Watch NASA SLS's First Launch with a Moon-Orbiting Capsule Named 'Orion'

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Watch NASA SLS's First Launch with a Moon-Orbiting Capsule Named 'Orion'

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Watch NASA SLS's First Launch with a Moon-Orbiting Capsule Named 'Orion'

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A two-hour launch window just opened for the very first launch of NASA's "Space Launch System" to propel an uncrewed capsule into orbit around the moon. Coverage is streaming now on NASA's website, Facebook, Twitch , YouTube, and in 4K on NASA's UHD channel, according to a recent announcement:

A live broadcast of the launch also will include celebrity appearances by Jack Black, Chris Evans, and Keke Palmer, as well as a special performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock. It also will feature a performance of "America the Beautiful" by The Philadelphia Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

It's all to celebrate the launch of a massive rocket that will blast an uncrewed capsule named Orion into orbit around the moon to "pave the way for a [later] crewed flight test and future human lunar exploration," according to NASA. The mission — designated Artemis I — will "demonstrate the performance of the SLS rocket and test Orion's capabilities over the course of about six weeks as it travels about 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back to Earth."

Vox notes it's "the farthest a vehicle designed for human astronauts has ever traveled into space.... Orion will travel past the moon, and then thousands of miles beyond it, before turning around and heading back to Earth — a 1.3 million-mile journey (2.1 million kilometers) that will last 42 days." And then a human crew will make a similar flight in 2024, followed by a lunar landing sometime in 2025.

So what's in the capsule? Three life-sized mannequins (built with 38 slices of plastic to simulate human tissue), along with 5,600 other sensors and an additional 34 radiation detectors.

A version of Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, which has been downloaded onto an iPad, is hitching a ride, too. NASA is testing Callisto, a virtual AI that Amazon, Cisco, and Lockheed Martin designed to communicate with astronauts. While the tech might sound a little like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the engineers say the system is meant to provide assistance and companionship.

"Callisto is a standalone payload onboard the Orion spacecraft, and it does not have any control over flight control or other mission-critical systems," says Justin Nikolaus, a lead Alexa experience designer at Amazon.
Other aspects of Artemis I's payload are more sentimental. A plush doll version of the Shaun the Sheep character from the Wallace and Gromit franchise will travel on Orion. So will a Snoopy doll outfitted in an astronaut costume, along with a pen nib that Charles M. Schultz used to draw the Peanuts series, wrapped in a comic strip. Momentos from the Apollo 11 mission, which landed the first humans on the lunar surface in the 1960s, are also going, including a tiny sample of moon dust and a piece of an engine.

There's been a lot of anticipation. "A series of lightning strikes hit lightning towers near the launch pad five times on Saturday," NBC News reported, but "NASA says none of them caused any damage to the rocket." And just hours ago, shortly before midnight, NASA began fueling the rocket — pumping 730,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen into its 212-foot core rocket stage, the largest ever made by NASA — and then pumping even more fuel into its "interim cryogenic propulsion stage."

Sunday night NBC News had this report on the mission. "NASA says there's an 80% chance of 'go' based on the weather [forecasted for Monday morning]. But if it doesn't go then, the weather starts to deteriorate, and the launch may be in trouble."

It's been more than a half century since the last humans walked on the moon in 1972. Just before re-entering the module, NASA astronaut Eugene "Gene" Cernan broadcast these words to earth from the moon: "we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind."

And recently NASA's Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development added these words to their profile on Twitter. "We go to the Moon for scientific discovery and to prepare for our first steps on Mars."

Is There a Connection Between Life's Origin, Geothermal Vents, Cancer, and Aging?

