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(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — SpaceX completed the last big test of its crew capsule before launching astronauts in as little as two months, mimicking an emergency escape shortly after liftoff Sunday.
No one was aboard for the wild ride in the skies above Cape Canaveral, just two mannequins.
A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off as normal, but just over a minute into its supersonic flight, the Dragon crew capsule catapulted off the top 12 miles (20 kilometers) above the Atlantic. Powerful thrusters on the capsule propelled it up and out of harm’s way, as the rocket engines deliberately shut down and the booster tumbled out of control in a giant fireball.
The capsule reached an altitude of about 27 miles (44 kilometers) before parachuting into the ocean just offshore to bring the nine-minute test flight to a close and pave the way for two NASA astronauts to climb aboard next time.
SpaceX flight controllers at the company’s California headquarters cheered every milestone — especially the splashdown. Everything appeared to go well despite the choppy seas and overcast skies.
Recycled from three previous launches, the SpaceX rocket was destroyed as it crashed into the sea in pieces. The company founded and led by Elon Musk normally recovers its boosters, landing them upright on a floating platform or back at the launch site.
“That’s the main objective of this test, is to show that we can carry the astronauts safely away from the rocket in case anything’s going wrong,” said SpaceX’s Benji Reed, director of crew mission management.
“This test is very important to us … a huge practice session,” Reed added.
NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders, said the launch abort test was “our last open milestone” before allowing SpaceX to launch Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station.
She said that could happen as soon as March. NASA astronauts have not launched from the U.S. since 2011 when the space shuttle program ended.
“We are purposely failing a launch vehicle to make sure that our abort system on the spacecraft, that will be flying for our crews, works,” Lueders said in advance of the demo.
Delayed a day by bad weather, Sunday’s launch from Kennedy Space Center brought together hundreds of SpaceX, NASA and Air Force employees on land, at sea and in the air. Tourists and locals alike packed the adjoining visitor complex and nearby beaches to see the dramatic fiery spectacle of an out-of-control rocket.
“Dragon high altitude, supersonic abort test is a risky mission, as it’s pushing the envelope in so many ways,” Musk tweeted minutes before liftoff.
Hurley and Behnken, the NASA astronauts assigned to the first SpaceX crew, monitored the flight from the firing room, including the capsule recovery effort They took part in a dress rehearsal Friday, suiting up and heading to the launch pad.
Preferring to focus on the moon and Mars, NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing for billions of dollars to transport astronauts to and from the space station. That should have happened long before now, but both companies struggled with technical problems, adding years of delay and forcing NASA to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars extra for Russian rocket rides.
SpaceX successfully flew a Crew Dragon to the space station last March without anyone on board, but the capsule exploded a month later during ground testing. The emergency escape thrusters — the kind used in Sunday’s test — had to be retooled. In all, SpaceX has tested these powerful Super Draco thrusters some 700 times.
Last month, meanwhile, Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule ended up in the wrong orbit on its first test flight and had to skip the space station. The previous month, only two of the Starliner’s three parachutes deployed during a launch abort test.
Lueders said it’s too soon to know whether Boeing will need to send another Starliner to the space station without a crew or go straight to launching astronauts later this year. An investigation team is still looking into why the Starliner’s automated timer was off by 11 hours during the December test flight.
Source: Tech – TIME | 20 Jan 2020 | 5:31 am
This year marks the start of a new decade, and the end of a generation of video games. Sony and Microsoft are set to launch new systems during the holidays, marking the beginning of a new phase in gaming. But that’s good news: Traditionally, the games launched at the end of a generation are among that generation’s best.
Here are the video games we’re most looking forward to playing in 2020:
Computers, synt-wave, betrayal, and Keanu Reeves — Cyberpunk 2077 is the most hyped game of the year. Fresh from the success of The Witcher 3, developer CD Projekt Red has gone from medieval fantasy to the dark and gritty world Night City in the year 2077.
This is an open-world action RPG in which players create their character and play their own way. Sneak through a base, hiding in the shadows and controlling the security system, or smash through the walls guns blazing. It’s up to you. Also, Keanu Reeves plays the ghost or a revolutionary rockstar that’s stuck in you head.
Cyberpunk 2020 hits PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on September 17, 2020.
