Solar May Never Power Your EV, But You Can Still Drive on Sunshine

If you happened to be passing through central Idaho in what’s now the Snake River plain some 15,000 years ago, you might have spotted entire fields of lava, covering more than 600 square miles. And if you swung back through the area this past week, you might have spotted an equally alien phenomenon: a little yellow vehicle, 16 feet long, covered in solar panels, and rolling at a stately 30 mph past the long cooled land that’s now called the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.

For the University of Michigan student stuffed inside the Novum, the Craters of the Moon would have been just one more point of passing interest. The real focus would have been on the Sun overhead—the only source of fuel and the key to taking first place in the 2018 edition of the American Solar Challenge—a 1,700-mile race from Omaha, Nebraska to Bend, Oregon.

For nearly 30 years, races like the American and World Solar Challenge have been proving cars can use solar panels to generate all the power they need. In the sky and on the sea, other pioneers are making a similar point: With the right sort of engineering, the Sun’s rays are all you need to go from point A to B.

As the world’s automakers finally get serious about building electric cars, the question arises: What are the odds they’ll be able to generate their own electricity from solar panels built into the roof, body, and glass, without sacrificing creature comforts like air conditioning, legroom, and the ability to keep up with highway traffic?

The upshot is tantalizing. Cars would be freed not just from their reliance on planet-killing fossil fuels, but from the need for a charging infrastructure whose slow growth remains a major pain point. But the odds, if you must know, are slim. Researchers are working on making solar panels lighter, nicer looking, and more efficient. The next generation of solar materials will be applied like paint, turning a whole vehicle (or just about anything else) into a solar panel. But even such advances are unlikely to make enough power for the average driver’s commute—cars will always have small surface areas compared with their heavy-duty power needs. The good news is that there are other ways to integrate solar power and transportation to make driving greener.

State of Charge

The silicon-based solar cells you see on roofs of houses today are an elegant piece of engineering, the result of a century of experimentation and refinement. They have no moving parts, and silently, continuously, generate electricity whenever it’s light out. But they’re not very efficient, converting just 15 to 20 percent of the energy that falls on them.

That hasn’t stopped automakers from trying to integrate them into vehicles. Henrik Fisker built a solar roof into his ill-fated Karma electric-hybrid, an early rival to Tesla. The company bringing the design back as the Karma Revero has updated the solar setup, and says it can now make 200 watts of electricity per hour. Too bad modern EVs need battery packs with at least 60 kilowatt-hours. Give the Revero eight hours of sunshine, and it can make enough power to drive a mile and a half.

That’s why Toyota bills the optional solar roof on the plug-in Prius Prime as a way to top up the car’s battery. (It doesn’t offer the setup in the US, saying American buyers haven’t shown much interest.) And when WIRED crunched the numbers to see if an EV with more surface area—Tesla’s semi-truck—we found it would take at least 80 hours to fully top up the batteries.

Power Boost

So not much is gonna happen today or tomorrow. But let’s look at where solar’s going. The next step for the tech is multijunction (sometimes referred to as III-V) solar panels, usually based on gallium instead of silicon, which offer much better efficiency—as much as 45 percent more. That means fewer panels on a smaller surface area can do the work, but at a higher cost. “If you want to send a rover to Mars, this is totally what you use,” says Joseph Berry, senior research scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. They’re also great for satellites, where weight is a more important consideration than cost for designers.

Indeed, while the Mars Curiosity rover got an onboard nuclear generator, its predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity, pootled around Mars on solar power alone. That’s why Opportunity, which has driven 28 miles on the planet since arriving 15 years ago, is currently in hibernation. It’s waiting out a dust storm that has blotted out the Sun and left it unable to charge.

That works for NASA, but back on Earth, car buyers are a little more sensitive to price and prefer to be able to drive on cloudy days. They can look to researchers working on a solar solution that could be not only more efficient, but also cheap: perovskite solar cells, made from low-cost and easy to handle materials. After about a decade of development, the tech is still in the lab but has real potential.

“The notion with the perovskites is we do have a path to 30 percent, but at a much, much, lower price point,” says Berry, who specializes in their development. Perovskite materials can be applied as a liquid, and painted on to surfaces, with metallic ink printed electrodes. “We can print this stuff like you print a newspaper.”

