posted 8 days ago on ars technica
This strange-looking orange city car is the fastest electric car you may ever encounter. Jonny Smith Jonny Smith's Flux Capacitor is one of the quirkiest (but most interesting) electric vehicles on the road today. Smith, a British automotive journalist, took an old Enfield 8000 electric city car (built in small numbers in the 1970s) and transformed it into something a lot wilder. Out went the array of 12v batteries and 8hp (6kW) electric motor, to be replaced by an altogether more potent powertrain. And on July 16, Smith and the Flux Capacitor entered the record books as the world's fastest street-legal EV, running the quarter-mile in 9.87 seconds. When last we checked in with Smith, the Flux Capacitor was only Europe's fastest street-legal EV, with a sub-11 second, 1/4-mile time under its (bright orange) belt. Since then, the existing 144-cell Hyperdrive Innovation lithium-ion battery pack has been supplemented by an extra 44 cells located in the trunk. That upgrade has boosted the car from 370v to 400v, and together with lower gearing on the differential, the times at Santa Pod Raceway in the UK began to fall. "The combination of big voltage amps and phenomenal grip gave us early ten-second quarter miles, and when we braved the RPM limit of the motors, we managed a nine [second run]," Smith told Ars. "Despite all of this power and speed, the little Enfield still felt smooth, stable, and happy, which is unbelievable given that it was designed to do 40 miles an hour." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: demonsparkx) A Fresno-area man who initially made a baffling attempt to explain to law enforcement how his laser pointer repeatedly hit a California Highway Patrol aircraft multiple times—"It just shot upward from my pocket and hit the plane"—has now been sentenced to six months in prison. He pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft with his laser earlier this year. "I keep thinking this offense was committed by a 12-year-old. But it was not," US District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill told defendant Jeremy Scott Danielson during the Monday sentencing hearing, according to a statement sent to Ars. "You could have brought the CHP plane down by blinding the pilot. You jeopardized their eyes and their safety." Despite the judge's claim, a plane has never been brought down due to a laser strike. However, for more than a decade, federal authorities have been concerned that terrorists or other ne'er-do-wells might try to. Under the Obama administration, federal penalties for laser strikes have been strengthened. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Although Yahoo reported decent earnings in its Q2 2016 financial call yesterday, the embattled company reported yet another write down on its $1.1 billion Tumblr acquisition. Yahoo is in the process of soliciting bids for its core businesses as well as downsizing significantly, but the company still didn’t have anything to share about a potential buyer on its call, with the third and final round for bids due on Monday. Yahoo said it had lowered its projections for Tumblr’s performance, writing down $482 million in “impairment charges.” Last quarter, Yahoo similarly took a $230 million write down on the social media platform. CNN Money notes that Yahoo has now written down about half the value of its original investment in Tumblr, “rendering [CEO Marissa] Mayer's biggest acquisition to date effectively worthless.” When Yahoo acquired Tumblr in 2013, the company put out a press release to placate angry and worried Tumblr users, promising “not to screw it up.” Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Fitbit) A proposed class-action lawsuit accusing Fitbit of misrepresenting the ability of its wearable fitness products to track sleep can move forward, a federal judge has ruled. The San Francisco federal lawsuit claims that Fitbit materially misrepresented on its packaging the ability of the Flex product to track users' hours slept, times woken up, and sleep quality. The suit alleges false advertising, unfair trade practices, fraud, and a host of other claims. US District Judge James Donato did not rule on the merits of the case but instead refused to toss the lawsuit as Fitbit had wanted. Now Fitbit, which claimed the allegations were based on "bad science," according to the judge, must mount another defense to the allegations. The case could still be dismissed at a later stage, and it might also go to a trial or settle. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Lex Machina) The number of copyright lawsuits in the US over online file-sharing have dropped significantly this year, according to data compiled by Lex Machina. Data released by the legal research company shows there were 249 file-sharing lawsuits filed in the second quarter of 2016, compared to 517 cases the previous year. Anti-piracy copyright lawsuits began increasing in number dramatically around 2012 and last year constituted the majority of all copyright cases nationally. The number of copyright disputes unrelated to file-sharing have held steady for the last five years, as shown in the graph above. Lex Machina defines file-sharing lawsuits as cases having "John Doe or anonymous defendants" and allegations related to file-sharing technology, typically BitTorrent. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Steve Jurvetson) There’s yet another unhappy Theranos customer. In a lawsuit filed Monday in the US District Court in Arizona, an ex-customer alleges that bum blood tests performed by the beleaguered biotech company directly led to him having a heart attack. (A PDF of the lawsuit is available here.) The test results were later voided by the company, independent of any involvement from the plaintiff, identified only as R.C. in the lawsuit. R.C. joins at least nine other ex-customers suing the company over faulty tests and the company’s lofty but unfulfilled claims. Each lawsuit is seeking class-action status. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Getty Images | BSIP) Two family doctors who are stuck with Verizon DSL say their Internet service is so slow and unreliable that they often can't view online medical records and are having trouble complying with federal guidelines. Doctors Lori Talbot and Christopher Ballas run a practice in Fairfield, New Jersey, and are among numerous people complaining that Verizon hasn't properly maintained its old copper lines or upgraded its network to fiber in South Jersey. Officials in 16 cities and towns petitioned the state to investigate Verizon last December, and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has scheduled a public hearing for August 4 to let residents and businesses detail the network's failings. Talbot and Ballas described their office's problems in a letter to local officials and were profiled last week by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Comcast lines stop about a mile from the doctors' office, leaving them without high-speed cable Internet. Since Verizon hasn't wired up the area with fiber, they must make do with Verizon DSL. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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"Hunter Arts" are fun and flashy, without breaking the spirit of the game. Pick up your charge blades, insect glaives, and cheese fondue—there’s monsters what need hunting. The aptly named Monster Hunter series has returned, this time without a number following the name. This time, it’s just Monster Hunter Generations, and the name refers to more than the time it takes to learn these games (assuming you’re in what seems like the majority of Western players that are rightly intimidated by Capcom’s Japanese moneymaker). As with every Monster Hunter since the first, what you're learning is how to strike down massive, and not-so-massive, creatures of the wild. Think of each major monster as a boss fight—one that can take nearly an hour to complete as you track and hack away at prey over wide, repeatedly visited zones. Doing so successfully means chopping them up for parts and turning the material into better equipment. Break it all up with some grinding, gathering, and fetch quests and you've got the thousand-hour-plus loop the series has been known for over multiple "generations" of hardware. It's a legacy this latest entry is particularly aware of. “Generations” refers to the fact that this Monster Hunter is pulling from past entries. It’s like a greatest-hits album for the franchise, if you will. Familiar hunting grounds return from Monster Hunter Freedom 2, the Japan exclusive Portable 3rd, and even the debut game in the franchise. Each locale has been ever-so-gently modified to make available elements from Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. That means there are more ledges on beasts’ backs for you to grab on to as you ride them down to the ground. Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Specs at a glance: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 CUDA CORES 1280 TEXTURE UNITS 80 ROPS 48 CORE CLOCK 1,506MHz BOOST CLOCK 1,708MHz MEMORY BUS WIDTH 192-bit MEMORY BANDWIDTH 192GB/s MEMORY SIZE 6GB GDDR5 Outputs 3x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0b with support for 4K60 10/12b HEVC Decode, 1x dual-link DVI Release date July 19 PRICE Founders Edition (as reviewed): £275/€320/$300; Partner cards priced at £240/€280/$250 What a difference a little competition makes. Nvidia was always going to release the GTX 1060, just like it released the GTX 960, GTX 760, and GTX 560 before that. But few could have predicted how soon it would appear after the launch of the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, the company's first Pascal-based graphics cards. Fewer still expected it to be faster than a GTX 980, a card that launched at £430/$550 and still sells for a hefty £320/$400 today. We've got AMD to thank. Its aggressively priced RX 480—which offers excellent 1080p and VR-ready performance for a mere £180/$200—brought the budget fight to Nvidia in a segment where its competitor has traditionally struggled. If you want the fastest, buy Nvidia; if you want the best value, buy AMD. The GTX 1060 changes that. For the first time in a long time, Nvidia has a mainstream graphics card that can compete on price and performance with AMD. The GTX 1060 is (mostly) faster than the GTX 980; it runs cool and quiet with a light 120W TDP; and best of all the GTX 1060 costs £240/$250. Yes, that's more expensive than the GTX 960's launch price, continuing Nvidia's tradition of jacking up prices this generation. And yes, AMD's RX 480 is a wee bit cheaper. But with around a 15 percent boost in performance on average for a 10 percent jump in price over the comparable 8GB RX 480, it's good value, and it overclocks like a champ with very little effort. Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A criminal gang recently found an effective way to spread malware that drains online bank accounts. According to a blog post published Monday, they bundled the malicious executable inside a file that installed a legitimate administrative tool available for download. The legitimate tool is known as Ammyy Admin and is used to provide remote access to a computer so someone can work on it even when they don't have physical access to it. According to Monday's blog post, members of a criminal enterprise known as Lurk somehow managed to tamper with the Ammyy installer so that it surreptitiously installed a malicious spyware program in addition to the legitimate admin tool people expected. To increase their chances of success, the criminals modified the PHP script running on the Ammyy Web server, suggesting they had control over the website. What resulted was a highly effective means for distributing the banking trojan. That's because the legitimate tool Ammyy provided was in many ways similar to the banking trojan in that they both provided remote access to the computer they ran on. As researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab explained: Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Brian Wibbenmeyer) A former executive for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, Christopher Correa, was sentenced Monday to 46 months in prison. In 2013, he successfully guessed a password to access an online database for confidential data held by another baseball team, the Houston Astros. Correa pleaded guilty earlier this year to five counts under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a notorious 1980s-era hacking statute. “You have made it harder for them to live their lives,” US District Judge Lynn N. Hughes said during the court hearing, referred to the necessity of tighter security around all of Major League Baseball. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Netflix) It’s been a little over a year since HBO launched its streaming-only online platform HBO Now, and the network is declaring that investment, along with HBO Go and HBO On Demand, a success. On Monday, HBO sent around a press release saying that the digital platforms had been drivers of “record viewership,” especially with season six of Game of Thrones. Netflix, on the other hand, was not so lucky. That staid bastion of cord-cutter viewership saw its “weakest subscriber expansion in two years,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Still, Netflix was able to keep content costs down enough to beat earnings expectations, the paper noted. Both companies have threatened traditional pay-TV models in the past. Netflix was earliest on the scene, and HBO cut deals with its pay-TV partners to make a standalone HBO package a possibility. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A Google self-driving car. (credit: Google) As the recent kerfuffle around Tesla's Autopilot has shown, we still have some way to go before everyone is on board with the idea of people being driven by their cars on public roads. Until we get to a point where fully autonomous (level 4) cars are capable of taking us from A to B with no human intervention beyond telling it the destination, self-driving cars are going to need a (relatively) alert human occupant in the driver's seat, ready to take control if necessary. While it is true that many automakers are pushing for self-driving vehicles, they're not the only ones. Both in the US and elsewhere, governments are also gung-ho for the technology, as it has the potential to make a real dent in the annual death toll on our roads. Over in Germany, Reuters reports that the country's transport ministry has issued a proposal that would allow for drivers of autonomous cars to relax their guard somewhat. They will have to remain seated behind the controls—so don't expect chairs that swivel out of the way just yet—and there will have to be on-board data recorders that log the car's autonomous behavior. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: CDC) An elderly Utah resident who contracted Zika virus while traveling abroad may have mysteriously passed the virus on to a family caretaker, according to health officials who are investigating the "unique" and "surprising" case. