Las Vegas Orders Up a Boring Company Loop
- Since Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk joke-tweeted the Boring Company into existence two and a half years ago, the fledgling tunneling tech company has dug one (test) hole, in the parking lot of SpaceX’s suburban LA headquarters; participated in at least one high-profile press conference with the mayor of Chicago; promised Dodgers fans it would make it easier to get to their seats; been sued by at least two neighborhood groups in Los Angeles (they did not want tunnels near their homes); and completed at least two very lengthy and official environmental review for projects in Maryland and LA.
- Late Wednesday, the board of directors of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority voted to grant a $48,675,000 contract to the Boring Company to build a 0.83-mile, three-station version of the company's Loop mass-transit system inside of Vegas' sprawling, revamped convention center, which is currently under construction.
Facial Recognition Has Already Reached Its Breaking Point
- Most directly called for a moratorium on government use of facial recognition systems until Congress can pass legislation that adequately restricts and regulates the technology and establishes transparency standards.
- And on Wednesday, the Colorado Springs Independent reported that between February 2012 and September 2013, researchers at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs took photos of students and other passersby without their consent, for a facial recognition training database as part of a government-funded project.
- At Wednesday's House hearing, witnesses similarly emphasized that facial recognition technology isn't just a static database, but is increasingly used in sweeping, real-time, nonspecific dragnets—a use of the technology sometimes called "face surveillance." And given the major shortcomings of facial recognition, especially in accurately identifying people of color, women, and gender nonconforming people, the witnesses argued that the technology should not currently be eligible for use by law enforcement.
Judge Finds Qualcomm's Pricing Policy Violates Antitrust Law
- The Federal Trade Commission sued Qualcomm in 2017, alleging that the company drove up smartphone prices by overcharging customers and unfairly blocking competitors from the modem chip market, but the case didn't make it to trial until January.
- Qualcomm has historically charged a fee both for the chips it sells to device makers like Apple and Samsung, and a patent licensing fee of around 5 percent of the total value of a device, up to about $20.
- But Apple and other customers say they were unable to renegotiate patent licensing prices because Qualcomm threatened to cut off supplies of chips.
- Koh's order specifically bans Qualcomm from cutting off chip supplies, but it doesn’t necessarily stop the company from charging patent licensing fees separate from the cost of chips.
Social Issues Raised by Amazon Investors Aren't Going Away
- Investors voted on 12 of the proposals Wednesday, and while they all failed to get a majority vote, they highlight issues that some shareholders believe could jeopardize Amazon’s business for years to come.
- Perhaps the most notable proposal, which addressed climate change and the company’s environmental impact, came from Amazon’s own employees.
- It also fits with a broader increase in so-called shareholder activism, where groups of investors submit resolutions designed to force corporations to address issues concerning things like diversity, human rights, and the environment.
- The climate change proposal was filed by over a dozen of Amazon’s business and tech workers, who were given company stock as part of their compensation packages.
- Amazon’s “apparent inaction on issues of climate change can present human capital risks, which have the potential to lead to the Company having problems attracting and retaining talented employees,” the investor advisory firm Glass Lewis wrote in its analysis of the resolution.
Scientists Go Back in Time to Find More Troubling News About Earth's Oceans
- By analyzing previously collected sediment samples from over 3,500 sites around the world’s oceans, researchers have shown that plankton communities are rapidly transforming under the weight of warming seas, potentially spelling trouble for all manner of marine life and the health of the planet at large.
- They then compared these multispecies foram communities with samples taken in present-day oceans with sediment traps—essentially big funnels that grab organic matter falling to the seafloor.
- “And because the plankton community is really the base of the food web, any change of what's going on will be expected to really impact the entire ecosystem that relies on them.” This is particularly concerning in the case of phytoplankton, which each year transfer 10 gigatonnes of carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean depths when they die and sink.
