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How Science Fiction Imagines Data Storage

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 7:15pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

The soldier who removed his own bladder stone, and other medical history marvels

Ars Technica - March 24, 2019 - 5:21pm

Enlarge / A patient receiving dental treatment, circa 1892. There were several cases of "exploding teeth" in the 19th century that remain unexplained to this day. (credit: Oxford Science Archive/Getty Images)

While researching his 2017 book on the history of heart surgery, medical journalist Thomas Morris perused hundreds of journals from the 19th century. One day, a headline on the page opposite the one he was reading caught his eye: "sudden protrusion of the whole of the intestines into the scrotum." It was a bizarre case from the 1820s, involving a laborer run over by a brick-laden cart. The resulting hernia forced his intestines into his scrotum, and yet the laborer made a full recovery.

Once he got over his initial amused revulsion, Morris was struck by the sheer ingenuity displayed by doctors in treating the man's condition. And he found plenty of other similar bizarre cases as he continued his research, with people surviving truly horrifying injuries—a testament to the resiliency of the human body. "Doctors, even when they had less than a tenth of the knowledge we do today in terms of treating major trauma, could still come up with innovative and ingenious solutions to acute problems," he said.

Many of the most interesting medical cases Morris uncovered are featured in his hugely entertaining compendium of medical oddities, The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth, and Other Curiosities From the History of Medicine. Regular readers of his blog (tagline: "making you grateful for modern medicine") will revel in stories about a sword-swallowing sailor, a soldier who removed his own bladder stone, a man with combustible belches, a woman who peed through her nose, and a boy who inhaled a bird's larynx and started honking like a goose. All are delivered in elegant prose, punctuated with the author's distinctive dry wit. Morris has collected 500 or so of these frequently jaw-dropping cases thus far, and only included 70 or so in the book. So a sequel (or two) isn't out of the question.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Everything you need to know before Apple’s March 25 “it’s show time” event

Ars Technica - March 24, 2019 - 4:33pm

Enlarge / The Steve Jobs auditorium on Apple's new campus.

Update: Tomorrow, March 25, Apple will hold its first public event of 2019 at 1pm ET (10am PT). And press invitations, rumors, and prior evidence indicate this event could hold an unprecedented announcement for the company: its long-anticipated streaming content business. Ars will be on site Monday to find out and liveblog all of it, but for now we're resurfacing our rundown of what to expect from Apple this week and what surprises may be in store. This story originally ran on March 15, 2019 and appears unchanged below.

On March 25, Apple executives and partners will take to the stage in the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple's Cupertino campus to talk about subscriptions, software, services, entertainment, and media. These are all things Apple has dealt with before, but never before has an event focused so completely on them as we're expecting later this month.

That's not to say it's impossible that hardware will appear. The timing is right for an update to Apple's base iPad model, and reports and rumors have been joined by developer beta evidence to imply that hardware refreshes are imminent for a few Apple products like the iPad, iPad mini, iPod touch, and AirPods. These would fit perfectly in an event focused on services like TV, Music, and News: they are media-consumption devices, first and foremost.

Read 50 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Shipwreck on Nile vindicates Greek historian’s account after 2500 years

Ars Technica - March 24, 2019 - 4:15pm

Enlarge / The hull of so-called "Ship 17," a wreck discovered in the sunken port city of Thonis-Heracleion. (credit: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)

Nearly 2500 years ago, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus described an unusual type of river boat he saw along the Nile while visiting Egypt. Many archaeologists doubted his account, because there wasn't any evidence it ever existed.  But Herodotus is getting some posthumous revenge. The discovery of just such a ship has vindicated his account. The details appear in a new published monograph, Ship 17: a Baris from Thonis-Heracleion, by archaeologist and shipwreck specialist Alexander Belov.

Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian, often called the "father of history" because his nine-volume work, Histories, essentially founded the field. Around 450 BCE, he traveled to Egypt and wrote about seeing construction of a type of cargo boat called a baris. The passage is a fragment, just 23 lines long, and talks of shipbuilders cutting planks and arranging them like bricks using long internal ribs called tenons—a form of construction not known before. There was a mast made of acacia, sails of papyrus, a crescent-shaped hull, and a rudder for steering that passed through a hole in the keel.  But archaeologists had never found such a boat as he described, with many concluding that the historian may have embellished his account.

