Feed aggregator

  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PST/-8.0/no DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.

DirecTV races to decommission broken Boeing satellite before it explodes

ArsTechnica - Thu, 01/23/2020 - 10:31am
Illustration of a satellite orbiting Earth.

Enlarge / Illustration—not the actual Boeing satellite used by DirecTV. (credit: Getty Images | 3DSculptor)

DirecTV is scrambling to move a broken Boeing satellite out of its standard orbit in order to limit the risk of "an accidental explosion."

As Space News reported today, DirecTV asked the Federal Communications Commission for a rules waiver so it can "conduct emergency operations to de-orbit the Spaceway-1 satellite," which is at risk of explosion because of damage to batteries. The 15-year-old Boeing 702HP satellite is in a geostationary orbit.

DirecTV, which is owned by AT&T, is coordinating with Intelsat on a plan to move Spaceway-1 into a new orbit. DirecTV already disabled the satellite's primary function, which is to provide backup Ka-band capacity in Alaska. The satellite can operate on power reserves from its solar panels, but that won't be possible during the coming eclipse season, DirecTV explained in its FCC filing:

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Jewel beetle’s bright colored shell serves as camouflage from predators

ArsTechnica - Thu, 01/23/2020 - 9:00am
The brightly colored shell of this jewel beetle is a surprisingly effective form of camouflage, according to a new study by scientists at the University of Bristol.

Enlarge / The brightly colored shell of this jewel beetle is a surprisingly effective form of camouflage, according to a new study by scientists at the University of Bristol. (credit: Bristol Museums, Galleries, and Archives)

Artist and naturalist Abbott Handerson Thayer became known as the "father of camouflage" with the publication in 1909 of a book on coloration in animals. He was particularly fascinated by the phenomenon of iridescence: many species exhibit bright, metallic jewel tones that shift hues depending on viewing angle. While iridescence is often viewed as a means of sexual selection—think the magnificent peacock, shimmering his feathers to attract a willing peahen—Thayer suggested that in some species, it was also an effective means of camouflage.

Thayer endured a fair bit of mockery for his ideas, most notably from Theodore Roosevelt, a big game hunter who thought Thayer had grossly overstated his case. Indeed, there has been very little empirical support for Thayer's hypothesis in the ensuing century. But researchers from the University of Bristol have now uncovered the first solid evidence for this in the jewel beetle, according to a new paper in Current Biology.

What makes iridescence in nature so unusual is the fact that the color we see doesn't come from actual pigment molecules but from the precise lattice-like structure of the wings (or abalone shells, or peacock feathers, or opals, for that matter). That structure forces each light wave passing through to interfere with itself, so it can propagate only in certain directions and at certain frequencies. In essence, the structure acts like naturally occurring diffraction gratings. Physicists call these structures photonic crystals, an example of so-called "photonic band gap materials," meaning they block out certain frequencies of light and let through others.

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No one hurt in Firefly “anomaly” as company tests its Alpha first stage

ArsTechnica - Thu, 01/23/2020 - 7:02am
An earlier image from Firefly showing a nighttime stage test at its Briggs Test Stand in Central Texas.

Enlarge / An earlier image from Firefly showing a nighttime stage test at its Briggs Test Stand in Central Texas. (credit: Firefly Aerospace)

On Wednesday evening at Firefly Aerospace's test site about an hour north of Austin in Central Texas, some sort of anomaly occurred. The Burnet County Sheriff's Office reported that the incident took place at 6:24pm CT (00:24 UTC, Thursday), and that officers had called for evacuations of residences within one mile of the test site.

Earlier in the evening, in a subsequently deleted tweet, the company stated that it was loading liquid oxygen onto the rocket and about to attempt a qualification hot fire test of the first stage of its Alpha booster. This rocket is powered by four Reaver engines and has a reported capacity of 1 metric ton to low-Earth orbit. Firefly has been working toward the inaugural launch of the rocket, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, in April.

Later Wednesday night, the company issued a statement about the test, noting that no one had been hurt.

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FCC shuts New York out of $20B broadband fund, and senators are angry

ArsTechnica - Thu, 01/23/2020 - 7:00am
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at a podium during a news conference while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer looks on.

Enlarge / Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrats from New York, during a news conference on the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund in Washington, DC, on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The Federal Communications Commission has unfairly shut New York state out of a planned $20.4 billion broadband-funding program, US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last week.