Final Fantasy VII defined role-playing games for a generation of gamers when it arrived in 1997. Cloud, Aerith, and Sephiroth are gaming icons. More than 20 years later, developer Square Enix has remade the game from the ground up. The old turn-based combat system has been overhauled, the graphics look incredible, and the music is orchestrated to tug on our heartstrings.
Let Final Fantasy VII break your heart all over again on the PlayStation 4 starting April 10, 2020.
DOOM’s 2016 release brought the first-person shooter franchise back to its roots. DOOM Eternal is more of the same, but perfected. Rip and tear your way through hundreds of demons as you wage war against heaven and hell to save Earth from the apocalypse.
Raise hell in Doom Eternal on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One starting March 3, 2020.
The Last of Us set a high bar for storytelling in big-budget video games. Like The Walking Dead, its zombies are a background for a drama about a family in upheaval. Joel is a man with a terrible tragedy in his past, Ellie is a girl who can save the world. Part II picks up the story years after the end of the previous game. Joel and Ellie are older, but the world is no better.
Play The Last of Us Part II on PlayStation 4 on May 29, 2020.
You know how it is. You purchase a vacation package from that rascally racoon Tom Nook, and the next thing you know you’re stranded on a deserted island. You try to spruce up the place as best you can, all while making regular payments to Nook. The Animal Crossing franchise is Nintendo’s version of The Sims, but more adorable and full of strange mysteries. There are talking animals, adventures, and one industrious raccoon who expects his debts to be repaid.
Half-Life 2: Episode Two ended on a cliffhanger more than a decade ago. Since then, fans have watched as their hope for a Half-Life 3 went from hope to horror. The idea that developer Valve, the company behind the digital distribution platform Steam, would ever release a follow-up to the genre defining Half-Life franchise has become a joke.
But Valve recently announced that a new Half-Life is coming out this year. The twist is that it’s a prequel. The second twist is that it’s exclusive to virtual reality headsets. With Valve’s track record of success, Half-Life: Alyx might be VR’s first killer app.
Half Life: Alyx comes to PC Virtual Reality headsets in March 2020.
Master Chief is eternal. Master Chief is infinite. We don’t know much about Halo Infinite — only that’s it’ll be a first-person shooter like its predecessors, and launch alongside Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X over the holiday. And honestly, that’s enough.
Halo Infinite is set to launch alongside the Xbox Series X this holiday season.
The year will end with the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. We know precious little about both consoles — only that they’ll be hardware powerhouses able to run games in 4K at high frame rates with minimal loading times. At the moment, that’s all marketing. We know some of the games coming to the Xbox Series X, and very little about what’s coming to the PlayStation 5. But there’s a whole year ahead of us to hype the machines and learn what delights are planned.
Both new consoles are set to arrive over the holidays.
Source: Tech – TIME | 18 Jan 2020 | 4:21 am
Apple’s stance on encryption and user privacy is once again under the spotlight as the Federal Bureau of Investigation seeks the company’s help in decrypting two iPhones used by a Royal Saudi Air Force cadet who opened fire at a naval base in Pensacola, Fl. in December, killing three people before he himself was killed by police.
As it was last time, Apple is once again reluctant to decrypt the devices, citing user privacy. “We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys,” the company said in a statement.
Attorney General William Barr expressed his frustration with Apple on Monday. “We have asked Apple for their help in unlocking the shooter’s phones,” Barr said during a press conference. “So far, Apple has not given any substantive assistance. This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence once it is obtained a court order based on probable cause.”
Apple, however, insists its responses have been “timely, thorough and are ongoing.” Some critics of Barr and the FBI argue the government’s approach is less about unlocking these particular phones and more about weakening Apple’s encryption more broadly. That would make it easier for law enforcement to access locked devices, but at the cost of privacy for millions of iPhone users.
Here’s what to know about the latest standoff between Apple and the FBI.
The Justice Department has a warrant for searching the two iPhones used by the shooter, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, but the agency says it lacks the technical know-how required to decrypt data stored on the devices. Simply entering every possible passcode combination in a so-called “brute force” approach risks locking or erasing the device forever, rendering them useless to investigators who are searching for clues.
The government’s latest request for Apple’s help echoes a similar situation in 2016, when investigators wanted the company’s assistance to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California. At the time, Apple refused to create decryption software for the FBI, saying the request violated the company’s First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights. If such software were created, some fear, it could get into the hands of hackers and other bad actors who could use it for their own nefarious ends.
