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Industry & Technology

This strange “paint disease” is putting Georgia O‘Keefe paintings at risk

Ars Technica - 1 hour 37 min ago

Enlarge / Dale Kronkright (left), head of conservation at the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, uses a handy new imaging tool to study "acne" on Georgia O'Keefe's "Ritz Tower." Northwestern University's Oliver Cossairt (right) developed the tool. (credit: YouTube/Northwestern University)

The Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, houses some 140 oil paintings by the iconic American artist, along with thousands of additional works from O'Keefe's prolific career. But the oil paintings have been developing tiny pin-sized blisters, almost like acne, for decades. Conservationists and scholars initially assumed they were grains of sand trapped in the paint. But then the protrusions grew, spread, and started flaking off, leading to mounting concern.

Now an interdisciplinary team of scientists from Northwestern University is studying this mysterious "paint disease," using a low-cost, portable tool that allows the user to image the surface of the paintings quickly and easily with a smartphone or a tablet. They demonstrated the new technique last week at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, DC.

This "paint disease" isn't limited to O'Keefe's oeuvre. Conservators have found similar deterioration in oil-based masterpieces across all time periods, including works by Rembrandt. Chemists concluded that the blisters are actually metal carboxylate soaps, the result of a chemical reaction between metal ions in the lead and zinc pigments, and fatty acids in the binding medium used in the paint. The soaps start to clump together to form the blisters and migrate through the paint film. "They can form exudates on the surface, which obscure the painting itself, creating an insoluble film, or an effect of transparency, so you can look through those layers, which was not the intention of the artist," said Marc Walton of Northwestern University, who co-led the study.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fallout: Wasteland Warfare: A “rad” miniatures game full of Nuka-Cola flavor

Ars Technica - 2 hours 37 min ago

Enlarge / Mutants defending their camp.

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.

After going decades without a proper Fallout tabletop title, we’ve now been graced with two quality releases in the span of a little more than a year. While Fantasy Flight’s offering is a narrative adventure game about roaming the wasteland, Modiphius’ new Wasteland Warfare is a miniatures skirmish design that features grizzled war bands clashing in harrowing environments. (Think Warhammer, but we swap Space Marines for the Brotherhood of Steel and Orks for Super Mutants.) At the risk of making you cringe, I’ll say it: the game is pretty rad.

Because this is a true miniatures game, it requires some work. The two-player starter set comes with pre-assembled plastic miniatures, but expansion figures are multi-part and will require assembly. You will fight with 6-12 of these figures over the stretch of an hour or two, and you will need to supply your own terrain for the brutes to battle over. It’s a commitment, as these games tend to be, but one that promises a deep and immersive experience in return.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

$100K Mario seller: “It’s probably the wrong move, long term, to sell”

Ars Technica - 3 hours 7 min ago

Enlarge / Ba-ding! (credit: Aurich)

Last week, a copy of the first printing of Super Mario Bros. in pristine condition sold for just over $100,000. This week, the collector who sold that gem told Ars that he's been preparing for this moment for years.

The seller—who asked to remain anonymous to protect his privacy but goes by the handle Bronty online—told Ars he didn't even have an NES growing up. He just played games like Super Mario Bros. at a friend's house. But around 2002, at age 27, Bronty was gripped by a desire to once again play the NES games he hadn't thought about for well over a decade.

A quick trip to eBay got him his nostalgic gaming fix and sparked an interest in a new hobby that fewer people were paying attention to at the time. "Having already been a comic collector for many years, I had an interest in collecting in general," Bronty told Ars. "I started thinking, 'Would this be an interesting thing to collect?'"

Read 44 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The triumphant rediscovery of the biggest bee on Earth

Ars Technica - 3 hours 40 min ago

Enlarge / Wallace's Giant Bee next to a honeybee for scale. (credit: Clay Bolt)

For security reasons, I can’t tell you exactly where Clay Bolt rediscovered Wallace’s giant bee. But I can tell you this. With a wingspan of two and a half inches, the Goliath is four times bigger than a European honeybee. Very much unlike its honey-manufacturing cousin, it’s got enormous jaws, more like those of the famous stag beetle. And it lives not in nests with thousands of family members but largely alone in burrows in termite mounds, a tubular home it coats with waterproof resin.