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Long-time Slashdot reader Beeftopia writes:
All living cells power themselves by coaxing protons from one side of a membrane to the other. A place where this occurs naturally outside of cells are alkaline hydrothermal vents on the deep seafloor, inside highly porous rock formations that are almost like mineralized sponges. "Carbon and energy metabolism are driven by proton gradients, exactly what the vents provided for free," wrote biochemist Nick Lane. In Lane's view, metabolism came first, and genetic information emerged naturally from it rather than the other way around.
Quanta magazine asks Lane the big question: How did these first proto-cells become independent from the proton gradients they got for free in the hydrothermal vents?
LANE: We've shown that theoretically, if you introduce random sequences of RNA and assume that the nucleotides in there can polymerize, you get little chains of nucleotides. Let's say seven or eight random letters long, with no information encoded in there whatsoever.... [H]ydrophobic amino acids are more likely to interact with hydrophobic bases. So you have a random sequence of RNA that generates a nonrandom peptide. And that nonrandom peptide could by chance have some function in a growing proto-cell. It could make the cell grow better or grow worse; it could help the RNA replicate itself; it could bind to cofactors. Then you have selection for that peptide and the RNA sequence that gave rise to it.

Although it's a very rudimentary system, this means we've just entered the world of genes, information and natural selection.

Quanta summarizes Lane's next idea: that these vent environments "favored the beginnings of what we call the Krebs cycle, the metabolic process that derives energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins." Lane himself has said that metabolism "conjures genes into existence."

But if genes are conjured into existence by metabolism, then what else might be true? Lane ultimately concludes that cancer may be a metabolic disease rather than a "genomic" one:
LANE: About 10 years ago, the cancer community was amazed by the discovery that in some cancers, mutations can lead to parts of the Krebs cycle running backward. It came as quite a shock because the Krebs cycle is usually taught as only spinning forward to generate energy. But it turns out that while a cancer cell does need energy, what it really needs even more is carbon-based building blocks for growth. So the whole field of oncology began to see this reversal of the Krebs cycle as a kind of metabolic rewiring that helps cancer cells grow....

[C]ancers aren't caused simply by some genetically deterministic mutation that forces cells to go on growing without stopping. Metabolism is important too, for providing a permissive environment for growth. Growth comes before genes in this sense.

Or, as Slashdot reader Beeftopia puts it, "In Lane's view, metabolism came first, and genetic information emerged naturally from it rather than the other way around. Lane believes that the implications of this reversal touch almost every big mystery in biology, including the nature of cancer and aging."

Debian Replaces Google with DuckDuckGo as Chromium's Default Search Engine

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An anonymous reader quotes a story from the Linux/Open Source news site It's FOSS:
While Firefox is still the default web browser in Debian, you can find the Chromium browser in the repositories. Chromium is the open source project upon which Google has built its Chrome web browser. It is also preferred by many Linux users as it provides almost the same features as Google Chrome.

Earlier, Chromium used Google as the default search engine in Debian. However, Debian is going to use DuckDuckGo as the default search engine for Chromium.

It all started when bug report #956012 was filed in April 2020, stating to use DuckDuckGo as the default search engine for the Chromium package. You can see the decision was not taken in any hurry, as the maintainers took more than two years to close the bug report.

The reason for the change goes as stated in the official package update announcement.
Change default search engine to DuckDuckGo for privacy reasons. Set a different search engine under Settings -> Search Engine (closes: #956012).

Soon Electric Vehicles Could Charge Faster Than Your iPhone

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The Washington Post shares a little-acknowledged downside to electric cars: recharging takes "upward of 15 to 30 minutes."

But scientists are already working on improvements:

In a report released this week, government researchers said they have found a way to charge electric car batteries up to 90 percent in just 10 minutes. The method is likely five years away from making its way into the market, scientists said, but would mark a fundamental shift. "The goal is to get very, very close to [times] you would see at the gas pump," said Eric Dufek, a lead author of the study and scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory, a research center run by the Department of Energy....

At issue is the delicate balance of trying to charge an electric vehicle battery quicker, but not doing it so fast that a rapid charge does long-term damage to the battery or plays a role in causing them to explode. Charging electric batteries fast can cause damage, reducing the battery's life span and performance, scientists said. "You've had batteries when you first got it, they were great, but after a couple years or a few hundred charge cycles, they don't perform as well," said Eric D. Wachsman, director of the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute, an energy research organization at the University of Maryland. To try to solve this, Dufek and his team used machine learning to figure out how batteries age when charging fast. Their algorithm was trained to analyze 20,000 to 30,000 data points which indicated how well the battery was charging and whether it was aging or degrading....

