ignition during a fusion reaction essentially means that the reaction itself produced enough energy to be self-sustaining, which would be necessary in the use of fusion to generate electricity. If we could harness this reaction to generate electricity, it would be one of the most efficient and least polluting sources of energy possible. No fossil fuels would be required as the only fuel would be hydrogen, and the only by-product would be helium, which we use in industry and are actually in short supply of.... This landmark result comes after years of research and thousands of man hours dedicated to improving and perfecting the process: over 1,000 authors are included in the Physical Review Letters paper. This week the laboratory said that breakthrough now puts researchers "at the threshold of fusion gain and achieving scientific ignition," with the program's chief scientist calling it "a major scientific advance in fusion research, which establishes that fusion ignition in the lab is possible at the National Ignition Facility." More news from this week's announcement by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Since the experiment last August, the team has been executing a series of experiments to attempt to repeat the performance and to understand the experimental sensitivities in this new regime. "Many variables can impact each experiment," Kritcher said. "The 192 laser beams do not perform exactly the same from shot to shot, the quality of targets varies and the ice layer grows at differing roughness on each target...." While the repeat attempts have not reached the same level of fusion yield as the August 2021 experiment, all of them demonstrated capsule gain greater than unity with yields in the 430-700 kJ range, significantly higher than the previous highest yield of 170 kJ from February 2021. The data gained from these and other experiments are providing crucial clues as to what went right and what changes are needed in order to repeat that experiment and exceed its performance in the future. The team also is utilizing the experimental data to further understanding of the fundamental processes of fusion ignition and burn and to enhance simulation tools in support of stockpile stewardship. Looking ahead, the team is working to leverage the accumulated experimental data and simulations to move toward a more robust regime — further beyond the ignition cliff — where general trends found in this new experimental regime can be better separated from variability in targets and laser performance. Efforts to increase fusion performance and robustness are underway via improvements to the laser, improvements to the targets and modifications to the design that further improve energy delivery to the hotspot while maintaining or even increasing the hot-spot pressure. This includes improving the compression of the fusion fuel, increasing the amount of fuel and other avenues. "It is extremely exciting to have an 'existence proof' of ignition in the lab," said Omar Hurricane, chief scientist for the lab's inertial confinement fusion program. "We're operating in a regime that no researchers have accessed since the end of nuclear testing, and it's an incredible opportunity to expand our knowledge as we continue to make progress." Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader hesdeadjim99 for sharing the news.

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Categories: Technology

Are Space Scientists Ready For Starship - the Biggest Rocket Ever?

Sun, 14/08/2022 - 00:10
Slashdot reader sciencehabit shared this thought-provoking anecdote from Science magazine: NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission was brutish and short. It began on 9 October 2009, when the hull of a spent Centaur rocket stage smashed into Cabeus crater, near the south pole of the Moon, with the force of about 2 tons of TNT. And it ended minutes later, when a trailing spacecraft flew through and analyzed the lofted plume of debris before it, too, crashed. About 6% of the plume was water, presumably from ice trapped in the shadowed depths of the crater, where the temperature never rises above -173ÂC. The Moon, it turned out, wasn't as bone dry as the Apollo astronauts believed. "That was our first ground truth that there is water ice," says Jennifer Heldmann, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center who worked on the mission. Today, Heldmann wants to send another rocket to probe lunar ice — but not on a one-way trip. She has her eye on Starship, a behemoth under development by private rocket company SpaceX that would be the largest flying object the world has ever seen. With Starship, Heldmann could send 100 tons to the Moon, more than twice the lunar payload of the Saturn V, the workhorse of the Apollo missions. She dreams of delivering robotic excavators and drills and retrieving ice in freezers onboard Starship, which could return to Earth with tens of tons of cargo. By analyzing characteristics such as the ice's isotopic composition and its depth, she could learn about its origin: how much of it came from a bombardment of comets and asteroids billions of years ago versus slow, steady implantation by the solar wind. She could also find out where the ice is abundant and pure enough to support human outposts. "It's high-priority science, and it's also critical for exploration," Heldmann says. When SpaceX CEO Elon Musk talks up Starship, it's mostly about human exploration: Set up bases on Mars and make humans a multiplanetary species! Save civilization from extinction! But Heldmann and many others believe the heavy lifter could also radically change the way space scientists work. They could fly bigger and heavier instruments more often — and much more cheaply, if SpaceX's projections of cargo launch costs as low as $10 per kilogram are to be believed. On Mars, they could deploy rovers not as one-offs, but in herds. Space telescopes could grow, and fleets of satellites in low-Earth orbit could become commonplace. Astronomy, planetary science, and Earth observation could all boldly go, better than they ever have before. Of course, Starship isn't real yet. All eyes will be on a first orbital launch test, expected sometime in the coming months. Starship would've made it easier to deploy the massive James Webb Space Telescope, the article points out, while in the future Starship's extra fuel capacity could make it easier to explore Mercury, earth's outermost planets, and even interstellar space. In fact, Heldmann and colleagues have now suggested that NASA create a dedicated funding line for missions relying on Starship. Heldmann argues that "We on the science side need to be ready to take advantage of those capabilities when they come online." The article notes that at an event in February, Elon Musk "explained how a single Starship, launching three times per week, would loft more than 15,000 tons to orbit in a year — about as much as all the cargo that has been lifted in the entire history of spaceflight."

