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This is what “war in space” probably would look like in the near future - Ars Technica
“Any conflict in space will be much slower and more deliberate.”
Enlarge/ Anti-Satellite Weapons from Mission Shakti are displayed during Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2020 in New Delhi, India. 51 with 39 posters participating The creation of the US Space Force has conjured up all manner of fanciful notions about combat in space. Will military satellites act like X-wings and Tie Fighters, zipping around and shooting at one another? Or perhaps will larger ships akin to the USS Enterprise fire photon torpedoes at enemy warbirds? Hardly. But even those with more realistic expectations for what could happen if nations went to war in spaceperhaps satellites using orbital kinetic weapons to attack other satellites?may not fully appreciate the physics of space combat. That's the conclusion of a new report that investigates what is physically and practically possible when it comes to space combat. Published by The Aerospace Corporation, The Physics of Space War: How Orbital Dynamics Constrain Space-to-Space Engagements lays out several basic concepts that are likely to govern any space combat for the foreseeable future. All of the physical constraints suggest battles will need to be planned far in advance. Unlike a war on Earth, which typically involves an effort by opposing forces to dominate a physical location, satellites in orbit do not occupy a single location. Therefore, the report authors Rebecca Reesman and James Wilson write, controlling space does not necessarily mean physically conquering sectors of space. Rather, control over the high ground involves reducing or eliminating adversary satellite capabilities while ensuring one retains the ability to freely operate their own space capabilities for communications, navigation, observation, and all the other increasingly essential ways in which militaries rely on space. When considering how to control space, the authors lay out the ways in which space combat is counter-intuitive for policymakers and strategists.
- Satellites move quickly, but predictably: Satellites in commonly used circular orbits move at speeds between 3km/s and 8km/s, depending on their altitude. By contrast, an average bullet only travels about 0.75km/s. They are here, and then gone.
- Space is big: The volume of space between low-earth orbit and geostationary orbit is about 200 trillion cubic kilometers. That is 190 times larger than the volume of Earth.
- Timing is everything: Within the confines of the atmosphere, airplanes, tanks, and ships can nominally move in any direction. Satellites do not have that freedom. Due to the gravitational pull of Earth, satellites are always moving in either a circular or elliptical path, constantly in free-fall around the Earth. Getting two satellites in the same spot is not intuitive. Therefore, it requires careful planning and perfect timing.
- Satellites maneuver slowly: While satellites move quickly, space is big, and that makes purposeful maneuvers seem relatively slow. Once a satellite is in orbit, it requires time and a large amount of delta-V to perform phasing maneuvers.
Putin touts second dubious approval of an unproven COVID-19 vaccine - Ars Technica
It has only been tested in 100 people, and there's no published data.
Moreover, EpiVacCorona has not yet entered larger clinical trials necessary to determine safety and efficacy. Generally, data from late-stage clinical trials (Phase III trials) are required for standard regulatory approval. Those trials tend to involve tens of thousands of participants, who are closely followed for months to assess how effective the vaccine is at preventing infection and to monitor for rare side-effects. Still, Putin touted the new vaccine in the news conference, revealing that Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova and the head of Russias consumer safety watchdog Anna Popova have both been given doses of EpiVacCorona as part of a clinical trial. The dearth of data on EpiVacCorona echoes what was seen in August, when Russia approved its first COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V. That vaccine was also approved without published data after being tested in only 76 people. Early trial results have since been released on the vaccine, but researchers quickly noted oddities in the data. Sputnik V is now in large Phase III trials. And, like EpiVacCorona, Putin announced the approval of Sputnik V while noting early, high-profile vaccinations. Putin revealed that one of his own daughters had received a dose of the vaccine.
PlayStation 5 will only leave 10 old PS4 games in the back-compat dust [Updated] - Ars Technica
As suggested, it's PS4 only. Which 10 games didn't make the cut?
