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Industry & Technology

Don’t believe the hype: We may never know the identity of Jack the Ripper

Ars Technica - 2 hours 5 min ago

Enlarge / Fictional Victorian physician John Stephenson (David Warner) is Jack the Ripper in the 1979 film Time After Time. A new scientific paper claiming to have identified the real Ripper might as well be speculative fiction, say geneticists. (credit: YouTube/Warner Bros.)

A new DNA analysis of stains on a silk shawl that may have belonged to one of Jack the Ripper's victims concluded that the killer was a Polish barber named Aaron Kosminski, according to a paper published last week in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. But other scientists are already calling into question the paper's bombshell conclusions—and they're not exactly mincing words.

Finally putting to rest the identity of one of history's most notorious killers would indeed be very big news, especially for true-crime buffs who have followed the Ripper saga for years (so-called "Ripperologists"). The problem is, we've been here many times before. This is just the latest claim to have "proof" of Jack the Ripper's true identity, and while it has all the trappings of solid science, the analysis doesn't hold up under closer scrutiny. Several geneticists have already spoken out on Twitter and to Science magazine to point out, as Kristina Killgrove writes at Forbes, that "the research is neither new nor scientifically accurate."

On August 31, 1888, police discovered the body of Mary Ann Nichols in Bucks Row in London's Whitechapel district. Her throat had been cut and her abdomen ripped open. Over the next few months, a serial killer who came to be known as Jack the Ripper would use the same method to kill four women: Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. And then, as abruptly as they began, the murders stopped. (These are the "canonical five." Other murders sometimes attributed to the Ripper are inconclusive.)

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Musk defense “borders on the ridiculous,” SEC tells court

Ars Technica - 2 hours 17 min ago

Enlarge (credit: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

The Securities and Exchange Commission heaped scorn on Elon Musk and his legal arguments in a Monday legal filing. The agency is asking New York federal Judge Alison Nathan to hold Musk in contempt for tweeting a projection of 2019 vehicle output without first getting the tweet approved by Tesla's lawyers.

Musk has been battling the SEC since last August, when he tweeted that he had "funding secured" to take Tesla private. That turned out to be untrue, and it's illegal to publish inaccurate information that has the potential to move markets. Under the terms of a September deal, Musk paid a $20 million fine and gave up his role as the chairman of Tesla's board (Tesla paid an additional $20 million).

Musk also promised to have Tesla lawyers review future tweets that could contain information that is "material"—that is, significant enough to affect the price of Tesla's stock.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Grab another year of PlayStation Plus for $45

Ars Technica - 2 hours 37 min ago

Enlarge (credit: TechBargains)

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal on Sony's PlayStation Plus, as digital codes for a 12-month membership are currently going for $45 at Amazon, GameStop, and other retailers. That's $15 off the subscription's standard going rate.

The value here is pretty straightforward: PlayStation Plus is required to play multiplayer games online with a PlayStation 4. It still gets you access to a couple free games each month, 100GB of cloud storage for game saves, and various discounts in Sony's PlayStation Store, too.

This deal isn't the absolute best we've seen—these 12-month codes were going for $40 around Black Friday last year, and every now and then we'll see some promo code bring it down as well. But this is the cheapest it's been at major retailers since the holidays, so if you need to top-up soon—or if you just want to tack on another year of service in advance and don't want to wait a few months—this might be a good time to take advantage.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

All aboard the driverless bus in Greater Manchester

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 55 min ago
Developers hope driverless technology could be used in public transport within five years.

Hayabusa2 finds that its destination is also a very dark rubble pile

Ars Technica - 2 hours 59 min ago

Enlarge / A sense of the phenomenal resolution at which we can explore the asteroid Ryugu. (credit: JAXA)

Asteroids can tell critical stories about the birth of our Solar System and the processes that produced its planets. In some cases, they are time capsules for the planetesimals that went on to form our planets. In others, they've been through multiple rounds of catastrophic collisions and reformation, providing testimony of the violent processes that built our current Solar System. But figuring out what they tell us has been difficult, because their small size and generally large distance from Earth make them difficult to study using telescopes. And the bits and pieces we have been able to study directly have been altered by the process of plunging from space through the Earth's atmosphere.

All that's on the verge of changing in the near future, as we have not one but two missions that will return samples from asteroids over the next couple of years. In the case of JAXA's Hayabusa2 mission, the first sample retrieval has already taken place, while NASA's OSIRIS-REx arrived at its destination more recently. But since arriving, both probes have been studying the mini-worlds they were sent to, and the first results of those studies are now in.