ISPs in 48 states are eligible for funding in the FCC rural-broadband program, which will distribute the money over 10 years to providers that expand their networks to new homes and businesses. The FCC said it blocked New York and Alaska from Phase I of the program "because of previously established programs to fund rural broadband in these states." (Phase I will distribute $16 billion of the $20.4 billion.)

The FCC previously established a separate funding program for Alaska with $1.5 billion over 10 years. But Schumer and Gillibrand say New York has only gotten its fair share of nationwide FCC programs, rather than something extra.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Star Wars: The Clone Wars starts its final season on February 21

ArsTechnica - Thu, 01/23/2020 - 6:13am

Back in 2018, Lucasfilm surprised and delighted attendees at that year's ComicCon with the news that it would return to Star Wars: The Clone Wars. On Wednesday it released a new trailer for the animated series' final season, which airs on the Disney+ streaming service beginning February 21. Set before Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the 12-episode season will (hopefully) wrap up the adventures of fan-favorite Jedi Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker's Padawan learner.

Like most of my colleagues, signing up for Disney+ wasn't a particularly hard decision; the eight-part series The Mandalorian has been more than worth the price of entry. But Disney wants people like me to keep sending it $6.99 a month, and that means fresh content, no matter how totes adorbs we all find Baby Yoda.

In fact, I'm currently in the middle of rewatching the first seven seasons of The Clone Wars, except this time in actual chronological order rather than the inexplicable "let's just show episodes at random because who cares, it's just a cartoon" order that Cartoon Network chose when airing them between 2008 and 2013. (Note: the existing seasons are still arranged in that bizarre mashup on Disney+, but this handy page over at starwars.com will help you straighten it out.)

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Google researchers find serious privacy risks in Safari’s anti-tracking protections

ArsTechnica - Thu, 01/23/2020 - 5:51am
Google researchers find serious privacy risks in Safari’s anti-tracking protections

Enlarge (credit: Ben Miller)

When Apple introduced powerful anti-tracking protections to Safari in 2017, advertisers banded together to say they were “deeply concerned” it would sabotage ad-supported content. Now, there’s new information showing that Safari users had good reason for unease as well.

Known as Intelligent Tracking Prevention, the mechanism uses machine learning to classify which websites are allowed to use browser cookies or scripts hosted on third-party domains to track users. Classifications are based on the specific browsing patterns of each end user. Sites that end users intentionally visit are permitted to do cross-site tracking. Sites that users don’t actively visit (but are accessed through tracking scripts) are restricted, either by automatically removing the cookies they set or truncating referrer headers to include only the domain, rather than the entire URL.

A paper published on Wednesday by researchers from Google said this protection came with unintended consequences that posed a risk to the privacy end users. Because the list of restricted sites is based on users’ individual browsing patterns, Intelligent Tracking Prevention—commonly abbreviated as ITP—introduces settings into Safari that can be modified and detected by any page on the Internet. The paper said websites have been able to use this capability for a host of attacks, including:

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Ancient African skeletons hint at a “ghost lineage” of humans

ArsTechnica - Wed, 01/22/2020 - 4:26pm
Image of boards surrounding trenches under a rock overhang.

Enlarge / A 1994 photograph of the excavations that yielded the skeletons at Shum Laka. (credit: Pierre de Maret)

Understanding humanity's shared history means understanding what happened in Africa. But figuring out what happened in Africa has been a difficult task. Not every area is well represented in the fossil history, and most African environments aren't conducive to the preservation of ancient DNA. DNA sequencing of modern African populations lags behind other regions, in part because DNA sequencing hardware is more common elsewhere. Finally, as in many other areas, massive migrations within the continent have helped scramble the genetic legacy of the past.

Now, researchers are describing a new window into our collective past: DNA from ancient skeletons found in a rock shelter in West Africa. The skeletons come from a location and time that are both near the origin of the Bantu expansion that spread West African peoples across the entirety of Africa but have little in common with Bantu-speaking populations. Yet, at the same time, they provide hints of what might have happened very early in humanity's history, including the existence of a lineage of archaic humans we've not yet identified.

Right time, right place

The skeletons come from a site called Shum Laka, which is located in a grassland area of Cameroon. For those not up on their African geography, Cameroon is located at the angle where West Africa meets Southern Africa. This is also the region where the Bantu people put together a collection of agricultural and metallurgical technologies that allowed them to sweep across the rest of the continent, leaving their linguistic and genetic mark on many other populations.

