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Industry & Technology

Mission to Mars: Hilary Swank leads an elite team in trailer for Away

Ars Technica - 2 hours 29 min ago

Hillary Swank stars as an elite astronaut preparing for a crewed mission to Mars in the new Netflix sci-fi drama series Away.

An elite international team of astronauts must leave family and friends behind for a three-year crewed mission to Mars in Away, a new science fiction drama from Netflix, starring Hilary Swank. Created by Andrew Hinderaker (Penny Dreadful), the 10-episode series was inspired by a 2014 Esquire article by Chris Jones about astronaut Scott Kelly's year-long sojourn aboard the International Space Station with a Russian cosmonaut—the longest space mission in American history.

Per the official synopsis:

Away is a thrilling, emotional drama on an epic scale that celebrates the incredible advancements humans can achieve and the personal sacrifices they must make along the way. As American astronaut Emma Green (Hilary Swank, I Am Mother, Boys Don't Cry) prepares to lead an international crew on the first mission to Mars, she must reconcile her decision to leave behind her husband (Josh Charles, The Good Wife) and teenage daughter (Talitha Bateman, Countdown) when they need her the most. As the crew's journey into space intensifies, their personal dynamics and the effects of being away from their loved ones back on Earth become increasingly complex. ​Away shows that sometimes to reach for the stars, we must leave home behind.

The trailer opens with Emma's NASA engineer husband Matt playing the opening bars of Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune" on a piano, as she presents their daughter Alexis with a gift: a necklace with three stones, representing Earth, the Moon, and Mars. "And the string is me making my way back to you. So just remember, the further away I get, I'm actually getting closer to being back to you."

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The headphones that even a DJ can't break?

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 2 min ago
A new way to produce tiny speakers promises more robust headphones with high quality sound.

Greed may be good when it comes to solar power

Ars Technica - 4 hours 8 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Jeff Martin/DOE)

Based purely on economics, there should be a lot more solar panels on roofs in the United States. With the dramatic plunge in the price of panels, solar systems have become competitive with the cost of electricity in a growing number of states, leaving the question of sun exposure to be the primary driver of whether adoption makes sense. Yet photovoltaic-equipped houses remain a rarity in the US, despite many states pushing for the adoption of renewable energy.

So why isn't that push working? To try to find out, a small team of researchers worked with a non-profit that promotes solar installs, helping test out two different message. One message focused on self-interest and emphasized the economic benefits of installing panels. The other was what's termed "pro-social," meaning it emphasized that installation of solar would bring benefits to the community. As the researchers found, self-interest was king—even after the promotion was over. But self-interest did have a side benefit in that the systems that were installed tended to get the most energy out of their panels.

Scripting Solarize

The work relies on a program called Solarize. Solarize runs town-level programs that include a single installer that provides the entire town with a group rate. Program ambassadors also run pro-solar programs within the town, encouraging adoption. These programs were the ones targeted by the researchers, who arranged an experiment based on the message delivered by these ambassadors. Some towns received messages that focused on self-interest, like “save thousands by installing solar.” Others were more community-focused—“Our community is doing something together to have more clean energy,” for example. The researchers worked with the program in Connecticut (one of the researchers is at Yale), which has expensive electricity.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Lest we forget: Mark 75 years of the atomic bomb with the Ars watch list

Ars Technica - August 10, 2020 - 10:40pm

Enlarge / Ars marks the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bomb with a look at how the complicated legacy of this world-altering event has been reflected in film and television. (credit: Film collage by Aurich Lawson)

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first atomic bomb. Just before sunrise on July 16, 1945, in a secluded spot in a central New Mexican desert, a prototype bomb nicknamed "Gadget" was hoisted to the top of a 100-foot tower and detonated. The blast vaporized the steel tower and produced a mushroom cloud rising to more than 38,000 feet. The heat from the explosion melted the sandy soil around the tower into a mildly radioactive glassy crust now known as "trinitite." And the shock wave broke windows as far as 120 miles away.

After the Trinity test, Richard Feynman recalled finding his colleague, Robert Wilson, sitting despondently amid the celebration. "It's a terrible thing that we made," Feynman remembered him saying. Hans Bethe famously observed, "The physicists have known sin. And this is a knowledge which they cannot lose." It's often said that physicists became so intent on the intellectual challenge of building an atomic bomb that they lost sight of the profound implications of what they were creating.