A Rocket Built by Students Reached Space for the First Time
- The USC team is one of several groups of college students across the United States and Europe that have been racing to send a rocket above the Kármán line, the imaginary boundary that separates Earth’s atmosphere and space.
- And when they analyzed the flight data, they concluded with near certainty that the rocket had breached the Kármán line, making the USC Rocket Lab only the second amateur group to ever send a rocket to space.
- Like the Civilian Space Exploration Team, the USC lab focused on solid fuel rockets, which require far less complicated—and dangerous—motors than the liquid fuel rockets launched by SpaceX or Blue Origin.
- Following the failure of the first two Traveler rockets, the USC team began to develop the Fathom rocket and Graveler motor as testbeds for flight systems that would be used on subsequent space shots.
Logan Broadbent Shows Us How to Throw a Boomerang Like a Pro
- Ever wonder what makes a boomerang fly?
- World Champion thrower Logan Broadbent says it's pretty simple.
- Broadbent, a former boomerang trick shot champion, first joined the US Boomerang team at age 14, and currently ranks number two in the world.
- Broadbent is also the Boomerang Ninja on the TV show American Ninja Warrior.
- Competitive boomerang throwers take part in different events.
- They can compete for the longest distance flown to the maximum time in the air.
- There's also an event called “fast catch” in which the first person to catch five throws wins.
- One of the toughest parts about competitive throwing is adjusting to changing conditions, Broadbent says.
- He makes most of his own boomerangs and uses a number of hacks and tricks to gin up his performance, from material selection to modifications that add weight and spin to his throws.
If Huawei Loses Access to ARM's Chip Designs, It's Toast
- The latest blow: Chip designer ARM has reportedly severed ties with the company.
- As it did with Google, though, the US Commerce Department could grant a waiver that allows ARM to continue servicing Huawei.
- The company makes the designs that manufacturers like Qualcomm use to produce chips.
- The company would need not only to redesign its own chips from scratch—a process that takes years—it would find itself cut off from the world’s most popular operating system.
- The electronics giant will still be able to use its current, licensed technology, which means that it can continue to package any chips already in play.
- The BBC reports that its upcoming chip, the Kirin 985, may have snuck in under the wire, but after that the company will be stuck on the latest and greatest ARM designs as of May 22, 2019.
Oculus Quest: Beat Saber is a blast when it has no wires
- Beat Saber from Beat Games has sold more than a million units across the existing VR platforms, including the PlayStation VR, Steam VR (HTC Vive), and the Oculus Rift.
- But with the Oculus Quest, a standalone, wireless VR headset which debuted yesterday for $400, you can now experience Beat Saber the way it should be played.
- The Oculus Quest has inside-out tracking, meaning the hand-controller sensors are on the headset itself, so that it can track the position of your hands as you move them about.
- That compares to the outside-in tracking of the older Oculus Rift, which requires fixed wired sensors to be set up somewhere in the room.
- But I can say that, having played it on wired systems, the wireless Quest is the way this game should be played.
- Beat Saber costs $30 on the Oculus Quest.
Netflix's 'See You Yesterday' Challenges the Meaning of Time Travel
- Everyone knows the time-travel rules: Don't go back and meet your previous self; don't crush on your mom; and, as tempting as it is, don't try to kill an evil tyrant.
- The new Netflix sci-fi movie isn't concerned with stopping robot uprisings (Terminator), writing a high school history paper (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure), or re-living the 1980s (Hot Tub Time Machine).
- Rare for the genre, See You Yesterday imagines time travel as a way to correct a societal wrong, to undo evil of a more on-the-ground variety: Its protagonists, teenage science whizzes Claudette/CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow), build a time machine to try to stop CJ's brother from being shot by police.
- Whereas filmmakers of the past have been interested in traveling through time to stop the Singularity or relive the heyday of the Walkman, director Stefon Bristol's movie, produced by Spike Lee, seeks to address police brutality against black Americans.