That could provide a new way to coat an entire car with solar generating material. But making the materials stable is still a challenge, according to Berry, and there are plenty of practical questions as well. What happens when a car with an electrically charged surface crashes? Would customers buy a car if they couldn’t choose the paint job? Could manufacturers integrate their application into the factory process?

Maybe then the answer isn’t to put the power generation on the cars themselves, with their limited surface area and hearty power demands. Perovskite materials give researchers the opportunity to cover not just vehicles, but also the garage they sit in, the house that’s attached to, and just about anything else you can think of, like street lights and factory roofs. “We talk about the notion of photovoltaics everywhere,” says Berry.

How about those miles and miles of blacktop on which cars drive? Idaho-based Solar Roadways is among those hoping to put some of that area to work making electricity, using heavy-duty solar panels that could self-defrost and contain lights for road markings. China claims to have opened the world’s first solar road in Jinan, at 1.25 miles long. The complexities may outweigh the advantages. The scale of solar roadways would help with the business case, but engineers have yet to figure out how to replace failed panels without disrupting traffic, or how to easily dig up the roads for pipe work underneath, for example.

With the advent of perovskite solar cells, large generation plants at the grid scale, with panels on factory roofs or in the middle of the desert, will become cheaper to build and operate, making it easier to supply everyone with green (yellow?) power. That’s where the bulk of Berry’s work is focused, and he believes a step change is coming. “That’s certainly what wakes me up in the morning,” he says.

So even if you leave the solar car to crafty college kids trundling across the country, you can be driving on sunshine.


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Space Photos of the Week: Sweeping the Clouds Away on Titan

You know that hazy, cloudy, yellowish moon of Saturn called Titan? This is the same moon! Using years’ worth of infrared data from Cassini’s Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, scientists have created the most detailed view of Titan we’ve ever seen. Because of the thick atmosphere enveloping this moon, it’s ordinarily a challenge to see through the clouds and haze. With infrared? A whole new world, or moon, opens up.

Sometimes the Earth, seen from space, can have features more like those you’d expect on alien planets. This particular photo is of the Chukchi Sea, a stretch of Arctic water north of the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. NASA’s Landsat8 satellite captured these lovely blue and green swirls—blooms of phytoplankton—just a few weeks ago. Looks almost warm enough for a summer swim!

The Pillars of Creation, part of the Eagle nebula, are perhaps the most renowned nebula feature of our time, and for good reason: They’re beautiful. These towers got their name because they were a stellar nursery, a place where new stars are born. Yes, the key word is “were.” Scientists think a supernova explosion felled the pillars some years ago. However, the light from that cataclysm hasn’t reached us yet; what we’re seeing in this photo is about 5,700 years old, since that’s how long it took the nebula’s light to reach the Hubble Space Telescope.

The dwarf planet Ceres, the closest such planet to Earth, resides in the asteroid belt between our world and Mars. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting Ceres for over three years and has spotted some pretty interesting things close up—including these bright, salty regions in the impact crater known as Occator Crater. Dawn’s mission is due to end sometime in the next couple of months as it runs out of fuel, though it will continue forever orbiting Ceres. We just won’t be able to communicate with it anymore.

Saturn, you’re so awesome. The Cassini spacecraft took this stunning pic of the ringed planet in January 2010, with the light from the night side enhanced so we can better see the demarcations in the rings. Although Cassini ended its mission when it entered Saturn’s atmosphere last September, we’ll always have these grand views of the most remarkable planet (other than ours) in our solar system.

This sparkling cluster of stars is actually an irregular galaxy called UGC 12682. The bright blue regions indicate star formation, and their contrast against the dark fabric of space makes this photo all the more alluring. Galaxy UGC 12682 is 70 million light years from Earth, so all the baby stars here probably have grown up by now.

From Warren Buffett to Jeff Bezos — 13 Quotes From Leaders Who Found Unbelievable Success

“When my legs hurt, I say: ‘Shut up, legs!'” I love this quote from German cyclist Jens Voigt. He would yell this when the pain of long mountain stages in major races like the Tour de France would start to seep in. And he would keep pedaling.

