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Covid-19 brings remote medicine revolution to the UK

BBC Technology News - 55 min 55 sec ago
Doctors are finding new ways of working including reviewing patients' scans and X-rays at home.

Drone to deliver masks to Scottish island

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 37 min ago
During a two-week trial, the unmanned aircraft will deliver supplies to the Isle of Mull.

Find out which masks off the most protection and why

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 10 min ago
You may have heard the term N95 but what does it mean and why are some masks rated higher than others?

Huawei: What would happen if the UK ditched the Chinese firm?

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 14 min ago
Officials are taking another look into Huawei, but the Chinese firm warns against a 5G ban.

Review: Revisit the controversial Biosphere 2 project with Spaceship Earth

Ars Technica - 8 hours 22 min ago

Official trailer for Spaceship Earth, a documentary about the controversial Biosphere 2 experiment in the early 1990s.

In September 1991, amid much media fanfare, eight people entered a closed experimental facility called Biosphere 2 for a two-year stint in total isolation. They endured hunger, a dangerous rise in CO2 levels, interpersonal squabbles, a media backlash, and sharp criticism from the scientific establishment. Today, most people might recall Biosphere 2 as a colossal failure. But the truth is much more nuanced than that, as we learn in Spaceship Earth, Director Matt Wolf's self-described "stranger than fiction" documentary about the controversial experiment. The film made a splash at Sundance earlier this year, and is now available for streaming on Hulu, Apple TV, and other select platforms.

Biosphere 2, a 3.14-acre facility located in Oracle, Arizona, has a long, colorful history tailor-made for the documentary treatment.  Built between 1987 and 1992, its original objective was to be an artificial, fully self-sustaining closed ecological system—a large-scale vivarium, if you will. (It was called Biosphere 2 because the Earth itself is the original biosphere.) There were seven distinct "biome" areas: a rainforest, an ocean with living coral reef, a savannah grassland, a fog desert, mangrove wetlands, an agricultural system (i.e., a small farm), and a human habitat.

Spaceship Earth delves deep into the roots of the project, going back to the 1960s, when John Allen and several cohorts (some would later deem them cultish followers) moved from San Francisco to New Mexico and founded a commune called Synerga Ranch. They were inspired by surrealist/spiritualist French novelist René Daumal, among others, as well as Buckminster Fulller's Spaceship Earth. They even built their own geodesic dome on the ranch, the better to hold communal gatherings and stage amateur theatrical productions. (They would later tour as the Theater of Possibilities.)

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Virgin Orbit loses its first rocket shortly after engine ignition

Ars Technica - May 25, 2020 - 10:54pm

After more than seven years of development, testing, and preparation, Virgin Orbit reached an important moment on Monday—dropping and igniting its LauncherOne rocket over the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, shortly after ignition an "anomaly" occurred, the company said.

"LauncherOne maintained stability after release, and we ignited our first stage engine, NewtonThree," the company stated on Twitter. "An anomaly then occurred early in first stage flight. We'll learn more as our engineers analyze the mountain of data we collected today."

This was the company's first attempt to ignite LauncherOne. Previously, it had strapped the liquid-fueled rocket to its modified 747 aircraft, and flown out over the Pacific Ocean, but not released the booster from beneath the plane's wing.

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Scientists vs politicians: The reality check for “warp speed” vaccine research

Ars Technica - May 25, 2020 - 5:31pm

Enlarge / In this picture taken on April 29, 2020, engineers work on an experimental vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Quality Control Laboratory at the Sinovac Biotech facilities in Beijing (credit: Nicholas Asfouri)

When Donald Trump launched Operation Warp Speed last week, he borrowed language from Star Trek to describe the drive for a Covid-19 vaccine. “That means big and it means fast,” the US president said, promising an effort “moving on at record, record, record speed.”

His hope that a coronavirus vaccine might be ready “prior to the end of the year” was even quicker than the optimistic—but often repeated—timeline for a vaccine to be ready in 12 to 18 months.

The race for a vaccine appeared to be picking up pace this week when Moderna, a Boston-based biotech company, unveiled early positive results for its potential vaccine in a small trial—and AstraZeneca said it could have the first doses of another vaccine delivered by October if trials are successful.

Read 33 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Coronavirus: Hairdressers offer virtual appointments in lockdown

BBC Technology News - May 25, 2020 - 4:20pm
Salons are giving advice via video chat apps to help people style and colour their hair at home.