65 with 49 posters participating, including story author After tearing the PlayStation 5's guts apart earlier this week, Sony confirmed nearly everything we'd like to know on Friday about how its new console, launching November 12, will interface with PS4 games via backward compatibility. We should probably start with the big news that Sony has not cleared up just yet. Today, we received our first indication that PlayStation 5 will ship with something known as "Game Boost," which its Friday news post suggests "may make [select] PS4 games run with a higher or smoother frame rate." This suggestion doesn't come with a handy footnote pointing us to a list of affected games or features, however. Sony did not immediately respond to our request for clarification, so I'm left pointing to my recent deep dive with Xbox Series X's backward compatibility suite. What I found there was compelling: Most games play nearly identically on Xbox Series X as they do on Xbox One X, since console games are typically coded with hard limits on technical aspects. But in the case of games that launched on PS4 with "unlocked" frame rates and dynamic resolutions, well, the sky might be the limit. Will PS5 let those older, uncapped games tap into the full PS5 architecture or will certain CPU and GPU aspects be limited for compatibility's sake? I found that Xbox Series X was generally quite generous to the minority of games that could tap into increased horsepower, but there's no guaranteeing Sony will treat its older games the same way, in order to prioritize compatibility over upgrades. Additionally, will current-gen PlayStation VR games see their own boosts? "PSVR" is referenced repeatedly throughout today's new document but not in the brief mention of Game Boost. [Update, 3:05pm ET: Sucker Punch Productions has now confirmed that this year's Ghost of Tsushima, which is currently capped at 30fps on PlayStation 4 consoles, will receive 60fps support and faster loading times on PS5 via a Game Boost-minded patch. This is likely a good sign that other recent first-party PS4 games will receive similar updates.] Just deal with it While we've yet to see a list of "select" games affected by Game Boost, we now have a small list of 10 games that stand out as exceptions for PS5's back-compat suite. Sony seems confident in saying that the "overwhelming majority" of over 4,000 PS4 games will play on PS5, so we'll start by pouring one out for the following 10 games that will not:
- Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma, Volume One
- TT Isle of Man - Ride on the Edge 2
- Just Deal With It!
- Shadow Complex Remastered
- Robinson: The Journey
- We Sing
- Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
- Joe's Diner
Epic, Spotify, and others take on Apple with “Coalition for App Fairness” - Ars Technica
An increasing chorus of developers take issue with Apple's App Store policies.
Enlarge/ Major developers are sick and tired of Apple's rules and they've made a website about it. 102 with 43 posters participating Exactly how much power app store owners should have over developers has been a contentious issue lately, and now several high-profile app developers are banding together to form the "Coalition for App Fairness." The group describes itself as "an independent nonprofit organization founded by industry-leading companies to advocate for freedom of choice and fair competition across the app ecosystem." Just about every app developer that has publicly clashed with Apple in the past few months is among the 13 founding members of the coalition. They include Epic Games, which had the smash-hit gameFortnitebanned from the App Store for implementing its own in-app payment system; Spotify, which filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in the EU over Apple's 30 percent cut of sales; ProtonMail, whose CEO said Apple was holding developers "hostage" with the 30 percent fee; and also Basecamp, which called Apple's policies "exploitative" after updates to its Hey email app were blocked for using the same non-Apple billing technique that Netflix uses. The coalition has a website, AppFairness.org, that lays out its demands. The website exclusively targets Apple's App Store with three main issues: anti-competitive policies that favor Apple's apps over competitors, the 15-30 percent fee in the app store being too high, and Apple's ban on competing app stores and payment methods. The founding members of the group. The group compares Apple's 30 percent fee to the 5 percent cut charged from "other payment providers" like credit card companies, and it also says Apple charges "600% more." An app store is more than just a payment provider since it handles hosting, SDK and app store development, app screening, and support. But it's hard to look at Apple's $15 billion in App Store revenue and claim the company can't afford to charge less. The group is based in Washington, DC, suggesting there will be some lobbying in its future. The site hints at this, saying "As enforcers, regulators, and legislators around the world seek to address these important issues, we, the Coalition for App Fairness, urge them to recognize that every app developer, regardless of size or the nature of the developer's business, is entitled to fair treatment."
We are in possession of a working Xbox Series X - Ars Technica
Gaze upon it, but don't expect answers to your questions. Yet.