Last month, Bolt and his colleagues were on a miserable slog through the rain on an Indonesian Island That Shall Not Be Named, searching for termite mounds in trees, the last place a scientist spotted the superlative species of bee nearly 40 years ago. Sometimes they’d sit under a tree with a pair of binoculars for 20 minutes, watching for the distinctive movements that would reveal a bee in a mound way up high. For mounds closer to the ground, they’d scramble up for a closer look.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dragon aces final NASA review, now set for test flight on March 2

Ars Technica - 15 hours 27 min ago

Enlarge / It is nearly time for crewed flights on SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft. (credit: SpaceX)

On Friday, key NASA officials gathered in a large meeting room at Kennedy Space Center. Here, for decades, NASA managers reviewed analyses about the next space shuttle mission and, more often than not, cleared the vehicle for launch. But after 2011, there were no more crew vehicles to review.

That changed this week when NASA convened a "flight readiness review" for SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft for its initial test flight, without people on board. By Friday evening, the meeting was over and, among the NASA and SpaceX officials, the verdict was in—Dragon was ready for its demonstration mission as part of the commercial crew program on March 2. Launch time for the Falcon 9 rocket is 2:48am ET (07:48 UTC), from Kennedy Space Center. “I’m ready to fly," NASA's commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders, said succinctly.

The mood was ebullient among NASA leadership as well as SpaceX's top official on the scene, Hans Koenigsmann, the company's vice president of build and flight reliability. He, too, had participated in the flight readiness review in the storied room where so many shuttle meetings had been held.  "It was a really big deal for SpaceX, and me personally," he said.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

NHS told to ditch 'outdated' pagers

BBC Technology News - 15 hours 56 min ago
The health secretary wants to scrap the “archaic technology” which costs the NHS about £6.6m a year.

Nike app for self-tying shoe comes undone

BBC Technology News - February 22, 2019 - 11:49pm
The Google Android app that controls the new Adapt BB fails to sync with wearers' feet.

INF Treaty exit? Putin says he’s ready to escalate to Cuban Missile Crisis levels

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 11:08pm

Enlarge / Go ahead. Make my day.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told members of the Russian media on Wednesday that if the US exits the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and deploys nuclear weapons to Europe, Russia will follow suit—by placing nuclear weapons off the coast of the US. The comments came on the heels of an announcement by Putin that a nuclear powered, nuclear-armed unmanned submersible vehicle (essentially a giant nuclear torpedo) was nearly ready for deployment. The Russian president said the first submarine equipped to carry it would be ready as soon as this spring.

"If they create threats to us, they should be aware of the potential consequences, so that they will not accuse us of unnecessary aggressiveness or whatever later," Putin said in comments following his February 20 address to Russia's Federal Assembly. "They have announced their decision," he said, referencing President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the INF treaty. "We know what can follow it. We tell them, 'Do the maths. Can you count? So, do it before making any decisions that would create additional threats to you.'"

To make that point clearer, Putin gave some of the numbers for "the maths." First, he would put nuclear-armed missiles on submarines or surface ships. "At a speed of Mach 9, these missiles can strike a target more than 1,000 km away," he explained. "Under the Law of the Sea, the exclusive economic zone is defined at some 400 km or 200 miles. Do the maths. The distance of 1,000 kilometers at Mach 9. How soon, in how many minutes, can these weapons reach their targets? Just compare, the flight time to Moscow is between 10 and 12 minutes. How long would it take to reach the decision-making centers that are creating threats to us? The calculation is not in their favor, at least, not today."