OpenSignal compares 5G experiences across ten major carriers

Ars Technica - May 25, 2020 - 4:01pm

Enlarge / 5G, Rocket House, Pew-Pew! Does it make sense? No. Does it channel the usual breathless 5G marketing materials? Yes. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

Telecomm analytics firm OpenSignal released a report last week analyzing the connection experience of 5G users across the world, on ten different providers. Unfortunately—and typically for 5G—the source data is so muddled that it's difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from the results.

In the USA, Verizon is the only carrier to have deployed a significant millimeter-wave (5G FR2, various bands from 24GHz to 40GHz) network—and in fact, at the moment Verizon is only deploying 5G FR2, which is why its average 5G download speed bar leaps off the chart, at 506Mbps. 5G is a protocol, not a wavelength—and the extreme high speeds and low latencies carriers and OEM vendors promote so heavily come with the high-frequency, short-wavelength FR2 spectrum, not with the protocol itself.

The other carriers in the chart are deploying 5G in the FR1 range—the same frequencies already in use for 2G, 3G, and 4G connections. FR1 spectrum runs between 600MHz and 4.7GHz, and is further commonly split informally as "low band"—1GHz and less, with excellent range but poor throughput and latency—and "mid band," from 1GHz to 6GHz, with improved throughput and latency but less range.

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Here’s NOAA’s outlook for US summer weather—and hurricane season

Ars Technica - May 25, 2020 - 4:00pm

Enlarge / Let's start with something nice... check the orange popping out of this April 14 satellite image of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. (credit: NASA EO)

On Friday, NOAA released its latest seasonal weather outlook for the US, which followed an updated hurricane season outlook. As always, the seasonal outlook starts with a look back at the previous month.

April 2020 was the 2nd warmest April on record globally, but a southward meander of the jet stream over Canada and the eastern US made this region of North America the exception. For the contiguous US, April was slightly below the average going back to 1895. Precipitation was similarly just below average, but a few states including Colorado and Nebraska had an extremely dry April, while the Virginias and Georgia were extremely wet.

If you live around the Midwest or Plains states, you won’t be surprised to hear that recent weeks have not been particularly warm. That’s because mid-April saw a hard freeze come through, with another freeze in the second week of May. While the April freeze wasn’t really late compared to the long-term averages, it followed a warm spring that caused vegetation to pop up early in many places—only to be bitten by a frost.

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A fidget spinner to detect urinary tract infections

Ars Technica - May 25, 2020 - 1:33pm

The diagnostic spinner in action. (credit: Yoon-Kyoung Cho (Nature )

Urinary tract infections have been called the “canary in the coal mine” of global antibiotic resistance. With more than half of all women having a UTI in their lifetime and men increasing in susceptibility as they age, UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections in the world.

Because it’s not always possible to check for a bacterial infection in a urine sample, patients are often given antibiotics on the basis of symptoms alone—a practice that contributes to the growing resistance of many UTIs to the most common treatments.

We may be rescued by an unexpected hero: the fidget spinner. In a paper in Nature Biomedical Engineering this week, researchers in South Korea and India describe a new test for UTIs that needs nothing more than a couple of spins, by hand, of a spinner-like device. Its results—which can be read by anyone—are ready in around an hour.

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Deep Space Nine: The Trek spinoff that saved the day by staying put

Ars Technica - May 25, 2020 - 1:00pm

Enlarge / Chances are, you and your loved ones might get into anxious quarantine moments like this one, shared between Sisko (Avery Brooks) and Quark (Armin Shimerman) in the DS9 season two episode "The Jem'Hadar." (credit: CBS / Getty Images)

As millions binge-watch Netflix and coop up indoors, virus-inspired films such as Outbreak and Contagion, as well as television shows like The CW’s Containment, have found new audiences for those looking to tackle pandemic-related anxiety. After all, research seems to show that seeking out forms of entertainment that scare us—a method of confronting fears in a safe environment—can be a coping mechanism against perceived threats.

When thinking about the above criteria, however, one not-so-scary show comes to mind as a fitting series to retread: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. That prompts a fair question: how does a '90s Star Trek spinoff about a space station in the 24th century relate to a coronavirus-driven pandemic in 2020?

Deep Space Nine turned the Star Trek paradigm upside-down when it debuted in 1993. Instead of going where no one has gone before, this show largely trapped its crew in a single place: aboard an isolated station located near the galaxy’s only stable wormhole, where any form of alien life—hopefully benign, though often scary and hostile—might suddenly appear and invade. Encountering never-before-seen threats was the norm, forcing the barebones senior staff and medical crew to solve problems they didn’t have either the skills or equipment for.