It reminds me a lot of what it takes to be an entrepreneur — the willingness to keep going when you are stretched and tiring.

Building a successful business that is lasting is a long journey. That is why you need to keep pushing. And the inspiration to do so often comes from remembering why you started in the first place. So, where do you find your inspiration?

I recently posted about words that inspire on LinkedIn, and a few folks chimed in with their favorite movie-inspired quotes. But movies are not the only place to find company-building inspiration. Some of the best lessons come from real-life leaders and champions — those who have defeated the odds to find success.

Here are 13 quotes for aspiring entrepreneurs — broken out by the focus areas that I believe are most important to successful founders:

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” — Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway  

“We asked ourselves what we wanted this company to stand for. We didn’t want to just sell shoes. I wasn’t even into shoes — but I was passionate about customer service.” — Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

“You cannot deliver value unless you anchor the company’s values. Values make an unsinkable ship.” — Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo

“Motivation comes from working on things we care about. It also comes from working with people we care about.” — Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

“If you want to create a great product, just focus on one person. Make that one person have the most amazing experience ever.” — Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb  

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” — Bill Gates, business magnate and principal founder of Microsoft  

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” — Steve Jobs, entrepreneur and co-founder of Apple

“I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest.” — Venus Williams, championship tennis player

Innovation

“No big challenge has ever been solved, and no lasting improvement has ever been achieved, unless people dare to try something different. Dare to think different.” — Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

“Have a healthy disregard for the impossible.” — Larry Page, co-founder of Google and CEO of Alphabet

Perseverance

“If you absolutely can’t tolerate critics, then don’t do anything new or interesting.” — Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” — Thomas Edison, inventor  

“If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.” — Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike

Moments of trial are inevitable when you are starting a business. And sometimes the best encouragement comes from looking at what you have accomplished and what you still want to do. It also comes from watching and learning from others.  

All of these leaders remind me that the most important thing you can do each day is to stay in the race. Yes, even when it feels grueling. And even when you have to shout, “Shut up, legs!” to keep pushing ahead.

What quotes would you add to the list?

Why You Can't Trust More Cryptocurrency White Papers

In 2008, a mysterious figure named Satoshi Nakamoto uploaded a PDF to the internet outlining a digital framework for spending money without centralized banks. He sent the paper to a cryptography mailing list, and thus bitcoin—and the blockchain—were born. Ten years later, an entire cryptocurrency industry valued at $300 billion has bloomed from those nine pages.

To many in the cryptography world, this was unexpected. “When we heard about bitcoin for the first time, many of us cryptographers—myself included—did not think it was going to work,” says computer scientist Alejandro Hevia of the University of Chile. Nakamoto didn’t include detailed analysis on the bitcoin architecture, as is customary in peer-reviewed computer science papers. And he hadn’t publicized his ideas via the customary channels: not at crypto conferences or on arXiv, the loosely-moderated site where computer scientists upload their newest ideas in advance of peer review.

“It set the stage for people afterward—that it’s OK to write stuff on your own, put it on your website, and let the world see it,” says computer scientist Emin Gün Sirer of Cornell University. Some 1,600 cryptocurrencies exist today, each of their releases accompanied by a paper explaining the need for its existence. Their inventors write these so-called white papers to communicate how their cryptocurrency is better than the last—and to attract investors.

But without formal vetting, it’s rare for a white paper to achieve Nakamoto-level quality. Some papers are outright scams, veiled in pseudo-technical language that might not even be logically sound. “Maybe they’ll call the person they have beers with to read it on a Saturday, and they call that peer review,” says Sirer. “These papers would not pass scrutiny by any sort of scientist.”

In a widely publicized example this year, the platform Tron, currently the eleventh largest cryptocurrency, released a white paper that seemed to plagiarize two other ones. In some cases, Tron duplicated phrases word for word, without any citations. In response to the accusations, Tron took down the white paper, and its founder wrote on Twitter that the seemingly copied text was due to a translation error. (Tron’s original paper was written in Chinese.)

