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Industry & Technology

The 416 quadrillion reasons why Japan’s supercomputer is number 1

Ars Technica - 31 min 23 sec ago

Local Fox news stations had this English captioned version of a very popular, supercomputer-generated video from Japan.

For a good part of last week, the unrivaled highlight of Japanese television—looped on news programs—was a short computer simulation of a salaryman sitting at his desk and coughing. Its primetime primacy is total: this cough is the Killing Eve of animated expectoration.

The imagined office in the video, like tens of thousands of its real-life equivalents around Japan, appears carefully prepared for the great return to work and new normal of life under COVID-19. The desks are separated by decent physical space and sensible plastic partitions cleave the landscape.

But it is all in vain. As the simulation shows in terrifying particulate detail, while most of the army of droplets released from the cougher’s mouth are blocked by the screens, a crack platoon makes it over the partition, delivering its deadly payload into the neighbouring workspace.

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Review: fierce and fun Warrior Nun is a perfect Fourth of July binge-watch

Ars Technica - July 3, 2020 - 7:50pm

A young woman gains extraordinary powers when a divine artifact is accidentally embedded in her back, and finds herself reluctantly battling demons on Earth in Warrior Nun, a new Netflix series based on the comic books by Ben Dunn. It sounds like a cheesy premise, but this adaptation is anything but. It's a fiercely fun, entertaining, occasionally thought-provoking series that will have you hooked and eager for a second season.

(Mild spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As we previously reported, the first issue in Dunn's manga-style comic book series, "Warrior Nun Areala," debuted in 1994. The series largely features Sister Shannon Masters, a modern-day crusader for the Catholic Church's (fictional) Order of the Cruciform Sword. In the series mythology, the Order dates back to 1066, when a young Valkyrie woman named Auria converted to Christianity. Renamed Areala, she selects a new avatar every generation to carry on her mission of battling the agents of hell. Sister Shannon is the Chosen One. It's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer got religion.

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Schools already struggled with cybersecurity. Then came COVID-19

Ars Technica - July 3, 2020 - 3:30pm

Enlarge / "School" is probably going to look something like this for a whole lot of families in the coming weeks. (credit: Rafael Ben-Ari | Getty Images)

This time last year, Jaggar Henry was enjoying the summer like so many other teens. The 17-year-old had a job, was hanging out with friends on the weekends, and was just generally spending a lot of time online. But then, at the end of July, Henry combed his hair, donned a slightly oversized Oxford shirt, and appeared before his school district's board in Polk County, Florida—one of the larger school districts in the United States—to outline a slew of security flaws he had found in its digital systems. His presentation was the culmination of months of work and focused on software used by more than 100,000 students.

Those vulnerabilities have been fixed, but Henry, who now works full time on education technology, says that his experience illustrates the challenges facing school districts across the United States—and a problem that's grown more acute in the wake of COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic has had major cybersecurity implications around the world. Tailored phishing attacks and contact-tracing scams prey on fear and uncertainty. Fraudsters are targeting economic relief and unemployment payments. The stakes are higher than ever for ransomware attacks that target health care providers and other critical infrastructure. For businesses, the transition to remote work has created new exposures and magnified existing ones.

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How mobile games crushed consoles

Ars Technica - July 3, 2020 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / Apparently, enough people bought Fortnite's wholly optional outfits and dance moves to fuel $100 million of prizes for the game's first year of esports tourneys. (credit: Epic Games)

The coronavirus crisis has proved a bonanza for video game makers, as shut-in consumers turn to digital distractions in greater numbers and for longer sessions than ever before.

But while the sector’s big listed groups such as Nintendo, Activision Blizzard, and Take Two have enjoyed share price rises of more than 25 percent since early March, a clutch of mobile gaming studios, many privately held, have enjoyed the real windfall. Along with the sudden rise in leisure time among a ready market of more than two billion smartphone owners, they have reaped the rewards of a plunge in mobile advertising prices as other corporate sectors slashed their marketing budgets.

“That gave a huge opening for companies like ours,” said Alexis Bonte, group chief operating officer at Stillfront, a free-to-play gaming group based in Stockholm whose share price has more than doubled since mid-March. “We got a double effect—the increased organics [usage growth] but also the effect of more efficient marketing . . . It was huge.”