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The Mount Vesuvius eruption was so hot, one man’s brain turned to glass.

ArsTechnica - Wed, 01/22/2020 - 3:00pm
Plaster casts of victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.

Enlarge / Plaster casts of victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. (credit: Flory/iStock/Getty Images)

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, the heat was so extreme in some places that it vaporized body fluids and exploded the skulls of several inhabitants unable to flee in time. Now, archaeologists have determined that the heat also fused brain tissue into glass in one victim. The discovery is described in a new short paper in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The eruption released thermal energy roughly equivalent to 100,000 times the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, spewing molten rock, pumice, and hot ash over the the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in particular. Pliny the Younger wrote of "broad sheets of flame" and a rain of ash in a letter to the historian Tacitus (the letter is the sole surviving eyewitness account of the disaster). 

The vast majority of the victims died of asphyxiation, choking to death on the thick clouds of noxious gas and ash. But a 2001 study in Nature estimated a temperature of 300° Celsius (572° Fahrenheit) for the pyroclastic surge that destroyed Pompeii, sufficient to kill inhabitants in fractions of a second. Back in 2018, we reported on the conclusion of University of Naples archaeologist Pierpaolo Petrone (one of the co-authors of the 2001 Nature paper) that inhabitants of Herculaneum may have suffered a similar fate.

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Valve opens up about Half-Life: Alyx, Source 2 engine on Reddit

ArsTechnica - Wed, 01/22/2020 - 12:58pm
 Alyx</em> on Tuesday, thus revealing a bit more about the game's "Multi-tool" system we've mentioned in previous reports on the VR-exclusive game.

Enlarge / Valve released this promotional illustration for Half-Life: Alyx on Tuesday, thus revealing a bit more about the game's "Multi-tool" system we've mentioned in previous reports on the VR-exclusive game. (credit: Valve)

With approximately two months left to go until their next game's launch, the developers at Valve opened up to the throngs at Reddit for a thousands-strong "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) session on Wednesday. Unsurprisingly, most of the questions were ignored—especially ones that mentioned the number 3—but the team still revealed some new and interesting tidbits about March's upcoming VR-exclusive game Half-Life: Alyx.

Perhaps most importantly, the development team insisted that the game is still on schedule to launch in its announced window of March 2020. "With the exception of some tweaks to the absolute final scene, the game is done," an unnamed staff member said in one post. "We let the Valve Time happen before we announced the game." This statement alludes to the company's tradition of letting release schedules slip until a game reaches "it's done" territory, but that wasn't clarified in further answers.

That means the game's full suite of movement options within VR are complete, Valve said, "including things like Seated, Left-Handed mode, etc." The new game's suite of "accessibility" features are still being iterated on, particularly support for one-handed play.

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Sarcos offers fully mobile, insanely strong industrial exoskeletons

ArsTechnica - Wed, 01/22/2020 - 12:21pm
Screenshot from 1986 film Aliens.

Enlarge / Sarcos Robotics' Guardian XO is the closest thing we've seen in real life to the Power Loader Lieutenant Ripley used to such good effect in 1986's Aliens. (credit: 20th Century Fox)

The most interesting thing we saw at the Consumer Electronics Show this year was the back side of Delta Airlines' exhibit, where some Sarcos Robotics folks were putting the Guardian XO—a powered industrial exoskeleton—through its paces, and the adventurous (and patient) could wait for half an hour or so in line to operate one disembodied arm of the Guardian attached to a 50-pound suitcase.

Unfortunately, neither Sarcos nor Delta was about to let any journalists inside an actual Guardian XO. They had good reason, though—which became abundantly clear after we took a test run with a disembodied, statically mounted Guardian XO right arm. The suits aren't just designed to be incredibly strong—they're also designed for long-term, ergonomically correct operation that won't destroy backs and knees the way a career in the military or heavy industry tends to. That's great if you're a trained professional trying not to injure yourself—not so great if you're a random enthusiast suddenly given 20:1 muscular amplification in a densely packed crowd of thousands.

That term—20:1 muscular amplification—is a little misleading. The Guardian XO isn't really 20 times as strong as a construction worker. The promotional materials we've seen rate the exosuit for weights that aren't out of the question for a very strong human—200lbs total, 100lbs per arm, 50lbs per arm at full extension—but inside the Guardian XO, you're handling those weights while working no harder than you might in a light office environment.