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The clearest images of Ultima Thule reveal a strange-looking object

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 10:47pm

Enlarge / The most detailed images of Ultima Thule, obtained just minutes before the spacecraft's closest approach at 12:33am EST on Jan. 1. (credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/SWRI)

Twenty-six minutes after the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve in Times Square, the long-range camera aboard the New Horizons spacecraft was hard at work. The probe was just six minutes from its closest approach to Ultima Thule, an object formally named 2014 MU69, which resides in the Kuiper Belt around the outer Solar System.

One, two, three—the images ticked through, each with an exposure time of just 0.025 seconds. Four, five, six—and now the spacecraft was less than 7,000km away from its target. Seven, eight, nine—these pictures had to be perfect, because New Horizons was passing Ultima Thule at a speed of more than 50,000km/hour.

Only recently were investigators able to download all of these images and cobble together a composite image of the contact binary. With a resolution of 33 meters per pixel, this is probably as good of a view as we're going to get of Ultima Thule. And it still looks something like a snowman, peanut, pancake, or combination thereof.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Frontier demands $4,300 cancellation fee despite horribly slow Internet

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 9:50pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Bill Oxford)

Frontier Communications reportedly charged a cancellation fee of $4,302.17 to the operator of a one-person business in Wisconsin, even though she switched to a different Internet provider because Frontier's service was frequently unusable.

Candace Lestina runs the Pardeeville Area Shopper, a weekly newspaper and family business that she took over when her mother retired. Before retiring, her mother had entered a three-year contract with Frontier to provide Internet service to the one-room office on North Main Street in Pardeeville. Six months into the contract, Candace Lestina decided to switch to the newly available Charter offering "for better service and a cheaper bill," according to a story yesterday by News 3 Now in Wisconsin.

The Frontier Internet service "was dropping all the time," Lestina told the news station. This was a big problem for Lestina, who runs the paper on her own in Pardeeville, a town of about 2,000 people. "I actually am everything. I make the paper, I distribute the paper," she said. Because of Frontier's bad service, "I would have times where I need to send my paper—I have very strict deadlines with my printer—and my Internet's out."

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

FTC plans to examine loot boxes with public workshop later this year

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 9:18pm

Unlike this ceramic replica, video game loot boxes are not filled with real candy. (credit: ThinkGeek)

In response to a request from Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), the Federal Trade Commission now says it will be convening a "public workshop on loot boxes" later this year.

The FTC said it hopes to attract "consumer advocacy organizations, parent groups, and industry members" to take part in the workshop, according to a letter from FTC Chairman Joseph Simons provided to Hassan. The short note suggests such a gathering could "help elicit information to guide subsequent consumer outreach, which could include a consumer alert."

Elsewhere in the letter, Simons notes the FTC's previous efforts to gauge the marketing and accessibility of violent video games (and other media) to children. And though the FTC in November revealed publicly that it is investigating the loot box issue, Simons also notes that he can't publicly comment on any potential law enforcement efforts in the space that might be ongoing.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Sackler behind OxyContin fraud offered twisted, mind-boggling defense

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 9:07pm

Enlarge / BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 25: Families who have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis protest in front of Suffolk Superior Court in Boston as lawyers for Purdue Pharma enter the courthouse for a status update in the Attorney General's suit against Purdue Pharma. (credit: Getty | Boston Globe)

Richard Sackler turned to verbal acrobatics and leaps in logic to try to dodge blame in the fraudulent marketing of Purdue’s potent opioid, OxyContin. The contorted explanations—which at points involved creating new definitions of words and claiming an enigmatic level of politeness—were first unveiled Thursday, February 21 from a sealed, 337-page deposition obtained by ProPublica.

The deposition was taken in August of 2015 as part of lawsuit brought by the state of Kentucky, which alleged Purdue illegally promoted its potent opioid painkiller. Back in 2007, federal prosecutors made similar allegations against Purdue, resulting in the company and three executives pleading guilty to misleading doctors, regulators, and patients over OxyContin’s addictiveness. Numerous legal complaints have piled up against Purdue in the aftermath. Purdue settled many of them, including Kentucky’s, which it settled for $24 million.

