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The Art of Technology
Updated: 1 hour 26 min ago

Imaging a supernova with neutrinos

1 hour 51 min ago

There are lots of ways to describe how rarely neutrinos interact with normal matter. Duke's Kate Scholberg, who works on them, provided yet another. A 10 Mega-electron Volt gamma ray will, on average, go through 20 centimeters of carbon before it's absorbed; a 10 MeV neutrino will go a light year. "It's called the weak interaction for a reason," she quipped, referring to the weak-force-generated processes that produce and absorb these particles.

But there's one type of event that produces so many of these elusive particles that we can't miss it: a core-collapse supernova, which occurs when a star can no longer produce enough energy to counteract the pull of gravity. We typically spot these through the copious amounts of light they produce, but in energetic terms, that's just a rounding error: Scholberg said that 99 percent of the gravitational energy of the supernova goes into producing neutrinos.

Within instants of the start of the collapse, gravity forces electrons and protons to fuse, producing neutrons and releasing neutrinos. While the energy that goes into producing light gets held up by complicated interactions with the outer shells of the collapsing star, neutrinos pass right through any intervening matter. Most of them do, at least; there are so many produced that their rare interactions collectively matter, though our supernova models haven't quite settled on how yet.

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Netflix opposes data cap exemptions, except when it benefits from them

2 hours 15 min ago

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in 2012 accused Comcast of "no longer following net neutrality principles" by exempting its own online video service from data caps. "Comcast should apply caps equally, or not at all," Hastings argued.

But now Netflix has a chance to benefit from such differential treatment, and it's not turning the opportunity down. Netflix is launching its streaming video service in Australia on March 24, and its content will not count against data caps enforced by iiNet, a large Internet service provider there.

Customers "will have access to as much Netflix content as they like, without it counting against their monthly quota," iiNet announced yesterday.

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Probable Broadwell MacBook Air shows up in screenshots

2 hours 31 min ago

This "MacBook Air 7,2" looks like a Broadwell refresh of the current model, not a new Retina version.

4 more images in gallery

We're drawing near to Apple's next product event, which means that leaks are starting to show up. Today, 9to5Mac posted screenshots from a Chinese forum that appear to confirm refreshed 2015 MacBook Airs. According to these screenshots, the "MacBook Air 7,2" is a 13.3-inch laptop that adds an Intel Broadwell processor and a slightly larger 7422 mAh battery, but it's otherwise mostly identical to the current 13.3-inch model. It's a fair bet that there's an 11-inch MacBook Air 7,1 that has been upgraded in similar ways.

While the source of these images can't really be verified and it's certainly possible to spoof these system information windows, the images themselves have all the details right. If they aren't the real thing, they're very good-looking fakes.

Let's run down the evidence in favor of them being real: first, the specs. This Mac is using a 15W Core i5-5250U processor with the HD Graphics 6000 GPU, which occupies the same space in Intel's lineup as the outgoing i5-4250U/4260U and their HD Graphics 5000 GPU. The Boot ROM version and SMC version values increase just a little from the 2013 model's, which is normal (the 2013 MacBook Air's are MBA61.0099.B18 and 2.13f15, respectively). Most convincingly, the build number of OS X 10.10.2 that the laptop is running is 14C2043. The standard build number on most current Macs is 14C109. Because new Macs require new drivers and other tweaks, they usually come with specialized builds of whatever the current OS X version is when they're first released. Those drivers are then rolled into the standard OS X releases in a future update.

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New CSI: Cyber show debuts on piracy sites ahead of broadcast

3 hours 1 min ago

A new primetime CSI show about cyber crime is to debut Wednesday on CBS, but it's already making its way on to pirate sites.

Featuring Patricia Arquette, CSI: Cyber is about the Cyber Crime Division of the FBI that tackles illicit online behavior. Ironically, the first episode was available on Tuesday, a full day ahead of its scheduled premiere.

"The leaked footage comes from a high quality copy and doesn’t have any visible watermarks," according to TorrentFreak.

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Judge OKs $415 million no-poaching payout to Apple, Google employees

3 hours 11 min ago

On Wednesday, US District Judge Lucy Koh granted preliminary approval for a settlement between four top tech companies—Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel—and their former employees. The employees launched a class action suit against the companies after the Justice Department sued the top tech firms for anti-competitive labor practices in 2010.

The Justice Department had accused Apple, Google, and other top tech firms of agreeing not to approach each others’ engineers with better employment offers. The employees estimated that they collectively lost out on $3 billion in wages because competing companies would not give them better offers.

Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Intuit were also part of the original suit, but employees of those companies settled for $20 million early on in the suit.