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One immune cell type appears to attack any type of cancer

ArsTechnica - Wed, 01/22/2020 - 11:57am
Image of a blue sphere with a surface covered by many small extrusions.

Enlarge / False-colored image of an electron micrograph of a T cell. (credit: NIAID)

While cancerous cells look a lot like normal human cells, they're still different enough that the immune system regularly attacks them. Obviously, this attack sometimes bogs down, allowing cancer to thrive and spread. Figuring out how to get the immune system back on track has been a major focus of research, and success in the area has been honored with a Nobel Prize.

Despite these successes, many patients aren't helped by the newer immune-focused therapies, raising questions of what else we still need to figure out to help cancer patients. A new paper highlights something we may have missed: a class of immune cells that appears to be primed specifically to attack cancer. But the finding raises questions about what it is on cancer cells that the immune cells are recognizing and why they fail to keep cancer in check.

Finding cancer killers

The start of this work was pretty simple: a large international team of researchers grew a mix of immune cells called "T cells" in the presence of cancerous cells and looked for cells that grew rapidly. This rapid growth is typically a sign that the immune cells have been activated by something they recognize—in this case, the cancer. They identified one particular lineage of T cells that grew well and named it MC.7.G5, confirming yet again that most scientists don't belong in the creative industries.

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Leaked images show Xbox Series X is missing Xbox One’s HDMI input

ArsTechnica - Wed, 01/22/2020 - 10:38am
Yup, the Xbox Series X has ports, alright.

Enlarge / Yup, the Xbox Series X has ports, alright. (credit: NeoGAF / CurryPanda)

Last month, when Microsoft gave us our first glimpse of the Xbox Series X housing, the photo angles provided notably left out the rear of the console—you know, the part with all the ports for wires and such. Now, a message board leak has apparently revealed what that back side will look like, including a few changes from the old Xbox One line.

The images of an "Xbox Product Name Placeholder PROTOTYPE - NOT FOR SALE," originally posted by NeoGAF user Curry Panda, were later confirmed as authentic by Brad Sams at Thurrott.com (who has a strong track record of reporting accurate internal information about Microsoft's plans). That makes this leak different from a glimpse of the Series X's backside shown by AMD at CES earlier this month—AMD later admitted that imagery "was not sourced from Microsoft and does not accurately represent the design or features of the upcoming console."

The biggest apparent change from the Xbox One to the Xbox Series X, port-wise, is the lack of the HDMI input that allowed for "pass-through" TV programming on all Xbox One models (and the accompanying IR output that allowed the Xbox One/Kinect to act as a TV remote). That's not a huge surprise, considering how quickly Microsoft stopped stressing this functionality after a major Xbox-as-set-top-TV-box push back in the console's early years. The Series X is also missing the dedicated Kinect port that was already removed from the Xbox One S and Xbox One X, meaning you'll seemingly need a discontinued USB adapter for those particular backward-compatible games.

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Monty Python’s Terry Jones joins the choir invisible

ArsTechnica - Wed, 01/22/2020 - 10:20am
Terry Jones playing the organ <i>au naturel</i> in Monty Python's "Blackmail" sketch.

Enlarge / Terry Jones playing the organ au naturel in Monty Python's "Blackmail" sketch. (credit: Python (Monty) Pictures | BBC)

Monty Python’s Terry Jones died at age 77 on January 21 at his London home.

Born in Colwyn Bay, Wales, Jones got his comedy start at Oxford University, playing in revues with fellow future Monty Python member Michael Palin. After graduation, he worked as a writer on a handful of BBC shows, including The Frost Report, and he performed on Do Not Adjust Your Set along with The Complete and Utter History of Britain. But it was his work with Python that he is primarily remembered for.

During Python’s original four-year run, Jones generally wrote with Michael Palin, and the two would bring their work in progress to the entire group to read through and workshop the material. (John Cleese and Graham Chapman also wrote together, while Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam generally worked alone.) It was in that crucible that Jones, along with the other Pythons, honed their sketch-writing and comedic-timing skills to produce timeless comedy.

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After a 1-month delay, the new Moto Razr will be out February 6

ArsTechnica - Wed, 01/22/2020 - 9:26am

The Moto Razr has a new release date. After announcing a delay just a few days before it was planned to go on sale in December, Verizon now says the new-school flip phone will go up for pre-order January 26, with an in-store date of February 6. It's still $1,499.99.

