iOS 11.3 inches closer to launch with sixth beta

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The public launch of Apple’s biggest iOS update in 2018 so far might be just a few weeks away, now that developers just received another beta build for iOS 11.3. Apple seeded iOS 11.3 beta six to developers this morning, bring a bunch of bug fixes and under-the-hood improvements to the iPhone and iPad. Developers […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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The UK’s spaceport ambitions inch closer to reality

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The UK government's goal to play host to the first spaceport in Europe is taking a baby step closer to fruition today. After being introduced just over a year ago as the Draft Spaceflight Bill, the rebranded Space Industry Bill is receiving royal ass…
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Hyperloop is edging closer to reality

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Plenty has happened in the five years since Elon Musk first published his white paper on a system he called hyperloop. Since releasing that manifesto to the world, hundreds of people, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been put to work, all of…
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Finisar tour shows 700,000-square foot facility closer to producing TrueDepth VCSELs for Apple’s supply chain

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Apple supplier Finisar intends to make its new 700,000 square foot facility in Sherman, Texas the ‘VCSEL capital of the world,’ the firm’s vice president and general manager revealed, as part of tour of its under-construction production lines that will eventually supply the laser-based components used in the iPhone X as well as other industries.
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New iOS, macOS and tvOS betas move us closer to the real thing

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Fresh beta versions of iOS 11.3, macOS 10.13.4 and tvOS 11.3 point to the full release of these new versions drawing nearer. Apple made the latest betas of these operating systems available to developers Monday. The company is always working on updates for all its computers, from desktops to watches and everything in between. Even […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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We’re One Step Closer to Super-Fast 5G Networks

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is ready to auction off access to the radio frequencies needed to operate the next generation of wireless networks, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

All wireless devices communicate over the air via radio frequency, also known as wireless spectrum. Spectrum is finite, and certain radio frequencies can be used only for certain purposes. No two companies can send their communications across the same frequency on the spectrum from the same location simultaneously, so they purchase licenses from the FCC to ensure dedicated access to their respective frequencies.

To operate 5G (fifth generation) wireless networks, which are expected to be 100 times faster than today’s 4G networks, companies will need access to very specific frequencies on the spectrum. During a speech at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress, Pai announced plans to open up bidding on these highly desirable frequencies.

According to Pai, the FCC will start accepting bids in the 28 GHz band in November 2018, with an auction of spectrum in the 24 GHz band following shortly after. However, the FCC will only be able to follow that schedule if Congress changes current legislation on how the government handles bidders’ pre-auction payments by May 13, Pai said.

The Next Level

The most obvious benefits of 5G networks will be far faster speeds and shorter loading times on our personal devices.

A high-definition movie that currently takes an hour to download on a 4G network is expected to take just seconds with a 5G network. Also 5G networks are expected to be able to manage more data at once — so cell reception issues, say during a major sporting event, caused by too much user traffic may be rendered obsolete.

The benefits of 5G extend far beyond our smartphones and laptops, though. Hyper-fast networks could enable a doctor in one country to virtually control a surgical robot on the other, and it could increase the safety of autonomous vehicles by allow them to communicate with one another more quickly.

5G may arrive even sooner than expected, too. On February 25, 2018, Nokia’s Chief Executive Rajeev Suri told Reuters that his company is accelerating their 5G plans, with the first commercial roll-outs expected in 2018. Both AT&T and Verizon will begin offering customers 5G networks this year too.

If the FCC’s impending auction goes ahead as planned, 2019 may be the year the 5G revolution begins in earnest.

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Apple’s AirPower mat inches closer to release, again said to arrive in March

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Following up on rumors earlier this month, Japanese publication Mac Otakara has confirmed with its own sources that Apple plans to initiate sales of its hotly anticipated AirPower wireless charging mat in March.
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We’re Getting Closer to Vaccines to Combat Drug Addiction

In the United States, 115 people die as the result of an opioid drug overdose every day. This statistic, gathered as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) work to understand and combat the current epidemic of opioid drug abuse in America is even more startling when you compare it to figures from the last twenty years or so. In 2016, the number of deaths attributed to an overdose of a drug like heroin or prescription opioid painkillers was five times what it was in 1999.

One of the driving forces behind this epidemic has already been determined: medical professionals over-prescribing opioid painkillers, such as oxycodone, to patients, a practice that is not only completely legal but increasingly common. Many people begin taking the drug legally but become dependent on it. When the prescription runs out and they are no longer able to get it filled, they may try to obtain it illegally. They may be motivated to buy or steal medication to help combat their pain. Some patients end up taking illegal street drugs, like heroin, in an attempt to treat the withdrawals from the opioid medications they were initially prescribed.

Drug addiction is extremely difficult to treat. Addictions that begin as the result of taking legally-prescribed medication, often as a treatment for severe or chronic pain, are even more so. That’s one reason that researchers have been trying to find entirely new avenues for treating drug addiction.

A team of researchers at The Scripps Research Institute recently published their work on the development of a potential vaccine to treat heroin addiction. The idea behind it is fairly intuitive, and in fact, the basic concept has been known to researchers since at least the 1970s.

Like any immunization, an “antiheroin” vaccine would cause a person’s body to create the antibodies that bind to heroin in the blood. Then, it would prevent the drug from crossing the blood-brain barrier, which is what gives the user a high. The theory being that if the drug user no longer felt the effect of the drug, it would be far less likely that they’d relapse.