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Ransomware Causes 'Major', Long-Lasting Outage for UK Health Service's Patient Notes

Sat, 13/08/2022 - 22:54
The Independent reports that the UK's National Health System is experiencing a major outage "expected to last for more than three weeks" after a third-party supplying the NHS's "CareNotes" software was hit by ransomware. Unfortunately, this leaves doctors unable to see their notes on patients, and the mental health trusts that provide care "across the country will be left unable to access patient notes for weeks, and possibly months." Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has declared a critical incident over the outage, which is believed to affect dozens of trusts, and has told staff it is putting emergency plans in place. One NHS trust chief said the situation could possibly last for "months" with several mental health trusts, and there was concern among leaders that the problem is not being prioritised. In an email to staff, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Nick Broughton, said: "The cyberattack targeted systems used to refer patients for care, including ambulances being dispatched, out of hours appointment bookings, triage, out of hours care, emergency prescriptions and safety alerts. It also targeted the finance system used by the trust.... An NHS director said: "The whole thing is down. It's really alarming...we're carrying a lot of risk as a result of it because you can't get records and details of assessments, prescribing, key observations, medical mental health act observations. You can't see any of it...Staff are going to have to write everything down and input it later." They added: "There is increased risk to patients. We're finding it hard to discharge people, for example to housing providers, because we can't access records." "'Weeks' is an unreasonable period," argues Slashdot reader Bruce66423, wondering why it couldn't be resolved with a seemingly simple restore from backups? And Alan Woodward, a professor of cybersecurity at Surrey University, warns the Guardian that "Even if it was ransomware ... that doesn't mean data was not stolen."

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Researchers Pinpointed Covid-19's Origin to Within a Few Metres

Sat, 13/08/2022 - 21:40
Australia's public broadcaster interviewed a virologist who "played a key role in mapping the evolution of COVID-19" (and was also "the first person to release the sequence of SARS-CoV-2 to the world.") But interestingly, this Australian virologist also visited the Wuhan market in 2014, "and recognised the risk of virus transmission between animals and humans and suggested taking some samples." "While I was there, I noticed there were these live wildlife for sale, particularly raccoon dogs and ... muskrats" he said. "I took the photographs because I thought to myself: 'God, that's, that's not quite right'." Raccoon dogs had been associated with the emergence of a different coronavirus outbreak, SARS-CoV-1, in 2002-04, which became known worldwide as the SARS virus. Even in 2014, Professor Holmes believed the market could become a site of virus transmission between animals and humans. The monitoring that Professor Holmes suggested never took place but, in the early days of COVID-19, he was still convinced that a market like the one in Wuhan was the logical origin of the virus. "They are the kind of engine room of [this sort] of disease emergence ... because what you're doing is you're putting humans and wildlife in close proximity to each other," he said. The professor also describes the theory that the virus some how leaked from a Chinese lab as "horrendous, blame-game finger-pointing," noting that the nearest lab is miles away. And he cites other reasons the market is where the virus originated: Aside from the geographic clustering, he also points to the fact that two different strands emerged almost simultaneously in humans, something that is much more likely if the virus had already been mutating in animals. "They're sufficiently far apart that they were probably independent jumps. "It means there was a pool of infected animals in the market and it's mutated amongst them before it jumped to humans." All of this has led Professor Holmes to conclude that the question of how COVID-19 emerged is settled. "I'm extremely confident that the virus is not from a laboratory. I think that's just a nonsensical theory," he said. Detailed mapping of where samples were detected inside the Huanan seafood wholesale market allowed Professor Holmes and his colleagues to even pinpoint to a few square metres where COVID-19 was likely to have jumped between humans and animals. "It's extraordinary," he said. "And I took a photo in 2014 of one of the stalls that was the most positively tested in the whole market."

