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2018-05-22T13:41:14.230Z
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Enlarge / Days Gone shows off the old "run past an explosive barrel, then turn around and shoot it" trick. (credit: Sony Bend) SANTA MONICA, California—Twenty minutes behind the motorcycle handlebars of Days Gone was long enough to determine one thing: 20 minutes isn't nearly enough to get us excited. Greatness may very well hide within this upcoming PS4 exclusive from Sony Bend, but I got nowhere near excavating that during a pre-E3 hands-on event. Instead, I found an experience that sounds as standard and predictable as this description: an open-world, side-quest-filled, post-apocalyptic battle against zombies and survivors alike through which you must scavenge and craft to get ahead. There's clearly a bigger story going on in Days Gone, and Sony Bend appears to leverage some incredible motion-capture and lip-sync technologies to bring its stories and actors to life in attractive fashion. But that's not what I got to experience.

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The crew of the Rocinante. L-R: Engineer Naomi Nagata, Mechanic Amos Burton, Captain James Holden, Pilot Alex Kamal. (credit: SyFy) A couple of weeks ago we got some terrible news. The Expanse, the critically acclaimed adaptation of the James SA Corey space opera novels now in its third season, was cancelled by Syfy. Although the US-based cable channel was responsible for broadcasting the science fiction show, it wasn't responsible for the production—that's all down to Alcon Entertainment. Syfy only bought the first-run linear rights, meaning that it only really cared about viewers watching the show live in the US on Wednesday evenings. Streaming rights after each season was complete went to Amazon here in the US, with Netflix carrying the show internationally. But it looks like the day may have been saved. On Monday, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Amazon appears set to step into the breach for season four. By all accounts, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos was a big Expanse fan and wasn't happy that Syfy had the broadcast rights for the show in the first place.

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Enlarge / A sooty Falcon 9 rocket is ready for launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (credit: NASA) SpaceX will attempt its 10th launch of the year on Tuesday, a mission serving two different customers. The Falcon 9 rocket will carry five communications satellites for the Iridium NEXT constellation, along with two gravity-measuring satellites for NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences. This first stage booster has flown once before, a little more than four months ago when it launched the Zuma mission for the U.S government—a satellite or spacecraft that was apparently lost in space after it failed to separate from the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX appears to have been absolved from blame for this mishap, and certainly the first stage booster performed nominally during that mission. SpaceX will not attempt to recover this core, as it is a Block 4 variant of the booster. Each Block 4 core will fly just two times as the company seeks to move all of its launches onto the newer Block 5 version of the rocket, which has slightly increased performance and numerous upgrades to optimize the first stage for reusability.

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Enlarge (credit: T-Mobile) T-Mobile USA should stop claiming that it has "America's Best Unlimited Network," the advertising industry's self-regulator said today. AT&T challenged T-Mobile's ads to the National Advertising Division (NAD), which ruled that T-Mobile hasn't substantiated its claim that it has the best wireless network. T-Mobile defended itself by arguing that speed outweighs all other factors—apparently including overall coverage and reliability. But to reasonably claim that one has the best overall network for unlimited data, a carrier should prove that it also has the widest geographic coverage and best reliability, the NAD concluded.

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Enlarge / Nurses working with the World Health Organization administer the Ebola vaccine to a local doctor at the town hall of Mbandaka on May 21, 2018 during the launch of the Ebola vaccination campaign. (credit: Getty | JUNIOR KANNAH) With more than 7,500 doses of an experimental vaccine against Ebola, health officials today began a vaccination campaign to try to thwart the latest outbreak of the deadly virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the World Health Organization, the campaign will start with healthcare workers operating in areas affected by the outbreak. Then officials will focus on a “ring vaccination” strategy, which targets people who have had contact with someone with a confirmed case of Ebola, as well as people who have had contact with those contacts. (This creates rings of vaccination around each case, hence the name). These defensive social circles ensure that those most vulnerable to contracting the virus are protected while also preventing the spread of the virus from the most likely sources. The same strategy was critical during the campaign in the 1960s and ‘70s to eradicate smallpox—the only human disease that has ever been successfully wiped out. The Ebola-vaccination campaign will take place in the DRC’s northwestern Equator Province (Province de l’Équateur), where there have been 46 confirmed, probable, or suspected cases, including 26 deaths, as of May 18. Officials have already...
Last week, some Call of Duty fans were surprised and dismayed to hear that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will be the first game in the series to not include a single-player campaign mode. Those fans might be less surprised if they looked at Achievement statistics, which show a steady and marked decrease in the popularity of the series' campaign modes over the last decade. Significantly fewer people are completing or even starting Call of Duty campaigns than in the past, suggesting that a more multiplayer-focused future for the series might be wise. The data for this analysis comes from the Call of Duty series' publicly viewable Achievement pages on Steam and Xbox Live, each of which lists the percentage of that game's players who completed certain publisher-set landmarks (such as completing the campaign). These stats come from Valve and Microsoft themselves and provide the best public window into the actual play habits of tens of millions of Call of Duty players.