The new Moto Razr quickly became one of the most interesting upcoming devices when it was unveiled in November. It has a nostalgic flip phone design with a folding, flexible OLED display, a trick hinge mechanism that won't crease the display, and even a mode that replicates the old Razr UI. Just six days before the December 26 pre-order date, Motorola pumped the brakes on its smartphone project, saying it needed to "adjust Razr’s presale and launch timing to better meet consumer demand."

Several companies have released foldable smartphones now, but so far, every foldable device has seen significant delays and a limited release. The new flexible display technology is impressive, but it comes with a host of issues related to durability. First, folding glass is not a thing yet (though Corning is working on it) so these displays are all covered in a scratchable, pierceable plastic. Second, folding an OLED display in half puts stress on it, and it's unclear how much folding and unfolding these displays can take without failing. Finally, these devices need hinges that are bigger and stronger than anything that was fitted to a flip phone in the past, and that introduces a host of moving parts. Balancing all of these issues, working out the details of a new form factor, and doing this all for a reasonable price has proven difficult for the entire industry so far.

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The math of brewing a better espresso

ArsTechnica - Wed, 01/22/2020 - 9:01am
A new mathematical model sheds light on the optimal brewing process for espresso.

Enlarge / A new mathematical model sheds light on the optimal brewing process for espresso. (credit: Five Senses Coffee (Australia))

Skilled baristas know that achieving the perfect complex flavor profile for a delectable shot of espresso is as much art as science. Get it wrong, and the resulting espresso can taste too bitter or sourly acidic rather than being a perfect mix of each. Now, as outlined in a new paper in the journal Matter, an international team of scientists has devised a mathematical model for brewing the perfect cup, over and over, while minimizing waste.

"A good espresso beverage can be made in a multitude of ways," said co-author Christopher Hendon, a computational chemist at the University of Oregon. "The point of this paper was to give people a map for making an espresso beverage that they like and then be able to make it 100 times in a row."

There's actually an official industry standard for brewing espresso, courtesy of the Specialty Coffee Association, which sets out strict guidelines for its final volume (25-35mL, or roughly one ounce) and preparation. The water must be heated to 92° to 95°C (197° to 203°F) and forced (at a specific pressure) through a bed of 7 to 9 grams (about a quarter of an ounce) of finely ground coffee over the course of 20 to 30 seconds. But most coffee shops don't follow this closely, typically using more coffee, while the brewing machines allow baristas to configure water pressure, temperature, and other key variables to their liking. The result of all those variations in technique is a great deal of variability in quality and taste.

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Unauthorized Bread: Real rebellions involve jailbreaking IoT toasters

ArsTechnica - Wed, 01/22/2020 - 7:05am
Now that is some artisanal toast.

Enlarge / Now that is some artisanal toast. (credit: Tor Books)

"Unauthorized Bread"—a tale of jailbreaking refugees versus IoT appliances—is the lead novella in author Cory Doctorow's Radicalized, which has just been named a finalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's national book award, the Canada Reads prize. "Unauthorized Bread" is also in development for television with Topic, parent company of The Intercept; and for a graphic novel adaptation by First Second Books, in collaboration with the artist and comics creator JR Doyle. It appears below with permission from the author.

The way Salima found out that Boulangism had gone bankrupt: her toaster wouldn’t accept her bread. She held the slice in front of it and waited for the screen to show her a thumbs-up emoji, but instead, it showed her the head-scratching face and made a soft brrt. She waved the bread again. Brrt.

“Come on.” Brrt.

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Report: Bezos’ phone uploaded GBs of personal data after getting Saudi prince’s WhatsApp message

ArsTechnica - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 8:25pm
Screenshot of WhatsApp mobile application.

Enlarge (credit: WhatsApp)

It's like a plot from a bad thriller: a forensic analysis paid for by Jeff Bezos found that his cell phone coughed up massive amounts of personal information within hours of receiving a WhatsApp-attached video file sent by the future king of Saudi Arabia, the Guardian and the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

The text, the analysis is reported to say, came on May 1, 2018. That's when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Bezos a text over WhatsApp weeks after the two had exchanged numbers. Their relationship started out cordially but became strained as The Washington Post reported that the Saudi government was behind the gruesome killing and subsequent dismemberment of veteran Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He used to contribute a regular column in the Bezos-owned Washington Post criticizing Prince Mohammed's autocratic leadership. The FT report is here, and the report from the Guardian is here.

