News & Updates

Hyperloop One

Los Angeles-based startup Hyperloop One has made it its mission to build a rail system that levitates pods on magnetic skis and sends them through a low-pressure tube at 760mph. At a railway conference in Dubai on Tuesday, the startup showed the first images of the test track it has started building in southern Nevada, north of Las Vegas.

The test track is going to be 500m (or about a third of a mile) long and 3.3m (almost 11ft) wide. A press release from the startup said that it hopes to do a public test in the track in the first half of 2017.

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An Italian software developer says that Facebook’s “Nearby” feature is a copy of its application called “Faround” and has won a court case compelling Facebook to stop location sharing for now.

The Italian company, Business Competence, filed a lawsuit in 2013 saying that Facebook’s Nearby feature violated Italian copyright and competition laws, according to a report in Reuters. A court ruling favoring Business Competence was issued in August but was only made public by the company yesterday.

The ruling orders Facebook to suspend Nearby Places or face fines of up to 5,000 euros per day. The ruling is a preliminary one, and another hearing is scheduled for next month.

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Enlarge (credit: Getty | Deux)

Sexy times in the US are declining, according to a new study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

American adults reported having nine fewer romps a year in the early 2010s than they did in the late 1990s—dropping from an average of about 62 times a year between 1995 and 2000 to around 53 a year between 2010 and 2014. Researchers saw declines across ages, races, religions, education levels, employment statuses, and regions. They linked the sagging numbers to two trends: an increase in singletons over that period—who tend to have less sex than married or partnered people—plus a slow-down in the sex lives of married and coupled people. But the drivers of those trends are still unclear.

The study is based on data from a long-standing national survey called the General Social Survey (GSS). It involves a nationally representative sample of Americans over 18 years old, surveyed most years between 1972 and 2014. The new study involved responses from 26,620 Americans.

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Enlarge / Any Switch units you ship to stores at this point will fly off their shelves as fast as these demo units Nintendo showed off in January.

The Switch has been on the market for just over four days, and the headlines are blaring about what has undoubtedly been a successful launch for Nintendo’s newest hardware. The Switch had the best initial two-day sales of any Nintendo console in North America, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime told a New York Times reporter. The same is true in Europe, where Nintendo of Europe announced via press release that the system had “sold more in its launch weekend than any other Nintendo hardware in history.”

More discrete country-specific numbers also look strong for the Switch right out of the gate. In Japan, the system has sold just over 330,000 units in three days, according to Famitsu, only slightly less than the ultra-successful Wii did at its launch. reports the Switch sold 80,000 units in a single day across the UK, while in France, the system has already sold 105,000 units, making it the best-selling console launch of all time in that country, according to Le Figaro.

No matter how you slice it, this sales strength out of the gate is a good sign for Nintendo, which is still struggling to regain its financial footing after the Wii U faltered in the marketplace. At the same time, we should be careful not to assume that a successful launch will mean long-term success for the Switch.

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Enlarge / Artist’s concept of the Europa lander. Note the sample arm in the foreground with a rotary cutter. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

DEEP IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM—A darkness has spread over the grim, airless field of ice that threatens to swallow us. Night has come to the nightmare glacier. But then we see the shiny spacecraft, with its four gangly legs extending outward to find purchase on the jagged ice. Within, scientific instruments begin to blink on, one by one. Soon, they will start sniffing for any hint of life on this most alien and mysterious of worlds in the Solar System: the Jovian moon Europa.

Through the HoloLens each of us wears, we watch this simulation of what might happen about 15 years from now on the icy, forbidding moon. The otherworldly illusion is shattered when a voice booms out; it’s John Culberson, a conservative Republican politician from Texas. He wants to know what happens if one of the blinking instruments fail. Not to worry, he is told, all of the spacecraft systems are redundant. “Good,” Culberson replies. “The immensity of what you’re doing is too important in human history. You don’t want to miss this chance.”

Europa truly does represent a singular chance. Crossing 800 million kilometers with a sizable, robust payload will require vast sums of money—there won’t be a second chance. But Europa represents a gamble in another sense, too. No one knows whether NASA will discover a frozen, dead world far from the Sun or if the organization will make the most profound of discoveries just below the ice.

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WikiLeaks has published a massive trove of confidential documents in what appear to be the biggest ever leak involving the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

WikiLeaks announced series Year Zero, under which the whistleblower organization will reveal details of the CIA’s global covert hacking program.

