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NASA completes full-power tests of small, portable nuclear reactor

Being able to generate power will be essential for long-term space travel. Powering a stay on Mars, for example, will require a lot of fuel, way more than we can pack onto a rocket. That’s why NASA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Department of Energy and a number of other groups have been working on a small, transportable nuclear reactor that can reliably generate power on the go. The reactor they’re developing is called Kilopower and earlier this year, they announced that they had conducted successful tests of the system. In March, the team ran the first full-power tests and during a press conference today, they reported that those tests went extremely well.

Lower power Kilopower systems, like the one kilowatt version, can power a basic toaster, while the largest version, a 10 kilowatt model, can do a bit more. Four or five of the latter could be used to power a habitat on Mars and importantly, they don’t rely on the sun, meaning they can be used on planets with less sunlight than ours, in shadowed regions and during light-blocking dust storms. “Kilopower’s compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power,” NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in January.

In March, the team behind Kilopower performed a 20-hour, full-power test of the system in Nevada with the goal of confirming predicted performance. The system used was designed to be as flight-ready as possible and the environment was constructed to mimic that of space — measures taken in order to get as good of a look at how this system might perform in space as possible.

Throughout the test, Kilopower met or exceeded the researchers’ expectations, producing more thermal power in its steady state condition than what was predicted and maintaining steady temperatures when faced with more extreme conditions. For example, cutting off the system’s cooling or ramping it up to its maximum level both resulted in a core temperature change of just 15 degrees or less.

Dave Poston, chief reactor designer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said that the significance of the tests was hard to overstate. The Kilopower system is the first new fission reactor concept to be developed in the US in over 40 years and the most recent test provided valuable data and effectively assessed its infrastructure. It also demonstrated that Kilopower’s passive operations — once it gets going, human input isn’t needed to keep it running or to regulate it — are reliable. Based on its testing performance, Kilopower is largely ready to use now for near-term space science and is closer to being available for long-term space exploration.

Going forward, the Kilopower team plan to conduct flight demonstrations, though there’s no timeframe for that just yet. Over the next 18 months, they’ll work to determine exactly what will be needed to design, build, certify and fly these reactors.

Image: NASA


‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ trailer offers a glimpse of John Marston

Red Dead Redemption 2 is still over six months away at this point, but we’ve got a new trailer to dissect in the meantime. The trailer is all about narrative and setting a tone, but looking closer, developer Rockstar Games tucked a handful of gameplay clues into the 128-second video. Fist-fights, train robberies and sitting down for a stage show all look like side-activities for when you need a break from taking missions in The Dead West.

The game is a prequel set in 1899, with Red Dead Redemption antagonist Dutch van der Linde’s name whispered in reverent tones around a campfire. Look closely and you’ll spot a young John Marston being held at knifepoint, wounds from animal claw-marks on his face still in stitches. It’s too early to tell exactly what the storyline will be, but it looks like we’ll see how Marston fell out of Dutch’s gang, but from a fresh perspective. Red Dead Redemption 2 will be released on October 26th for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Source: Rockstar Games (YouTube) (1), (2)


Facebook fires engineer who reportedly used access to stalk women

Last week, Spyglass Security founder Jackie Stokes tweeted that a Facebook security engineer was using his access to personal data to stalk women online. Facebook confirmed to Motherboard on Monday that the social network was investigating the claims. Now, NBC News reports Facebook has fired the employee in question.

“We are investigating this as a matter of urgency,” Alex Stamos, the Chief Security Officer of Facebook told Engadget. “It’s important that people’s information is kept secure and private when they use Facebook. It’s why we have strict policy controls and technical restrictions so employees only access the data they need to do their jobs –- for example to fix bugs, manage customer support issues or respond to valid legal requests. Employees who abuse these controls will be fired.”

I’ve been made aware that a security engineer currently employed at Facebook is likely using privileged access to stalk women online.

I have Tinder logs. What should I do with this information?

— Jackie Stokes 🙋🏽 (@find_evil) April 30, 2018

The charge that an employee was using access to privileged information to stalk women is certainly a serious one. At F8 this week, Facebook introduced a new dating service, but with a cloud hanging over the social network in light of recent revelations about the misuse of personal data, there’s understandably some concern. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quick to reassure people that proper privacy measures were a fundamental part of the new tool.

I really, really hope I’m wrong about this.

— Jackie Stokes 🙋🏽 (@find_evil) April 30, 2018

This revelation, that a security engineer with access to personal information was misusing the data to stalk women (he even called himself a “professional stalker”), is troubling, given that recent announcement. It’s certainly important to note that the likelihood of being targeted by a single person like this is very, very low. But the timing of this isn’t great, and it raises further questions about how Facebook protects user data externally — and internally.

Update 5/2/18 12:10PM ET: We have added Facebook’s statement to this article.

