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Scientists Capture World's First 3,200-Megapixel Photos

Scientists at the Menlo Park, California-based SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have taken the world's first 3,200-megapixel digital photos, using an advanced imaging device that's built to explore the universe. CNET reports: "We will measure and catalog something like 20 billion galaxies." said Steven Kahn, director of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. That observatory is where the world's largest digital camera will become the centerpiece of a monumental effort to map the night sky. The camera will spend 10 years capturing the most detailed images of the universe ever taken. The team working on the camera just completed the focal plane, which is an array of imaging sensors more than two feet wide. (The equivalent focal length on an iPhone 11 camera is 26 millimeters.) It took the team about six months to assemble the sensors, largely because the sensors can easily crack if they touch each other during the installation process. Since the camera isn't complete, scientists used a pinhole projector to test the focal plane. They snapped photos of an image of Vera C. Rubin (the late scientist the observatory is named for), the camera team, and a head of romanesco broccoli. CNET posted a video describing how scientists designed and built the focal plane.

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Posted on 24 October 2020 | 10:00 am

Einstein's Theory of Relativity, Critical For GPS, Seen In Distant Stars

Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have discovered that "gravitational redshift" exists in two stars orbiting each other in our galaxy about 29,000 light years (200,000 trillion miles) away from Earth. Gravitational redshifts, where light is shifted to redder colors because of gravity, "have tangible impacts on modern life, as scientists and engineers must take them into account to enable accurate positions for GPS," reports Phys.Org. From the report: The intriguing system known as 4U 1916-053 contains two stars in a remarkably close orbit. One is the core of a star that has had its outer layers stripped away, leaving a star that is much denser than the Sun. The other is a neutron star, an even denser object created when a massive star collapses in a supernova explosion. The neutron star (grey) is shown in this artist's impression at the center of a disk of hot gas pulled away from its companion (white star on left). These two compact stars are only about 215,000 miles apart, roughly the distance between the Earth and the Moon. While the Moon orbits our planet once a month, the dense companion star in 4U 1916-053 whips around the neutron star and completes a full orbit in only 50 minutes. In the new work on 4U 1916-053, the team analyzed X-ray spectra -- that is, the amounts of X-rays at different wavelengths -- from Chandra. They found the characteristic signature of the absorption of X-ray light by iron and silicon in the spectra. In three separate observations with Chandra, the data show a sharp drop in the detected amount of X-rays close to the wavelengths where the iron or silicon atoms are expected to absorb the X-rays. One of the spectra showing absorption by iron -- the dips on the left and right -- is included in the main graphic. An additional graphic shows a spectrum with absorption by silicon. In both spectra the data are shown in grey and a computer model in red. However, the wavelengths of these characteristic signatures of iron and silicon were shifted to longer, or redder wavelengths compared to the laboratory values found here on Earth (shown with the blue, vertical line for each absorption signature). The researchers found that the shift of the absorption features was the same in each of the three Chandra observations, and that it was too large to be explained by motion away from us. Instead they concluded it was caused by gravitational redshift. The article goes on to explain how gravitational redshifts connect with Einstein's General Theory Relativity: "As predicted by Einstein's theory, clocks under the force of gravity run at a slower rate than clocks viewed from a distant region experiencing weaker gravity. This means that clocks on Earth observed from orbiting satellites run at a slower rate. To have the high precision needed for GPS, this effect needs to be taken into account or there will be small differences in time that would add up quickly, calculating inaccurate positions..." The findings have been published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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Posted on 24 October 2020 | 7:00 am

First 'Murder Hornet' Nest In US Is Found In Washington State

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Remember the "murder hornets"? You know, the terrifyingly large Asian giant hornets that are threatening to wipe out the North American bee population? Entomologists with the Washington State Department of Agriculture have now located a nest of them -- the first to be found in the U.S., the agency says. The nest was discovered in the cavity of a tree on a property in the city of Blaine, near the Canadian border. This achievement closely follows another advance: State entomologists had recently had luck trapping the hornets. This week, they were able to collect four live Asian giant hornets using a new type of trap -- and managed to attach radio trackers to three of them. One of those tagged hornets led staffers to the nest. The plan now? Destroy the nest. The agency says it intends to eradicate it on Saturday, removing the tree if necessary. Asian giant hornets are an invasive pest that prey on honeybees and other insects. "Only a couple of hornets can slaughter an entire healthy honeybee hive in just a matter of a few hours," Sven-Erik Spichiger, chief entomologist for the state's agriculture department, told NPR last week.