49 with 43 posters participating, including story author It's a busy week for all things Xbox. On Monday, Microsoft confirmed its acquisition of the Bethesda and ZeniMax game-dev family to fuel the Xbox ecosystem going forward. On Tuesday, the company launched preorders for this November's Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.And today, Microsoft topped all of that off by shipping us a "non-final" Series X of our ownand I have immediately begun testing it.
- The "non-final" Xbox Series X, photographed before we powered it on.
- The "non-final" Xbox Series X, photographed before we powered it on.
- Xbox Series X, in vertical orientation.
- The bottom stand is non-removable. Part of that may have to do with certain system parts being exposed by the open grating of this side of the system (which may or may not appear in the "final" retail version of the console).
- Perspective, as compared to a Nintendo Switchwhich, let's be clear, operates at a very different power threshold than a 4K-ready, 12 TFLOP console.
- Perspective, as compared to a Nintendo Switch.
- The visual effect of the painted green dots is pretty cool in motion...
- ...because each dot's internal circumference has a different amount of green accent painted on.
- One question I can currently answer: How stably can the vented top of Xbox Series X hold a can of soda? The answer: Very much. Any other Ars commentary on this use case will have to wait for another day.
- My entertainment center's default arrangement was just too narrow for the sake of Xbox Series X's horizontal orientation. It could fit, but that would require scraping the top and bottom the whole way through.
- The bottom compartment is now one rung bigger, leaving space to spare for every device in question.
- The space behind my television is normally devoted to cords and, ahem, folding chairs. This Xbox Series X may join the behind-the-TV party.
- The new proprietary expansion card for Xbox Series consoles, posed next to a standard SD card for scale.
- Proprietary expansion card, with its small plastic case.
- Back-of-X ports. The front includes one additional USB Type-A 3.1 port.
- New Xbox controller (left) next to most recent Xbox One gamepad revision (right). The biggest changes to the new controller are a "share" button and a slightly redesigned d-pad.
- New Xbox controller (left), most recent Xbox One gamepad revision (right).
- A tighter zoom on new Xbox gamepad (left), most recent Xbox One gamepad revision (right). I can't talk about the differences yet, but you might notice them.
- New Xbox gamepad. Scroll for most recent Xbox One gamepad revision.
- Most recent Xbox One gamepad revision, for comparison with the newest model shipping with Xbox Series consoles.
Chitin could be used to build tools and habitats on Mars, study finds - Ars Technica
The manufacturing process would require minimal energy and no specialized equipment.
Enlarge/ Scientists mixed chitinan organic polymer found in abundance in arthropods, as well as fish scaleswith a mineral that mimics the properties of Martian soil to create a viable new material for building tools and shelters on Mars. 17 with 17 posters participating Space aficionados who dream of one day colonizing Mars must grapple with the stark reality of the planet's limited natural resources, particularly when it comes to building materials. A team of scientists from the Singapore University of Technology and Design discovered that, using simple chemistry, the organic polymer chitincontained in the exoskeletons of insects and crustaceanscan easily be transformed into a viable building material for basic tools and habitats. This would require minimal energy and no need for transporting specialized equipment. The scientists described their experiments in a recent paper published in the journal PLOS ONE. "The technology was originally developed to create circular ecosystems in urban environments," said co-author Javier Fernandez. "But due to its efficiency, it is also the most efficient and scalable method to produce materials in a closed artificial ecosystem in the extremely scarce environment of a lifeless planet or satellite." As we previously reported, NASA has announced an ambitious plan to return American astronauts to the Moon and establish a permanent base there, with an eye toward eventually placing astronauts on Mars. Materials science will be crucial to the Artemis Moon Program's success, particularly when it comes to the materials needed to construct a viable lunar (or Martian) base. Concrete, for instance, requires a substantial amount of added water in order to be usable in situ, and there is a pronounced short supply of water on both the Moon and Mars. And transport costs would be prohibitively high. NASA estimates that it costs around $10,000 to transport just one pound of material into orbit. So there has been much attention on the possibility of using existing materials on the Moon itself to construct a lunar base. Past proposals have