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Stellar deepfake thriller The Capture lands in USA thanks to NBC Peacock

Ars Technica - July 3, 2020 - 2:00pm

NBC Peacock, the 370th streaming service to debut in the past 12 months, will publicly launch on July 15 after an Xfinity-exclusive soft launch earlier this year. That means it’s time to review the service’s exclusive series—though in the case of The Capture, one of Peacock’s most captivating launch options, that “exclusivity” is regional.

Unlike Peacock offerings like Brave New World and Intelligence, The Capture is an import for American viewers, having already aired on the online-only BBC Three in autumn 2019. But it’s still decidedly current: a mystery thriller that revolves around deepfake technology and government distrust.

Due process versus “real” videos

By turns enthralling and suspenseful, The Capture is the sort of show one could easily binge in an afternoon. (In fitting BBC fashion, the series’ first season runs a lean six episodes.) It stars Holliday Grainger (Strike) as DI Rachel Carey, an SO15 officer on loan to Homicide & Serious Crime, who finds herself embroiled in the case of former Lance Corporal Shaun Emery, played by Callum Turner (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald).

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UK government takes £400m stake in satellite firm OneWeb

BBC Technology News - July 3, 2020 - 1:55pm
The UK helps rescue company from bankruptcy as part of a plan to replace the EU's Galileo sat-nav system.

The bat-virus détente

Ars Technica - July 3, 2020 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / Researchers examine a bat as part of their search for dangerous animal pathogens in the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative Lab in Yaounde, Cameroon. (credit: Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

For several weeks in March, Arinjay Banerjee would eat breakfast at 6am and then drive the empty roads of Toronto to a restricted-access lab. Then he’d ready himself for work, donning three layers of gloves, a helmeted mask kitted with an air-purifying respirator, and a surgical-style gown.

The interlocked doors and special filtered ventilation system of the lab, fitted with alarms should air circulation malfunction, are designed to stop outward air flow. After eight hours at the bench, Banerjee would put aside his scrubs and boot covers for sterilization, change out of his work sneakers and return to a basement apartment in the home of a colleague.

The stringent conditions in that Toronto lab—only one level below the most secure in the biosafety hierarchy—were crucial. Banerjee, a virologist, was on a team working to isolate the SARS-CoV-2 virus from one of the first patients in Canada. As the pandemic unfolded, he almost felt safer suited up in the containment lab than he did when out in the world.

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Reckful: Twitch and gamers pay tribute after star's death

BBC Technology News - July 3, 2020 - 12:31pm
Streaming platform Twitch said it was "devastated" at the loss of a "streaming pioneer".

Rocket Report: SpaceX faces South Texas review, the Angara A5 costs too much

Ars Technica - July 3, 2020 - 12:00pm

Enlarge / SpaceX has launched the Falcon 9 rocket 88 times, including 11 times in 2020. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

Welcome to Edition 3.06 of the Rocket Report! On Saturday, Americans will celebrate the Fourth of July with preposterously small solid rockets. Readers of this report, however, will know that every day of the year is worth celebrating with rockets. And there's plenty of news to go around this week, so let's get to it.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Weather forces a very long delay in Vega launch. The European rocket firm Arianespace has been trying to launch a Vega rocket carrying dozens of small satellites for the better part of a year. Most recently, unfavorable upper-level winds scuttled three different launch attempts in late June. On Wednesday, Arianespace seemed to throw up its hands in frustration and postpone the flight until August 17, "when the forecast is expected to be more favorable based on modeling of the winds."

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BBC Sport website at 20: How the site has changed over the past two decades

BBC Technology News - July 3, 2020 - 7:05am
To mark the BBC Sport website's 20th anniversary, we look back at how the changing needs of sports fans helped shape its history.

Humanoid robot set for film role and other tech news

BBC Technology News - July 3, 2020 - 6:57am
BBC Click's Jen Copestake looks at the best of the week's technology stories.

George Floyd: Twitter drops 'master', 'slave' and 'blacklist'

BBC Technology News - July 3, 2020 - 3:30am
The social media platform along with JPMorgan are the latest firms to address their internal language.