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Pixel Buds 2 review: These earbuds are “much better than OK,” Google

Ars Technica - May 25, 2020 - 12:30pm

Enlarge / OK Google, try again with Pixel Buds 2. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

The 2017 Pixel Buds were one of Google's worst hardware launches in the company's history. Really, these things were an utter nightmare. Their sound quality, feature set, awkward fit, and finicky case might have been tolerable as a free pair of buds included with a Google-branded phone—but not a standalone $160 purchase.

Any hardware refresh had enough work to do to catch up to 2017's standard of quality and convenience, but Google put itself into a deeper hole by launching this month's Pixel Buds 2 nearly three years later. Lucky for us, the company's new Buds, priced at $180, have turned out to be real buds. As in, buddies, homies, the kind I wanna lug around with me on a regular basis.

Google needed some good hardware news right about now, and that news comes in the form of Pixel Buds 2: a solid, competitive option for everyday earbuds in the year 2020. "Competitive" does not mean "perfect," but it does mean they're worth considering next time you think about buying earbuds.

Read 37 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Nigerian fraudsters ripping off the unemployment system

Ars Technica - May 25, 2020 - 11:54am

Enlarge (credit: Daniel Grizelj | Getty Images)

As millions of people around the United States scrambled in recent weeks to collect unemployment benefits and disbursements through the federal CARES Act, officials warned about the looming threat of COVID-19-related scams online. Now they're here.

Last Thursday, the Secret Service issued an alert about a massive operation to file fraudulent unemployment claims in states around the country, like Washington and Massachusetts. Officials attributed the activity to Nigerian scammers and said millions of dollars had already been stolen. New research is now shedding light on one of the actors tied to the scams—and the other pandemic hustles they have going.

The email security firm Agari today will release findings that an actor within the Nigerian cybercriminal group Scattered Canary is filing fraudulent unemployment claims and receiving benefits from multiple states, while also receiving CARES payouts from the Internal Revenue Service. So far, this has netted hundreds of thousands of dollars in scam payments. Regular unemployment, the extra $600 per week that out-of-work Americans can claim during the pandemic, plus the one-time $1,200 payment eligible adults are receiving under the CARES Act are all vulnerable targets for cybercriminals. In the midst of a pandemic and critical economic downturn, though, the theft of those benefits could have particularly dire consequences. The Secret Service warns that hundreds of millions of dollars could be lost to such scams just as states are running out of money to fund unemployment on their own.

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Coronavirus: How Chinese rivals are trying to take Zoom's crown

BBC Technology News - May 25, 2020 - 8:12am
The coronavirus lockdown has fuelled the market for teleconferencing technology apps.

Could coronavirus kickstart more accessible tech?

BBC Technology News - May 25, 2020 - 7:31am
Video calling has risen during the pandemic but for some disabled people it also brought challenges.

How Coronavirus lockdown made a 'Zoom boom' generation

BBC Technology News - May 25, 2020 - 12:25am
Digital transformation has advanced two years in just two months, says Microsoft.

Fresh UK review into Huawei role in 5G networks

BBC Technology News - May 24, 2020 - 10:41pm
The National Cyber Security Centre involvement follows new US sanctions on Chinese telecoms giant.

Formula E driver disqualified for gamer swap-in

BBC Technology News - May 24, 2020 - 7:12pm
Formula E driver Daniel Abt is disqualified and ordered to pay £8,900 to charity for getting a professional gamer to compete under his name in an official esports race.

Homecoming S2: The most fun you’ll have with an evil company this spring

Ars Technica - May 24, 2020 - 4:50pm

Enlarge / Name? Date of birth? Home address? "I don't know." (credit: YouTube/Amazon Prime)

Warning: This story references happenings from Homecoming S1 but tries to avoid any major spoilers for FX's Devs and the new second season of Homecoming.

Sometimes Hollywood at large seems to embrace the infamous Google strategy: make two of everything and see what sticks. Who recently asked for twin dog-as-best-friend-but-end-of-life tearjerkers? And did audiences need dual "Nikola Tesla races to make electricity" biopics starring beloved heartthrobs? (In a world where The Prestige already exists, probably not.)

This spring, streaming TV got in on this strategy, too. A pair of shows centered on secretive, shady startups—companies doing almost otherworldly things that piqued government interest but really complicated an employee's life—each arrived with star-boasting casts and filmmaking pedigrees behind the camera. Like a dutiful TV reviewer, I watched the first four episodes of both series. Despite each having oodles of style, one felt opaque and unnecessarily complex, like piecing together a puzzle without knowing what the full picture was at the start.

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