called for 3D-printing with Sorel cement, which requires significant amounts of chemicals and water (consumables), and a rocklike material that would require both water and phosphoric acid as a liquid binder. And back in March, a paper by an international team of scientists suggested that astronauts setting up a base on the Moon could use the urea in their urine as a plasticizer to create a concrete-like building material out of lunar soil. As with the Moon, any plan to set up a habitable base on Mars must employ manufacturing technologies that make use of the red planet's regolith. But the authors of the current paper point out that most terrestrial manufacturing strategies that could fit the bill typically require specialized equipment and a hefty amount of energy. However, "Nature presents successful strategies of life adapting to harsh environments," the authors wrote. "In biological organisms, rigid structures are formed by integrating inorganic filler proceed from the environment at a low energy cost (e.g., calcium carbonate) and incorporated into an organic matrix (e.g., chitin) produced at a relatively high metabolic cost." Enlarge/ Building a model with a 3D-printed lander module illustrates a possible scenario of fabricating habitats on Mars. Fernandez and his colleagues maintain that chitin is likely to be part of any planned artificial ecosystem because it is so plentiful in nature. It's the primary component of fish scales and fungal cell walls, for example, as well as the exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects. In fact, insects have already been targeted as a key source of protein for a possible Martian base. And since the chitin component of insects has limited nutritional value for humans, extracting it to make building materials "does not hamper or compete with the food supply," the authors wrote. "Rather, it is a byproduct of it." For their experiments, the researchers relied on fairly simple chemistry. They took chitosan derived from shrimp, dissolved it in acetic acida common byproduct of both aerobic and anaerobic fermentationand combined it with a mineral equivalent to Martian soil to create their chitinous building material. They tested its properties by fashioning various objects out of it, most notably a functional wrench, which they tested by tightening a hexagonal bolt. While acknowledging that this would be unlikely to replace metallic tools for certain critical space applications, it proved hardy enough to sustain sufficient torque for small daily tasks. Next, the team tried molding the material in various geometries to study its potential as a building material via additive manufacturing, ranging from cylinders and cubes to objects with both rounded and angular shapesincluding a little humanoid Martian figure. The scientists also demonstrated that the biolith could be used as makeshift mortar to effectively plug a small hole in a pipe. The pipe subsequently went several weeks without leakage. Finally, they built a full 3D-printed model of one possible design for a Martian habitat; it took just under two hours to complete. The researchers concluded that their results demonstrated the feasibility of such "closed-loop, zero-waste" solutions on Mars. "Bioinspired manufacturing and sustainable materials are not a substituting technology for synthetic polymers, but an enabling technology defining a new paradigm in manufacturing, and allowing to do things that are unachievable by the synthetic counterparts," said Fernandez. "We have demonstrated that they are key not only for our sustainability on Earth but also for one of the next biggest achievements of humanity: our transformation into an interplanetary species." DOI: PLOS ONE, 2020. 10.1371/journal.pone.0238606 (About DOIs).
What happens to Bethesda’s multi-platform games under Microsoft? - Ars Technica
Did Microsoft pay $7.5 billion just to start making PS5 games?
43 with 37 posters participating, including story author
- A quick tour of some of the Bethesda gaming franchises Microsoft now owns begins with The Elder Scrolls series.
- The entire lineup of Fallout games, including Fallout 76, are part of the Microsoft family now.
- Dishonored may only have a couple of games under its belt so far, but it's becoming a beloved franchise among critics and fans.
- We haven't heard word about a Prey sequel yet, but it will be a Microsoft property if and when it happens.
- id Software's library is part of the Bethesda deal, including the recently revamped Doom franchise.
- Microsoft-owned Quake looks better than ever with raytracing support.
- The completely historically accurate Wolfenstein series is now a Microsoft property.
- The horror-infused environs of The Evil Within are now within Microsoft.
- We don't know much about Starfield yet, but we do know it will be owned by Microsoft.
A bevy of new features makes iOS 14 the most secure mobile OS ever - Ars Technica
Behold: The useful and not-so-useful privacy features you've been waiting for.