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Enlarge / Femur, tibia, and fibula, and two small stones. (credit: PNAS) Roman military accounts from the early centuries CE describe the tribes of north-central Europe as fierce fighters who took the field with large forces and treated vanquished foes with ritual brutality. Until recently, however, there hasn’t been much archaeological evidence to back up the Roman accounts. But some time in the first century CE, two of those tribes clashed in what is now the Alken Enge wetlands in the Illerup River Valley in Denmark. Archaeologists excavated the aftermath from 2009 to 2014, finding broken weapons and shields along with the bones of at least 82 men. Many of the bones bore the marks of grievous wounds dealt just before death, which is no surprise on a battlefield, of course. But all of them were found in places that would have been under water 2,000 years ago—and they’d all been left exposed to weather and scavengers for six months to a year before they ended up in the water. Archaeologist Mads Kähler Holst of Aarhus University in Denmark and his colleagues say it’s the earliest example so far of a practice common in northern Europe in the first few centuries CE. In lakes and peat bogs all over northern Europe, archaeologists have found sites where people deposited the broken weapons and shields of their defeated enemies in the water. Most of those so-called “weapons graves” date to...
Enlarge / Apparently, enough people are buying Fortnite's wholly optional outfits and dance moves to fuel $100 million of prizes for the game's first year of esports tourneys. (credit: Epic Games) How serious is Fortnite as a video gaming phenomenon? Today's announcement of the shooter game's first esports prize pool is a pretty stark indicator, as publisher Epic Games has promised to invest no less than $100 million into the game's first year of competitive gaming. You read that correctly: $100,000,000. To understand how huge a number that is, a few comparison points are in order. The online five-on-five video game Dota 2 has enjoyed a robust esports life across the entire world since Valve took over the series' development, but that game needed five years of competitive life to crack the $100 million mark. According to the Dota 2 Prize Tracker site, that games' worldwide esports cume since 2013 currently totals $105 million, which doesn't include the $10 million-and-counting prize for the upcoming International 2018 tournament being held later this summer.

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Enlarge / FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn speaks at a Kaiser Family Foundation panel discussion on November 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Larry French) As Mignon Clyburn left the Federal Communications Commission, the longtime telecom regulator worried that the FCC is abandoning its "prime directive" of protecting consumers. "I'm an old Trekkie," Clyburn told Ars in a phone interview, while comparing the FCC's responsibility to the Star Trek fictional universe's Prime Directive. "I go back to my core, my prime directive of putting consumers first." If the FCC doesn't do all it can to bring affordable communications services to everyone in the US, "our mission will not be realized," she said. The FCC's top priority, as set out by the Communications Act, is to make sure all Americans have "affordable, efficient, and effective" access to communications services, Clyburn said. But too often, the FCC's Republican majority led by Chairman Ajit Pai is prioritizing the desires of corporations over consumers, Clyburn said. "I don't believe it's accidental that we are called regulators," she said. "Some people at the federal level try to shy away from that title. I embrace it."

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Enlarge / The Earth's magnetic field is remarkably sneaky. (credit: NASA) It was bound to happen eventually. A group of researchers that may actually be competent and well-funded is investigating alternative thrust concepts. This includes our favorite, the WTF-thruster EM-drive, as well as something called a Mach-Effect thruster. The results, presented at Space Propulsion 2018, are pretty much as expected: a big fat meh. The key motivation behind all of this is that rocket technology largely sucks for getting people around the Solar System. And it sucks even worse as soon as you consider the problem of interstellar travel. The result is that good people spend a lot of time eliminating even the most far-fetched ideas. The EM-drive is a case in point. It's basically a truncated hollow copper cone that you feed electromagnetic radiation into. The radiation bounces around in the cone. And, by some physics-defying magic, unicorns materialize to push you through space. Well, that explanation is at least as plausible as any of the others. There is no physics explaining how this could work, but some people at NASA have claimed that it does.