Today, Nature and Science are releasing a large collection of papers that describe the initial observations of the two asteroids that these missions have targeted. The bodies have turned out to be remarkably similar, as you can see by visiting our Bennu coverage and then comparing it with what we now know about Ryugu, described below.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google reveals gaming platform Stadia

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 54 min ago
The new digital platform will stream games and has its own controller

At Bennu, NASA finds a mysterious, boulder-strewn asteroid

Ars Technica - 3 hours 56 min ago

Enlarge / These images of the asteroid Bennu’s northern hemisphere show it covered with rocks. (credit: NASA)

After traveling more than 2 million kilometers through outer space over the course of 27 months, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at the asteroid Bennu in early December of last year. Since arriving, the spacecraft's five scientific instruments have been surveying the 490-meter wide asteroid to better understand its properties and find a safe landing site from which to gather samples for a return to Earth.

On Tuesday, the first results of these scientific inquiries were published in seven papers that appeared in Nature and a handful of its research journals. The seven papers are collated on this website.

In some respects, Bennu is about what scientists expected—a "rubble pile" of stony meteorites that have aggregated under the influence of microgravity. Scientists were able to determine that the density of the asteroid is about 1,190kg per cubic meter. By way of comparison, a potato has a density of about 700kg per cubic meter, and dry gravel about 1,500kg per cubic meter.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The SEC calls for new contempt sanctions for Elon Musk

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 11 min ago
US financial regulator has called for sanctions after Mr Musk tweeted without seeking Tesla's approval.

Google jumps into gaming with Google Stadia streaming service, coming “in 2019”

Ars Technica - 4 hours 14 min ago

Enlarge / The Google Stadia controller, which includes a few custom buttons. The service will also support wired USB controllers and mouse-and-keyboard controls. (credit: Google)

SAN FRANCISCO—At the Game Developers Conference, Google announced its biggest play yet in the gaming space: a streaming game service named Google Stadia, designed to run on everything from PCs and Android phones to Google's own Chromecast devices.

As of press time, the service's release window is simply "2019." No pricing information was announced at the event.

Google Stadia will run a selection of existing PC games on Google's centralized servers, taking in controller inputs and sending back video and audio using Google's network of low-latency data centers. The company revealed a new Google-produced controller, along with a game-streaming interface that revolves around a "play now" button. Press this on any Web browser and gameplay will begin "in as quick as five seconds... with no download, no patch, no update, and no install."

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tracking tools found on EU government and health websites

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 52 min ago
The trackers, used to monitor user behaviour online, were found on thousands of official web pages.

Facebook: No one reported NZ shooting video during 17-minute livestream

Ars Technica - 5 hours 30 min ago

Enlarge / CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND—MARCH 19: People look on as men pray in a park near Al Noor mosque after a terrorist attack that killed 50 people. (credit: Getty Images | Carl Court)

Facebook says a livestream of last week's New Zealand mass shooting was viewed fewer than 200 times during its live broadcast and that nobody reported the video to Facebook while the livestream was ongoing.

"The first user report on the original video came in 29 minutes after the video started, and 12 minutes after the live broadcast ended," Facebook VP and Deputy General Counsel Chris Sonderby wrote in an update posted yesterday.

Ultimately, the original Facebook Live video of the terrorist attack "was viewed about 4,000 times in total before being removed from Facebook," the company said. Video of the attack was uploaded many times after the original was removed, and a few hundred thousand videos were viewable on Facebook before being taken down.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

US politician Devin Nunes sues Twitter over insults

BBC Technology News - 5 hours 49 min ago
A Republican congressman said the platform didn't crack down on "defamatory" tweets.

Corporations, not consumers, drive demand for HP’s new VR headset

Ars Technica - 7 hours 3 min ago

Enlarge (credit: HP)

HP was one of the many companies that built a virtual reality headset for the Windows Mixed Reality platform which launched back in 2017. Microsoft provided a SteamVR-compatible software platform, controller design, and inside-out, six-axis, positional-tracking technology; hardware companies like HP provided the rest, greatly reducing the price of PC-attached virtual reality.

Today, HP is launching the Reverb Virtual Reality Headset Professional Edition. As the name might imply, the audience for this isn't the consumer space, it's the commercial space. The headset will have a near-identical consumer version, but HP's focus is very much on the pro unit because that's where the company has seen the most solid uptake of VR tech. The big VR win isn't gaming or any other consumer applications: it's visualization, for fields such as engineering, architecture, education, and entertainment, combining VR headsets with motion-actuated seating to build virtual rides. The company has also found that novelty items such as its VR backpack have also found a role in the corporate space, with companies using them to allow free movement around virtual worlds and objects.