Via: Motherboard

Source: NBC News


MoviePass brings back its movie-per-day plan

Last month, MoviePass began offering a $30, three-month plan that came with an iHeartRadio premium subscription trial but limited users to just four movies per month. And when asked if the popular movie-per-day plan would be returning, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe told The Hollywood Reporter last week that he didn’t know. But the movie-per-day plan is back and Lowe says he just didn’t want people to ignore the iHeartRadio promotion. “It’s marketing 101,” he told Variety. “We wanted to focus everybody on this partnership promotion. If people knew the [movie-a-day] plan was coming back, they might not be interested in the iHeartRadio deal.” He added that the company never planned to abandon “the flagship product that everybody loves.”

In April, an external auditor expressed concern over MoviePass’ business model, saying he had “substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue.” MoviePass reported a $150.8 million loss, which isn’t terribly surprising since it pays full price for the movie tickets its subscribers are getting for, in most cases, $10 per month or less. But Lowe doesn’t seem concerned. “We have a constantly evolving business model. We’re getting more and more occasional moviegoers and cutting back on fraud and abuse,” he said. “I feel very confident about our trend lines and I know we’re going to continue as a going concern and continue to be popular.”

MoviePass stopped allowing its customers to see the same movie more than once last week — an earlier policy that was reinstated, upsetting some existing subscribers. Lowe said it was about cutting down on fraud. “When we took that policy down, we saw some people turning MoviePass into a cottage industry, standing in front of a theater selling their tickets to Star Wars, or whatever,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. He also said that more plans are on the way including couples packages and options that include 3D and IMAX films.

Via: Variety


Google is investing in startups to make Assistant better

As popular as Google is right now, the company wouldn’t be where it is today without the embrace of the developer community. A good example of that is Google Assistant, which would be pretty lackluster if it only worked with Google services. That’s why the company opened up Assistant to developers way back in 2016, resulting in a wide range of Actions that do everything from controlling your smart home to helping you exercise. Today, Google plans to take it this a step further. The company is now going to start investing in early-stage startups specifically to see how far they can push and integrate Assistant into their business.

Beyond just money, Google is also going to provide these lucky startups valuable advice from Google engineers and staff, give them early access to new features and tools, give them the keys to the Google Cloud Platform, and of course the power of Google’s marketing muscle. To kick the program off, Google started investing in four companies: GoMoment, which created a 24/7 Google-Assistant-powered concierge for hotels; Edwin, a personal English tutor; BotSociety, a developer tool that’ll help devs build better voice interfaces; and Pulse Labs, another developer tool designed to get user feedback.

This marks the first time Google is investing serious capital into startups that use Assistant, which Google says not only results in deeper partnerships, but also a better ecosystem. As for what criteria Google uses for deciding which startups to invest in, well, it depends.

“We take into account a bunch of things,” said Nick Fox, Google’s VP leading Search and Assistant. “First, we have to believe in the team, that they’re able to make big things happen. We need to be in strategic alignment with where we see Assistant going.” And then there are categories the businesses are in — Fox says that fields like education and hospitality are intriguing to them. “We want to be excited about what they’re doing.”

But last not least, the startups need to be at a stage where Google’s money can make a difference. Which means if your business is already making millions and millions of dollars, Google probably won’t put you in this investment program. “We want it to be a situation where, by our involvement, we can help.”

One of the reasons Google is announcing this is because it wants startups to come to them and to apply to be part of the program. It’s a global initiative, so developers from all around the world are eligible. The timing of this announcement is significant too, because it’s only a week or so away from I/O, Google’s annual developer conference. And, according to Fox, there’ll likely be a lot more developer — and consumer — news to come.

If you’re a developer who wants to apply, you can do so via this form.

Source: Google


Watch Facebook’s F8 day-two keynote at 1PM ET

The first day of Facebook’s F8 developers conference was quite eventful, what with a slew of news ranging from app updates to a new dating feature the company has in the works. As expected, we also heard about security and data privacy, two issues that Facebook is taking seriously but isn’t letting them to stop it from moving forward to focus on new technologies. Speaking of which, today’s keynote could be more focused on the future of mediums such as augmented and virtual reality, as well as tech like artificial intelligence and machine learning. You can tune into the action right here, where you’ll be able to watch a stream of the event starting at 10AM PT/1PM PT.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from F8 2018!


The smartphone notch is a status symbol

Whether you like it or not, the smartphone notch is here to stay. After the Essential Phone and iPhone X brought the notch to the masses, other major brands such as Huawei, ASUS, Oppo and Vivo followed suit soon after, and the latest to join the party is none other than LG with its G7 ThinQ. Admittedly, this is a little painful to watch considering that LG (and even HTC) once stood by its Second Screen idea well before the notch ever happened. LG had a fair reason to join this trend: People like it, and it has the numbers to prove it.