“We see that this is our moment to stand up and say, Stop and force a dialogue,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told TIME amid the 2016 dispute. “There’s been too many times that government is just so strong and so powerful and so loud that they really just limit or they don’t hear the discourse.”
After Apple’s rebuttal, the FBI successfully applied for a court order under the All Writs Act of 1789 compelling the company to write software allowing investigators a limitless number of passcode attempts. But before Apple created such software, the FBI used a third-party tool to decrypt the iPhone, rendering the dispute moot.
This week’s revived debate could result in another attempt by the U.S. government to compel Apple to create a “backdoor” to its own encryption software.
Trump on Tuesday suggested it would be Apple’s best interests to assist the FBI with its investigation.
“We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements,” reads Trump’s tweet. “They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”
We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2020
Beyond underscoring the President’s frustration with Apple’s reluctance to provide further assistance, Trump’s tweet also highlights the complex relationship between himself and Apple. While the company has been outspoken about privacy and other hot-button social issues, it has benefitted financially under the Trump administration — In 2018, it took advantage of a new tax code provision signed into law under the current administration to repatriate an estimated $250 billion in overseas profits, for instance.
“I promised that my policies would allow companies like Apple to bring massive amounts of money back to the United States,” Trump said in a 2018 tweet. “Great to see Apple follow through as a result of TAX CUTS. Huge win for American workers and the USA!”
Apple is contradicting Barr’s statement, saying that it is trying to find ways to help investigators without sacrificing other users’ privacy.
“We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation,” the company said in a statement to TIME, contradicting Barr’s statement on Monday. “Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing.”
The company’s position against creating a “backdoor” to its encryption software remains unchanged, despite its willingness to provide other forms of assistance to law enforcement.
“We are continuing to work with the FBI, and our engineering teams recently had a call to provide additional technical assistance,” reads Apple’s statement. “Apple has great respect for the Bureau’s work, and we will work tirelessly to help them investigate this tragic attack on our nation.”
That sentiment echoes Cook’s response to customer questions amid the 2016 dispute.
That depends on how the dispute plays out, especially if Congress or the courts take up the matter.
“I think the real consequences are going to be whether or not legislation comes out of it,” says Amy Gaudion, a professor of national security and cybersecurity policy at Penn State Dickinson Law. “And then if a case actually decides the issue, which is what I think many of us would like to see, a court to consider the issue and provide some guidance there.”
Legislation, of course, could go either way — lawmakers could take steps to better protect users’ privacy, or we could wind up with stronger laws requiring companies like Apple to comply with law enforcement requests, despite technological difficulties with doing so.
“I think we have two separate pressures on Congress,” says Gaudion. “The desire for some type of legislation to deal with data privacy and data protection based on a number of stories, particularly about the aggregation of data and location services … and then you’ve got to push for legislation which many thought would come about after the San Bernardino case, where Congress would update the All Writs Act or put in place some legislation that mandated assistance for law enforcement.”
Apple could face economic consequences, too. Trump’s message to Apple reads like a not-so-thinly veiled threat, and the tiff risks souring the relationship that Cook has cultivated with Trump and has benefitted Apple in the form of tariff exemptions and more.
Whether or not Apple decides to help the FBI decrypt the Pensacola iPhones may once again become a moot point, mostly due to the devices in question. The iPhone 5 and iPhone 7 handsets used by Alshamrani were released in 2012 and 2016, respectively. While both are encrypted, only the newer iPhone 7 supports the company’s latest iOS 13 operating system, released in September 2019. The older devices may still have security flaws that third-party companies could exploit to access the data therein, especially if the devices don’t have the latest software and its accompanying security fixes.
Source: Tech – TIME | 17 Jan 2020 | 5:57 am
YouTube has been “actively promoting” videos containing misinformation about climate change, a report released Thursday by campaign group Avaaz claims, despite recent policy changes by the platform intended to drive users away from harmful content and conspiracy theories.
Avaaz examined 5,537 videos retrieved by the search terms “climate change,” global warming” and “climate manipulation,” and then the videos most likely to be suggested next by YouTube’s “up next” sidebar. For each of those search terms respectively, 8%, 16% and 21% of the top 100 related videos included by YouTube in the “up-next” feature contained information that goes against the scientific consensus on climate change – such as denying climate change is taking place, or claiming that human activity is not a cause of climate change. Avaaz claims this promotion process means YouTube is helping to spread climate denialism.