Why wouldn't they believe the father of history? Well, even though Herodotus is required reading among classicists, he has a reputation for being a bit of a fabulist. Plutarch wrote an entire treatise entitled On the Malice of Herodotus, noting that one could fill several tomes with the "lies and fictions" of the Greek historian. The accounts of his travels through Egypt, Africa, and Asia Minor in particular have been dismissed as more fiction than fact. Granted, some of this might be due to errors in translation. For instance, he claimed to witness fox-sized "ants" in Persia, who spread gold dust as they dug their mounds. There is actually a Himalayan marmot that does this, and the Persian words for "mountain ant" and "marmot" are quite similar.

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Why you should steer clear of “Florida Man Challenge”

Ars Technica - March 24, 2019 - 3:45pm

Enlarge / "Fun" as in "fund transfer"

This week, a viral "challenge" took Twitter and other social media by storm. The "Florida Man Challenge" called for people to:

  • Google "Florida Man" and their birthdate,
  • Find a headline about the activities of a "Florida Man" that matched their birthdate, and
  • Post that headline to their social media account.

The challenge spread like a cat meme, so much so that typing "Florida Man" into the Google search bar resulted in suggested entries that were almost exclusively calendar dates.

Everybody's Googling it.

When I walked into the @tb_times newsroom this morning, ALL of the top stories were about #FloridaMan. It was confusing until we realized why: Everyone is googling to see their Florida Man headline.

Of course, I wrote about it:https://t.co/nFMWQPbMRT

— Gabrielle Calise (@gabriellecalise) March 21, 2019

Doing this was, as we like to say at Ars, a really bad idea.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Good news for the 1,000mph car as Bloodhound gets a new owner

Ars Technica - March 24, 2019 - 3:04pm

At the end of 2018, things looked pretty bleak for the Bloodhound SSC land speed record project. Breaking a land speed record has never been easy, particularly if the goal is to clear 1,000mph (1,600km/h). You need a highly engineered car, a rigorous test program, and a suitable bit of land upon which to run it. Which in turn means somewhere very flat and remote enough for the neighbors not to mind, but convenient enough that you don't have to also build a bunch of new roads to get there. Bloodhound SSC found that at the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa. But by October 2018, the project entered into administration (a UK equivalent to bankruptcy) when it ran out of funding. By December, with no buyer found, it looked like the dream was over.

Earlier this week, that all changed. The effort—now called Bloodhound LSR—has a new backer, one Ian Warhurst, who bought the assets from the administrators at the end of last year. It's also got a new HQ; the car has moved from its former base in Bristol, England, to SGS Berkeley Green University Technical College (UTC) on the Gloucestershire Science and Technology Park (also in England).

"Since buying Bloodhound from the administrators last December, the team and I have been overwhelmed by the passion and enthusiasm the public have shown for the project. Over the last decade, an incredible amount of hard graft has been invested in the project and it would be a tragedy to see it go to waste," Warhurst said in a statement. "Starting with a clean slate, it’s my ambition to let Bloodhound off the leash see just how fast this car can go. I’ve been reviewing the project and I’m confident there is a commercial business proposition to support it. I’ll provide robust financing to ensure there is cashflow to hit the high-speed testing deadlines we set ourselves."

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Don’t buy a Mercedes-AMG GT R unless you plan on taking it to the track

Ars Technica - March 24, 2019 - 3:00pm

As a beginner or even intermediate musician, you do not hop up on stage with jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie (were he still alive). If you're not confident in your ability to keep up with all the chord changes, where you are in the song's form, or the sheer tempo blowing by like a runaway train, it becomes a disaster. But overcoming intimidation and stretching one's self is part of musical growth. The Mercedes-AMG GT R is the automotive Dizzy Gillespie and taking the wheel is the equivalent of sitting in with him. The timid will run away. But then they'd never know how easy it could actually be to sit in with the jazz master.

With aggressive spoilers, a gaping and hungry toothed grille, huge tires and a pounding V8 engine, the AMG GT R glowers as you approach it, much like an imposing Gillespie might at an open jam session... until the music starts. If the GT R could bark or snarl, it would do that, too. Turns out, though, that the big attitude is largely show.