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Monday that both the elderly resident, who died in late June, and the caretaker, who has recovered, had tested positive for the virus. Yet, it's unclear how the caretaker became ill; the caretaker hadn’t done either of the two things thought to put one at risk of infection—that is, travel to an area where mosquitoes are transmitting the virus, or have sex with an infected person. With mosquitoes being the primary transmission route for the virus, the circumstances could suggest that mosquitoes in Utah were responsible for spreading the virus, possibly from the elderly resident. It would mark the first time mosquitoes have been found spreading the virus within the continental US. But that scenario is extremely unlikely, health experts cautioned, because the two types of mosquitoes that commonly spread Zika, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, aren’t present in the area in which the two Utah residents lived. However, the CDC is now testing local mosquitoes to absolutely rule out this possibility. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Artist's conception of the water snow line around V883 Orionis. (credit: A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF)) A team of researchers has imaged the water snow line in a forming exosolar system for the first time. The system in question, V883 Ori, is only about half a billion years old and is in an early stage of development, with planet formation probably not yet started. The observations, taken in radio wavelengths by the Atacama Large millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), identify where in the system it gets cool enough for water to freeze out into a solid, influencing the formation and composition of bodies within the exosolar system. Liquid water can’t exist in space, so ice that gets close enough to its star or protostar will heat up enough to sublimate—going from its solid form straight to gas. The snow line is the distance from the protostar where this transition takes place. Other substances, like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, have their own snow lines at varying distances from the protostar; the one discussed here is for water. It has been difficult to image snow lines previously because they’re so close to their protostar, usually within about five astronomical units (AU) of it. For comparison, the Earth is only one AU from the Sun. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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LJ Langelier has some Facebook fun with his Maine food-stamp card that erroneously links to a sex chat line. "Welcome to America's hottest talk line. Ladies, to talk with interesting and exciting guys free, press 1 now. Press 1 now." That's the greeting callers get when they dial the number on the back of their Maine electronic food-stamp card. Either the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has branched out into the phone-sex market or it's a misprint. Turns out the agency hasn't opened a sex line, and instead the phone number to reach the agency is off by one digit on the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Agency spokesman John Martins told local media that the department is aware of the mistake, and it's being corrected. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A few weeks ago, we launched an ambitious new redesign aimed at improving the site's functionality and performance while putting in place the building blocks for new expansion plans, including secure browsing and more customized layout options. Ultimately, network and storage failures conspired against a full deployment of the site, so we reverted back to the old site and hardware configuration. We also vowed to not come back until we had addressed not only those issues, but some of the biggest concerns users had in the first day the site was (sort of) up. In no specific order, those were: Page flow — The redesigned front page had too much white space, so it wasn't immediately clear how stories were moving down the page. We've scaled it back while still keeping a looser, less dense feel. Just want a simple list view? Switch to it! Simply click on the menu icon above (≡). Incidentally, that's where you can also find the Unified View, which shows stories from both Ars Technica and Ars Technica UK. The dark theme — Longtime readers know that the original Ars color scheme was white text on a black background with orange and green accents. The passion for it is strong, and we've brought it back to the new design. You can make the switch via the menu icon above (≡). Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Verizon's new prepaid plans. Customers enrolled in auto-pay get an extra 1GB per month. (credit: Verizon Wireless) Verizon Wireless recently unveiled some new postpaid data plans with features popularized by T-Mobile USA, including rollover data and unlimited data that lets customers stay connected at slower speeds after using up their high-speed allotments. Verizon today announced similar changes to its prepaid offerings with "Always-On Data" that throttles speeds to 128kbps after customers have used up all their high-speed data. While throttled data is less pleasant to use, it's a good alternative to automatic overage fees. Instead of automatically being charged extra after exceeding a data cap, customers can choose whether slow speeds are good enough for the rest of the month or whether they'll purchase more high-speed data.  