Author: Devin Coldewey

CERN’s plan for 100-km collider makes the LHC look like a hula hoop

TECHCRUNCH The Large Hadron Collider has produced a great deal of incredible science, most famously the Higgs Boson — but physicists at CERN, the international organization behind the LHC, are already looking forward to the next model. And the proposed Future Circular Collider, at 100 kilometers or 62 miles around, would be quite an upgrade. The idea isn’t new; CERN has had people looking into it for years. But the conceptual design report issued today shows that all that consulting hasn’t been idle: there’s a relatively cohesive and practical plan — as practical as a particle collider can be — and a decent case for spending the $21 billion or so that would be needed. “These kind of largest scale efforts and projects are huge starters for networking, connecting institutes across borders, countries,” CERN’s Michael Benedikt, who led the report, told Nature. “All these things together make up a very good argument for pushing such unique science projects.” On the other hand, while the LHC has been a great success, it hasn’t exactly given physicists an unambiguous signpost as to what they should pursue next. The lack of new cosmic mysteries — for example, a truly anomalous result or mysterious gap where a particle is expected — has convinced some that they must simply turn up the heat, but others that bigger isn’t necessarily better. The design document provides...

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Transparency-seeking OPEN Government Data Act signed into law

TECHCRUNCH The federal government produces one hell of a lot of data, but despite desultory lurches towards usability there’s little guarantee that it’s available in a way that makes it useful to anyone. That may change for the better with the OPEN Government Data Act, which the President signed into law last night. The Act essentially requires federal agencies to default when possible to making data (and metadata) public, to publish that public data in a machine-readable format, and catalog it online. It also mandates that Chief Data Officers be appointed at those agencies to handle the process. This bipartisan piece of legislature flew through the House and Senate mostly uncompromised, though the Treasury was removed from the list of organizations to which it would apply. I’m sure they had their reasons. It’s a big win for proponents of open government, though considering the towering ineptitude and obsolescence of the federal information technology sector, it’s probably a bit early to celebrate. By necessity many new policies and systems will have to be updated before any agency can reasonably be supposed to comply with the law, and that could take years. However it certainly seems like a good path for them to be on. Another part of the law as signed (OPEN was combined with a few others for convenience and horse-trading purposes) is that these agencies are also now...

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Turns out the science saying screen time is bad isn’t science

TECHCRUNCH A new study is making waves in the worlds of tech and psychology by questioning the basis of thousands of paper and analyses with conflicting conclusions on the effect of screen time on well-being. The researchers claim is that the science doesn’t agree because it’s bad science. So is screen time good or bad? It’s not that simple. The conclusions only make the mildest of claims about screen time, essentially that as defined it has about as much effect on well-being as potato consumption. Instinctively we may feel that not to be true; technology surely has a greater...

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SpaceX will lay off hundreds to ‘become a leaner company’

TECHCRUNCH SpaceX plans to lay off approximately 10 percent of its workforce in order to manage its costs, the company confirmed to TechCrunch today. First reported by Ars Technica’s Eric Berger, the news comes as the company embarks on an ambitious plan to develop and test an interplanetary spacecraft while simultaneously performing frequent orbital launches. In a statement provided to TechCrunch, SpaceX explained that the layoffs are in pursuit of becoming a “leaner company” and that they were only necessary due to “the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead.” To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company. Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team. We are grateful for everything they have accomplished and their commitment to SpaceX’s mission. This action is taken only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead and would not otherwise be necessary. The company employed at least 7,000 people in late 2017 when COO Gwynne Shotwell last gave a number — which means around 700 will lose their jobs. I asked SpaceX for more information on where these jobs might come from — engineering, manufacturing, sales, certain projects, etc — but apart from the statement the company did not offer any...

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Californians may get a break on their mobile bills after tax is struck down in court

TECHCRUNCH Californians have a lot to enjoy — great weather, big waves, solid microbreweries, and of course extremely high taxes on prepaid mobile service. But this controversial last feature is being adjusted after a judge found at least part of the state’s Mobile Telephony Surcharge to be unconstitutional. As a result, bills could shrink by a couple bucks starting this month. The tax, which funds various local services like 911 and so on, was raised in 2016 and depending on various factors could be around 20 percent of the bill. That turns a $50 bill into a $60 bill,...

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Bungie takes back its Destiny and departs from Activision

TECHCRUNCH Bungie, creator of the popular Halo and Destiny franchises, is splitting from publisher Activision and will go its own way, the company announced today. It’s almost certainly good news for gamers and the company itself, but it also won’t fix the problems that plagued Destiny and its sequel since their launches. In a blog post, the company explained that the partnership had run its course: We have enjoyed a successful eight-year run and would like to thank Activision for their partnership on Destiny. Looking ahead, we’re excited to announce plans for Activision to transfer publishing rights for Destiny...

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Astronomers spot more mysterious radio signals from far outside the galaxy

TECHCRUNCH Whenever some new “cosmic puzzle” crops up, you always have to be ready for the other shoe to drop. But just because something isn’t an alien message or Ringworld doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting science. Today’s shoe drop concerns “fast radio bursts” coming from a distant galaxy — but don’t expect a secret message from an advanced civilization. Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are short, intense blasts of radio waves that come from far outside our galaxy. No one knows what causes them, but they’re unlike anything else we’ve observed — and their uniqueness makes them a...

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The world’s first 1-terabyte SDXC card is here

TECHCRUNCH Do you frequently record super-slow-motion 8K video? Do you want to back up your entire computer to your coin pocket? Then these measly 512-gigabyte SD cards probably aren’t cutting it. Fortunately Lexar has a 1-terabyte card for you. Only $500! Terabyte cards have been promised for years — SanDisk said it was going to, but never made it happen. Longsys (which owns the Lexar brand) beat them to the punch and today you can buy one. Or pay for one, anyway — it’s unclear what the shipping date is. Funnily enough, Lexar was on its way out at...

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