The AMG GT R does not start life as a normal GT or GT S model with additional boost shoveled on top. And you would be a certifiable lunatic to approach anything even half-way near its limits on public roads.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

I played 11 Assassin’s Creed games in 11 years, and Odyssey made them all worth it

Ars Technica - March 24, 2019 - 2:00pm

I've been a dedicated fan of the Assassin's Creed video game franchise for 11 years. It hasn't always been a happy relationship. While the early games captured my imagination and introduced me to whole new modes of gameplay, the series' middle years were laden with misfires, feature bloat, and other serious problems.

I often look at fans raging against the companies that make their favorite franchises—Bethesda or Blizzard are the two most common targets I see—and shake my head in bewilderment. "If you hate their work so much, why don't you just play something else and let everyone else enjoy their games? It's not like there's a shortage of great games to try," I say.

But as I looked back on more than a decade of playing Assassin's Creed games to write this article, I for the first time kind of understood loving something so much that its stumbles make you feel not just disappointed, but a little mad.

Read 73 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Local leaders cooling to Boring Company tunnel promises

Ars Technica - March 24, 2019 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / The Boring Company tunnel entrance with a Telsa on an elevator to lower it down to tunnel-level. (credit: The Boring Company)

Virginia state transit officials are telling The Boring Company "thanks but no thanks," at least for now. The Virginia Mercury reported yesterday that the state's chief of rail transportation, Michael McLaughlin, was not sufficiently impressed by his recent visit to Elon Musk's test tunnel in California to recommend that the state work with the startup.

"It's a car in a very small tunnel," McLaughlin reportedly told the state's Transportation Board public transit subcommittee this week. "If one day we decide it's feasible, we'll obviously come back to you," he added.

Virginia's Transportation Board has been contemplating billion-dollar upgrades to the state's more populated areas, but the promise of The Boring Company is opaque enough that officials are hesitant to engage with the company, even at the cut-rate prices that founder Musk has promised.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Tesla sues Zoox over manufacturing and logistics secrets

Ars Technica - March 24, 2019 - 12:35pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

On Wednesday night, Tesla sued four former employees and the self-driving startup Zoox for misappropriation of trade secrets. No, you're not having driverless-car lawsuit déjà vu—you're just remembering the time last year when Waymo and Uber settled their own trade secrets case after four days of trial.

Tesla’s suit, filed in the Northern California federal district court, alleges that four of its former employees took proprietary information related to “warehousing, logistics, and inventory control operations” when they left the electric automaker, and later, while working for Zoox, used that proprietary information to improve its technology and operations.

Tesla says the former employees—Scott Turner, Sydney Cooper, Christian Dement, and Craig Emigh—worked in product distribution and warehouse supervising. It alleges that they forwarded the trade secrets to their own personal email accounts or the accounts of other former Tesla employees. “You sly dog you …” Turner allegedly wrote in the body of an email he sent himself, attaching “confidential and proprietary Tesla receiving and inventory procedures, as well as internal schematics and line drawings of the physical layouts of certain Tesla warehouses,” the company's lawyers write in their complaint.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Liveblog: Apple unveils its TV service and more at the March 25 “It’s show time” event

Ars Technica - March 24, 2019 - 12:00pm

Enlarge / The event invite strongly hints at the upcoming video service. (credit: Apple)

CUPERTINO, Calif.—At 10am Pacific on Monday, March 25, Apple and its partners will take the stage at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif., to talk about a new TV-streaming platform, a new magazine-subscription service, and possibly much more. We'll be liveblogging the event as it happens, so join us here a few minutes before the show for all the updates.

Apple has been signaling to investors, partners, and customers for many months that it will increase its focus on services—always-available, ever-growing content and software offerings—more in the future, as that is the part of its business it expects to grow the fastest. Monday's "It's show time" event will be unusual in that it is expected to focus more on those services than any prior Apple event.

Some hardware announcements were strong possibilities due to timing and reports across the Web—namely, new iPads, AirPods, and iMacs, plus a new iPod touch and AirPower charging mat.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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