Tron isn’t the only example. Bad white papers are so plentiful that experts have identified recurring red flags, like when a white paper doesn’t cite any prior work. It’s just not possible that your brilliant new idea didn’t build on any existing concepts, says Chris Wilmer of the University of Pittsburgh, who edits Ledger, an academic journal dedicated to blockchain developments.

“The problem is that people are too eager to claim they’ve done something new,” says Hevia. Many of the underlying cryptography concepts in blockchain originated from academic research in the 80’s and 90’s, says computer scientist Arvind Narayanan of Princeton University; even Nakamoto’s white paper had a reference section.

In other words, crypto-developers—ironically, a community devoted to eliminating centralized authority—could use more traditional vetting structures. To that end, in 2016, Wilmer helped start Ledger, the first blockchain-dedicated academic journal, after canvassing the cryptocurrency community in both industry and academia. “There was resounding enthusiasm for it,” says Wilmer. These days, Ledger receives two to four paper submissions a week, although most don’t pass peer review. “Occasionally we get submissions with no citations,” he says.

Peer review also comes with other safeguards. Reviewers have to funnel their critiques through an editor, so it’s more difficult for people to express opinions without sound logical reasoning. Academic journals also usually require authors to declare potential conflicts of interest.

But peer review isn’t a panacea. It has its own share of problems: Academics are typically slow to accept new ideas, which can potentially kill promising innovations, says Hevia. The process takes months, sometimes years. “It took a long time to have bitcoin analyzed by very good researchers,” he says. “Had Satoshi Nakamoto waited for the analysis before submitting his or her paper, it probably wouldn’t have been published until four years later.” So it’s still can be useful to have informal places to publish ideas quickly—though places like arXiv and other online academic servers could serve as a middle ground.

The solution won’t be simple. Generally, people should be more transparent about their conflicts of interest, says Wilmer. He also thinks researchers shouldn’t develop and sell ideas at the same time. “When you tell somebody you have this great idea, you already cast suspicion on yourself if you might have financial gain,” he says. Sirer also thinks that investors could benefit from hiring technical consultants—graduate students, maybe, to vet whether the cryptocurrencies are based on sound computer science. For a community that prides itself on cutting out the middlemen—they may need them after all.


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Spectre variant gives buffer overflow a new twist

Security researchers Vladimir Kiriansky and Carl Waldspurger have uncovered two buffer-overflow derivatives of the Spectre microprocessor bug.

In a paper describing the flaws – dubbed Spectre 1.1 and Spectre 1.2 – the researchers wrote: “We have explored new speculative-execution attacks and defences, focusing primarily on the use of speculative stores to create speculative buffer overflows. The ability to perform arbitrary speculative writes presents significant new risks, including arbitrary speculative execution. Unfortunately, this enables both local and remote attacks.”

The researchers warned that the new attack can impact systems even if they have already been patched against the original Spectre flaw. Kiriansky and Waldspurger said an exploit of the new flaw would enable attackers to bypass recommended software mitigations for previous speculative-execution attacks.

They called on the IT community to develop generic fixes for the flaw. “Given the heightened public awareness due to Spectre and related attacks, there is higher consumer and business acceptance of previously unthinkable performance overheads for security protections,” said the researchers. “We hope this opportunity will be used to raise the bar for strong generic mitigations against both speculative and classic buffer overflows.”

Rather than adding to the classic buffer overflow patch burden, the researchers said: “We are confident that future secure hardware and software will be able to retain the performance benefits of speculative-execution processors.”

Cyber security firm eSentire said that because Spectre variant 1.2 enables would-be attackers to run code in pieces of memory that were meant to be read-only protected, the newly discovered bug opens up areas for attack that have not been seen before.

Given that Spectre variants affect a huge number of devices, Spectre variants 1.1 and 1.2 affect both Intel and ARM processors. AMD processors may be affected too, said eSentire. “This means that most modern operating systems are susceptible,” it added. “Security patches have not yet been released for either new Spectre variant.”

Forget Elon Musk. Read About These Surprising Heroes of the Thai Cave Rescue Everybody Else Forgot

If you’ve ever contributed to a team but didn’t get any recognition, I’ve got a story for you.

Even just figuring out their part in this story requires some guesswork. Finding them by name would probably be impossible. They’re probably just fine with never having their story told. But their story is worth telling.