Wachsman said the new research is helpful for the field. "Not too fast, not too slow," he said of Dufek's charging approach. "It's just right in that Goldilocks [zone]." But the bigger benefit, he said, would be if this method spurs car companies to make electric vehicles with smaller batteries, since they'd now have batteries that could be charged quicker and allow consumers to feel less worried about stopping periodically to get a quick recharge.

"Smaller batteries are cheaper cars," he said.

Are Plants 'Intelligent'?

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Long-time Slashdot reader Dr_Ish writes: It is not too common for the world of academic philosophy to be changed by a new discovery, or innovation. Perhaps the last time this happened in a major way can be traced back to Turing's famous (1950) "Computational Machinery and Intelligence" paper "Mind," where Turing proposed that computational systems could exhibit mind-like properties. However, it appears to be in the process of happening again.

In a series of recent papers and a book that was published last week, philosopher Prof. Paco Calvo from the University of Murcia, has made a compelling case that plants exhibit cognitive properties, such as memory, planning, intelligence and perhaps even numerical abilities... His book, Calvo, P. with Lawrence, N. "Planta Sapiens: The New Science of Plant Intelligence was published in the UK last week. It will appear in North America in March next year.

From the Guardian's review of the book:
Calvo writes that intelligence is "not quite as special as we like to think". He argues that it's time to accept that other organisms, even drastically different ones, may be capable of it....

In the course of his book, Calvo describes many experiments that reveal plants' remarkable range, including the way they communicate with others nearby using "chemical talk", a language encoded in about 1,700 volatile organic compounds.... Other studies show that some plants retain a memory of where the sun will rise, in order to turn their leaves towards the first rays. They store this knowledge — an internal model of what the sun is going to do — for several days, even when kept in total darkness. The conclusion must be that they constantly collect information, processing and retaining it in order to "make predictions, learn, and even plan ahead".

Are More Than Half of All Bitcoin Trades Fake?

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Bitcoin represents 40% of the $1 trillion outstanding crypto assets, according to Forbes' director of data and analytics. "An estimated 46 million adult Americans already own it according to New York Digital Investment Group..."

"But can you trust what your crypto exchange or e-brokerage reports about trading in the most important digital currency?"
One of the most common criticisms of bitcoin is pervasive wash trading (a form of fake volume) and poor surveillance across exchanges. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission defines wash trading as "entering into, or purporting to enter into, transactions to give the appearance that purchases and sales have been made, without incurring market risk or changing the trader's market position." The reason why some traders engage in wash trading is to inflate the trading volume of an asset to give the appearance of rising popularity. In some cases trading bots execute these wash trades in tokens, increasing volume, while at the same time insiders reinforce the activity with bullish remarks, driving up the price in what is effectively a pump and dump scheme. Wash trading also benefits exchanges because it allows them to appear to have more volume than they actually do, potentially encouraging more legitimate trading.

There is no universally accepted method of calculating bitcoin daily volume, even among the industry's most reputable research firms. For instance, as of this writing, CoinMarketCap puts the latest 24-hour trading of bitcoin at $32 billion, CoinGecko at $27 billion, Nomics at $57 billion and Messari at $5 billion....

As part of Forbes research into the crypto ecosystem using 2021 data, we ranked the 60 best exchanges in March. More recently we conducted a deeper-dive into the bitcoin trading markets.... Our study evaluated 157 crypto exchanges across the world. Here are our main findings:

- More than half of all reported trading volume is likely to be fake or non-economic. Forbes estimates the global daily bitcoin volume for the industry was $128 billion on June 14. That is 51% less than the $262 billion one would get by taking the sum of self-reported volume from multiple sources....