Those implications became all too clear on August 6, 1945, when a gun-triggered fission bomb dubbed "Little Boy" fell on Hiroshima, killing an estimated 70,000 to 130,000 people. Three days later, the implosion-triggered "Fat Man" was dropped on Nagasaki, adding another 45,000 human casualties. The United States won the war but at a horrific cost. The world has been haunted by the prospect of a devastating nuclear apocalypse ever since—and so has TV and the movies. So to mark this somber occasion, we've compiled a watch list of films and shows that we feel best reflect the complicated legacy of the atomic bomb.

Read 55 remaining paragraphs | Comments

How the MUGEN community built the ultimate fighting game crossover

Ars Technica - August 10, 2020 - 8:51pm

Enlarge / Admit it, you've always wondered if Goku could beat Ronald McDonald in a fight. (credit: Elecbyte)

The question, "Who would win in a fight?" is the root of many fierce debates throughout the history of pop culture. The notion of pitting characters from different properties and different media against one another is exciting to discuss. And when it comes to letting fans live out these arguments, there are few better outlets than fighting games.

Even within a genre known for character-merging crossovers, there's one two-decade-old game that reigns supreme when it comes to pitting a wide variety of characters against one another. That program is MUGEN, derived from the Japanese word for "infinite," which is an appropriate name for a program that provides near limitless potential for players to create new fighting games and characters.

MUGEN began life just before the turn of the century as a PC-based side-scrolling shoot-'em-up title, created by a small company called Elecbyte. The team was originally experimenting with creating an engine to handle the rigors of so-called shmup games but found that it just wasn't living up to what they had hoped to create. Taking inspiration from a PC Korean Street Fighter 2 hack known as SFIBM, Elecbyte decided to change course from a shooter to a 2D fighting game engine.

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After pulling it three years ago, Google reintroduces Maps for Apple Watch

Ars Technica - August 10, 2020 - 8:10pm

Today, Google made two announcements about Google Maps for Apple platforms. First, Google's app now works with the dashboard view on CarPlay screens, allowing drivers to see maps and media controls side-by-side. Second, Google is relaunching the Maps app on the Apple Watch, with turn-by-turn directions.

CarPlay's dashboard mode was introduced in iOS 13 late last year, but it only supported Apple Maps. Apple began offering other developers the ability to take advantage of it in March with the release of iOS 13.4, and today marks the finalization of Google's support for the feature. Google's blog post announcing the update says it should go into effect for all users of CarPlay-supported vehicles today.

The new Google Maps app for Apple Watch won't arrive today, though. Instead, Google promises the app is launching worldwide "in the coming weeks." The app will offer "step-by-step" directions for driving, walking, cycling, or taking public transit.

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The 2021 Polestar 2 has a great cabin—and deep Android integration

Ars Technica - August 10, 2020 - 8:03pm

Enlarge / On the road with the new Polestar 2. (credit: Polestar)


Any day I get to drive a new battery electric car is a good day. Which made last Friday a good day, because we got our first drive in the $59,900 Polestar 2. It's the first mass-production model from a new standalone brand that was spun out of Volvo and Geely a few years ago. And the tl;dr is that the Polestar 2 is a stylish sedan with a wonderful interior, some very fancy suspension bits, and oh—it's also the first car to use Google's Android Automotive OS.

A brief history of Polestar

Once upon a time, Polestar was to Volvo as AMG is to Mercedes-Benz—a tuning company that spiffed up more pedestrian models, imbuing them with a little Nürburgring magic. But in 2017, Volvo and Geely (which owns the Swedish automaker) spun Polestar out as an independent company, one focused on sustainability and performance. Its first product was the Polestar 1, a hand-built $150,000 plug-in hybrid GT that dazzled me when I drove it in late 2019.

But with a total production run of only 1,500 cars over three years, you can think of the Polestar 1 like a calling card or a statement of intent. The future of Polestar is purely electric (so no more PHEVs)—and shipping cars in much greater volumes. By the end of 2021, we'll see the Polestar 3, an SUV that promises to look a lot like the stunning Precept concept shown off in April. But first, there's the Polestar 2. (Interesting fact: because Polestar is recognized as a standalone OEM, it has its own allocation of 200,000 vehicles for the IRS plug-in tax credit, as opposed to being counted together with Volvo.)