The long line of problems

To understand their role, we have to quickly recount the tactical story of how the boys and their coach were rescued. We’ll number this to make it easy to keep track:

  1. We start with the team of international cave divers and Thai Navy SEALs who found and stayed with the 12 youth soccer players and their coach. These people are true heroes, as is the diver who lost his life in the effort, and who will be remembered for a long time.
  2. Of course, finding the boys was only step one. Getting them out was an incredibly challenging mission. As time ran out, rescuers made the dangerous call that they’d have to rig the boys in dive equipment, and bring them out partially submerged on an hours-long trip.
  3. This was difficult even for experienced cave divers. None of the boys could swim, let alone use dive equipment. So, the rescuers had to find a way to keep malnourished, scared kids comfortable during the rescue–and most importantly, avoid panic. The idea was basically the least bad option.
  4. They decided to sedate the boys during the escape. This was extremely dangerous, and the rescuers did not expect a 100 percent survival rate. But they felt there was no other choice. As Thai Navy SEALs and U.S. military officials explained it to the Thai government, according to The Washington Post, the choice was either “save most of them now, or lose all of them soon.”`

The Australian doctors

Anesthesia is a medical specialty, obviously. The rescuers needed people who (a) could dive and reach the boys, and (b) then administer the drugs in as safe a manner as possible.

Enter Richard Harris and Craig Challen, two Australian expert cave divers. Harris happens to be a practicing anesthesiologists, while Challen is a retired veterinarian. (They’re both big heroes in this story–widely praised, and rightly so.)

Even getting them into Thailand in the first place presented a problem. The Australian government reportedly had concerns about Harris and Challen’s legal exposure. Because even under ideal circumstances (like in a hospital), anesthesia carries some risk. Never mind in this incredible situation, in which they expected not all the boys would survive.

So, how do you work things out very quickly, and under extreme conditions, so that two foreign doctors volunteer to perform a risky mission in a foreign country, but find a way to exempt them from the country’s legal system if things go wrong? 

Better call the lawyers

An official source confirmed to Four Corners that Dr Challen and Dr Harris were given diplomatic immunity ahead of the risky mission, after negotiations between Australian and Thai Government officials.

Diplomatic immunity. Of course. Treat them like official Australian diplomats, as opposed to private citizen volunteers.

I’m a lawyer (currently non-practicing), and I spent a lot of time thinking about problems like this years ago in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. But this solution was so smart, straightforward and elegant–and I’m not sure I would have thought of it.

The negotiators for the Thai and Australian governments–and I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that some or all of them were lawyers–figured it out.

We’ll probably never know their names. But without them, there’d have been no legal protection for the Australian doctors in case something went wrong in this extremely risky rescue–and it’s quite possible the rescue wouldn’t have happened.

And to me, they represent all the thousands of other nameless people who came together to contribute, without knowing 

So, forget about Elon Musk. And forget about that pithy line from Shakespeare. Next time there’s a big emergency, first thing we do? Call all the lawyers.

By the way, here’s the Facebook post that Dr. Harris wrote on the way home to Australia after the rescue. Its tone of gratitude could teach some other players in this whole affair an important lesson.  

Walmart, Microsoft in partnership to use cloud tech

(Reuters) – Retail giant Walmart Inc said on Tuesday it entered into a strategic partnership with Microsoft Corp for wider use of cloud and artificial intelligence technology, in a sign of major rivals of Amazon.com Inc coming together.

FILE PHOTO: Shopping carts are seen outside a new Wal-Mart Express store in Chicago July 26, 2011. Wal-Mart Stores Inc reporterd a higher-than-expected quarterly profit May 19, 2106, as sales in the U.S. market rose, sending the retailer’s shares up nearly 10 percent. REUTERS/John Gress/File Photo

The five-year agreement will leverage the full range of Microsoft’s cloud solutions, including Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365, to make shopping faster and easier for customers, the Bentonville Arkansas-based company said.

As part of the partnership, Walmart and Microsoft engineers will collaborate to migrate a significant portion of walmart.com and samsclub.com to Azure, Walmart added.

While Walmart is doubling down on its e-commerce presence to better compete with Amazon, Microsoft has been working on a technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores, Reuters reported last month.

