News & Updates

Ron Amadeo

The US government is going after another Chinese Android device maker. After shutting down Huawei’s carrier deals and retail partners, the government is now pursuing ZTE. The US Department of Commerce has banned US companies from selling parts and software to ZTE for seven years.

ZTE was caught violating US sanctions by illegally shipping telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea. The company then made things worse by “making false statements and obstructing justice, including through preventing disclosure to and affirmatively misleading the US Government,” according to the Department of Commerce. The company reached a settlement with the government agreeing to pay up to $1.2 billion in penalties and discipline the employees involved in the sale.

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Video shot and edited by Justin Wolfson. Click here for transcript.

When we got a chance to talk to Hearthstone game director Ben Brode recently, we wanted to go beyond the kind of strategy and card-level gameplay analysis that has already flooded the Internet in the past four years. So, in the tradition of our Unanswered Mysteries of Overwatch video, we took a deep dive with Brode into the behind-the-scenes design process for making Hearthstone‘s thousands of cards.

We don’t want to spoil all of the entertaining anecdotes Brode shared with us during our wide-ranging talk, but keep an eye out for the following as you watch the video (or read the transcript):

  • Brode’s thoughts on “the optimal state of the game” and what makes it so hard to achieve
  • Which popular cards Blizzard never expected to see high-level play
  • The never-seen card concept that would have allowed for “a 3-mana 600/600 minion”
  • The hidden Lich King vocal tracks that few players ever heard in the course of play
  • The secret song that unlocks a volcano explosion on the Journey to Un’goro board
  • The design thinking behind mechanics like Fatigue and Echo.

Are there any other games you’d like us to give the Unsolved Mysteries treatment in the future? Let us know in the comments and we’ll see what we can do!

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Remember the “Big bitcoin heist” we reported last month when a group of thieves stole around 600 powerful bitcoin mining devices from Icelandic data centers?

Icelandic Police had arrested 11 suspects as part of the investigation, one of which has escaped from prison and fled to Sweden on a passenger plane reportedly also carrying the Icelandic prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir.

Sindri Thor


Enlarge / A Russian 3-stage Proton rocket blasts into the sky in 2000. (credit: NASA)

As recently as 2013, Russia controlled about half of the global commercial launch industry with its fleet of rockets, including the Proton boosters. But technical problems with the Proton, as well as competition from SpaceX and other players, has substantially eroded the Russian share. This year, it may only have about 10 percent of the commercial satellite launch market, compared to as much as 50 percent for SpaceX.

In the past, Russian space officials have talked tough about competing with SpaceX in providing low-cost, reliable service to low-Earth and geostationary orbit. For example, the Russian rocket corporation, Energia, has fast-tracked development of a new medium-class launch vehicle that it is calling Soyuz-5 to challenge SpaceX.

On Tuesday, however, Russia’s chief spaceflight official, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, made a remarkable comment about that country’s competition with SpaceX.

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Jonathan Gitlin

In 2017, Nissan sold 403,465 Rogue crossovers. That makes it the fifth best-selling vehicle in the US, narrowly losing out to the Toyota RAV4 (407,594) and the trio of domestic trucks that always sweeps the podium. It’s easy to see why vehicles like this have displaced the sedan as America’s go-to for driving a family around. It’s spacious, easily carrying four large humans—or five, if some of them are smaller—and their stuff. It’s pretty good value for money; even the cheapest $24,800 front-wheel drive Rogue S comes with a lot of standard equipment. IIHS rates it highly, and I even think it looks pretty good, if a bit fussy. All of which is to say, it’s not a bad vehicle.

Yet if that sounds like I’m damning the Rogue with faint praise, I am. A week with one of America’s best-selling vehicles once again proves I’m out of the mainstream, or too many people are happy to settle. The Rogue is fine, but it’s not great. The infotainment system needs work. The cabin is fussy. The steering is so light it’s almost disconcerting. And the hybrid version that was available for model year 2017 is missing in action.

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Enlarge (credit: Bhattacharya et al. 2018)

In 2003, Oscar Munoz found a mummy in the Atacama Desert ghost town of La Noria. The six-inch-long mummy, now called Ata, has an elongated skull, oddly shaped eye sockets, and only ten pairs of ribs… which helped fuel wild speculation that she was an alien hybrid. Ata was sold several times—probably illegally—and ended up in the private collection of Barcelona entrepreneur and UFO enthusiast Ramón Navia-Osorio. A 2013 documentary called Sirius soon helped immortalize Ata, focusing heavily on the alien hybrid claims.