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'Unstoppable' Python Remains More Popular than C and Java

Sat, 13/08/2022 - 20:34
"Python seems to be unstoppable," argues the commentary on August's edition of the TIOBE index (which attempts to calculate programming-language popularity based on search results for courses, vendors, and "skilled engineers"). By that measure Python's "market share" rose another 2% in this month's index — to an all-time high of 15.42%. It is hard to find a field of programming in which Python is not used extensively nowadays. The only exception is (safety-critical) embedded systems because of Python being dynamically typed and too slow. That is why the performant languages C and C++ are gaining popularity as well at the moment. If we look at the rest of the TIOBE index, not that much happened last month. Swift and PHP swapped places again at position 10, Rust is getting close to the top 20, Kotlin is back in the top 30, and the new Google language Carbon enters the TIOBE index at position 192. InfoWorld notes it's been 10 months since Python first claimed the index's #1 spot last October, "becoming the only language besides Java and C to hold the No. 1 position." In the alternative Pypl Popularity of Programming Language index, which assesses language popularity based on Google searches of programming language tutorials, the top 10 rankings for August were: 1. Python, 28.11% share 2. Java, 17.35% 3. JavaScript, 9.48% 4. C#, 7.08% 5. C/C++, 6.19% 6. PHP, 5.47% 7. R, 4.35% 8. TypeScript, 2.79% 9. Swift, 2.09% 10. Objective-C, 2.03%

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Netflix Airs Episode on Kansas 'Swat' Perpetrator, While Victim's Family Sues Policeman

Sat, 13/08/2022 - 19:34
In June Netflix launched Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies, and the Internet, a true-crime series. It began with an episode documenting the 2017 death of a 28-year-old Kansas man named Andrew Finch after California gamer Tyler Barriss faked an emergency call from Finch's home to the Wichita, Kansas police department. So where are they now? Barriss is now serving a 20-year prison sentence, Bustle reports. "Barriss, a resident of Los Angeles, California, pled guilty to a total of 51 charges, all having to do with hoax emergency calls he'd made, including the call that resulted in Finch's murder." Barriss received as 12-and-a-half year sentence for the Kansas call, and then another 8-and-a-half-year sentence for all the other illegal calls placed between 2015 and 2017 to 17 different U.S. states. "He also received another five years of supervised release in Washington, D.C., for phoning in bomb threats to the FBI and Federal Communications Commission in 2017." And the 19-year-old who'd hired Barriss "received a 15-month prison sentence in 2019 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice." Meanwhile, Andrew Finch's surviving family members filed legal actions against the police department responsible for Finch's death. And while police officers normally receive "qualified immunity" protecting them from lawsuits over the performance of their duties, there was an update last month: An officer with the Wichita Police Department will face a civil trial in connection with the December 2017 swatting incident... Justin Rapp was the officer who shot the unarmed man. A U.S. appeals court sided with the Kansas district court in denying Officer Rapp qualified immunity in Finch's death. The court said a reasonable jury could believe Finch was unarmed and unthreatening when Rapp fired the shot that killed him. Finch's family brought the excessive force civil suit. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett declined to prosecute Rapp for fatally shooting Finch. The Wichita Police Department conclude Rapp didn't violate department policy.... Along with its conclusion that the civil case against Rapp can move forward, the appellate court also affirmed the district court's summary judgment on liability claims against the City of Wichita. This decision essentially maintained the city and the WPD as a whole weren't liable in Finch's death. The court of appeals dismissed arguments saying, in sum, "[the lawsuit from Finch's family] has failed to show any deliberately indifferent policies or customs that caused Rapp to use excessive lethal force."

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