Other research teams are working on similar vaccines that could be used to treat people addicted to cocaine, or even as a potential treatment for cigarette smokers who are addicted to nicotine. Whether prescription opioid painkillers, heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, nicotine, or even alcohol, the need for new, innovative, ways to address addiction is severe. Given the sheer number of people addicted and dying each year as a result and the distressing lack of available options for treatment, the need for drastic intervention is clear.

“We’re looking for everything and anything,” R. Corey Waller, a practicing addiction specialist and chair of the legislative advocacy committee of the American Society of Addiction Medicine told Chemical and Engineering News “We don’t care if it’s voodoo, unicorns, or rainbows; we’ll take it.”

At present, the biggest challenge is finding the scientific magic that would allow these treatments to work in humans. While they have proven effective in lab animals, the results of the few human clinical trials to date have been disappointing. That was over a decade ago, though, and the failure of those trials gave researchers valuable insight into what needed to be revamped.

It’s only a matter of time before they’ll be able to try again, but those who specialize in substance abuse treatment remain cautiously optimistic. They know, perhaps better than anyone else other than the addicts themselves, just how hard it is to treat drug addiction. “The vaccines seem very promising, and they’re novel, providing a different mechanism to prevent substance abuse,” Kelly E. Dunn, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavior Science at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told Chemical and Engineering News. “But there is still a lot of work to do.”

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Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Takes One Step Closer to First US Track

Hyperloop Transport Technologies (HTT) has brokered agreements with the North Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and the Illinois Department of Transportation for feasibility studies pertaining to its mass transit technology. This work will determine whether or not it’s practical to construct a route linking Cleveland with Chicago.

HTT CEO Dirk Ahlhorn described the collaboration as the “first real public-private partnership to bring Hyperloop travel to the US,” according to a report from Tech Crunch. If it comes to pass, the Hyperloop would allow passengers to travel between the two cities in just 28 minutes.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in January 2018, Ahlhorn said that HTT’s first track would be officially announced in 2018, and could be operational within three years. However, there’s no indication that the Chicago-Cleveland line would be the company’s top priority.

In September 2017, HTT came to an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board which will bring a Hyperloop system to India. And although the timeline for construction is still not clear, Ahlhorn indicated during last month’s address that Asia or the Middle East could be a smart place to start, economically speaking.

Of course, the company’s various international projects are expected to develop alongside one another. HTT has already submitted a letter, supported by a number of congressional representatives, that requests federal funding for the construction of necessary infrastructure.

Between HTT and Virgin Hyperloop One, projects inspired by Hyperloop technology, and Elon Musk’s plans for a high-speed railway system, there’s certainly a lot going on in the sphere of public transportation. However, most of it is still in the planning stages – it will be interesting to see which initiatives break ground first.

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Planets in the TRAPPIST-1 System May Be Closer to Earth Than We Thought

Questions and Answers

The TRAPPIST-1 system has fascinated astronomers and the general public alike since it was revealed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in February 2017. Now, a series of four studies from the University of Birmingham, published in in Nature Astronomy and Astronomy and Astrophysics has offered up new insight into conditions on the planets.

The first study sought to refine our understanding of how the star at the center of the system behaves, while the second pursued more precise measurements of each planet’s radius. The third looked at the planets’ masses, and the fourth observed their atmospheres.

The research seems to suggest that the seven planets that comprise the TRAPPIST-1 system are similar to the rocky worlds on our solar system, in various ways. For instance, five of the planets don’t possess an atmosphere consisting of hydrogen and helium, like that of Neptune or Uranus.

The study indicates that all seven planets are mostly made of rock. In addition, up to five percent of their mass is said to be in water – which is a very significant amount, given that just 0.02 percent of the Earth’s mass is tied up in its oceans.

To answer the question of what form the water on TRAPPIST-1 planets takes, we need to know more about the system’s star. It all depends on how much heat they receive from it.

Each planet is considered temperate, which means that under the right geological and atmospheric conditions, they could potentially support liquid water. Research like these four new studies will hopefully allow us to determine whether or not the planets are habitable.

Having a better idea of each planet’s radius and mass, as well as new information about the star itself, should give scientists a greater understanding of each planet’s density. This, in turn, should offer up greater understanding of their internal composition.

The density of a planet doesn’t have any direct impact on whether or not it’s habitable. However, it does contribute to a broader comprehension of the planet’s make-up that serves as crucial foundational knowledge for questions of that kind.


When planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system are referred to as Earth-like, the comparison is made in broad terms – even though they’re rocky as opposed to gaseous, and relatively temperate, they’re still a far cry from our own planet.

Still, the fact that they’re somewhat similar gives us a foundation for further research. These planets are incredibly far away, which can make it very difficult to study them. At present, the Hubble Space Telescope is integral to this kind of work, but the James Webb Telescope will provide even greater capacity for observation when it’s ready to be employed.

One reason that scientists have to believe that the TRAPPIST-1 system may play host to life is the concept of “panspermia”. This refers to the process of planets trading material like rocks and dirt due to huge impacts on their respective surfaces. This can foster a trade in complex organic molecules that might lead to living organisms. It’s been theorized that life on Earth may have actually travelled here from Mars.

Based on the masses of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system, and their relatively short distance from one another, it’s thought that panspermia might be as much as 10,000 times more likely to take place there than in our solar system.

While some studies have suggested that the likelihood of life being found on a TRAPPIST-1 planet is quite good, there are significant obstacles that might prevent these worlds from being habitable. The planets that are within the system’s habitable zone are still subject to a constant bombardment of radiation that could effectively destroy their atmospheres and prevent life from thriving.

It’s difficult to make a definitive statement either way on this kind of scenario based on what we currently know. That’s why it’s so important that we continue to research all aspects of the TRAPPIST-1 system in order to expand our understanding.

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