When a team led by University of California, San Francisco bioinformatics researcher Sanchita Bhattacharya recently sequenced the tiny mummy’s genome, however, it revealed only a girl of Chilean descent. There were a complicated set of genetic mutations, including some usually associated with bone and growth disorders and a few more that have never been described before. Those mutations, the researchers claim, may help explain her unusual appearance.

It’s easy to see why the team’s March paper attracted so much interest: a high-profile urban legend was fully debunked at last, but now there were hints at compelling medical discoveries. Most press outlets presented the results as conclusive, cut-and-dried science—except for a few UFO fan sites that loudly insisted the study was part of a cover-up. But even beyond the extraterrestrial exchanges, things have gotten very complicated, both in terms of the scientific claims and in terms of whether the research should have been done at all.

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Enlarge / Southwest’s Boeing 737-700, tail number N772SW, was the aircraft for Southwest flight 1380. A failure in its left turbofan engine caused the death of one passenger and multiple other injuries. (credit: Aeroprints)

At 10:43am on April 17, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport bound for Love Field in Dallas with five crew and 143 passengers aboard. But just over 20 minutes into the flight, at an altitude of about 30,000 feet somewhere above Hershey, Pennsylvania, the left engine of the Boeing 737-700 exploded, blowing off its cowling. Debris shattered a passenger window, fatally injuring a woman seated next to it (who was nearly sucked out the breached window). With the cabin rapidly decompressing and an engine gone, the crew immediately began a descent, diverting toward Philadelphia for an emergency landing.

American commercial airline travel has been remarkably safe over the last decade: it has been more than 9 years since the last fatality on a US airline. Worldwide, 2017 was the safest year for air travel on record. Incidents like this one—a death caused by engine debris—are exceedingly rare; the last time engine debris killed an American commercial airline passenger was in 1996.

But it’s not like this was a random act of God. What happened aboard Flight 1380 appears to have been “uncontained engine failure” in the front portion of the left engine—a failure of one of the engine’s fan blades causing a spray of debris that rips through the walls of the engine (hence the “uncontained” part). This isn’t the first time that a Southwest jet has experienced such a failure: another Southwest 737-700 using the same type of engine (a CFM56-7B) occurred in August of 2016, with no fatalities. And a United Airlines 777 flying from San Francisco to Hawaii suffered an engine failure caused by a broken fan blade last month, though the failure was contained and the aircraft landed safely.

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Enlarge / Insanity dog’s got nothin’ on homeopaths. (credit: Getty | Agency-Animal-Picture)

“Hair of the dog” remedies may do the trick for some hangover sufferers. But health experts say that a Canadian homeopath took the idea too far—way, way too far.

Homeopath and naturopath Anke Zimmermann used diluted saliva from a rabid dog to “treat” a four-year-old boy, according to a blog post she published earlier this year. Zimmermann claims that the potentially infectious and deadly concoction successfully resolved the boy’s aggressive behavior, which she described as a “slightly rabid-dog state.”

The tale fits with the scientifically implausible principles of homeopathy. These roughly state that substances that produce similar symptoms of a particular ailment can cure said ailment (“like cures like”) and that diluting a substance increases its potency (“law of infinitesimals”).

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Enlarge (credit: Fred Armitage at Flicker via Creative Commons)

Amazon will adapt William Gibson’s novel The Peripheral, Variety reports. The show will be produced by a duo also responsible for Westworld on HBO.

Specifically, that means Jonathan Nolan (also a writer on the films Interstellar and The Dark Knight) and Lisa Joy (also a writer for TV’s Burn Notice and Pushing Daisies). Scott B. Smith will be a writer and executive producer for the series; he is best known for his Oscar-nominated screenplay for the Sam Raimi-directed film A Simple Plan, released in 1998. The series will also be directed and executive produced by Vincenzo Natali, an established sci-fi director whose past credits include the films Cube and Splice, as well as episodes of Westworld and Netflix’s recent Lost in Space reboot.

Published in 2014, The Peripheral takes place in two future timelines, both of them bleak. Among other things, it follows a woman who becomes a security guard in a virtual world but who begins to suspect that the virtual world is not so virtual after witnessing a murder-by-nanobots. Gibson is an acclaimed sci-fi author who also gave us the classics Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition and who coined the term “cyberspace.”

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The Drupal vulnerability (CVE-2018-7600), dubbed Drupalgeddon2 that could allow attackers to completely take over vulnerable websites has now been exploited in the wild to deliver malware backdoors and cryptocurrency miners.

Drupalgeddon2, a highly critical remote code execution vulnerability discovered two weeks ago in Drupal content management system software, was recently patched by the