Yet in all the court battles, the mega-rich, secretive family behind Purdue, the Sacklers, have largely gone unscathed. In fact, the newly disclosed 2015 deposition is believed to be the only time a member of the Sackler family has been questioned over the fraudulent marketing.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Halo Infinite now linked to next Xbox’s launch, rumor suggests RPG elements

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 8:50pm

Enlarge / The Halo Infinite logo, as revealed at E3 2018. (credit: Xbox Studios / 343 Industries)

As rumors heat up over what to expect from this summer's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), one Microsoft-focused news site has tossed a few more logs on the next-Xbox fire. In today's case, that specifically means Halo rumors.

The news comes from Thurrott's Brad Sams, who's currently the leading resource for hints when it comes to Microsoft's plans for its next wave of Xbox-branded devices. On Friday, Sams pushed forward an unsurprising rumor: that the previously announced game Halo Infinite will be confirmed at E3 2019 as a "launch title" for Microsoft's next console (or consoles, more on that in a moment).

What makes this rumor a little more interesting is that Sams offered context we hadn't yet heard about the game:

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hayabusa2 touches down on asteroid, shoots it

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 8:05pm

Enlarge / The timeline of the approach and sampling process. (credit: JAXA)

Today, in an extended Twitter thread and ensuing press conference, JAXA's Hayabusa2 team announced that everything had gone well in gathering an asteroid sample for eventual return to Earth. While we don't yet know about the material it obtained, the Japanese spacecraft has successfully executed all the commands associated with the sample recovery.

Hayabusa2 has been in space since 2014, and it slowly made its way to an orbit 20km above the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. In late 2018, the spacecraft made a close approach to the asteroid and released two small, solar-powered robots that have been hopping on the surface since. This week has seen the first of what are intended to be several sample-gathering attempts.

The procedure for this is pretty straightforward: Hayabusa2 snuggles up to the asteroid and shoots it. The probe has a sample-gathering "horn" that it can place up against the asteroid's surface. Once it's in place, Hayabusa2 can fire a bullet into the asteroid's surface, blasting material loose that will be gathered by the horn and stored for return to Earth. JAXA, the Japanese space agency, calls its gun a "projector" but admits that the thing it fires is a bullet. JAXA has a webpage that describes some on-Earth testing of the whole system.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

SpaceX to European competitors: We’re not subsidized, you are

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 7:55pm

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches the Iridium-8 mission in January, 2019. (credit: SpaceX)

Last summer, the Trump administration announced that it was opening negotiations with the European Union to achieve "fairer, more balanced trade" on behalf of US corporations, workers, and consumers. Since then, the talks have proceeded in fits and starts, with the president threatening auto tariffs if he didn't like the deal struck by the current US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer.

As part of this process, US companies were apparently asked what grievances they had concerning current barriers to free trade with the European Union. The most prolific US rocket company, SpaceX, was among those that responded, and the company used the opportunity to complain about foreign subsidies propping up its competitors for commercial satellite launches.

Large subsidies

On Dec. 10, SpaceX director of commercial sales Stephanie Bednarek wrote to Edward Gresser, chair of the Trade Policy Staff Committee in the Office of the US Trade Representative. The letter was first reported on by a French publication, Les Echos. A copy was then shared in the NASASpaceFlight.com forums.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Why putting Xbox games on Switch isn’t as ridiculous as it might sound

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 6:41pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich)

Here at Ars, we tend to be skeptical of the regularly recurring rumors that two major video game competitors are going to be merging or teaming up in some way. From the early 2000s whispers that Microsoft would buy a struggling Sega to suggestions that Apple should buy Nintendo, these rumors often reflect wishful thinking at least as much as actual insider knowledge.

That said, we're still intrigued by recent rumors that Microsoft could be bringing certain Xbox One games—and a version of its Xbox Game Pass subscription service—to the Nintendo Switch and other consoles.