Massive and unauthorized exfiltration

Within hours of Bezos' receipt of the video, the analysis found, "a massive and unauthorized exfiltration of data from Bezos' phone began, continuing and escalating for months," the FT reported. The amount of data surreptitiously exfiltrated from the device "was in the dozens of gigabytes, compared to the few hundred kilobytes daily average in the months before the video file was sent."

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737 Max fix slips to summer—and that’s just one of Boeing’s problems

ArsTechnica - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 5:35pm
Four Boeing 737 MAX from TUI fly Belgium sit parked in Brussels on December 18, 2019. Boeing now says these planes, as well as all others they sold and the approximately 400 airplanes in storage, won't fly again until at least June or July.

Enlarge / Four Boeing 737 MAX from TUI fly Belgium sit parked in Brussels on December 18, 2019. Boeing now says these planes, as well as all others they sold and the approximately 400 airplanes in storage, won't fly again until at least June or July. (credit: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

The past 10 months have not been good for Boeing for all sorts of reasons—capped off by the failure of the company's Starliner commercial crew vehicle to achieve the right orbit in its uncrewed premier in December. But the biggest of the company's problems remains the 737 Max, grounded since last spring after two crashes that killed 346 people between them. Combined, the crashes are the worst air disaster since September 11, 2001.

Both were at least partially caused by a sensor failure with no redundancy and a problem with MCAS (the new software controlling the handling of the aircraft) that the air crews had not been trained to overcome.

Boeing executives are now telling the company's 737 Max customers that the software fix required to make the airliner airworthy will not be approved in the near future and that it will likely be June or July before the Federal Aviation Administration certifies the aircraft for flight again—meaning that the aircraft will have been grounded for at least 16 months.

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Coronavirus from China has made its way to the United States

ArsTechnica - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 3:05pm
Images of people wearing respiratory masks in a Chinese railway station.

Enlarge / Travelers in China are often wearing protective masks in response to the spread of 2019nCoV (credit: Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

On Tuesday afternoon, the US Centers for Disease Control announced that the coronavirus that's been spreading within China had made it to the United States. A patient in Washington state is the first confirmed case in the US, although indications are that the disease has already spread to other countries in Asia.

A single patient in Washington had been traveling in Wuhan, the area of China hardest hit by the newly described virus, before returning to the US last week. Shortly after their return, the patient was hospitalized with pneumonia-like symptoms. Based on the travel history and symptoms, the hospital staff suspected that the new virus, called 2019-nCoV, might be at fault and sent samples in to the CDC for testing. Those tests confirmed the virus' identity.

The initial cases were confined to people who had been in contact with live animals at a seafood market, suggesting that it should be possible to contain the virus. But since then, the news has gotten worse. In addition to spreading to other countries—Thailand and Japan had confirmed cases prior to the US—the virus is now confirmed to be spreading through human contact, which has helped increase the number of cases and enabled its spread to other cities within China. There have also been a number of reported fatalities, although these remain a small percentage of the confirmed infections.

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Brazil prosecutes Glenn Greenwald in “attack on press freedom”

ArsTechnica - Tue, 01/21/2020 - 2:30pm
Glenn Greenwald speaking and gesturing with his hand at a government hearing in Brazil.

Enlarge / Glenn Greenwald speaks during a hearing at the Lower House's Human Rights Commission in Brasilia, Brazil, on June 25, 2019. (credit: Getty Images | Evaristo Sa)

Brazilian prosecutors today charged journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes related to the publication of articles based on leaked "cellphone messages that have embarrassed prosecutors and tarnished the image of an anti-corruption task force," The New York Times reported.

Greenwald, a resident of Brazil who was born in the United States, is a co-founding editor of The Intercept. The Intercept called the charges politically motivated, saying that Brazil's prosecutors are trying to criminalize a wide range of journalism. The charges stem from an Intercept series published in June 2019, which the news organization said was "based on a massive archive of previously undisclosed materials—including private chats, audio recordings, videos, photos, court proceedings, and other documentation—provided to us by an anonymous source."

The prosecution of Greenwald is "apparent retaliation for The Intercept's critical reporting on abuses committed by Justice Minister [Sérgio] Moro and several federal prosecutors," the news organization also said in a statement provided to Ars and other media.

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