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Posted on 24 October 2020 | 3:30 am

A Massive Spam Attack Is Ruining Public 'Among Us' Games

Just days after US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played Among Us to an audience of more than 435,000 viewers, InnerSloth, the developer of the popular multiplayer title, is struggling to contain a spam attack that is affecting most of the game's community. Engadget reports: The hack started to spread through the game's userbase on Thursday evening. It causes players to spam their match's text chat with messages that direct people to the YouTube and Discord channels of a person who goes by the pseudonym "Eris Loris," threatening them if they don't subscribe. For good measure, some of the messages also promote President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign. InnerSloth said it's "super duper aware of the current hacking issue" and that it had planned to roll out an emergency server-side update to address the spam. Forest Willard, one of three developers who make up the InnerSloth team, said they had begun rolling out the update at some point in the middle of the night, but it doesn't seem to have addressed the issue; new reports of spam-filled matches continue to flood Twitter. The studio is advising people to play private games with friends while it works to solve the problem. As for the hacker, it appears their primary motive in all of this was to troll people. "I was curious to see what would happen, and personally I found it funny," they told Kotaku. "The anger and hatred is the part that makes it funny. If you care about a game and are willing to go and spam dislike some random dude on the internet because you cant [sic] play it for three minutes, it's stupid."

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Posted on 24 October 2020 | 12:50 am

'youtube-dl' Downloading Software Removed From GitHub By RIAA Takedown Notice

Jahta writes: The GitHub repository for the popular youtube-dl utility is offline after GitHub received a DMCA takedown notice from the RIAA. The notice claims that "The clear purpose of this source code is to (i) circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube, and (ii) reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by our member companies without authorization for such use." "Whether you're looking to backup contents of your personal YouTube account or download some of your favorite YouTuber's videos for offline use, many turn to youtube-dl as the most reliable and in-depth tool for downloading videos from YouTube -- along with many, many other sites that have videos like Vimeo, CNN, etc," writes Kyle Bradshaw via 9to5Google. "Beyond simple downloading features, youtube-dl is also able to convert your download into nearly any format, including creating an mp3 of just a video's audio track." "One of the primary bases for the RIAA's claim is that youtube-dl appears to be developed with the explicit intention of enabling the downloading of copyrighted works, with music videos from the likes of Icona Pop, Justin Timberlake, and Taylor Swift being used to test the tool's functionality, a claim which we were able to independently verify." It's now up to the project's creators to file a counterclaim in the hopes of restoring youtube-dl's status on GitHub.

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Posted on 24 October 2020 | 12:10 am

Garmin Introduces Esports Fitness Smartwatch For Streamers

Garmin has launched the Instinct Esports Edition, a "rugged GPS smartwatch uniquely designed for esports athletes and enthusiasts to take their gaming performance to the next level." How is that possible, you ask? Gizmodo explains: Well, for starters, the watch adds an esports activity for tracking so you can monitor your heart rate and stress during a game. Garmin also developed a new PC streaming tool that's called, sigh, STR3AMUP!, so you can create overlays that let viewers know your heart rate, stress, and "body battery" level in realtime. Did I mention this watch is also $300? "Elite athletes around the world depend on Garmin products to monitor and improve their performance," Garmin's VP of Sales Dan Bartel said in the press release. This, so far, is a true statement. The following is more dubious. "With the Instinct Esports Edition, esports athletes can tap into that same technology to track and examine how their body responds to intense competition. Players can also use Instinct's data to make adjustments in their daily lives, whether it be altering sleep patterns or activity levels, which can result in increased cognitive and physical performance during play." [...] The Instinct Esports Editions specs are truly bananas. This watch has a transflective screen, which is normally found in watches geared toward outdoor activity for visibility under direct sunlight. It's also rated for 10 ATM of water resistance, or a depth of 330 feet. That is double the rating that is widely considered safe for swimming. In terms of sensors, it also sports a compass, barometric altimeter, and thermometer on top of the usual accelerometer and built-in GPS.

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Posted on 23 October 2020 | 11:30 pm

The Technology That's Replacing the Green Screen

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: As a compositor for venerable visual-effects house Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), [Charmaine Chan] has worked on films like The Last Jedi, assembling various digital elements into a beautiful, seamless image. Her job changed while working on The Mandalorian, one of the first shows to use ILM's upgrade for the green screen: LED panels that use the same technology as video game engines to place a realistic-looking world behind the actors. The result was a huge improvement, as green screens actually have a lot of drawbacks. Removing the green screen is never as quick as VFX artists would hope, and it also casts green light over the set and the actors. Even green-screen substitutes, like projecting an image onto a screen behind the actor, fail to dynamically respond to camera movements the way they would in the real world. ILM's solution fixes a lot of those problems. It also led to creative breakthroughs in which the old Hollywood order of making a TV show or movie -- wherein VFX came last -- was suddenly reversed. Now, artists like Charmaine work alongside actors, set designers, and other crew members during filming. That collaboration means this technology doesn't just eliminate a screen -- it eliminates a creative barrier. Watch the video [here] to see how it happens.

