"But they knew in their hearts that once science had declared a thing possible, there was no escape from its eventual realization..."
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NASA's Swift Observatory may have suffered an attitude control failure

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NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory has run into difficulties after 17 years of largely smooth service. The orbiting explorer has entered safe mode after detecting a "possible failure" in one of the six reaction wheels used to change attitude. While it's not clear exactly what (if anything) went wrong, NASA has halted direction-based scientific observations until it can either give the all-clear or continue operations with five wheels.

This is the first potential reaction wheel problem since the Swift Observatory began operations in February 2005, NASA said. The rest of the vehicle is otherwise working properly.

The Swift Observatory has played an important role in astronomy over the past two decades. It was primarily built to detect gamma-ray bursts and detects roughly 70 per day. However, it has increasingly been used as a catch-all observer across multiple wavelengths, spotting solar flares and hard-to-find stars. NASA won't necessarily run into serious trouble if Swift has a lasting problem, but it would clearly benefit from keeping the spacecraft running as smoothly as possible.





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zipcube
21 hours ago
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MAGA Chuds Are Failing to Grow Their Audiences on Sites Like Gettr and Gab

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After Donald Trump got canned from virtually every major social media site, conservative pundits and personalities urged the MAGA crowd towards a mass exodus to so-called “alt-tech” venues promising freedom from a supposed plague of left-wing censorship. This hasn’t worked out quite as well as planned, according to…

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zipcube
22 hours ago
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Google Pay resets strategy again with new leader, might get into crypto

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The Google Play logo is flushed down a toilet alongside many dollar bills.

Enlarge / Google Pay continues to circle the drain. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica)

Google is bringing on a new executive who it hopes will turn the beleaguered Google Pay division around. Bloomberg reports that Arnold Goldberg, PayPal's chief product architect, will now run Google Pay after the former payments chief, Caesar Sengupta, left in April.

Of the Google services that survived 2021, Google Pay had one of the most brutal years of any product. In March, Google Pay rolled out a completely new app in the US, replacing the old Google Pay app that had existed for years.

This new app was originally developed for India and is dramatically different from the old Google Pay app used in the US. For starters, the new app switched to using a phone number for identification instead of a Google account, which meant that a ton of features US users were accustomed to were no longer supported. Indian consumers are used to phone number identity thanks to apps like WhatsApp, and the limitations are not a big deal for users in that country thanks to smartphones being many consumers' only device.

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zipcube
22 hours ago
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Facebook and Instagram are reportedly exploring plans to make, showcase, and sell NFTs

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Social media conglomerate Meta is exploring plans to let users create, showcase, and sell NFTs on Facebook and Instagram, according to a report from The Financial Times.

If the company launches such tools, it would be the biggest show of mainstream support for NFTs to date, and help solidify the controversial assets’ place in the digital world.

As per the FT, the plans are “at an early stage and could yet change.” The publication says teams at Facebook and Instagram are “readying” a feature that will let users display NFTs as their profile pictures, as well as working on a prototype to let users mint new NFTs. Others at Meta are reportedly discussing “launching a marketplace for users to buy and sell NFTs.”

Exactly how far along these plans are is impossible to say, but it’s not the first show of interest in NFTs we’ve seen from Meta’s leaders. Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said last December that the company is “actively exploring NFTs and how we can make them more accessible to a wider audience,” while last October Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke about how the metaverse will need to support “ownership of digital goods or NFTs.”

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have been gaining support with other established web platforms in recent months. Twitter is working on ways to showcase such blockchain-supported items, while Reddit launched its own collection of NFT avatars for users.

Although NFTs are much derided for their speculative value (prices rise and fall with shocking speed) and lack of security (they’re frequently stolen despite claims by some that they guarantee ownership), these assets will become more significant if existing tech giants choose to support them.

An NFT is, at heart, a way to claim ownership of a digital item like a JPG or a GIF via a unique address on the blockchain. And despite claims that these assets embody a decentralized forms of ownership, their legitimacy rests upon recognition from existing online platforms. If Twitter or Instagram lets anyone copy and paste your JPG of a smoking chimp, who’s to say who really owns it? But if companies start enforcing ownership rights as signified by NFTs, they could become legitimate digital assets (at least on those platforms).

For Meta, embracing NFTs could also help it wield greater influence in what the company has labelled the metaverse — a nebulous concept of interconnected virtual worlds, similar to promises of VR universes floated in the 1990s and before. That could potentially boost the value and importance of NFTs while simultaneously centralizing control over the assets.

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zipcube
23 hours ago
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Dangerous Program To Turn Teenagers Into Long-Haul Truck Drivers Won't Fix Driver Shortage

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The federal government detailed a pilot program last week that will allow around 3,000 18-t0 20-year-olds to drive big rigs across state lines. The program was a requirement in the massive infrastructure bill passed Nov. 15, 2021, and will allow teens without any visual impairments or previous tickets to pilot the…

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zipcube
23 hours ago
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Respected Automated Driving Expert Gives Tesla FSD Beta An "F"

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Brad Templeton has been working with computers since way way back in the day (dude helped port VisiCalc to the Commodore Pet in 1979, for example) and has been involved with automated vehicle development since 2007, writing extensively about them, and then joining Google’s team (that later became Waymo) in 2010.

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zipcube
23 hours ago
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