- The biggest problem areas regarding fake volume are firms that tout big volume but operate with little or no regulatory oversight that would make their figures more credible, notably Binance, MEXC Global and Bybit. Altogether, the lesser regulated exchanges in our study account for approximately $89 billion of the true volume (they claim $217 billion).

Forbes adds that their report "builds on top of the important work done by other digital asset researchers such as Bitwise, which estimated in a March 2019 white paper that 95% of CoinMarketCap's bitcoin trading volume was fake and/or non-economic."

Their article includes some other interesting findings, including an observation that Tether "continues to be a dominant player in the crypto trading economy, especially when it comes to trades against bitcoin. Its current market capitalization is $68 billion, despite questions about its reserves."

Thanks to Slashdot reader rrconan for sharing the article...

IEEE's Top Programming Languages of 2022: Python (and SQL)

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The IEEE's official publication, IEEE Spectrum, has released its ninth annual ranking of the top programming languages. The results?

Python remains on top but is closely followed by C. Indeed, the combined popularity of C and the big C-like languages — C++ and C# — would outrank Python by some margin.

Java also remains popular, as does Javascript, the latter buoyed by the ever-increasing complexity of websites and in-browser tools (although it's worth noting that in some quarters, the cool thing is now deliberately stripped-down static sites built with just HTML and simple CSS).

But among these stalwarts is the rising popularity of SQL. In fact, it's at No. 1 in our Jobs ranking, which looks solely at metrics from the IEEE Job Site and CareerBuilder. Having looked through literally hundreds and hundreds of job listings in the course of compiling these rankings for you, dear reader, I can say that the strength of the SQL signal is not because there are a lot of employers looking for just SQL coders, in the way that they advertise for Java experts or C++ developers. They want a given language plus SQL. And lots of them want that "plus SQL...."

Job listings are of course not the only metrics we look at in Spectrum. A complete list of our sources is here, but in a nutshell we look at nine metrics that we think are good proxies for measuring what languages people are programming in. Sources include GitHub, Google, Stack Overflow, Twitter, and IEEE Xplore [their library of technical content]. The raw data is normalized and weighted according to the different rankings offered — for example, the Spectrum default ranking is heavily weighted toward the interests of IEEE members, while Trending puts more weight on forums and social-media metrics.

Python is still #1 in their "Trending" view of language popularity, but with Java in second place (followed by C, JavaScript, C++ and C# — and then SQL). PHP is next — their 8th-most-trending language, followed by HTML, Go, R, and Rust.

Walmart Lists a 30TB Portable SSD for Just $39. It's a Scam

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What's the deal with that supposed 30TB external SSD being sold for just $31.40 on China-based online shopping site AliExpress? It's also listed on Walmart's website for just $39 — but first, listen to cybersecurity researcher calling himself "Ray [REDACTED]".
Scammer gets two 512MB Flash drives. Or 1 gigabyte, or whatever. They then add hacked firmware that makes it misreport its size... when you go to WRITE a big file, hacked firmware simply writes all new data on top of old data, while keeping directory (with false info) intact.

Ars Technica goes over the details:
On the inside, this "SSD" looks like two small-capacity microSD cards hot glued to a USB 2.0-capable board. This board's firmware has been modified so that each of these cards reports its capacity as "15.0TB" to the operating system, for a total of 30TB, even though the actual capacity of the cards is much lower.... It preserves the directory structure of whatever you're copying, but when it's "copying" your data, it just keeps writing and rewriting over the tiny microSD cards.

Everything will look fine until you go to access a file, only to find that the data isn't there.

Replies to Ray Redacted's thread are full of alternate versions of this scam, including multiple iterations of the hot-glued microSD version and at least one that hid a USB thumb drive inside a larger enclosure. Fake USB storage devices are neither new nor rare, though this one makes spectacularly egregious claims about its price-per-gigabyte. When it comes to buying storage online, common-sense advice is best: stick to name brands, buy from trustworthy sellers.... and know that if a deal seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

Web3 DNS Provider Could Lose Its Domain. The Only Person Who Can Renew It is In Jail

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"When members of the ENS DAO community go to its website, all they'll see now is an empty page with a green domain expiration notice banner at the top," reports CoinDesk.