While the Always-On Data feature costs an extra $5 a month for most postpaid plans, it will be included at no extra charge in the standard prepaid prices. While Verizon raised its postpaid prices and data allotments earlier this month, the prices and data allotments of the prepaid plans are staying the same after today's announcement. It'll remain $60 a month for 6GB of data (or 5GB if customers don't enable auto-pay) and $45 for 3GB (or 2GB without automatic monthly payments enabled). The prices include mobile hotspot usage and unlimited talk and text. But unlike postpaid plans, prepaid still doesn't have rollover data. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The new mobile client. (credit: Microsoft) Microsoft's preview of the new, modern, Universal Windows Platform (UWP) version of the Skype client received a big upgrade today: it's now available for devices running Windows 10 Mobile as well as Windows 10 PCs. In addition to supporting Windows phones, the client has been given a big functional upgrade as Microsoft continues to rebuild all the old Skype client's functionality within the new app. Calls to landlines, voicemails, screen sharing, and integrated translation of audio and video calls are all now available. The company says that the new client is faster, too. Overall, the development of Microsoft's Skype client continues to confuse since the strategy at large remains unclear. The company initially developed a (rather feature deficient) Windows 8-style Skype client, but in June last year Microsoft said that client was to be discontinued. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Today, Google released a new version of the Android N Developer Preview to the world. This is the fifth and final developer preview before the consumer release of Android 7.0 Nougat, which is scheduled for some time in Q3. There doesn't seem to be a ton of changes, but this release offers a "near-final" look at Android 7. Google is encouraging developers to test their apps against this version and stomp out any bugs before the final release. Android N brings a split screen mode, a notification panel redesign, additions to Doze power saving, and a ton of other changes developers need to account for. The Play Store is already able to accept apps targeting Android  N, so once the testing is done, developers are encouraged to publish their Android N apps. As usual, the Developer Preview is available via OTA update for devices in the Android Beta Program or you can flash a system image. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Lucasarts Doesn't look good, R2. 3 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } The nascent world of virtual reality already has its fair share of satisfying sword-fighting games, but let's not kid ourselves: our ideal VR sword would glow and make a cool "whoosh, whoosh" sound with every swing. That's why we're stoked about today's biggest HTC Vive release: Trials on Tatooine, the first official Star Wars VR experience. Even better, it's free—which will make its admittedly tiny amount of content a little bit easier to swallow. If this VR experience sounds familiar, that's because Lucasarts demoed SW:ToT behind closed doors at March's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. There, both Kyle Orland and I got to fake like we had warped to Tatooine to help original-trilogy-era Han Solo in a pinch. During the five-minute demo, we stood right beneath the Millennium Falcon's landing zone—which, wow, there are few words to capture that feeling of nerdy presence—and then helped Solo by patching together parts of a circuit board with our hands. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Fire up your updaters. (credit: Andrew Cunningham) Apple has just released a new round of updates for all of its platforms, including OS X 10.11.6 and iOS 9.3.3. All are minor updates that focus mostly on fixing bugs, as most of Apple's attention has turned to the new major versions of its operating systems that are due in the fall. Both iOS 10 and macOS Sierra are currently available as public betas. OS X 10.11.6 fixes a bug in user accounts with parental controls enabled that could prevent settings from being saved, and it also addresses a problem with SMB network shares that could keep certain kinds of devices from accessing them. The update tackles a handful of business-centric features, too. The OS boots a bit faster when connecting to a NetBoot server, and the release fixes both startup issues with OS X 10.11.4 and 10.11.5 NetBoot images and a problem with Active Directory authentication. iOS 9.3.3 includes nonspecific bug fixes, as do the watchOS 2.2.2 and tvOS 9.2.1 updates for Apple's other iOS-adjacent platforms. iOS 9.3.3 is available for all devices that support iOS 9, including the iPhone 4S and newer; iPad 2 and newer; all iPad Minis and iPad Pros; and the fifth- and sixth-generation iPod Touches. A list of all security holes patched in OS X, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS can be found on Apple's security update page. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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(credit: Jason Farrar) The Federal Communications Commission is trying once again to limit the prices prisoners and their families pay for phone calls, proposing a new, higher set of caps in response to the commission's latest court loss. A March 2016 federal appeals court ruling stayed new rate caps of 11¢ to 22¢ per minute on both interstate and intrastate calls from prisons. The stay remains in place while appeals from prison phone companies are considered, but FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn last week proposed new caps of 13¢ to 31¢ per minute in an apparent attempt to satisfy prison phone companies and the courts. Prison phone companies Global Tel*Link (GTL) and Securus Technologies had argued that the FCC's limits fell short of what the companies are contractually obligated to pay in "site commissions" to correctional facilities. The new Wheeler and Clyburn proposal still wouldn't ban the commissions or limit what prisons can charge companies for site access. However, they say that the caps of 13¢ to 31¢ per minute account "for the possibility that jails and prisons bear legitimate costs in providing access to ICS [inmate calling services]." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Once a channel is cut into the graphene, a molybdenum disulfide crystal can grow within it. (credit: Berkeley Lab) The features we're making in current semiconductor materials are shrinking to the point where soon, they will be just a handful of atoms thin. Unfortunately, the behavior you get from bulk materials is often different from what you see when there are just a few atoms present, and quantum effects begin to dominate. There is an alternative, however: start with a material that is already incredibly small and has well-defined properties. Graphene, for example, is a sheet of carbon just one atom thick, and it's an excellent conductor; a variety of similar materials have been also developed. It's a big challenge to manipulate these things that are just one atom thick, so it's really hard to put together any sort of circuitry based on these materials. Now, however, researchers have figured out how create a template where single-atom-thick materials will grow to create functional circuitry. As we noted above, graphene is an excellent conductor of electrons, so the authors of the new paper decided to use it to create wiring. But getting sheets of graphene lined up to consistently create the wiring of even simple circuitry has been nearly impossible. The authors didn't even try. Instead, they took a larger sheet of graphene, dropped it onto silicon dioxide, and then etched away any material they didn't want. The etching involved a plasma of oxygen ions, which burned channels in the graphene that were about 15µm wide. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urges supporters to fight the coup attempt in Turkey via a FaceTime session with NTV as he fled to Istanbul. (credit: NTV) A failed coup attempt in Turkey, which began during the evening of July 15, was apparently coordinated using the WhatsApp mobile messaging service, according to reports from Turkish media. And among the apparent plotters was a Turkish Army colonel who was considered an expert in cyber-operations. Ahmet Zeki Gerehan, a Turkish infantry officer, was head of the operation and intelligence department at the Turkish Army War College and co-author of a number of articles on cyber-warfare. According to video reports, officers involved in the coup gave moment-by-moment status reports in a WhatsApp group chat entitled "We are a country of peace" ("yurta suhl b iziz"), as the faction moved to shut down the bridge over the Bosporus connecting the Istanbul region to the rest of Turkey and conceal their operations from official communications channels. Darbecilerin WhatsApp görüşmeleri deşifre edildi pic.twitter.com/9ShCgbm3nf — ÇAPAMAG (@CAPAMAG) July 16, 2016 Gerehan was highly aware of how effective using technology like WhatsApp could be against a centralized command-and-control system. One of the papers he co-authored was presented in 2015 with one of his students at the Turkish Army War College during the Journal of National Security and Military Science's International Leadership Symposium entitled Security and the Environment of Future Military Operations. Speaking of the hybrid nature of conflicts in the 21st Century, he wrote, "Cyber Warfare might be the decisive factor in future wars." In another paper, he and his co-authors noted, "The power of social networks, during elections, street incidents in repressive regimes or during natural disasters, has proved its ability to change traditional one-way media, from news agency to people." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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