Accordingly, HP's second-gen headset is built for these enterprise customers in mind. Their demands were pretty uniform and in many ways consistent with consumer demands, with the big ones being more resolution and more comfort. To that end, it now has a resolution of 2160×2160 per eye, using an LCD with a 90Hz refresh rate. The optics have also been improved through the use of aspherical lenses, for a 114-degree (diagonal) field of view. AMOLED screens are common in this space, but HP said that it preferred LCD because LCD panels use full red, green, and blue subpixels rather than the pentile arrangement that remains common for AMOLED.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Vote Leave fined over thousands of unsolicited texts

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 39 min ago
The group could not prove that everybody who received its promotional message had consented.

Snapchat under scrutiny from MPs over 'addictive' streaks

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 24 min ago
Executives promise to examine a Snapchat feature which has been criticised as potentially addictive.

Apple finally updates the iMac with significantly more powerful CPU and GPU options

Ars Technica - 8 hours 57 min ago

Today, Apple will finally begin taking orders for newly refreshed 21- and 27-inch iMacs. The new versions don't change the basic design or add major new features, but they offer substantially faster configuration options for the CPU and GPU.

The 21.5-inch iMac now has a 6-core, eighth-generation Intel CPU option—up from a maximum of four cores before. The 27-inch now has six cores as the standard configuration, with an optional upgrade to a 3.6GHz, 9th-gen, 8-core Intel Core i9 CPU that Apple claims will double performance over the previous 27-inch iMac. The base 27-inch model has a 3GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 CPU, with intermediate configurations at 3.1GHz and 3.7GHz (both Core i5).

The big news is arguably that both sizes now offer high-end, workstation-class Vega-graphics options for the first time. Apple added a similar upgrade option to the 15-inch MacBook Pro late last year.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

How OpenXR could glue virtual reality’s fragmenting market together

Ars Technica - 9 hours 44 min ago

Enlarge / OpenXR is like a girl reaching for a moon, or something... (credit: Khronos)

Consumer-grade virtual reality (and, to a lesser extent, augmented reality) is only a few years old, but it’s already an extremely fragmented market. Wikipedia lists almost 30 distinct VR headsets released by dozens of hardware makers since 2015. Creating a game that works seamlessly with all of these headsets (and their various runtime environments) can be a headache even for the biggest studios.

OpenXR is out to change all that. With Monday’s release of the OpenXR provisional specification, Khronos’ open source working group wants to create a world where developers can code their VR/AR experience for a single API, with the confidence that the resulting application will work on any OpenXR-compliant headset.

"By accessing a common set of objects and functions corresponding to application life cycle, rendering, tracking, frame timing, and input, which are frustratingly different across existing vendor-specific APIs, software developers can run their applications across multiple XR systems with minimal porting effort—significantly reducing industry fragmentation," Khronos said in a statement announcing the provisional release.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook: New Zealand attack video viewed 4,000 times

BBC Technology News - 9 hours 55 min ago
Facebook says 4,000 people viewed the original attack video and fewer than 200 watched it live.

Thunderstorm with eye-popping 720GJ of energy

Ars Technica - 10 hours 56 min ago

Enlarge (credit: John Fowler / Flickr)

Nothing says "I love diving headfirst into a ditch" like your hair suddenly elevating to the tingly feel of electricity. Thunderstorms are amazing from inside a building, but they're scary if you're trapped outside. And, despite a good deal of observation, an element of mystery surrounds them. For instance, we know that lightning can produce free neutrons, antimatter, and gamma rays, but we don't have much idea of how that happens.

That has partially changed thanks to an Indian muon telescope, called GRAPES-3—a classic example of a backronym. GRAPES-3 is designed to detect muons (a heavier cousin to the electron and positron) that are generated as gamma rays hit the Earth’s atmosphere. It is a relatively simple detector that has the benefit of covering a reasonable chunk of sky with good angular resolution. The detectors are also buried under a thick layer of concrete, so muons need to be quite energetic to get to them.

Prediction: Lightning with a chance of telescopes

GRAPES-3 doesn’t actually care where the muons come from; it just happily counts away. Evidently, the scientists running the detector noticed that their data would always go a bit skewiff every time a thunderstorm passed over. Instead of ignoring this, the researchers (while keeping their heads low), installed a set of electric field monitors at various distances from the observatory and started logging electric field strength every time a storm passed over. That data could be easily compared to the muon detection rate. Unsurprisingly, storms are complex beasts, resulting in a lot of data that simply couldn’t be interpreted.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ocado sales hit by warehouse fire

BBC Technology News - 11 hours 4 min ago
The firm had more orders per week, but their average size was slightly lower.

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