As part of Year Zero, Wikileaks published its first archive, dubbed Vault 7, which


(credit: Flickr: Rego Korosi )

YouTube announced its long-rumored YouTube TV service last week, plunging the online video platform into the competitive world of live TV streaming. On the surface, the $35-per-month YouTube TV looks like a good deal: dozens of broadcast and cable channels (including numerous sports networks), a cloud-based DVR service, up to three simultaneous streams, and more. YouTube TV will launch sometime later this year, but there is already a lot of competition for the service. The biggest challengers—DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV—offer many similar features to YouTube TV, and that will undoubtably make it difficult for aspiring cord-cutters to know if they should wait for YouTube’s service or take the plunge now.

To aid in that decision, here’s a breakdown of these four TV-streaming services and their major features.

Specs compared: TV-streaming services
YouTube TV DirecTV Now PlayStation Vue Sling TV
Monthly price $35 $35 $40 $20
Starting number of channels 44 60+ 45+ 30+
Included sports channels ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPN News, SEC Network, CSN, NBC Sports Network, Fox Sports, BTN, FS1, FS2 ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, FS2, NBC Sports Network ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3
Available add-ons Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus, but price details unknown HBO for $5/month, Cinemax for $5/month, Showtime for $8/month Epix for $4/month, Espanol Pack (nine channels) for $5/month, numerous standalone channels including HBO Multiple add-on packages ranging from $5-$15/month
DVR Yes No Yes, limited by channel Yes, in beta
DVR storage Cloud-based, unlimited storage, videos saved for nine months N/A Cloud-based, shows saved for 28 days Cloud-based, 100 hours included
On-demand No Yes Yes Yes
Number of simultaneous streams 3 2 5 1
Device compatibility Android, iOS, Chromecast Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast Android, iOS, Apple TV, PS3, PS4, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast Android, iOS, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and tablets, Xbox One

The first thing to note about YouTube TV is that it will launch with just one subscription tier. Everything the service offers will be included in the $35-per-month price—at least for now. As YouTube and Google land deals with other networks, we could see YouTube TV expand into higher-priced subscription tiers. But since there’s just one plan right now, it makes it easy to compare it to the base-tier packages of DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV. In this comparison, we’re only looking at live TV-streaming services, not online video streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon Video.

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(credit: Adam Bowie)

Amazon is handing prosecutors cloud-stored data from its Alexa Voice Service that the Arkansas authorities say might be used as evidence in a murder prosecution.

The Seattle-based company originally had balked at a warrant demanding the recorded voice and transcription data from an Amazon Echo near a murder scene. The company claimed that the data, and the responses from the voice assistant itself, were protected by the First Amendment. What’s more, Amazon said that the Arkansas authorities had not demonstrated a “compelling need” for the data.

But the novel and vexing questions this case poses—such as what is the legal standard for when data from an Echo or other Internet of Things devices can be used in a court of law—won’t be answered. The reason? The murder defendant, James Bates, agreed late Monday to allow Amazon to forward his Echo’s data to Arkansas prosecutors.

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(credit: Facebook)

Facebook was forced to report the BBC to the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) after the broadcaster shared with the company screenshots of “sexualised images of children” that it had copied from the site, Ars understands.

On Tuesday, Facebook was bombarded with criticism after the BBC claimed that the free content ad network had failed to nix 82 images, even though they appeared to clearly break the firm’s own “community standards” rules.

Ars has learned that Facebook had requested links to the offending material from the BBC —which reportedly included “pages explicitly for men with a sexual interest in children,” and “an image that appeared to be a still from a video of child abuse, with a request below it to share “child pornography”—but instead the broadcaster provided screenshots taken from the site.

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Enlarge (credit: Verizon)

Verizon is now selling FiOS Internet, TV, and phone services on a prepaid basis, with new plans that don’t require annual contracts, deposits, or credit checks.

Announced yesterday, FiOS prepaid comes with only one Internet speed choice: 25Mbps up and down. By contrast, Verizon’s regular plans start at 50Mbps and range up to 750Mbps.

But prepaid service could be enticing for people who have bad credit or want to avoid long-term contracts. Prepaid service also offers a slightly lower price than the regular entry-level tier, which makes sense since the speeds are slower. The 25Mbps Internet-only prepaid plan costs $60 a month plus taxes and fees, with a Wi-Fi router included. “FiOS prepaid includes the equipment you need at no additional charge,” Verizon says. Professional installation is $90, but self-installation is free.

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