During the early stages of the G7’s development, LG surveyed over 1,000 people across the US, UK, Italy and Korea. These focus groups were shown early mockups with slightly screen designs, and when it came to the notch option, only about 30 percent said no to it, with the rest of the participants indicating that they either liked, or didn’t mind, the notch.

Shintae Hong, LG’s Head of Product Planning, joked: “Some people hated that design, [saying] it’s like a man’s bald head like mine.” He added: “Some people said [it is] cool… It totally depends on their personal choices, preferences.”

Hong went on to acknowledge the risks associated with the notch design. Remember the early backlash that the iPhone X received in the early days? Most of us appear to have moved on.

During Apple’s recent earnings call, Tim Cook pointed out that “customers chose iPhone X more than any other iPhone each week in the March quarter, just as they did following its launch in the December quarter.” Clearly, the notch isn’t getting in the way of selling phones. The divisive screen design is also visible proof that your phone is the very latest model, too.

LG’s Hong credited the survey results as the main deciding factor for the notch design. In a way, it’s a shame because it would have been nice to see something a little different — although it hasn’t worked out for LG in the past. That said, the company still hopes to deliver a phone with a truly edge-to-edge display, similar to Vivo’s concept device minus the gimmicks, in the future. As far as Hong is concerned, the notch is one more step towards that.


Pentagon bans Huawei, ZTE phones from military base retailers

The Pentagon has banned retailers on US military bases from selling Huawei and ZTE phones, the Wall Street Journal reported. Officials are concerned that the Chinese government could order the firms to track soldiers’ movements or snoop on their communications, though Huawei and ZTE have both denied that could be the case.

While the Pentagon can’t block military members from using Huawei or ZTE phones for personal use, cutting off a core supply line is likely to temper the prevalence of the handsets. Additionally, the military may still issue an advisory on purchasing the devices. Both ZTE and Huawei are among the subjects of a bill introduced in January that seeks to ban them from US government contracts, though the bill hasn’t advanced as yet.

The manufacturers’ phones are less popular inside the US than in other markets, including Germany, where the US has a large military infrastructure. TKS, a provider for English speakers in the country, recently pulled Huawei phones from its military base stores to comply with Army & Air Force Exchange Services guidance. The phones were available at the stores last week.

The ban reflects long-standing government concerns over Chinese phones. In 2012, the Congress Intelligence Committee claimed in a report that Huawei and ZTE presented national security risks. The report accused the companies of failing to cooperate in the committee’s investigation and declining to clarify their relationships with the Chinese government. It also highlighted alleged corruption, bribery, and discriminatory practices at Huawei.

The government has tightened the squeeze more recently. In February, intelligence agencies warned Americans against buying Huawei phones, highlighting security concerns. Last month, the US Commerce Department revived an export ban on ZTE parts after the company violated an agreement. The ban, put in place after ZTE illegally shipped equipment to Iran and North Korea and lied about it, had been lifted after the firm agreed to abide by the rules.

Source: Wall Street Journal


Watch Facebook’s F8 opening keynote in under 15 minutes


Facebook’s F8 developer conference can be a bit of a snooze on the news front given the focus of the event. However, this year that was definitely not the case. Opening yesterday’s nearly 2-hour keynote, CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed user data privacy, elections, fake news and a whole lot more. The spectacle that followed covered AR, VR, Instagram, Messenger and a lot more (dating!). You probably don’t have time to sit through that whole thing to catch up, so we’ve got you covered. We’ve condensed the festivities down to under 15 minutes, so you can catch up on your coffee (or tea, we don’t judge) break.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from F8 2018!


Facebook is open-sourcing its most powerful AI tools yet

Facebook is continuing its push to more openly share its AI research and code with the release of PyTorch 1.0 — a deep-learning system that Facebook says represents a “fundamental shift” in open source AI frameworks. Traditionally, taking AI development from research to production has been a complex and time-intensive task involving multiple steps and various tools. PyTorch 1.0 has been designed to optimize the process.

The new framework draws on the modular, production-orientated features of Caffe2 and ONNX. Caffe2 was launched two years ago to standardize Facebook’s production AI tooling, but getting projects to this stage was a manual and often error-prone process. ONNX (Open Neural Network Exchange) was created to make the export process smoother, but complicated, time-consuming steps remained. PyTorch 1.0 fuses together features from both, giving developers a hybrid frontend to share code between prototyping and execution mode for production.

It’ll be available in beta within the next few months, and will include a family of tools, libraries, pre-trained models, and datasets for each stage of development, allowing developers to quickly create and deploy new AI innovations at scale. Its underlying technology already supports AI in most of Facebook’s products, including performing six billion translations a day. Obviously it’s dev-focused, but smarter AI means better everyone can expect better AI features as a result.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from F8 2018!

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