Microsoft’s technology aims to help retailers keep pace with Amazon Go, the ecommerce giant’s highly automated store format.

The Windows software maker has also shown the sample technology to retailers from around the world and has had talks with Walmart about a potential collaboration, Reuters reported.

Through the partnership, Walmart plans to defend itself from Amazon’s retail ambitions and expertise in data, and boost its online presence.

Reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

American Airlines and United Airlines Flight Attendants Just Made a Very Controversial Announcement. Not Everyone's Happy to Hear It

Does everything have to be political? When it comes to big U.S. airlines, I’m beginning to think so.

Most companies in other industries seem to try hard not to get pulled into political disputes. Our country is as divided as we’ve been in decades, and they don’t want to take stands unnecessarily that will turn off big portions of their customer base.

But with airlines, either they or their employees keep getting involved. Is it admirable bravery or unnecessary alienation of customers? 

Or the two American Airlines flight attendants who led the movement to get airlines to denounce the federal government’s practice of separating parents from children at border crossings.

Now, through their unions, United and American flight attendants are adding a new one: coming out swinging against President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

From the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, representing 27,000 American Airlines employees:

And, from the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 24,000 United flight attendants:

Kavanaugh has ruled against workers’ access to the courts, owed monetary benefits, and failed to hold employers accountable who evade collective bargaining and discriminate against union members.

I get that these are the statements of the flight attendants’ unions, not the airlines themselves. And I understand that they have the right to free speech, of course.

But I wondered how the airlines and the rank and file employees themselves felt.

Kavanaugh is almost certainly going to be confirmed, since Republicans hold a majority in the U.S. Senate. So the upside of coming out swinging like this isn’t clear to me.

The downside is clear however: the fact that a sizable plurality of both airlines’ customers, at least, support the president and likely don’t want their airline to weigh in on their politics.

I’m thinking of what happened recently when Walmart allowed a third party vendor to market “Impeach 45” baseball jerseys online, and people on Twitter started talking about a boycott. It didn’t take long for Walmart to boot the jerseys from its platform.

So I asked American Airlines and United Airlines employees on Facebook for their take. And the ones I heard from don’t seem too pleased to have the unions weighing in.

These Big Thinkers Want You To Know How They Feel About Science

Astronaut Scott Kelly talks about his year in space at 3M’s campus in Minneapolis on April 25, 2018.Alejandro Rojas

In April 2018, the Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative and 3M hosted the lecture, Climate Change: Science and Policy with Dr. Mario Molina. Molina won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his scientific discovery of the chemistry of the stratospheric ozone layer and its susceptibility to human-made activities.

He co-authored research in 1974 in Nature magazine on the threat to the ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gasses being used in spray cans. Molina has also served on the United States President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology from 1994 to 2000 and again in 2010-2016.

“Science doesn’t tell you what to do. Science isn’t either good or bad so you can not give Nobel prizes in science to good people, you do that in principle for the science,” said Molina.  “One of the new aspects of science is that we recognize our social responsibility. Many of us do not continue doing the same research we were doing before winning the prize (Nobel). After the prize, many of us do something for society.  I changed a bit as well, to more science and policy issues, and again, the bulk of these changes ended up being for the betterment of society.”

“So if somebody doubts climate change, that’s total misinformation. You can go to the extreme and say that’s really just corruption,” said Molina. “Science is so well established that it’s either you don’t want to understand something or that you have some hidden motives and that’s not science, who [..] would want to say nowadays that molecules don’t exist?” added Molina. 

Molina’s lecture coincided with a State of Science index put out by 3M which looked at a cross-section of views on the public’s perception of science today.

When it comes to kids and parent, 92 percent of parents said they want their kids to know more about science. But on the other hand, data from the report noted that four out of ten people said that if science didn’t exist their everyday lives wouldn’t be that different. Also, 60 percent of the science skeptics in the report believed if science didn’t exist, daily life wouldn’t be much different, and 66 percent of people in the world rarely think of the impact science has on their lives.

Scott Kelly, former NASA astronaut who spent 320 days in space and who spoke at the 3M Campus on April 26, 2018, tweeted the statistic that people believe science has little impact on their lives.

