posted about 10 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / A truck loaded with coal is viewed at the Eagle Butte Coal Mine, which is operated by Alpha Coal, on Monday May 08, 2017, in Gillette, Wyoming. (credit: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images) On Wednesday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the "Affordable Clean Energy" rule, known as ACE, to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, or CPP. The ACE rule was proposed last summer, and after going through the procedural steps required to enact the rule, Administrator Wheeler finally signed it today, along with an official repeal of the CPP. Details regarding the final rules have been submitted to the Federal Register, one of the last steps to making federal rules official in the US. Obama's CPP attempted to set federal power plant emissions limits by state. Under the CPP, states would have had an incentive to push the most-polluting power plants (in most cases, coal plants) offline sooner. But coal interests and several states and utilities challenged this rule in court. Eventually, the Supreme Court stayed the rule, so it was never actually implemented. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 12 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | metamorworks) Starry, a wireless home Internet provider, says it has acquired enough spectrum to offer service to 40 million households in more than 25 US states. Starry's network already passes more than 1.5 million households in Boston, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, New York City, and Denver. Its first launch was in Boston in 2016. The company sells 200Mbps Internet service for $50 a month, but it doesn't reveal how many subscribers it has. To expand its network, Starry spent $48.5 million on spectrum licenses in the Federal Communications Commission's recent 24GHz auction, as we previously reported. Yesterday, a Starry announcement provided more details on how the new spectrum holdings will be used to expand the network. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 13 hours ago on ars technica
A new study suggests that the first humans to move into Australia and New Guinea came in larger numbers—and perhaps with more of a plan—than some researchers previously thought. People have lived in Australia and New Guinea since at least 60,000 years ago, when sea levels were about 100 meters (300 feet) lower than today. Due to lower sea levels, a land bridge across the Torres Strait linked Australia and New Guinea into a single landmass (termed Sahul). The first humans to set foot on Sahul probably arrived via closely spaced islands that stretched like stepping-stones across the 1,800km (1,100 miles) of ocean from the exposed continental shelf of Southeast Asia. And a new study suggests that it would have taken at least 1,300 people crossing these islands to give us a lasting foothold. Playing on hard mode Trying to colonize a new, uninhabited land is a challenge. If you bring too many people at once, the sudden influx could put too much strain on local resources, and everyone would die. But if you don’t bring enough people to reproduce and maintain genetic diversity, each generation gets smaller until the group eventually runs out of people and everyone dies. Flinders University ecologist Corey Bradshaw and his colleagues wanted to figure out how many people needed to settle in Sahul to make sure humans didn’t end up going locally extinct. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 13 hours ago on ars technica
Hey, look at how I'm playing this obviously real system with my obviously real hands. In 2019, we've seen rumor after rumor after rumor after rumor that Nintendo is planning to release a new, smaller version of the Switch in the near future, possibly without the original system's signature detachable controllers. While Nintendo hasn't announced anything officially, some new listings from Chinese accessory manufacturer Honson have reignited the rumor mill surrounding a redesigned Switch system being potentially in the pipeline. Honson's Nintendo Switch Mini landing page showcases 11 different products, including a variety of bags, carrying cases, hard shells, and a screen protector. One page promises a "professional design to perfect fit Nintendo Switch mini." Similar product images were posted to the company's Facebook page a week ago. All of these products are listed as "out of stock" on Honson's own website (the company told NintenDIY that they'll be available starting next week). But some Honson products "for Nintendo Switch mini case" are already available for bulk order through Alibaba right now, complete with customized packaging and logo options for large bulk orders. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 13 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The researchers built 3D landscapes from spy satellite images like this one from the border between eastern Nepal and Sikkim, India, in 1975. (credit: Josh Maurer/LDEO) The glaciers of the Himalayas are beautiful pieces of the unique landscape at the “roof of the world." But they’re also water towers, filling rivers used by hundreds of millions of people in East and South Asia. The need to understand how climate change is altering these glaciers is obvious. Data is not plentiful in this inhospitable part of the world, and the climate is particularly complex and variable from across the region. For example, the monsoon rains mean that the glaciers in the eastern portion of the range actually gain most of their snowfall in the summer. With such a huge and varied area, studies have generally only been able to focus on a small subset of glaciers, making it harder to draw broad conclusions across the region. A new study led by Josh Maurer at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory relies on spy satellite photos from the 1970s to make that possible. Spying on ice Photos from the US KH-9 Hexagon satellite have been declassified, much to the delight of geoscientists. The trick is extracting precise information from the photos—and in this case, the trick is getting 3D information from 2D images. It’s one thing to mark a glacier’s extent, but the truly valuable thing is to work out their change in thickness and, therefore, volume. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 13 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Security team KnownSec404 proof-of-concept image, showing an instance of Windows Calculator being run on the remote WebLogic server. (credit: KnownSec 404) Oracle on Tuesday published an out-of-band update patching a critical code-execution vulnerability in its WebLogic server after researchers warned that the flaw was being actively exploited in the wild. The vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2019-2729, allows an attacker to run malicious code on the WebLogic server without any need for authentication. That capability earned the vulnerability a Common Vulnerability Scoring System score of 9.8 out of 10. The vulnerability is a deserialization attack targeting two Web applications that WebLogic appears to expose to the Internet by default—wls9_async_response and wls-wsat.war. The flaw in Oracle's WebLogic Java application servers came to light as a zero-day four days ago when it was reported by security firm KnownSec404. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 15 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: James Pikul) Lots of experimental robots involve a little bit of cheating. Rather than containing all the necessary electronics and energy sources, they have tethers and wires that provide power and control without weighing the robot down or taking up too much internal space. This is especially true for soft-bodied robots, which typically pump air or fluids to drive their motion. Having to incorporate a power source, pumps, and a reservoir of gas or liquid would significantly increase the weight and complexity of the robot. A team from Cornell University has now demonstrated a clever twist that cuts down on the weight and density of all of this by figuring out how to get one of the materials to perform two functions. Like other soft robot designs, it pumps a fluid to cause its structure to expand and contract, powering movements. But in this case, the fluid is also the key component of a flow battery that powers the pumps. This allows them to put all the critical components on board their creation. Going with the flow So what's a flow battery? Batteries operate by having different reactions that take place at their two electrodes. For something like a lithium-ion battery, the intermediaries of these reactions—electrons and ions—immediately flow from one electrode to another, and the key chemicals spend almost all their time at the electrodes. In flow batteries, the chemical reactions still take place at the electrodes, but the chemicals reside in solution, rather than being confined to electrodes. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 16 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / A capture shows the flood of "Ayaya" anime meme streams that took over Twitch's Artifact stream page in May. (credit: Know Your Meme) In a federal lawsuit filed last week, Twitch accuses 100 unnamed defendants of breaking its terms of service by flooding the site's directory of Artifact game streams with inappropriate content, including "a video of the March 2019 Christchurch mosque attack, hardcore pornography, copyrighted movies and television shows, and racist and misogynistic videos." Inappropriate or irrelevant streams are nothing new on Twitch, of course. The company's Trust and Safety team uses a variety of moderation tools to take down streams that violate the site's terms of service and ban the users behind them. But the company is taking the added step of a lawsuit in this case because, according to the complaint, "Defendants’ actions threatened and continue to threaten Twitch and the safety of the Twitch community." "Twitch took down the posts and banned the offending accounts, but the offensive video streams quickly reappeared using new accounts," the complaint continues. "It appears that Defendants use automated methods to create accounts and disseminate offensive material as well as to thwart Twitch’s safety mechanisms." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 16 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Artist's impression of scientist doing DNA science. (credit: Roger Richter / Getty) We're running a series of companion posts this week to accompany our special edition Ars Lunch Break podcast. This is the second of three guest posts centered around Rob Reid's TED talk from yesterday. Today, geneticist George Church weighs in with his thoughts and opinions on synthetic biology and a world-wide "DNA detector" net. Tomorrow we'll have a guest post from microbiologist Andrew Hessel. Since the start of the millennium, we’ve improved the cost and quality of reading DNA 10 millionfold. This technology applies identically to our own genomes and to those of the most deadly pathogens. Yet we’ve barely begun to use this new "superpower" of DNA scrutiny to monitor our environment for threats to human health. Many of the enabling technologies for highly distributed DNA detection networks are already here. For instance, we now have palm-sized devices that read DNA in nearly real time, and they can be attached to our smartphones—which themselves can append and transmit audio, video, and GPS data. Thousands are already using these new tools. They’re based on nanopore and other single-molecule electronics—which have very low reagent and tiny fabrication costs, and they are super-portable (a fraction the size of a phone). Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 16 hours ago on ars technica
I don't know where the pedals are, and I can't see a way of changing gear. My hands don't even reach the wheel. And yet this Ferrari F40 Competitzione is fast. [credit: Microsoft ] It's not a secret that I like cars. I left a career in science policy to come to Ars to write about them, after all. But long before I fell in love with the automobile, there was Lego. I got sucked back into the world of the plastic brick on the eve of the millennium thanks to the first Lego Star Wars sets, but these days I've mostly been building little minifig-scale sports cars, particularly when writer's block strikes. So imagine how excited I was to find out that those Lego Speed Champions cars were coming to the rather excellent Forza Horizon 4. Expansion packs are no new thing to the Horizon series. Nor are cameos or guest appearances from other franchises—The Fast and the Furious has shown up previously, and the most recent game includes a brief Halo crossover. But this is certainly the most left-field of them, transporting you from Britain to the Lego Valley, a magical place where most everything is built from bricks, and the humans are all now minifigs. There are some Lego-specific tweaks—as well as in-game currency and reputation points you also need to earn bricks to build yourself a Lego house. But by and large the gameplay remains identical: drive around wherever you want, entering races and challenges as you go, listening to the radio while you do it. (Sadly, or perhaps happily, that catchy number so beloved by Emmett in The Lego Movie is absent from the soundtrack.) There's still dynamic weather, day turns into night, and each week the in-game season changes. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 17 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / When will NASA's Space Launch System rocket take flight? (credit: NASA) As NASA talks up its Artemis Program to return humans to the Moon by the year 2024, a new report from the US Government Accountability Office raises questions about the space agency's ability to build the spacecraft and rockets intended to carry out that mission. Instead of launching in 2020, the Artemis-1 mission that will see a Space Launch System rocket boost an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the Moon will instead launch as late as June 2021, the GAO report finds. NASA also appears to have been obscuring the true cost of its development programs, particularly with the large SLS rocket, which has Boeing as its prime contractor. "While NASA acknowledges about $1 billion in cost growth for the SLS program, it is understated," the report found. "This is because NASA shifted some planned SLS scope to future missions but did not reduce the program’s cost baseline accordingly. When GAO reduced the baseline to account for the reduced scope, the cost growth is about $1.8 billion." Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 18 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Sensors, sensors everywhere! (credit: Getty / 7postman) Ars yesterday wrote a big feature on the concept of "Industry 4.0," the fancy-sounding name that describes the ongoing shift in how products are created from raw materials and distributed along the supply chain to customers. What the "4.0" revision adds compared to Industries 1.0 through 3.0 is a complex set of linkages between information and operational technologies. (IT stores, transmits, and manipulates data, while "OT" detects and causes changes in physical processes, such as devices for manufacturing or climate control.) It's a modular and flexible approach to manufacturing that creates digital links among "smart factories" that are powered by the industrial Internet of Things, big data, and machine learning. And that's almost enough fancy CEO words to make bingo. At least in this case, the buzzwords aren't just important-sounding but ultimately meaningless concepts. Similar to how the rise of devops welded programming with operations, making the manufacturing process smarter by stuffing in all those buzzwords really is causing fundamental changes in how things are made. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted about 21 hours ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The complex physics of bubbles and foams have fascinated scientists for centuries. (credit: Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images) Human beings derive intense pleasure from bubbles and all kinds of foamy products, and scientists have long found them equally fascinating, given the complicated underlying physics. Most recently, a group of Japanese researchers published a paper in Scientific Reports describing two distinct mechanisms by which simple foams collapse. And in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, physicists at MIT and Princeton University demonstrated how to develop spherical bubbles uniformly by confining them in a narrow tube. Individual bubbles typically form a sphere, because that's the shape with the minimum surface area for any volume and hence is the most energy efficient. Back in the 19th century, Lord Kelvin proposed a bizarre soccer-ball shape called a tetrakaidecahedron (Greek for "fourteen faces" and sometimes translated "tetradecahedron"), with six square and eight hexagonal faces, to describe a bubble's natural geometry. It's known as "Lord Kelvin's cell," and while it was a valiant effort, that exact structure has yet to be observed in real-world bubbles, although physicists from Trinity College Dublin proposed a better solution to the conundrum in a 1993 paper. Foams are ubiquitous in everyday life, found in foods (whipped cream), beverages (beer, cappuccino), shaving cream and hair-styling mousse, packing peanuts, building insulation, flame-retardant materials, and so forth. All foams are the result of air being beaten into a liquid formula that contains some kind of surfactant (active surface agent), usually fats or proteins in edible foams, or chemical additives in non-edible products. That surfactant strengthens the liquid film walls of the bubbles to keep them from collapsing. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Cheesy graphic from stem-cell documentary "The Healthcare Revolution." (credit: Healthcare Revolution) Around a dozen prominent stem-cell experts said this week that they have been duped into appearing in a documentary series some described as an infomercial for the unproven and dangerous stem-cell treatments peddled by clinics now facing federal charges. The researchers said they had originally agreed to do interviews for the project believing it was for a sober, educational documentary on legitimate stem-cell research—which holds medical potential but is still largely unproven to benefit patients. Just days before the documentary’s intended release of June 17, however, researchers say they were horrified to learn that the 10-part series, titled The Healthcare Revolution, hypes dubious stem-cell treatments as miracle cures and gives false hope to desperate patients. The revelation was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. The researchers soon after discovered that the series was partially funded by the Cell Surgical Network, a for-profit chain of clinics currently facing federal charges for selling stem-cell treatments without approval from the Food and Drug Administration and failing to adhere to safety regulations. Hundreds of such questionable clinics have popped up around the country in recent years. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Apple Senior VP Craig Federighi unveiling iOS 13's dark mode at WWDC earlier this month. [credit: Ron Amadeo ] Sure, some users will appreciate iOS 13's dark mode, but features that relate to privacy, quality of life, and user advocacy are likely to be the ones that make the biggest difference for people when Apple's new iPhone, iPad, and iPod software arrives later this year. To that point, uninstalling an app to which you have a paid subscription in iOS 13's latest beta release will lead to a prompt to potentially unsubscribe from that app. This might be a good idea because odds are decent that if you're deleting the app, you're not planning to use the related service anymore. Of course, that won't always be the case: you could just be removing the app temporarily, you could still plan to use it on another device, or you could even just wish to keep supporting the developer who made it. The prompt just says "Manage Subscription," which is what copywriters might call a soft call-to-action—it's not telling you to unsubscribe, it's just making it an option. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Reddit user MiloWee uploaded a video of this allegedly sleeping Tesla driver. (credit: MiloWee / Reddit) In the last week, two different people have captured video of Tesla vehicles traveling down a freeway with an apparently sleeping driver behind the wheel. Both incidents happened in California. Last week, local television stations in Los Angeles aired footage from viewer Shawn Miladinovich of a Tesla vehicle driving on LA's 405 freeway. The driver "was just fully sleeping, eyes were shut, hands nowhere near the steering wheel," said Miladinovich, who was a passenger in a nearby car, in an interview with NBC Channel 4. Miladinovich said he saw the vehicle twice, about 30 minutes apart, as both cars traveled along the 405 freeway. The driver appeared to be asleep both times. He wrote down the vehicle's license plate number and called the information in to 911, but the California Highway Patrol had not reacted by the time the vehicles went their separate ways. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Yesterday on Twitter, Samsung's US support team reminded everyone to regularly—and manually—virus-scan their televisions. Samsung's team followed this up with a short video showing someone in a conference room going 16 button-presses deep into the system menu of a Samsung QLED TV to activate the television's built-in virus-scan, which is apparently "McAfee Security for TV." Welcome to the future. You can't have a jetpack, but here's some third-party antivirus for your television. Enjoy! Unsurprisingly, Samsung got immediate pushback on these tweets and almost as immediately deleted them. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: JIP) The Linux and FreeBSD operating systems contain newly discovered vulnerabilities that make it easy for hackers to remotely crash servers and disrupt communications, researchers have warned. OS distributors are advising users to install patches when available or to make system settings that lower the chances of successful exploits. The most severe of the vulnerabilities, dubbed SACK Panic, can be exploited by sending a specially crafted sequence of TCP Selective ACKnowledgements to a vulnerable computer or server. The system will respond by crashing, or in the parlance of engineers, entering a kernel panic. Successful exploitation of this vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2019-11477, results in a remote denial of service (DoS). A second vulnerability also works by sending a series of malicious SACKs that consumes computing resources of the vulnerable system. Exploits most commonly work by fragmenting a queue reserved for retransmitting TCP packets. In some OS versions, attackers can cause what’s known as an “expensive linked-list walk for subsequent SACKs.” This can result in additional fragmentation, which has been dubbed “SACK slowness.” Exploitation of this vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2019-11478, drastically degrades system performance and may eventually cause a complete DoS. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Enlarge / A photo of Philip Arps that was taken from a Facebook page. (credit: Facebook photo) A New Zealand court today sentenced a man to 21 months in prison for sharing a video of the white-supremacist terrorist attacks that killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch. As we noted in previous coverage, New Zealand and many other countries don't have US-style free-speech protections. After the mosque shootings on March 15, New Zealand's chief censor determined that a 17-minute video livestreamed during the shooting is objectionable under the country's law. "It's illegal to have a copy of the video or document, or to share these with others," the New Zealand government explained. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica) Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal on Nintendo's Switch Pro Controller, which is down to $50. That's good for a $15-20 discount off its usual going rate and tied for the lowest we've seen the gamepad at reputable retailers. Whether it's worth jumping on this deal depends on how often you keep the Switch docked and hooked up to a TV. The Switch's built-in "Joy-Con" controllers are still perfectly fine for most use cases, and if you're on the road, the hassle of trying to keep the Switch propped up just to use the Switch Pro pad probably isn't worth it. Much of the Switch's appeal is in its portability, after all. But if you don't just treat your Switch like a big 3DS, the Switch Pro Controller brings substantial upgrades in comfort and responsiveness, particularly over the course of longer play sessions. The face buttons, triggers, and joysticks are bigger and have more give, there's an actual d-pad, and the whole thing should be sized appropriately for all but the smallest hands. (Those joysticks are also laid out asymmetrically, a la an Xbox controller, which the Dealmaster has always found to feel more natural than the layout on Sony's DualShock 4 pad.) Nintendo rates the controller's rechargeable battery as lasting an excellent 40 hours on a charge, and that estimate isn't far off in practice. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images) Last week, we reported that Electrify America and ChargePoint had just inked a roaming agreement allowing their customers to use each other's electric car charging networks. On Tuesday, another major network, EVgo, announced it has also signed agreements, this time with ChargePoint and EV Connect. In a press release, EVgo says that the agreements will mean EVgo customers will have access to 400 new fast charging stations in addition to the 750 DC fast chargers the company currently operates in the US. "EVgo’s two new bilateral interoperability agreements will make charging for EVgo customers even more convenient through our strengthened commitment to open standards, collaboration, and innovation," said Cathy Zoi, EVgo's CEO. As Zoi's statement points out, this deal—like the Electrify America/ChargePoint one before it—is a bilateral agreement between individual networks. That's great if you're an EVgo customer who wants to use a ChargePoint charger without creating a new user account. But it's obviously no help if (for example) you're an Electrify America customer who needs to plug into an EVgo charger. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Google's "Messages" app. It's time for the annual reshuffling of Google's messaging strategy! The latest news comes to us via The Verge, which has a big feature detailing Google Messaging Strategy 2019: taking RCS back from the carriers. Google now wants to run an RCS service (an upgrade to the aging SMS system) itself, with the service first launching in France and the UK later this month. RCS will be something like Google's ninth instant messaging platform, after Google Talk, Google Voice, Google Buzz, Google+ Messenger, Hangouts, Spaces, Allo, and Hangouts Chat. Last year's Google messaging reshuffling saw the company kill Google Allo (AKA Google Messaging Platform 2016) and focus on Google Messages (the company's SMS client) in an effort to promote RCS. RCS, or Rich Communication Services, is a planned upgrade of the carrier-owned SMS service, and it has been around as a GSMA (the worldwide mobile network trade body) standard for several years now. RCS' goal is to bring very basic instant messaging features to carrier messaging—things like presence information, typing status, read receipts, and location sharing. Like a real chat app, RCS messages are sent over your data connection, and messages, photos, and videos all have bigger sizes. In last year's plan (and every other plan involving RCS), the rollout was up to carriers. Every individual carrier on Earth had to individually go out and upgrade their SMS infrastructure to support RCS and the "Universal Profile," which is a federated system that lets RCS users on, say, Verizon, talk to RCS users on T-Mobile. With little monetary incentive to do so, the carriers have been extremely slow at upgrading. And even when a carrier is RCS-capable, carriers have been certifying RCS on a phone-by-phone basis. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Suck it, Skynet. Today we’re presenting the second installment of my conversation with Naval Ravikant about existential risks. Naval is one of tech’s most successful angel investors, and the founder of multiple startups—including seed-stage investment platform AngelList. Part one of our conversation ran yesterday. If you missed it, click right here. Otherwise, you can press play on the embedded audio player or pull up the transcript—both of which are below. Click here for a transcript and click here for an MP3 direct download. This interview first appeared in March, as two back-to-back episodes of the After On Podcast (which offers a 50-episode archive of unhurried conversations with world-class thinkers, founders, and scientists). As I mentioned in yesterday’s article, my conversation with Naval led to a last-minute invite to give a related talk at April’s TED conference. TED posted that talk to their site this morning, and if you feel like watching it, it’s right here: "How synthetic biology could wipe out humanity—and how we can stop it." My talk focuses on the dangers that abuses of synthetic biology technology could lead to. Naval and I will tackle that subject in our next two installments. Today, we focus on that time-honored Hollywood staple—super AI risk. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 1 day ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Artist's impression of a post-superbug world. (credit: John Cayea / Doubleday) We're running a series of companion posts this week to accompany our special edition Ars Lunch Break podcast. This is the first of three guest posts centered around Rob's TED talk below. Tomorrow we'll have a post continuing the discussion from geneticist George Church, and Thusday we'll have one from microbiologist Andrew Hessel. The H5N1 flu strain makes SARS and swine flu look almost cuddly. But though it kills higher percentages of infected patients than even Ebola, this ghastly flu variant claimed just five human lives over the past three years. Happily, it’s barely contagious amongst humans. In 2011, two separate research teams—one in Holland, the other in Wisconsin—set out to repair this "defect" in H5N1. By carefully manipulating the bug’s genome, they soon had something just as lethal as the classic edition, but also wildly contagious. And if it escaped the lab, scientists believed it “would trigger an influenza pandemic, quite possibly with many millions of deaths,” according to the news arm of one of the world’s top academic journals, Science. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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