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Posted on 23 October 2020 | 10:50 pm

Patreon Is Banning QAnon, Joining Facebook, YouTube and Others

Patreon is the latest tech company to take action on the QAnon conspiracy theory, announcing in a blog post Thursday morning that creators promoting the movement would be banned from the platform. Business Insider reports: Patreon, a membership platform that lets fans support creators and celebrities financially through subscriptions, previously hosted 14 QAnon influencers on the platform, according to a recent report from the progressive media watchdog Media Matters for America (MMFA). QAnon, the baseless far-right conspiracy theory that alleges President Donald Trump is fighting a deep-state cabal of human traffickers, has recently been banned or limited by Facebook, YouTube, Etsy, Spotify, Triller, and several other platforms. While many QAnon followers base their beliefs on "Q drops" from an anonymous "Q" figure on the messageboard 8kun, the movement is now spread by QAnon influencers who analyze and explain the "Q drops" for their followers. Patreon creators who used the platform to earn money included some of the movement's top influencers, MMFA found, including Patriots Soapbox, Sean Morgan, Praying Medic, and InTheMatrixxx, all of which were already banned from YouTube. As of Thursday morning, soon after the company published its blog post, those four creators were still up and running on Patreon with QAnon references in their profiles. By Thursday afternoon, the four users were taken down from the platform. Patreon said that creators who have been identified by Patreon's Policy and Trust and Safety teams as QAnon-specific will be removed, but those "who have propagated some QAnon content, but are not dedicated to spreading QAnon disinformation, will have the opportunity to bring their campaigns into compliance with our updated guidelines."

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Posted on 23 October 2020 | 10:10 pm

Uber and Lyft Need To Make Drivers Employees, Appeals Court Rules

An appeals court ruled Thursday evening that an injunction issued against Uber and Lyft over the status of their drivers was an appropriate measure. CNET reports: The injunction was issued in August by Judge Ethan Schulman of the San Francisco Superior Court, who ruled that the ride-hailing companies must start classifying their drivers as employees in the state. The judge allowed the companies 10 days to appeal the ruling, which they did. The First Appellate District court in San Francisco heard arguments from the companies last week and issued its ruling Thursday siding with Schulman. The appeals court said in its 74-page ruling that there was an "overwhelming likelihood" Uber and Lyft are violating California law AB5. That law requires some employers that use independent contractors to reclassify their workers as employees and provide more worker benefits. The injunction stems from a lawsuit against Uber and Lyft filed by the state of California in May in conjunction with the city attorneys from San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. The suit says the companies "exploited hundreds of thousands of California workers" by classifying drivers as independent contractors and are violating AB5, which took effect in January. As this lawsuit works its way through the courts, Uber, Lyft and other gig economy companies have sponsored a state ballot measure campaign with nearly $200 million to bring the issue to voters. Proposition 22 aims to create an exemption for the companies to AB5 and allow them to continue classifying their workers as independent contractors. The report notes that this latest appeals court ruling "won't have an immediate effect. The court gave the companies at least a 30-day stay without requiring any changes to driver status."

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Posted on 23 October 2020 | 9:30 pm

Microsoft Bashes Slack Complaint in European Antitrust Filing

Microsoft has privately told European competition authorities that Slack's antitrust complaint against the tech giant was motivated essentially by sour grapes [Editor's note: the link is paywalled; an alternative source was not available.]. From a report: In a recent confidential filing, Microsoft told the European Commission, which oversees competition regulation, that Slack brought its complaint against Microsoft because the lockdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic has exposed deficiencies in Slack's messaging product, according to a person who has seen the complaint. In the filing, which runs about 40 pages, Microsoft said the sudden surge in people working from home this year has made more apparent shortcomings in Slack's product, including its handling of videoconferencing, while also benefiting Microsoft's competing Teams software, the person said. [...] Slack declined to comment directly on the "confidential exchange of documents" between Slack, Microsoft and the commission. But the company's vice president of policy and communications, Jonathan Prince, told The Information that Microsoft's argument was the equivalent of a schoolyard taunt. Further reading: Slack CEO: Microsoft is 'Unhealthily Preoccupied With Killing Us.'

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Posted on 23 October 2020 | 8:50 pm

T-Mobile Screwups Caused Nationwide Outage But FCC Isn't Punishing Carrier

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission has finished investigating T-Mobile for a network outage that Chairman Ajit Pai called "unacceptable." But instead of punishing the mobile carrier, the FCC is merely issuing a public notice to "remind" phone companies of "industry-accepted best practices" that could have prevented the T-Mobile outage. After the 12-hour nationwide outage on June 15 disrupted texting and calling services, including 911 emergency calls, Pai wrote that "The T-Mobile network outage is unacceptable" and that "the FCC is launching an investigation. We're demanding answers -- and so are American consumers." Pai has a history of talking tough with carriers and not following up with punishments that might have a greater deterrence effect than sternly worded warnings. That appears to be what happened again yesterday when the FCC announced the findings from its investigation into T-Mobile. Pai said that "T-Mobile's outage was a failure" because the carrier didn't follow best practices that could have prevented or minimized it, but he announced no punishment. The matter appears to be closed based on yesterday's announcement, but we contacted Chairman Pai's office today to ask if any punishment of T-Mobile is forthcoming.

