HBO took advantage of the record number of viewers tuning in to the Game of Thrones finale last night to release the first teaser for season three of Westworld. The teaser is deliberately vague on details, but it looks like we're in for a dystopian near-future scenario set not in the original theme park but in the real outside world.
(Some spoilers for first two seasons below.)
If you're new to the series, the titular Westworld is one of six immersive theme parks owned and operated by a company called Delos Inc. It's essentially Live Action Role Play (LARP-ing) combined with a choose-your-own-adventure experience. The park is populated with a "cast" of very human-looking androids, called hosts, who follow a bunch of intertwining narratives, rebooting the same narrative every day. The park's well-heeled visitors can pretty much do whatever they like to the hosts—rape, pillage, torture, murder—and they do so more often than not, because they don't see the hosts as anything more than unfeeling props in their private dramas.
It's been nearly two weeks since the City of Baltimore's networks were shut down in response to a ransomware attack, and there's still no end in sight to the attack's impact. It may be weeks more before the city's services return to something resembling normal—manual workarounds are being put in place to handle some services now, but the city's water billing and other payment systems remain offline, as well as most of the city's email and much of the government's phone systems.
The ransomware attack came in the midst of a major transition at City Hall. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young assumed office officially just days before the attack, after the resignation of former mayor Catherine Pugh, who is facing an ever-expanding corruption investigation. And some of the mayor's critical staff positions remained unfilled—the mayor's deputy chief of staff for operations, Sheryl Goldstein, starts work today.
To top it off, unlike the City of Atlanta—which suffered from a Samsam ransomware attack in March of 2018—Baltimore has no insurance to cover the cost of a cyber attack. So the cost of cleaning up the RobbinHood ransomware, which will far exceed the approximately $70,000 the ransomware operators demanded, will be borne entirely by Baltimore's citizens.
When we think about climate change, we most often think about emissions from two sectors: energy and transportation. But industry makes a big contribution to climate change, too. Industrial emissions come from a lot of different things, including the manufacture of common chemicals. Often, these chemicals are made by reforming fossil fuels using heat that's also provided by burning fossil fuels.
Overall, the chemical industry consumes about 10 percent of global final energy, according to the International Energy Agency.
In a recent PNAS paper, researchers from universities in Germany and California tried to estimate how effectively the chemical industry could decarbonize and whether such a decarbonization is likely.
AI appears better than specialist doctors at diagnosing the disease from lung scans, say researchers.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has experienced a revival of pretty large proportions in the last decade. We've gone from AI being mostly useless to letting it ruin our lives in obscure and opaque ways. We’ve even given AI the task of crashing our cars for us.
AI experts will tell us that we just need bigger neural networks and the cars will probably stop crashing. You can get there by adding more graphics cards to an AI, but the power consumption becomes excessive. The ideal solution would be a neural network that can process and shovel data around at near-zero energy cost, which may be where we are headed with optical neural networks.
To give you an idea of the scale of energy we're talking about here, a good GPU uses 20 picoJoules (1pJ is 10-12J ) for each multiply and accumulate operation. A purpose-built integrated circuit can reduce that to about 1pJ. But if a team of researchers is correct, an optical neural network might reduce that number to an incredible 50 zeptoJoules (1zJ is 10-21J).
T-Mobile and Sprint are one big step closer to getting the US government's approval to merge, as Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today announced his support for the deal combining two of the four largest US mobile carriers.
Pai's announcement virtually guarantees that the FCC will approve the deal; FCC approval would be finalized after the Republican-controlled commission votes. But T-Mobile and Sprint still need to convince the Department of Justice, which hasn't yet said whether it will sue to block the merger on antitrust grounds.
Pai's statement on the merger said he's approving it in large part because T-Mobile and Sprint "committed to deploying a 5G network that would cover 97 percent of our nation's population within three years of the closing of the merger and 99 percent of Americans within six years." They also committed to deploying 5G to 85 percent of rural Americans within three years and 90 percent within six years.
Following Microsoft and Sony's surprising announcement of a cloud gaming partnership last week, Bloomberg has a bit of behind-the-scenes analysis that uses unnamed insider sources to explain how the deal came about.
Though Sony confirmed to Bloomberg that talks between the two console giants had been going on since last year, the announcement still caught rank-and-file employees at Sony off guard, according to Bloomberg's sources. "Managers had to calm workers and assure them that plans for the company’s next-generation console weren’t affected," as Bloomberg summarizes the view from inside the company.
Sony has already spun its 2012 purchase of streaming gaming company Gaikai into over 700,000 subscribers for its cloud-based PlayStation Now service, which launched in 2015. But Sony's server and network infrastructure has proven insufficient to provide the "as good as local" experience promised (but yet to be proven) by major competitors like Google's recently announced Stadia service. That led Sony to reach out to other companies with more established cloud infrastructure to expand its streaming gaming footprint.
In the nearly two months since Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return to the Moon by 2024, space agency engineers have been working to put together a plan that leverages existing technology, large projects nearing completion, and commercial rockets to bring this about.
Last week, an updated plan that demonstrated a human landing in 2024, annual sorties to the lunar surface thereafter, and the beginning of a Moon base by 2028, began circulating within the agency. A graphic, shown below, provides information about each of the major launches needed to construct a small Lunar Gateway, stage elements of a lunar lander there, fly crews to the Moon and back, and conduct refueling missions.
This decade-long plan, which entails 37 launches of private and NASA rockets, as well as a mix of robotic and human landers, culminates with a "Lunar Surface Asset Deployment" in 2028, likely the beginning of a surface outpost for long-duration crew stays. Developed by the agency's senior human spaceflight manager, Bill Gerstenmaier, this plan is everything Pence asked for—an urgent human return, a Moon base, a mix of existing and new contractors.
Update: Statements from Google and Huawei, other companies join the ban
Huawei sent a statement to Ars Technica and others about the ban, saying "Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally. We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally."
Trade War! USA v. China
Meanwhile, other US companies have started to cut off Huawei, with Bloomberg reporting that Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Xilinx have stopped supplying chips to Huawei. Intel is a big one, as it means Huawei laptops are pretty much dead. Bloomberg also reports that Huawei apparently saw this ban coming, and has stockpiled three months worth of chips from US companies.