Scott Kelly on Flat Earthers, Climate Change and Mars

Astronaut Scott Kelly at the 3M State of Science event in Minneapolis, April 25, 2018.Alejandro Rojas

This bothers me because those 66 percent of people will go to the polls and vote and elect representatives in the United States or their countries and the people who they elect will make decisions that will affect their lives and their children’s lives. I think we need more members representing us that have science backgrounds and believe in science,” said Kelly.

“I [..] think that in the last 10 years, some people have become skeptics of things that are facts,” said Kelly. “Why that is, I don’t know, but we’ve lost our ability to have a conversation about it. If I am wrong, talk to me about it, try and convince me.”

“Some of that flat-earthers don’t fully believe the earth is flat and they’re doing it as a goof, and that’s fine,” quipped Kelly. “But the problem is that if you can discount that the earth is not a sphere, then you can’t believe in things that are important to us like issues with the environment, healthcare, vaccines, etc. On the one hand, you can laugh and say its funny, but on the other hand, it can have a huge influence on other people.”

“I’m not a climate scientist, but when 97% of the climate scientists say this is fact, I’m going to believe them, so it’s the logical thing to do to believe the experts,” said Kelly. “But when we have people in government who have no science background and say they aren’t going to believe, it confounds me how this is even possible,” said Kelly.

“From my time in space, I’ve noticed there are fewer rainforests and more field clearing in South America. I’ve seen icebergs with my naked eye in the middle of the southern Indian ocean as I am flying over and thought to myself, that’s a pretty big iceberg to be just floating around out there,” said Kelly. “The scary thing to me is how fragile our atmosphere is, when you see it, it’s like a thin film covering the earth, like a contact lens over your eyeball.”

In this July 12, 2015 photo, Astronaut Scott Kelly takes a picture of himself inside the Cupola, a special module of the International Space Station which provides a 360-degree viewing of the Earth and the station. In his new autobiography, the retired astronaut writes about his U.S. record-breaking year in space and the challenging life events that got him there. (Scott Kelly/NASA via AP)

Kelly adds that going to Mars is the next logical step for our species. “We have a lot of the technology to do that mission, over the course of the lifetime of the space station, we’ve learned a lot,” adds Kelly.

“I was in space for space for 320 days, I got back and didn’t feel great, but I was capable,” said Kelly. “But going to Mars will take 200 days, then you are on the surface for a year and operating in a lesser gravitational field, one third that of the earth, the physical effects on the body is going to be greater.”

When it comes to Mars versus the Moon, Kelly said he would prefer a long-term plan and the money to do it. “What we have now is a change in direction from where we are going and no money to do anything. We have a policy change with nothing to back it up. My desire for NASA is that they would be an agency that has the budget over a longer period and not be tied to each administration,” said Kelly.

“There are a lot of great reasons to go to the moon. We have a lot more science today than when we were there before, and there’s still a lot we can learn about the moon and earth and where we came from,” said Kelly. “But if you want to build the perfect place to practice to go to Mars and you wanted to demonstrate your technology, the Moon is the perfect place to do it. It’s expensive, but if you have an unlimited amount of money and if you only can do one thing, my choice is to go to Mars.”

Telling The Story Of Science

In 2017, National Geographic funded more than 600 grants totaling around $16 million for scientists and explorers. The also hired their first Chief Scientist, Jonathan Baillie.

Gary Knell, CEO, National Geographic, said that it’s essential to support scientists and explorers, like Jane Goodall, because their experiences and science becomes fodder for storytelling and shows the contextual connection of why science is important. “We’ve tried to double down over the past several years to make the grantmaking contribute to more practical applications, like the June 2018 plastics issue of National Geographic, which we hope will get people to own the problem,” adds Knell.

“For the past two years there seems to be a war on science,” said Knell. “Politically people seem to be choosing what science they want to believe in that fits their political views – climate change, GMO, etc.,” said Knell. “But science is a methodology and as Neil DeGrasse Tyson has said, ‘science is true whether you believe it or not ‘ so maybe it’s the applications that may or may not be good for mankind.”