EVO 2020 game tourney canceled, co-founder fired [Updated]

Ars Technica - July 3, 2020 - 1:55am

Enlarge (credit: EVO)

EVO—the long-running video game tournament dedicated to fighting-game series like Street Fighter and Tekken—was rocked by departures on Thursday in the wake of startling allegations lodged against its co-founder.

Shortly afterward, the man in question, Joey Cuellar, apparently acknowledged these accusations of sexual assault against a minor in a brief, frank post on social media. This was swiftly followed by EVO firing Cuellar from the organization and canceling EVO 2020's online tournaments outright.

After accusations came departures

Capcom announced its decision to withdraw all participation from EVO 2020 on Thursday evening, minutes after NetherRealm Studios, the developers of the Mortal Kombat and Injustice series, did the same. That means tentpole games Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat 11 will no longer be played; the latter game figured largely into EVO's transition to an online-only event, owing to its reputation for superior netcode. Mane6, the developers behind new EVO participant Them's Fightin' Herds, followed suit shortly after.

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TikTok's Boogaloo extremism problem

BBC Technology News - July 3, 2020 - 12:39am
Extremists have found a home on Tiktok, and the platform is working out what to do about it.

Coronavirus: A lockdown journey from couch to kettlebells

BBC Technology News - July 3, 2020 - 12:35am
Sometimes life throws you curveballs - and at the moment they're shaped like kettlebell weights.

Is Facebook losing the boycott battle?

BBC Technology News - July 3, 2020 - 12:26am
An advertising boycott wants Facebook to do more about hate speech and misinformation.

Finding the 'invisible' millions who are not on maps

BBC Technology News - July 3, 2020 - 12:11am
How open map data is filling in the world's missing maps and helping trace the spread of disease.

Top tips for making sure what you're seeing online is legitimate

BBC Technology News - July 3, 2020 - 12:01am
Members of the BBC's disinformation team offer tips on how to verify photos and videos.

NY partygoers get subpoenas after stonewalling COVID-19 contact tracers

Ars Technica - July 2, 2020 - 11:07pm

Enlarge / This picture taken on April 5, 2019, shows nurses waiting for patients at the Rockland County Health Department in Haverstraw, Rockland County, New York, amid a measles outbreak. (credit: Getty | JOHANNES EISELE )

Test, isolate, trace, quarantine: these are the bedrock public health measures proven effective at stamping out an infectious disease before it flares to the point where the only option left is to foist draconian lockdowns on whole populations.

The World Health Organization and public health experts have uttered and re-uttered the strategy ad nauseam since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in January. And health officials in many places followed the advice, quickly testing those at risk, isolating those infected, tracing people with whom patients had contact, and quarantining anyone exposed. It’s a strategy that requires leadership and resources but also public cooperation and commitment from everyone to do their part to defeat a common viral enemy for the greater good. With all of that, the strategy works. The places that followed the advice and largely stood together—Hong Kong and South Korea, for instance—are among those that have been the most successful at containing the devastating new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

The United States, meanwhile, did not take the advice, and the virus has spread widely, triggering lockdowns and now re-lockdowns. So far, the US has recorded over 2.7 million cases and more than 128,000 deaths—and counting. The country has more than 25 percent of the cases globally, while only having around 4 percent of the world’s population. Still, the lesson has not sunk in.

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Commerce Inspector General says “Sharpiegate” report being blocked

Ars Technica - July 2, 2020 - 8:36pm

Enlarge / Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. (credit: NASA HQ PHOTO / Flickr)

Last month, we covered the results of a NOAA investigation into scientific integrity violations associated with its handling of President Donald Trump’s self-inflicted hurricane controversy.

The problems started when Trump incorrectly tweeted that Alabama was likely going to be impacted by Hurricane Dorian. After seeing an influx of questions, the Birmingham National Weather Service office tweeted a clarification. Rather than simply correcting the mistake, the White House insisted that the President was right, an insistence that eventually led to his marker-amended forecast map, presented from the Oval Office.

NOAA’s issue was that its leadership released an unsigned statement that sided with President Trump, criticizing the Birmingham office for speaking “in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

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