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Oculus ready to go “full consumer” on Gear VR later this year

3 hours 40 min ago

SAN FRANCISCO—At the Game Developers Conference today, Oculus CTO John Carmack announced that the Gear VR would be ready to move on from its confusing "innovator edition" branding and distribution for Gear VR to a full consumer model alongside the next Samsung product cycle, expected "around the end of the year."

"We have a plan, we have a date," Carmack said. "Oculus is going to go as hard as we can, to sell as many units as possible, to unleash the full marketing power of Samsung with the next edition of Gear VR."

While the upcoming consumer unit sounds like it will be targeted to work exclusively with Samsung's next mobile handset, Carmack said the release would accompany a sort of "back-unlock sales and promotion" of the previous Gear VR units. That sounds like Samsung will also start pushing consumer-facing Gear VR units for the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S6, but these plans were still unclear in Carmack's talk.

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FTC to award $25,000 for the best honeypot design to trap robocalls

3 hours 57 min ago

On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission announced another contest to design a system to "identify unwanted robocalls received on landlines or mobile phones, and block and forward those calls to a honeypot."

The agency will select "up to five contestants" as part of what it’s calling "Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back."

The first qualifying phase launches Wednesday and runs through June 15, 2015 at 10:00pm Eastern Time, while the final phase concludes at DEF CON 23 on August 9, 2015.

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Dentist who copyrighted patient reviews must pay $4,766

4 hours 24 min ago

A dentist who used a controversial contract to take "ownership" of her patient's reviews has been slapped with a court order to pay $4,766.

It's a not-entirely-satisfying end to a legal battle that began in 2011, when Dr. Stacy Makhnevich was sued by Robert Lee, a patient who challenged the arrangement. A company called Medical Justice created the contracts, which granted Makhnevich copyright for any potential patient reviews.

Medical Justice refused to defend the lawsuit, saying it was "retiring" that contract. Then Makhnevich literally made a run for it. Her own lawyers were unable to contact her, and she's been nowhere to be found since 2013.

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Theaters dig in heels, refuse to show Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation

5 hours 5 min ago

Variety is reporting that four of the country’s largest theater chains are refusing to show Beasts of No Nation, an independently produced movie for which Netflix purchased the streaming and theatrical release rights for $12 million last week. Netflix is reportedly planning "a strong Oscar push" for the film, which stars Idris Elba. The company plans to make the movie available for streaming, but in order to be eligible for an Oscar, it must also have some form of theatrical release.

The theaters, though, aren’t interested. AMC, Carmike, Cinemark, and Regal all informed Variety that they won’t be screening the movie because the chains do not wish to show any movies that don’t conform to the traditional 90-day delay between a movie’s theatrical presentation and its availability in homes via disc or streaming.

Instead, quoting "insiders," Variety indicates that the movie will see a much more limited release in a few hundred smaller theaters, including the Alamo Draft House. Draft House CEO Tim League is quoted as saying he doesn’t mind the idea of showing movies in cinemas even if they’re available to people at home via streaming. "I think that argument is a little bit of a red herring," he said.

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Hillary Clinton ran private e-mail system while US secretary of state

5 hours 16 min ago

Hillary Rodham Clinton used a private e-mail service with a non-government handle while US secretary of state—potentially putting her electronic communications at risk from hackers.

US Department of State Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, has not publicly said why she used the private account—[email protected]—for government affairs. But doing so raises security concerns and questions about whether the move was done to avoid disclosure of State Department communications under open records law.

A House committee is expected to issue subpoenas Wednesday about the issue.

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“Can I borrow your phone?” Hands-on with Mark Shuttleworth’s Ubuntu phone

5 hours 26 min ago

BARCELONA, Spain—At the Canonical booth at Mobile World Congress, I had a chance meeting with Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and spiritual leader of Ubuntu. I was actually at the booth to try out the new Ubuntu Edition of the Meizu MX4, a mid- to high-end smartphone, but all of the untethered devices had run out of battery—every phone, that is, except for Shuttleworth's.

"Can I borrow your phone for a while, then?" There was a brief pause while he processed the question, no doubt wondering what a perspicacious journalist would do with his phone, but then he nodded his assent and handed it over. We chatted for a while (he had some interesting things to say about the Ubuntu Edge, and I'm happy to report that he's an Ars reader) and then headed off for a meeting.