"That's because the only person with the authority to renew the domain, Virgil Griffith, is serving a 63-month prison sentence for helping North Koreans use cryptocurrencies to circumvent sanctions and has been unable to renew the domain from prison."
According to a notice domain registrar GoDaddy published on its website late Friday, expired on July 26 and is set to return to a domain registry on Sept. 5, where it will be up for grabs for anyone who is able to take it.

ENS DAO is a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) that governs the Ethereum Name Service protocol, a Web3 version of a Domain Name Service provider. ENS is the protocol behind the numerous .eth names that have popped up throughout the Ethereum community. Users have bought .eth names as a way to own their own domains. ENS names can then be tied to your wallet address, making it easier for users to send and receive crypto (instead of having to type out a long, complex Ethereum address).... The DAO relied on the site to provide access to information about all ENS names.

ENS DAO is already advising its users to switch over to, another community operated domain.

Pine64 Touts Its RISC-V-Based Single-Board Computer and Soldering Irons

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PINE64's August update included photos of their first prototype for its upcoming Star64 single-board computer, "the first true RISC-V single-board computer from us...but as I wrote last month it certainly isn't the last RISC-V piece of hardware you'll be seeing from us."

Just as a short recap: Star64 comes with a StarFive JH7110 64bit CPU sporting quad SiFive FU740 cores clocked at 1.5GHz. The SOC is equipped with BXE-2-32 from Imagination Technologies, which is said to be a solid mid-range GPU. Star64 will be available in two configurations — with 4Gb and 8GB of RAM, similarly to the Quartz64. Both hardware versions include USB 3.0 and a PCIe slot as well as two native Gigabit Ethernet NICs.... Along the long leading edges you'll find PCIe on one end and GPIO on the other. At one end of the board you'll find a digital video output, a double-stacked Gigabit Ethernet port and a 12V barrel plug for power. On the opposite side, you'll find 3x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, an audio jack as well as a power button. There are also two U.FL ports for antennas — one for bluetooth and the other for WiFi....

The Star64 also has an MiPi display output complete with a touch panel (TP) input, a 12V power port, a CSI camera port and an eMMC slot. A micro SD card slot can be found at the bottom of the PCB. Similarly to the RockPro64 and Quartz64, the 12V port on the Star64 can be used for powering other hardware directly from the board — a popular example is powering one or multiple SSDs connected to a PCIe SATA adapter. I'll add that, at least in theory, the Star64 would make a great network-attached storage device because of its SoCs low thermals and idle power. I am looking forward to seeing NAS-focused Linux or BSD* OSes available for the board.

Speaking of software, efforts to support the SoC in Linux have already begun. I've been told that both Debian and Fedora are already being ported to the StarFive JH7110, which is great news. We are certain that many other OSes will follow swiftly — especially once we start delivering the Star64 to interested developers. On the subject of availability: the Star64 will be available in a few weeks time, and will initially be available to developers. Given the interest in the Star64's and the SoC powering I hope to see functional distributions available for the board soon after launch.
The announcement also included an update on their PinecilV2 smart mini portable soldering iron (built with a 32-bit RISC-V SoC). "The Pinecil V2 landed earlier this month and sold out almost instantly. The next production run of the ought to be available soon however..."

A Decade After Fukushima Disaster, Foes of Nuclear Power Reconsider

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The war in Ukraine has "reshaped" energy markets, reports the Washington Post, with gas and oil shortages driving up the price of fossil fuels.

The end result? "From Japan to Germany to Britain to the United States, leaders of countries that had stopped investing in nuclear power are now considering building new power plants or delaying the closure of existing ones."