Enlarge/ From left to right: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max. 21 with 17 posters participating Eleven months ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook declared privacy a fundamental human right. The affirmation came as the iPhones his customers carry in their pockets store ever more sensitive information and the company seeks to make privacy a key differentiator as it competes with Google and other rivals. On Wednesday, the company sought to make good on its commitment with the release of iOS 14. It introduces a bevy of privacy features designed to give iPhone users more control over their personal information. The protections are intended to rein in app developers, online providers, and advertisers who all too often push the limits of acceptable data collection, assuming they dont fully step over the line. I spent a little more than an hour testing some of the features. Heres a brief description of each, how to use them, and some first-blush impressions of how some work. Camera and mic access notifications iOS has long given users the ability to control what apps are allowed to access the camera and mic. Now, Apple is going a step further. With iOS 14, users actually get notice in realtime whenever an app does, in fact, capture audio or video from a phone. It also provides a list after the fact of apps that have recently accessed the mic or camera. The notifications shown in realtime can be easy to miss, which is probably what Apple intended. The image below shows the home screen of an iPhone SE when a guitar tuner has the mic turned on. The sole indicator is the orange dot just to the left of the battery indicator. (On other iPhone models, the dot appears above the signal strength meter). Privacy-minded users will have to train themselves to look for it. Everyone else can just get on with whatever task is at hand. Unfortunately, the notification of apps that have recently accessed the mic isnt as useful as Id like. On my SE, the list was limited to a maximum of just one app, so even when I had recently opened two or more apps that made access, Id only see the last one. Also problematic: the list appeared empty if I accessed the control center more than about 30 seconds after an app made access. These after-the-fact notifications appear at the top of the Control Center. Below is what appeared about 20 seconds after I opened an authenticator app that accessed my camera and then opened the guitar tuner that accessed my mic: These limitations greatly diminish the value of the control center notification because they require a user to access the control center early and often. Thats a time killer. The feature would be more useful if the list refreshed every two to six hours and showed all apps that accessed the mic or camera within that time. More granular control of stored photos Before iOS 14, users had a binary choice: either allow an app to access the entirety of stored photos or forbid it. Now, users have a new optionallow an app to access one or more specific photos, while the rest remain off-limits. This worked as expected for me. Control of apps that want to access local networks Some apps have good reason to access a local network. An example is an app that interacts with a smart TV and uses Bluetooth to sense when the phone is nearby. Heres what iOS 14 showed the first time I opened an app from Samsung: Plenty of times, however, apps have no legitimate reason for accessing local networks. iOS 14 lets users curtail the practice. Finer-grained control of location access Once upon a time, iOS users could either grant or deny location access to an app, and that location was precise right down to the physical address. Now theres a new option to give access to the proximate location. This is useful for a star-gazing app, for instance, which needs a general idea of where you are but doesnt need an exact location. Copy and paste notification iOS now provides a notification each time an app accesses the clipboard. This feature is useful because clipboards often store passwords, cryptocurrency wallet credentials, and other highly sensitive information. This feature is even more important now that iOS has access to the clipboards of nearby Macs connected to the same iCloud account. Compromised password notifications iOS now has access to a database of passwords known to be compromised and warns users any time a password stored in the Keychain password manager is on the list. Apple says it does this in a secure and private way that doesnt reveal the users password even to Apple. The company doesnt say precisely how this is done. Its likely similar to the clever cryptography behind Apples FindMy app, explained by Wired. New disclosure requirements for app developers Effective with iOS 14, app developers now must disclose privacy practices to Apple. Details required include any collection of location, contacts, purchases, browsing history, personal finances, and unique identifiers. Better privacy when using Wi-Fi Its surprising that Apple is only now randomizing the MAC addresses Wi-Fi chips use to identify themselves to Wi-Fi access points. These fixed addresses can be useful in cases when a trusted network wants to control what devices are allowed to connect, or to at least identify those that are. The problem is that just walking by two or more networks controlled by the same person or organization is enough for the operator to compile a list of what devices and then cross reference them. The result: access points can log some of your deepest secrets, including what time you left the bar last night, who left with you, and the route you took home.By default, iOS 14 will use a private address, by which Apple means a randomly generated MAC thats unique to a given network. To disable the feature, turn off the Private Address button in the SSID settings. Otherwise, leave it on: The feature isnt as powerful as Id like it to be. In an ideal world, it would periodically change the MAC address, or allow me to manually change it, so that a single Wi-Fi network cant track me over time. Based on my brief testing, the random address appears to be permanently tied to a given SSID, even when you tell iOS to forget the network and log in anew. Website privacy report Safari now provides a privacy report that summarizes the trackers that users have encountered over the past 30 days. To access it, tap the two letter as on the left side of the address bar. Selecting privacy report will generate a response like this one: Anti-tracking delayed is anti-tracking denied One of the most anticipated privacy features was one requiring app developers to get a users consent before tracking their activities on third-party apps and websites. Alas, Apple delayed implementing the feature until at least next year after app developers, particularly those from Facebook-owned Instagram, bitterly complained. For a company that says privacy is a fundamental human right, Apples postponement is a surprise. Fortunately, there are enough other privacy-preserving features to make iOS 14 a significant improvement over what was available previously. Use them and enjoy.