As the current scuttlebutt has it, an Xbox app to be released for the Switch would let players with an Xbox Game Pass subscription play a selection of Xbox One games on Nintendo's hardware. High-end games would work on Nintendo's lower-end hardware thanks to streaming via Microsoft's recently announced Project xCloud. Meanwhile, Microsoft would also sell certain low-end first-party Xbox One games, like the Ori series, to the Switch directly, according to the rumors.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google ends forced arbitration for all employees

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 5:51pm

Enlarge / Some Googlers held protest signs during the November 2018 walkout. (credit: Cyrus Farivar)

Google is dropping forced arbitration requirements for its employees, the company announced on Thursday. Starting March 21, both existing and new employees will have the option to sue Google in court and to join together in class-action lawsuits.

The news is a victory for a group of activist Google employees who have been pressuring Google to make this change since last fall. Thousands of Googlers walked out last November to protest Google's handling of recent sexual harassment controversies.

Google quickly agreed to drop forced arbitration requirements in certain sexual harassment cases. But critics kept up the pressure, and Google is now exempting all employees and direct contractors from forced arbitration requirements in a broader range of cases.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook VPN that snoops on users is pulled from Android store

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 5:41pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images )

Facebook has pulled its privacy-invading Onavo Protect VPN app off the Google Play store and will reportedly stop gobbling up data from users who still have the app on their devices.

Facebook "will immediately cease pulling in data from [Onavo] users for market research though it will continue operating as a Virtual Private Network in the short term to allow users to find a replacement," TechCrunch reported yesterday.

Facebook's Onavo website still exists, but links to the Android and iOS apps are both broken. Facebook pulled the app from the iPhone and iPad App Store in August 2018 after Apple determined that Onavo violated its data-collection rules. Facebook purchased Onavo, an Israeli company, in 2013.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Firefly planning a major rocket assembly and launch facility in Florida

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 4:37pm

On Friday, Texas-based rocket company Firefly announced that it has reached an agreement to develop manufacturing facilities and a launch site at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida. The new facility will support the production of up to 24 Alpha rockets a year, with the ability to scale from there, company officials said.

These are sizable plans. Over an unspecified period of time, the company said it will invest $52 million into the facilities. Florida’s spaceport development authority, Space Florida, will also provide an additional $18.9 million in infrastructure investments.

The company will build its launch facilities at Space Launch Complex 20, where Space Florida hopes to develop a multiuser facility for small-satellite launch companies like Firefly. It will also build an expansive facility to assemble its Alpha (and eventually the larger Beta) rockets, near the large Blue Origin plant in Florida's Exploration Park area.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A lunar lander launches from Florida for the first time since Apollo 17

Ars Technica - February 22, 2019 - 3:57pm

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches on Thursday night from Florida. (credit: SpaceX)

A mild winter breeze blew along the Florida coast when the final Apollo mission roared into the sky shortly after midnight on December 7, 1972. More than half a million people turned out to watch Apollo 17 lift off despite the late hour. Imagine you were lucky enough to be among them.

After the rocket disappears and nighttime closes in, you're musing about when humans might return to deep space, when an aging drifter in a Steppenwolf t-shirt interrupts your reverie.

Won't see that again in our lifetimes.

Huh?

A rocket sending a lander to the Moon. Ain't gonna happen again for nearly 50 years.

That's impossible. NASA is talking about going to Mars in a decade or so.

Well, the next rocket from here that's sending a lander to the Moon won't launch until 2019. 

I can't believe that. And how can you know that—

And that rocket will already have flown twice.

What? Our rockets fall into the ocean.

Yeah, well, there will be a boat to catch this one.

I think I've got to be going.

Oh, and the rocket will be built by a dude from South Africa, and the lander will carry an Israeli flag.

You'd probably better call a cab to get home, old-timer.

In December 1972, Elon Musk was one year old, living in South Africa. Israel was just three months removed from the Munich massacre, in which 11 members of its Olympic team were taken hostage and killed during the summer games. And yet nearly five decades later on Thursday night, Musk's company, SpaceX, would link up with a private Israeli effort to launch a small lander to the Moon's surface.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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