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Enlarge / The Ariane 5 rocket launches in April, 2018. (credit: Ariane Group) The France-based Ariane Group is the primary contractor for the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, and it has also begun developing the Ariane 6 rocket. The firm has a reliable record—indeed, NASA chose the Ariane 5 booster to fly its multi-billion dollar James Webb Space Telescope—but it also faces an uncertain future in an increasingly competitive launch market. Like Russia and the US-based United Launch Alliance, the Ariane Group faces pricing pressure from SpaceX, which offers launch prices as low as $62 million for its Falcon 9 rocket. It has specifically developed the Ariane 6 rocket to compete with the Falcon 9 booster. But there are a couple of problems with this. Despite efforts to cut costs, the two variants of the Ariane 6 will still cost at least 25 percent more than SpaceX's present-day prices. Moreover, the Ariane 6 will not fly until 2020 at the earliest, by which time Falcon 9 could offer significantly cheaper prices on used Falcon 9 boosters if it needed to. (The Ariane 6 rocket is entirely expendable).

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Capcom's announcement video for the Japanese Biohazard 7: Cloud Edition. Capcom will give Japanese Switch owners a chance to play last year's Resident Evil 7 on the Switch later this week. But the port will only be playable as an online stream running on Capcom's own servers, rather than a downloaded version that would run directly on the Switch's relatively low-powered hardware. On May 24, Biohazard 7: Cloud Edition will be offered to Japanese consumers as a 15-minute free trial and a 180-day, ¥2,000 (about $18) streaming "play ticket," according to a trailer posted by Nintendo Everything. The 45MB download includes streaming access to all of the game's DLC but not the English-language translation, so most Westerners shouldn't even bother trying to play from across the ocean. Earlier this month, Sega's Japanese Switch port of Phantasy Star Online 2 used a similar cloud server structure to stream gameplay to the system. This seems to be the first time an exclusively single-player game is being streamed to the Switch rather than ported as a direct download, though. There have also been cloud-powered versions of Final Fantasy XIII and Dragon Quest X for Japanese smartphones in recent years.

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Enlarge (credit: Buick) Everyone thinks they're a good driver. Despite this, the annual death toll on our roads keeps going up—despite ever-safer vehicles—and human error is to blame for 97 percent of all fatal crashes. Bad driving isn't just about crashes, though; racing from stoplight to stoplight is bad for the planet, since it adds unnecessary carbon to our atmosphere at a time when we can ill afford it. In the age of the connected car, it has become trivial to quantify just how good or bad a driver one is; for some time now, some insurance companies have been supplying customers with plug-in devices that can track their driving and—assuming it's good—offer a discount as a result. But you don't even need one of those dongles to do that, as some new cars can do that tracking on their own. A while back, we tested out a Buick Enclave that comes with a feature called Teen Driver that lets parents monitor their offspring remotely behind the wheel. And, as it turns out, there's an adult version, too—it's called Smart Driver. Smart Driver leverages General Motors' OnStar platform. Sensors on the car record events like hard braking, hard acceleration, high-speed driving, late-night driving, and fuel economy, uploading that data to OnStar's cloud where it can be accessed via the myBuick app.

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Enlarge (credit: ymgerman / Getty Images News) A new group of apps in China's App Store is facing scrutiny from Apple. According to a report from 9to5Mac, the iPhone maker is curtailing apps with CallKit framework due to a "newly enforced regulation" from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Apple started sending notices to developers whose apps use the CallKit framework, notifying them that CallKit functionality isn't allowed in China due to the new regulations. Developers reportedly have two options: remove CallKit framework from their apps, or remove their apps from China's App Store entirely. Apple introduced CallKit with iOS 10. It allows developers to build calling services into related applications, but it doesn't actually make calls. CallKit provides the interface, allowing the application to have a more native look, while developers can use a VoIP system on the back-end to handle making the calls. The Chinese government frowns upon VoIP services, since they can allow users to bypass surveillance measures that the government has put in place. It's believed that Skype was removed from the App Store for a similar reason last year. The popular Chinese chat app WeChat supported Apple's CallKit briefly, but the functionality was removed shortly after implementation.