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Massive Salmonella outbreak sweeps US, Canada. Nearly 900 sickened so far

Ars Technica - August 10, 2020 - 7:21pm

Enlarge / Red onions have been fingered as the likely culprit. (credit: Getty | Thomas Trutschel)

An outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to tainted onions has mushroomed in North America. So far, the outbreak has sickened 879 people, hospitalizing 114 across 43 US states and seven Canadian provinces.

The US Food and Drug Administration traced the outbreak back to red onions produced by Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, California. Thomson issued a recall of all of its onions August 1, covering red, yellow, white, and sweet bulbs that were shipped any time after May 1. But the outbreak numbers will likely continue to climb, given the potentially week-long period between eating a bad onion and developing symptoms, plus a typical two-to-four-week lag in case reporting.

The tainted onions were shipped to wholesalers, restaurants, and grocery stores across Canada as well as in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. Affected stores include Walmart, Kroger, Fred Meyer, Publix, Giant Eagle, Food Lion, and H-E-B. The onions were sold under brand names: Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Tender Loving Care, El Competitor, Hartley’s Best, Onions 52, Majestic, Imperial Fresh, Kroger, Utah Onions, and Food Lion.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

TSB customers' anger at online banking issues

BBC Technology News - August 10, 2020 - 7:18pm
Some customers have reported problems with their online banking on computers and the app.

AT&T to lay off 600 at HBO and Warner Bros. after revenue decline

Ars Technica - August 10, 2020 - 6:50pm

Enlarge / An AT&T sign and logo on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2020 in Park City, Utah. (credit: Getty Images | Mat Hayward)

AT&T's WarnerMedia division is planning to lay off hundreds of employees in AT&T's latest cost-cutting move. "Warner Bros. is expected to commence layoffs of around 650 people starting Monday, according to people familiar with the matter, while HBO is seen shedding between 150 and 175 staffers. A WarnerMedia spokesman declined to comment," Variety reported yesterday.

The numbers quoted in Variety may be a bit too high. A source with knowledge of the AT&T layoffs told Ars that the real number is about 600 jobs across all of WarnerMedia, which includes Warner Bros., HBO, and Turner.

The layoffs come days after WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar announced a shakeup including the departure of three executives and an increased focus on AT&T's new HBO Max streaming service. Kilar detailed the changes in an internal memo published by CNBC on Friday.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Russia’s space leader blusters about Mars in the face of stiff budget cuts

Ars Technica - August 10, 2020 - 5:16pm

Enlarge / Dmitry Rogozin, director of the Roscosmos State Corporation, gives an open lecture titled "Transformation of Roscosmos" at Moscow State University on May 23, 2019. (credit: Vladimir GerdoTASS via Getty Images)

The leader of Russia's civil space program appears to be increasingly disengaged from reality. In recent months Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of Roscosmos, has given a series of interviews in which he has made all manner of big promises about the supposedly bright future of Russia's space program.

For example, in an interview published just today, Rogozin made the fantastical claim that his country's space program has the technical means to reach Mars and land cosmonauts there within eight to 10 years. If Russia is ready to finance such a plan, Rogozin guaranteed that Roscosmos stands ready to deliver.

Russia, Rogozin also recently said, is ready to do reuse better than SpaceX and the United States. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, he said, is only "semi-reusable," and Russia aspires to build a 21st-century rocket capable of 100 flights. He then reiterated that Russia would like to develop a version of its Soyuz rocket that has a methane-fueled engine.

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Trump's WeChat ban shocks Chinese abroad

BBC Technology News - August 10, 2020 - 1:34pm
For China's global community, the app provides a vital means of staying in touch with home.

Toshiba shuts the lid on laptops after 35 years

BBC Technology News - August 10, 2020 - 12:33pm
Toshiba has sold its remaining shares in its former personal computing division.

Social media trolling: Sportswomen speak about their experiences

BBC Technology News - August 10, 2020 - 6:01am
A BBC Sport survey uncovered shocking examples of social media abuse sent to sportswomen. Here are three women's stories in their own words.

Twitter 'looking' at a possible TikTok tie-up

BBC Technology News - August 10, 2020 - 5:00am
The messaging platform has approached under-fire TikTok about a possible deal, according to reports.

Xbox Series S outed by next-gen controller leak—and it’s legit [Updated]

Ars Technica - August 10, 2020 - 2:48am

The next version of the standard, cross-console Xbox controller has been spotted in the wild, ahead of its official retail announcement. But the two leaked controllers we've seen thus far are even more intriguing because of something they have in common: an apparently official mention of "Xbox Series S" as an additional Microsoft next-gen console.