Motorola’s Razr 2 hopes to right the wrongs of the original Razr reboot - Ars Technica
It's only slightly different from the Razr 1, hopefully with all the bugs worked out.
15 with 15 posters participating
- The new Moto Razr. It's got updated specs and a slightly different design.
- The inside looks mostly the same as the Razr 1.
- It still has that big notch at the top.
- Gesture navigation means you'll have to swipe up from the bottom, but without hitting that big chin.
- The new Razr is 2mm thicker.
- The back. The Motorola logo is now a fingerprint reader.
- The front camera sticks out a bit.
- The front display. You can either see a text message or type, but not both at the same time.
- This is what typing looks like.
- You can see how the front screen works here. It's not full Android, it's a vertically scrolling notification view, kind of like a big smartwatch.
- A shot of the bottom, plus a bonus cutaway!
- The phone seems a bit rounder this time.
- The hinge mechanism seems to be the same as the previous model.
Tesla’s shares fall 15 percent after S&P 500 snub - Ars Technica
Tesla is down 30 percent from September 1, but up 300 percent from January 1.
65 with 41 posters participating, including story author Shares of Tesla opened at $356 on Tuesday morningdown about 15 percent from Friday's closing price. The decline capped a rough week of trading for the carmaker. A week ago Tuesday, Tesla shares opened slightly above $500, a new record. They have been sliding ever since and are now down about 30 percent from last week's highs. To be fair, those losses have merely put Tesla's stock back to the level it last reached in mid-August. Tesla stock soared in the second half of August after the company announced a five-for-one stock split on August 11. The value of Tesla's shares is still about four times what it was on January 1. Snubbed by the S&P 500 Several factors seem to be weighing on Tesla's share price. One is the decision not to include Tesla in its influential S&P 500 index. The S&P 500 is supposed to be an index of large companies, and Tesla's market capitalization is now far higher than others included in the index. For example, Etsy was just added to the index despite having a value that's about 25 times smaller than Tesla's. The committee in charge of the S&P 500 has not explained why Tesla has been left out. The snub matters because a lot of people have their savings invested in S&P 500 index funds that mirror the composition of the index. So when a company is added to the index, index funds have to buy shares in the company, putting upward pressure on the price. Markets may have been pricing in the likelihood of Tesla becoming part of the S&P 500, leading to a price decline when that didn't materialize. $5 billion in new Tesla shares Another factor weighing on Tesla's shares may be last week's massive $5 billion stock offering. The offering was announced last Tuesday, and a new regulatory filing says that Tesla successfully completed it on Friday. A flood of new shares sometimes causes a company's stock price to fall. But not always. When Tesla raised $2 billion from the stock market in May 2019, Tesla's stock ended the day up 4 percent. Investors might be enticed to buy more shares if they believe the new money will improve the company's prospects for growth. Ultimately, week-to-week fluctuations in Tesla's stock price won't matter very much for the company's long-term future. The big challenge is to put Tesla's freshly raised $5 billion to work designing new vehicles and building new factories. If Tesla can dramatically boost outputand find buyers for all the new carsit might be able to justify its soaring market valuation. In that case, the S&P 500 will need to include Tesla in its index sooner or later.