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Posted on 23 October 2020 | 8:50 pm

NVIDIA Cancels GeForce RTX 3080 20GB and RTX 3070 16GB: Report

VideoCardz reports: NVIDIA has just told its board partners that it will not launch GeForce RTX 3080 20GB and RTX 3070 16GB cards as planned. NVIDIA allegedly cancels its December launch of GeForce RTX 3080 20GB and RTX 3070 16GB. This still very fresh information comes from two independent sources. Technically GeForce RTX 3080 20GB and RTX 3070 16GB could launch at a later time, but the information that we have clearly stated that those SKUs have been canceled, not postponed. NVIDIA has already canceled its RTX 3070 Ti model (PG141 SKU 0), so the RTX 3070 16GB (PG141 SKU5) and RTX 3080 20GB (PG132 SKU20) will be joining the list. The GeForce RTX 3080 20GB was expected to be a response to AMD Radeon RX 6900/6800 series featuring Navi 21 GPU. All three AMD SKUs will feature 16GB of memory, leaving NVIDIA with a smaller frame buffer to compete with. We do not know the official reason for the cancellation. The RTX 3080 20GB might have been scrapped due to low GDDR6X yield issues, one source claims. The reason behind RTX 3070 16GB cancellation is unknown (this SKU uses GDDR6 memory). The plans for GeForce RTX 3060 Ti remain unchanged. The PG190 SKU 10 remains on track for mid-November launch.

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Posted on 23 October 2020 | 8:10 pm

National Guard Called In To Thwart Cyberattack in Louisiana Weeks Before Election

The Louisiana National Guard was called in to stop a series of cyberattacks aimed at small government offices across the state in recent weeks, Reuters reported Friday, citing two people with knowledge of the events, highlighting the cyber threat facing local governments in the run up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election. From the report: The situation in Louisiana follows a similar case in Washington state, according to a cybersecurity consultant familiar with the matter, where hackers infected some government offices with a type of malware known for deploying ransomware, which locks up systems and demands payment to regain access. Senior U.S. security officials have warned here since at least 2019 that ransomware poses a risk to the U.S. election, namely that an attack against certain state government offices around the election could disrupt systems needed to administer aspects of the vote. It is unclear if the hackers sought to target systems tied to the election in Louisiana or were simply hoping for a payday. Yet the attacks raised alarms because of the potential harm it could have led to and due to evidence suggesting a sophisticated hacking group was involved. Experts investigating the Louisiana incidents found a tool used by the hackers that was previously linked to a group associated with the North Korean government, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

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Posted on 23 October 2020 | 7:30 pm

NASA To Announce New Science Results About Moon

NASA will announce an exciting new discovery about the Moon from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) at a media teleconference at 12 p.m. EDT Monday, Oct. 26. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency's website. From a press release: This new discovery contributes to NASA's efforts to learn about the Moon in support of deep space exploration. Under NASA's Artemis program, the agency will send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 to prepare for our next giant leap -- human exploration of Mars as early as the 2030s. Understanding the science of the Moon also helps piece together the broader history of the inner solar system.

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Posted on 23 October 2020 | 6:51 pm

Xbox Chief Phil Spencer Hints at an xCloud Streaming Stick

Microsoft has teased a Chromecast-style dongle for xCloud, a video game streaming service that currently comes bundled with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. From a report: In an interview with Stratechery, Xbox chief Phil Spencer said: "I think you're going to see lower-priced hardware as part of our ecosystem when you think about streaming sticks and other things that somebody might want to just go plug into their TV and go play via xCloud." A few moments later, he added: "You could imagine us even having something that we just included in the Game Pass subscription that gave you an ability to stream xCloud games to your TV and buying the controller." These remarks were part of a conversation around Xbox All Access. Unlike Sony, Microsoft is offering a 24-month payment plan for its next-generation consoles, the Xbox Series S and X. As part of the deal, customers gain access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which includes a library of downloadable games on PC and Xbox hardware, as well as streamable titles via xCloud. Spencer revealed that the Xbox team has debated internally whether All Access should be pitched as 'Xbox Game Pass Platinum' instead. He then talked about a plan that gives you "some kind of hardware guarantee" when new consoles are launched. "We did that a little bit with Xbox One last year," he explained. "Where if you got into All Access, you were guaranteed to get front in line when the Series X came out. People didn't know the name [of the new console] at the time, but yeah."

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Posted on 23 October 2020 | 6:17 pm