The shift is especially notable in Japan and Germany, where both turned decisively against nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.... This week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that his government is considering constructing next-generation nuclear power plants with the goal of making them commercially operational in the 2030s. The government may also extend the operational life of its current nuclear power plants. German policymakers, meanwhile, are considering prolonging the life of three final nuclear power plants that had been scheduled to go offline at the end of the year. The reprieve would be temporary — just a year or two to get through the current energy crisis — but it would still mark a significant policy reversal that has been a major focus of Germany political life for the last decade...

Any decision in Germany would have to be approved by [German Economy Minister Robert] Habeck and his Green party — which was founded decades ago to focus on abolishing nuclear power. It remains a core policy position of the party — but so is opposition to Russia's war in Ukraine and a desire to be as strong as possible against the Kremlin. "We are in really special times," said Dennis Tänzler, a director of Adelphi, a Berlin-based climate think tank. "The bottom line is that German climate and energy policy has been shaped since Fukushima by a cross-party consensus that overall the technological risks, the security risks, are just too great."

Even some prominent nuclear critics appear open to keeping existing plants online for longer, though they oppose building any new ones. "There's no connection between building nuclear power plants and dealing with the price spike caused by the loss of Russian gas," since they take at least a decade to construct, said Tom Burke, the chairman of E3G, a London-based climate think tank. But, he said, extending the life of existing reactors could make sense. "If you can do it safely, and it's worthwhile economically to do it, I don't see any good reason not to extend the life of nuclear reactors," he said.

'Facebook Misinformation Is Bad Enough. The Metaverse Will Be Worse'

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The Rand Corporation is an American (nonprofit) think tank. And veliath (Slashdot reader #5,435) spotted their recent warning about "a plausible scenario that could soon take place in the metaverse."

A political candidate is giving a speech to millions of people. While each viewer thinks they are seeing the same version of the candidate, in virtual reality they are actually each seeing a slightly different version. For each and every viewer, the candidate's face has been subtly modified to resemble the viewer.... The viewers are unaware of any manipulation of the image. Yet they are strongly influenced by it: Each member of the audience is more favorably disposed to the candidate than they would have been without any digital manipulation.

This is not speculation. It has long been known that mimicry can be exploited as a powerful tool for influence. A series of experiments by Stanford researchers has shown that slightly changing the features of an unfamiliar political figure to resemble each voter made people rate politicians more favorably. The experiments took pictures of study participants and real candidates in a mock-up of an election campaign. The pictures of each candidate were modified to resemble each participant. The studies found that even if 40 percent of the participant's features were blended into the candidate's face, the participants were entirely unaware the image had been manipulated.

In the metaverse, it's easy to imagine this type of mimicry at a massive scale.

At the heart of all deception is emotional manipulation. Virtual reality environments, such as Facebook's (now Meta's) metaverse, will enable psychological and emotional manipulation of its users at a level unimaginable in today's media.... We are not even close to being able to defend users against the threats posed by this coming new medium.... In VR, body language and nonverbal signals such as eye gaze, gestures, or facial expressions can be used to communicate intentions and emotions. Unlike verbal language, we often produce and perceive body language subconsciously....

We must not wait until these technologies are fully realized to consider appropriate guardrails for them. We can reap the benefits of the metaverse while minimizing its potential for great harm.

They recommend developing technology that detect the application of this kind of VR manipulation.

"Society did not start paying serious attention to classical social media — meaning Facebook, Twitter, and the like — until things got completely out of hand. Let us not make the same mistake as social media blossoms into the metaverse."

Google Experiences Hundreds of Covid Cases After Return-to-Office Mandate

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"Google employees are receiving regular notifications from management of Covid-19 infections," CNBC report Friday — "causing some to question the company's return-to-office mandates."

The employees, who spoke with CNBC on the condition of anonymity, said since they have been asked to return to offices, infections notifications pop up in their email inboxes regularly....

The company began requiring most employees to return to physical offices at least three days a week in April. Since then, staffers have pushed back on the mandate after they worked efficiently for so long at home while the company enjoyed some of its fastest revenue growth in 15 years. Google has offered full-time employees the option to request permanent remote work, but it's unclear how many workers have been approved.