The Meizu MX4 is a shipping Android phone; it can be yours today for $450. Just like the Aquarius E4.5 that we wrote about a few weeks ago, Canonical is working with Meizu to make an Ubuntu Edition of the MX4. Inside the MX4 there's an octa-core Mediatek SoC, 2GB of RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, LTE support, and all the usual bells and whistles you'd expect on a modern non-budget smartphone. The 5.3-inch, 1080p display is pretty darn impressive for a $450 device. The MX4 isn't as thin or light as the latest Apple or Samsung superphone, but it still feels like a solid, premium, well-balanced device. It doesn't have an SD card slot unfortunately, but it does have a removable battery.

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Fossil jawbone discovery is earliest evidence of human genus Homo

5 hours 34 min ago

The hominin fossil record between three million years ago and two million years ago is thin, leaving a gap in our understanding of human evolution. Prior to three million years ago (called mega-annum, or Ma), there many fossils of Australopithecus, the apelike hominins that included the famous Lucy. By 2 Ma, there are multiple overlapping fossils clearly belonging to the genus Homo, the group that includes modern humans and all our most direct ancestors. Compared to Australopithecus, these creatures had larger brains, smaller jaws, and stone technology.

The gap is an important one, says Brian Villmoare, a physical anthropologist who analyzes facial characteristics of fossils. This is the period during which our ancestors made the important transition to the more adaptive patterns seen in Homo.

The discovery of a fossilized Homo jawbone, published in Science this week, sheds light on this gap in human evolutionary history. The fossil has features that classify it as belonging to the genus Homo, but it's approximately 2.8 million years old. This makes it 400,000 years older than the oldest evidence of Homo previously found.

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Shaking electrons brings atoms to standstill

7 hours 39 sec ago

I often get enthusiastic about Bose Einstein condensates, fascinating materials where large groups of atoms show collective quantum behavior. The thing that really gets me going is the process used to make 'em. The main step is something called optical cooling. It may sound very simple, but in reality it is difficult and mostly doesn't work.

A recent paper in Physical Review Letters now adds a new optical cooling method to the physicist's range of tools. In doing so, this opens up a whole lot of new and exciting possibilities.

Like, just cool off dude

The typical optical cooling method is an exceptionally neat bit of physics. Think about a gas of atoms. They are having a fantastic time in life's mosh pit, flying in all directions and bouncing off one another with vim and vigor. But as with all good things in life, some old dude will turn up, complain about the noise, and generally suck all the entertainment out of life—everything just slows down. Slowing everything down is the easiest way to think of cooling.

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More IoT insecurity: This Blu-ray disc pwns PCs and DVD players

7 hours 11 min ago

For more than a decade, malicious hackers have used booby-trapped USB sticks to infect would-be victims, in rare cases to spread virulent, self-replicating malware on air-gapped computers inside a uranium enrichment plant. Now, a security researcher says he has found a way to build malicious Blu-ray discs that could do much the same thing—without any outward signs that an attack was underway.

Stephen Tomkinson, a security consultant at NCC Group, said he has devised a proof-of-concept exploit that allows a Blu-ray disc to compromise both a PC running Microsoft Windows and most standalone Blu-ray players. He spoke about the exploit on Friday at the Securi-Tay conference at the Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland, during a keynote titled "Abusing Blu-ray players."

"By combining different vulnerabilities in Blu-ray players, we have built a single disc which will detect the type of player it’s being played on and launch a platform-specific executable from the disc before continuing on to play the disc’s video to avoid raising suspicion," Tomkinson wrote in an accompanying blog post. "These executables could be used by an attacker to provide a tunnel into the target network or to exfiltrate sensitive files, for example."

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Tech support scammer threatened to kill man when scam call backfired

8 hours 20 min ago

Tech support scammers should probably just hang up the phone when a scam call goes wrong.

But one scammer took things to a new level by threatening to kill a man who pointed out that the scammer was trying to steal money.

As we've reported numerous times, scammers pretending to work for Microsoft tech support call potential victims, tell them their computers are infected, convince them to provide remote access, and then charge them hundreds of dollars to fix imaginary problems.

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One year later, Sony’s new Morpheus prototype is still VR done right

16 hours 36 min ago

SAN FRANCISCO—Reloading a gun in home video games is crap.

Shooting is crap, too, in a way. Moving your mouse or tilting your joystick and hitting a button doesn't really simulate the feeling of aiming and firing a gun that well, but at least there's some directionality and physicality to it (especially if you're squeezing a shoulder trigger on a handheld controller). Reloading, on the other hand, is total crap as an analog for the real-world action it simulates. All you do is tap a button, then watch a canned animation of your avatar making a complex series of motions to refill an ammo clip precisely with an unseen trove of bullets that are just sitting in an unseen backpack or something.