Ars Technica can confirm that this is indeed the name of an upcoming, unannounced Microsoft product, based on conversations with people familiar with Microsoft's hardware plans. The Series S will apparently exist alongside the well-publicized Xbox Series X, which still doesn't have a publicly known date or price.

[Update: A Microsoft spokesperson offered the following statement following the publication of this piece: "We have a lot in store for Xbox in 2020 and can’t wait to share with you. However, we have nothing to announce at this time."]

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Hyundai will launch three new electric cars, starting in 2021

Ars Technica - August 10, 2020 - 12:30am

Hyundai is going to market a range of new battery-electric cars under Ioniq branding. The Korean automaker first introduced the Ioniq name in 2016 with a subcompact that comes in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and BEV flavors, but early in 2021 those cars will be joined by the Ioniq 5, a midsize BEV crossover based on a 2019 concept called 45. In 2022, Ioniq will launch the Ioniq 6, an electric sedan based on the stunning Prophecy concept car from earlier this year. Finally, in early 2024, there will be a larger SUV called the Ioniq 7. It's not the first time we've seen this strategy from the automaker, which did the same thing with the creation of Genesis as a standalone luxury brand.

"The Ioniq brand will change the paradigm of EV customer experience. With a new emphasis on connected living, we will offer electrified experiences integral to an eco-friendly lifestyle,” said Wonhong Cho, executive vice president and global chief marketing officer at Hyundai Motor Company.

Ioniq's first three BEVs will be built on a new platform that Hyundai is developing, called the Electric Global Modular Platform, or E-GMP, which it says is highly flexible with regard to body style and interior design. We can probably expect these cars to be built in serious volume; Hyundai Motor Group (which also includes Kia and Genesis) is aiming to sell 1 million BEVs a year by 2025. By that same year it also plans to sell more than half a million hydrogen fuel cell EVs.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Social media trolling affects almost a third of elite British sportswomen, BBC Sport survey finds

BBC Technology News - August 10, 2020 - 12:01am
Elite British sportswomen speak out about "horrific abuse" on social media, telling a BBC Sport survey about constant comments they receive.

HS that suspended teen who tweeted photo of hallway has 9 COVID-19 cases

Ars Technica - August 9, 2020 - 9:01pm

Enlarge / Photo from North Paulding High School, tweeted by student Hannah Watters on Tuesday, August 4. (credit: Hannah Watters)

There are nine newly confirmed COVID-19 cases at the high school that suspended a 15-year-old who had tweeted a photo of a hallway packed with maskless students.

North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, sent a letter to parents Saturday, saying, "At this time, we know there were six students and three staff members who were in school for at least some time last week who have since reported to us that they have tested positive." The letter was published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Most or even all of the six students and three staff members who tested positive could have had the virus before the school reopened on Monday, August 3. As Harvard Medical School explains, "The time from exposure to symptom onset (known as the incubation period) is thought to be three to 14 days, though symptoms typically appear within four or five days after exposure," and "a person with COVID-19 may be contagious 48 to 72 hours before starting to experience symptoms."

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Real Genius turns 35—celebrating this cult classic is a moral imperative

Ars Technica - August 9, 2020 - 2:30pm

Enlarge / Mitch (Gabriel Jarret) and Chris (Val Kilmer) play young science whizzes trying to build a 5-kilowatt laser in the 1985 film Real Genius. (credit: TriStar Pictures)

Back to the Future justly dominated the summer box office in 1985, but it's too bad its massive success overshadowed another nerd-friendly gem, Real Genius, which debuted one month later, on August 9. Now celebrating its 35th anniversary, the film remains one of the most charming, winsome depictions of super-smart science whizzes idealistically hoping to change the world for the better with their work. It also boasts a lot of reasonably accurate science—a rare occurrence at the time.

Real Genius came out the same year as the similarly themed films Weird Science—which spawned a 1990s TV sitcom—and My Science Project, because 1980s Hollywood tended to do things in threes. But I'd argue that Real Genius has better stood the test of time, despite being so quintessentially an '80s film—right down to the many montages set to electronic/synth-pop chart-toppers. The film only grossed $12.9 million domestically against its $8 million budget, compared to $23.8 million domestically for its fellow cult classic, Weird Science. (My Science Project bombed with a paltry $4.1 million.) Reviews were mostly positive, however, and over time it became a sleeper hit via VHS, and later, DVD and streaming platforms.

(Spoilers for the 35-year-old film below.)

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