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Enlarge / Meet Eagle Prime, your new robotic overlord. (credit: Chris Schodt) OAKLAND, Calif.—As far as mass entertainment goes, giant robots smashing each other should be a sure bet. Turns out, there's a lot of kinks to work out first. On Sunday, MegaBots, a Hayward, Calif.-based company (approximately 19 miles south of Oakland) that builds these robo-gladiators, held its second live event. It was an experiment of sorts. Instead of a robo-battle, it was more of a droid demolition derby, with MegaBots flagship mech Eagle Prime smashing appliances, a piano, and for the grand finale, a Chevy Astro van. Chris Schodt

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Enlarge / Pesticides in a store in Miami, Florida. (credit: Getty | Kerry Sheridan) A drug manufacturer used the same, uncleaned equipment to make pesticides as it did several human drugs, according to a warning letter released by the Food and Drug Administration. The result was that at least two medicines were contaminated with pesticides, the agency noted. The FDA’s sternly worded letter charged that drug manufacturer Product Quest MFG, LLC of Daytona Beach, Florida and its manufacturing facility, Ei LLC in Kannapolis, North Carolina, committed “significant violations.” It also noted that the firm’s response to the problems so far were “inadequate” and that its investigations into the extent of the problems were “not thorough and scientifically sound.” The agency levied legal threats if the issues weren’t fixed pronto. “Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in legal action without further notice including, without limitation, seizure and injunction,” the letter stated. They agency also threatened to deny the manufacturer’s drug applications, contracts, and block its drug export certifications.

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Enlarge / These are the "imps" that you'll use to manipulate worlds and objects in Dreams, whether you're in an adventure or just goofing around in its editor mode. (credit: Media Molecule) SANTA MONICA, California—Ten years ago, the LittleBigPlanet game series did the seemingly unthinkable for console players: it opened up the "mod and make your own games" experience that had previously been the domain of PC gaming. Its cute simplicity enabled a new audience to create (and share, via an online browser) their own 2D platform and adventure games, complete with higher-level concepts like if-then clauses, proximity triggers, and per-object logic. In 2015, LBP's creators at Media Molecule announced something even more ambitious: Dreams, a game that would do the same thing for the 3D-gaming world. Use controllers like a paintbrush, toggle through coding-command menus, and create your own 3D worlds, the Media Molecule devs promised. But thanks to a number of unclear media-event teases, we've gathered more questions than answers. Would Dreams really require those old, barely used PlayStation Move wands, as originally hinted during its 2015 announcement? How exactly would we build our own worlds and experiments? And would this PS4 product ever look like an actual video game?

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Enlarge / Amnon Shashua, co-founder and CTO of Mobileye. (credit: Arielinson / Wikimedia) Mobileye, the Israeli self-driving technology company Intel acquired last year, announced on Thursday that it would begin testing up to 100 cars on the roads of Jerusalem. But in a demonstration with Israeli television journalists, the company's demonstration car blew through a red light. Mobileye is a global leader in selling driver-assistance technology to automakers. With this week's announcement, Mobileye hoped to signal that it wasn't going to be left behind as the world shifts to fully self-driving vehicles. But the red-light blunder suggests that the company's technology may be significantly behind industry leaders like Waymo. While most companies working on full self-driving technology have made heavy use of lidar sensors, Mobileye is testing cars that rely exclusively on cameras for navigation. Mobileye isn't necessarily planning to ship self-driving technology that works that way. Instead, testing a camera-only system is part of the company's unorthodox approach for verifying the safety of its technology stack. That strategy was first outlined in an October white paper, and Mobileye CTO Amnon Shashua elaborated on that strategy in a Thursday blog post.

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Ron Amadeo OnePlus might not be a perfect Android device maker, with fairly regular controversies involving its security mistakes, bad advertising decisions, and lack of a concrete support policy. But OnePlus is really good at making high-end hardware at a low price, though, and for some people that's enough to forgive the company's other flaws. For 2018, the company is introducing the OnePlus 6. While OnePlus' flagship pricing is once again jumping up $29 to $529, the OnePlus 6 is still one of the cheapest Snapdragon 845-powered devices you can buy. With a switch to a glass back and a notched display design, OnePlus' flagship seems more generic than ever. But for that price, it's still hard to beat.

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Enlarge / The far side of the Moon. No robotic spacecraft has ever made a soft landing here. (credit: NASA) China's space agency has taken a critical first step toward an unprecedented robotic landing on the far side of the Moon. On Monday, local time, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation launched a Long March 4C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Although it did not broadcast the launch, the Chinese space agency said it went smoothly, according to the state news service Xinhua. "The launch is a key step for China to realize its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the Moon," Zhang Lihua, manager of the relay satellite project, told Xinhua. About 25 minutes after the launch after the launch, the Queqiao spacecraft separated from the rocket's upper stage, and began a trip toward a halo orbit of the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point L2. Over the next six months, the 425kg spacecraft will undergo tests to ensure it will function properly as a communications relay.

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