I didn't really realize how unsatisfying and artificial this process really was until I played with the latest prototype of Sony's Morpheus virtual reality headset at GDC today. There, in a demo called London Heist, I ducked and dodged behind a solid wooden desk as assailants fired on me from all directions, popping out to aim carefully placed shots by moving and tilting the PlayStation Move controller in my hands.

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Nvidia’s Shield is a $199 Android TV streaming microconsole powerhouse

3/3/2015 11:40pm

SAN FRANCISCO—At a Game Developers Conference presentation tonight, Nvidia revealed Shield, a living room gaming and 4K video streaming-focused extension of its existing portable- and tablet-based Shield game console line. The "streaming device on steroids," as an Nvidia rep referred to it, will be available in "early May" for $199 with an included controller.

The Android TV-based, Tegra X1-powered Shield will run a selection of controller-optimized Android titles natively—Nvidia says a curated selection of 50 such games will be available at launch, but others will also be playable from the Google Play store or even through sideloading. This includes all the games that already run on Nvidia's Shield portable and Shield tablet consoles; games purchased on one of those devices will be playable on the others through the same account. Nvidia also left open the option of games that takes particular advantage of the extra processing in the X1 chip, which doesn't have the kind of power restrictions that often limit chips on mobile devices. Nvidia compared the power of the chip favorably to the Apple TV and the Xbox 360.

To show off that power, Nvidia let Ars try a demo of Doom 3: BFG Edition running at full 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second on the Shield, with some decently advanced lighting effects bouncing down the game's narrow hallways. Nvidia also demonstrated Crysis 3 running on the console and said it's working with Crytek to port the full CryEngine to Android for use on the device. During the announcement event, Gearbox co-founder Randy Pitchford came on stage to announce that Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will be coming to the console as well, alongside ports for the Xbox One and PS4.

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John Doerr says Kleiner Perkins is not a VC firm “run by men”

3/3/2015 8:51pm

SAN FRANCISCO—“There have been a lot of female partners, junior and senior,” John Doerr, one of the more well-known venture capitalist partners at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, told the jury in a high-profile gender discrimination trial on Tuesday.

Doerr, who joined Kleiner Perkins in 1980, made a name for himself investing in companies like Google, Amazon, Intuit, and Electronic Arts as well as Twitter, Square, Zynga, and MyFitnessPal, before they hit the big time. He also personally hired Ellen Pao and supported her throughout her time at Kleiner Perkins.

Pao has alleged that Kleiner Perkins failed to promote her based on her gender, ignored her complaints about harassment from some of the other partners, and fired her in retribution after she filed her lawsuit against the firm. But Doerr today defended his firm’s actions in court.

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Valve announces $50 Steam Link streaming box, free Source 2 engine

3/3/2015 8:32pm

On Tuesday, Valve Software continued its Game Developers Conference-related trickle of news by confirming scant details on a variety of initiatives. In addition to a few more details about SteamVR and a previously unannounced living-room streaming box, dubbed Steam Link, the company confirmed that its 11-year-old graphics engine, Source, will finally receive an upgrade in the form of the Source 2 engine.

The Source 2 news, which came via press release, confirmed that the engine would be made available to all budding game and graphics developers for free, and that it would receive a Vulkan-compatible build (previously known as Next Generation OpenGL). However, the news was otherwise incredibly light on details, meaning no license-cost information, no release date, and no new or upcoming games attached to the engine.

The original version of Source has powered every Valve-developed game since 2004's Counter Strike: Source, and Valve has previously dodged questions about an updated engine by claiming that the engine had been iterated on to adapt to newer computer and graphics solutions.

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Sony’s new Project Morpheus prototype boasts 120Hz refresh rate, OLED display

3/3/2015 6:35pm
Kyle Orland

SAN FRANCISCO—At a Game Developers Conference event today, Sony revealed more plans for the company's previously announced Project Morpheus VR headset, which will be coming in the first half of 2016.

While no prices or bundling details were announced, the device's improved specs were outlined by Sony Worldwide Studios president Shu Yoshida. Someone in the audience let out an audible "wow" when Yoshida started by revealing Morpheus' 120 Hz refresh rate and key display update. The screen is now an OLED display at 1920 x RGB x 1080, which Yoshida said means low persistence and removing motion blur from the old LCD. The device's screen is 5.7 inches, which is large enough for a 100 degree field of view. And the new design includes nine LED trackers to provide 360 degree tracking, according to Sony.

"With these specs achieved, we're one step closer to making VR a reality for games," Yoshida said. He went on to say that with the device "near final tech," there's finally a set of standards for developers to target.

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