Google's Covid-19 outbreak in Los Angeles is currently the largest of any employer in LA., according to the city's public health dashboard. first reported that the tech giant's trendy Silicon Beach campus in Venice, Calif., recorded 145 infections while 135 cases were recorded at the company's large Playa Vista campus.

Staffers have been filling Memegen, an internal company image-sharing site, with memes about the increased number of exposure notifications they're receiving. One meme, which was upvoted 2,840 times, showed a photo of an inbox with the email subject from a San Francisco-based facilities manager stating "We're so excited to see you back in the office!" and a subsequent email subject line stating "Notification of Confirmed COVID-19 Case...."

Some employees said they received a spike in notifications from the Mountain View, Calif. headquarters and in San Francisco offices after the company held a return-to-office celebration, where Grammy award-winning artist Lizzo performed for thousands of employees at the Shoreline Amphitheater, near Google's main campus.

Defending the safety of working on-site, a Google spokesperson told CNBC they hadn't been experiencing a sudden recent spike in their Covid cases, arguing that instead the hundreds of Covid cases had been occurring over "the last few months."

The Ashes of Four 'Star Trek' Actors Will Be Carried Into Deep Space

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United Launch Alliance has been developing a heavy-lift space vehicle since 2014 (with investment from the U.S. military) called the Vulcan Centaur.

So CNN reports that the ashes of the late Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols "will head to deep space on a Vulcan rocket."
Nichols' cremated remains will be aboard the first Celestis Voyager Memorial Spaceflight, which will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Celestis, Inc., is a private company that conducts memorial spaceflights. Among the remains also aboard the flight will be the ashes of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry; his wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, who played various roles in the show and films; and James Doohan, who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the films and TV series....

The spaceflight will travel beyond NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and into interplanetary deep space. In addition to cremated remains, capsules onboard will also carry complete human genome DNA samples from willing participants.

People can participate in the flight — by having DNA or loved ones' remains in a spaceflight container — for a price starting at $12,500, and reservations close August 31. (Celestis offers other voyages that don't travel as far, but can cost less than $5,000.) Ahead of the flight's liftoff, Celestis will host a three-day event with mission briefings, an astronaut-hosted dinner, launch site tours, an on-site memorial service and launch viewing. All events will be shown via webcast, according to Celestis.

An announcement on the flight's site invites fans of Nichelle Nichols to "share your own story about how she inspired you and it will be sent into deep space aboard the first Celestis Voyager Memorial Spaceflight — the Enterprise Flight, launching later in 2022."

Debian Considers Changing How It Handles Non-Free Firmware

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"Debian currently doesn't load non-free firmware by default on its systems," reports Phoronix, "even when it means no working hardware support/acceleration without those binary elements. Not loading the non-free firmware can also mean missing out on security updates or for addressing usability issues."

Now the Debian community is discussing three proposals on how non-free firmware should be handled going forward (before a vote in September).

Proposal A and B both start with the same two paragraphs:
We will include non-free firmware packages from the "non-free-firmware" section of the Debian archive on our official media (installer images and live images). The included firmware binaries will normally be enabled by default where the system determines that they are required, but where possible we will include ways for users to disable this at boot (boot menu option, kernel command line etc.).
When the installer/live system is running we will provide information to the user about what firmware has been loaded (both free and non-free), and we will also store that information on the target system such that users will be able to find it later. The target system will also be configured to use the non-free-firmware component by default in the apt sources.list file. Our users should receive security updates and important fixes to firmware binaries just like any other installed software.
But Proposal A adds that "We will publish these images as official Debian media, replacing the current media sets that do not include non-free firmware packages," while Proposal B says those images "will not replace the current media sets," but will instead be offered alongside them.

And Proposal C? "The Debian project is permitted to make distribution media (installer images and live images) containing packages from the non-free section of the Debian archive available for download alongside with the free media in a way that the user is informed before downloading which media are the free ones.
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