“We’ve found that it’s very likely that at least one in five users who search for a term like global warming or climate change could be sent down this type of misinformation rabbit hole,” says Fadi Quran, a campaigns director at Avaaz, and one of the report’s authors. “Scientists are working so hard to educate people about the existential threat we face and YouTube is allowing bad actors among us the last word on this issue for many people.”
Smaller scale studies have previously suggested that a majority of climate-related videos on YouTube oppose the scientific consensus on climate change.
The “up next” feature dictates what users watch for 70% of the time they spend on YouTube. The exact make-up of the YouTube algorithm that drives recommendations, designed to keep users on the platform for as long as possible, is a closely guarded secret. Experts say the algorithm appears to have learned that radical or outrageous content is more likely to engage viewers.
When it comes to climate change, Avaaz says, that leads to the promotion of controversial videos with titles such as “Global warming is a hoax” and “ACTUAL SCIENTIST: Climate Change is a Scam!” The algorithm is also personalized to each user, meaning that after you watch one video containing climate misinformation, it is more likely to recommend another for you.
In January 2019, responding to criticism over the platform’s tendency to drive people towards more radical political and social viewpoints, YouTube announced that in the U.S. it would begin reducing recommendations of “borderline” content that pushed the limits of Community Guidelines on areas like hate speech, as well as “content that could misinform users in harmful ways—such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11”. In December, YouTube said that policy had been successful, driving down the average time spent by U.S. users watching recommended “borderline” content or harmful misinformation by 70%.
But Quran says it remains unclear if that policy is effectively applied to climate denialist content. “They say all scientifically inaccurate information that causes harm is included under that policy—which should indicate that climate denial is part of it,” he says. “However [YouTube’s parent company] is not transparent and our research so far indicates that climate denial videos are still being actively recommended. Either their downgrading tools are not working as they should, or they have decided to exclude climate denial from the system.”
A YouTube spokesperson tells TIME, “We can’t speak to Avaaz’s methodology or results, and our recommendations systems are not designed to filter or demote videos or channels based on specific perspectives.” They add that YouTube’s systems “prioritize authoritative voices for millions of news and information queries, and surface information panels on topics prone to misinformation — including climate change — to provide users with context alongside their content” and that the systems appear to have done so “in the majority of cases in this report”.
Ads for major brands appeared alongside the videos containing climate misinformation seen by Avaaz. The campaign group claims that by promoting climate denial videos to drive more viewing time, and by placing ads alongside these videos, YouTube is profiting from the spread of misinformation.
The YouTube spokesperson says they have “strict ad policies that govern where ads are allowed to appear and we give advertisers tools to opt out of content that doesn’t align with their brand.”
Pressure from advertisers, some of whom Avaaz informed about their findings, could potentially push YouTube to take more action on climate denial content. An advertising boycott in 2017, when brands sought to prevent their ads appearing alongside extremist content, cost Google millions of dollars in revenue, and helped drive YouTube to strengthen efforts to limit how often its platform surfaced extremist content. (As well as reducing the promotion of borderline content, in June, the platform began removing thousands of videos displaying white supremacism and other hateful ideologies.)
Stephan Lewandowsky, chair of the cognitive psychology department at the University of Bristol, who studies climate misinformation, says the question isn’t whether YouTube could deal with climate denialism on its platform, but whether there the company’s leadership have the political will to do so when there is not yet “political consensus” in all countries around climate change. “With the radical Islamist and the white supremacist material [that YouTube has been successful in policing], they recognized that was something they definitely couldn’t get away with [hosting],” he says. “With climate denial, even though it is a scientifically totally absurd position, there are plenty of politicians in the U.S. and Australia, for example, who are immersed in this stuff.”
Misinformation around climate change and its impacts are still commonplace in some prominent mainstream media. On Jan. 14, James Murdoch, son of Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch, criticized the “ongoing denial” of the climate crisis displayed by his father’s news outlets, particularly in coverage of Australia’s current bushfire crisis.
For Lewandowsky, the promotion of climate denialism, both in the media and to YouTube users searching for content about climate change, creates a major stumbling block to political momentum on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. “For many people who are not trained scientists,” he says, “the moment they’re exposed to what appears to be a scientific debate—but isn’t actually, because the science was settled a long time ago— they feel they can say “Oh, well, the scientists don’t agree on this—we don’t have to do anything.”
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Source: Tech – TIME | 16 Jan 2020 | 10:00 pm
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