The Discovery and Science Channels have also been working on programming that creates context around science in series like Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey To Tomorrow (debuts in October 2018), How the Universe Works and Rancher Farmer Fisherman.

The Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft is seen launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 50 crewmembers NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, (Kazakh time) Whitson, Novitskiy, and Pesquet spent approximately six months on the orbital complex. This image is part of upcoming Discovery and Science Channel programming called Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey To Tomorrow which debuts October 2018. Image courtesy of Discovery.NASA/Bill Ingalls

Nancy Daniels, Chief Brand Officer, Discovery and Factual said that in an era when there is so much uncertainty, and facts aren’t thought to be as concrete as they once were, science-based programming can be reassuring.

“Whether we’re talking about how climate change has had real effects on the crab fishing industry, exploring the far reaches of the universe, or inspiring the next generation to learn more about science, Discovery and Science Channel are at the forefront of this movement in television back to authenticity. At the same time, we can’t be up on an ivory tower,” said Daniels. “We are storytellers, and good storytelling has the power to help synthesize complicated issues.”

Looking Forward

John P. BanovetzSenior Vice President, Research and Development and Chief Technology Officer, 3M said the world is becoming more technologically advanced, and science is driving those technology breakthroughs.

“You see it every day and read about science driving improvements in energy use, cleaner air and water, and transportation.  To continue these advancements in the future, we need to be vigilant about helping people understand all of the incredible innovations around science,” said Banovetz.  “Science is all about collaborating to solve the challenges we will face in the future.”

Jim Jefferies, 2018 IEEE President, and CEO said that much of the improvement in the quality of life over the last few decades is the result of advances in science and technology driven by electrical and electronic engineering and computer science. “These advances in electronics and computer science underpin the advances in healthcare, ubiquitous communications, clean and efficient energy, intelligent transportation, entertainment, education, advanced agriculture, financial technology, security, and space, and touch almost every aspect of life,” adds Jefferies.

“Today, we see an explosion of interest at the frontiers of machine learning and artificial intelligence, in robotics, in new models of computing for a post-Moore’s law world (including applications of quantum science), in intelligent vehicle technology, and in biomedical technology,” adds Jefferies. “We also see a vibrant discussion about ethics and design, driven by an increased focus on risk and responsibility in the development of intelligent systems.”

Molina offers some advice for inspiring scientists. 

“Take ambitious ideas, innovation [..] because it’s extremely rewarding. Persevere in your goals, and live with the fact that we all make mistakes. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and when you realize that, you change, and you learn from your mistakes,” said Molina. “So don’t give up, unless you want to have a very boring life and just function like a bureaucrat which isn’t very encouraging. Keep being ambitious.” 

_____

Correction: This post has been updated since it was originally published to add the link to Nature magazine from 1974 where Molina’s research was published.

Funimation Picks Up The Classic Anime Series 'Zillion' For Western Release

‘Zillion’ is finally getting a Western release.Credit: Funimation, Tatsunoko Production

</div> </div> <p>A few years back, Japan received an <a href="http://www.vap.co.jp/category/1436262311094/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.vap.co.jp/category/1436262311094/" rel="nofollow">amazingly nice remastered Blu-ray version</a> of this anime and I had hoped that at some point it would come Westward.</p>

<p>After checking in with Funimation, it seems that this Blu-ray release is the one they have picked up and that the Western version will also have English subtitles.</p> <p>What’s more, this&nbsp;release will also include the OVA as well as the whole TV series. The SRP&nbsp;will also be $64.98 for the set.</p> <p>While we don’t have details on when <em>Zillion</em> will be released, the fact this classic anime is finally getting a proper release outside of Japan is great news.</p> <p><em>Follow me on <a href="https://twitter.com/Cacophanus/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/Cacophanus/" rel="nofollow">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/cacophanus" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.facebook.com/cacophanus" rel="nofollow">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/Cacophanus" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.youtube.com/user/Cacophanus" rel="nofollow">YouTube</a>. I also manage <a href="http://www.mechadamashii.com" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.mechadamashii.com" rel="nofollow">Mecha Damashii</a> and do toy reviews over at <a href="http://www.hobbylink.tv/members/ollie/" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:http://www.hobbylink.tv/members/ollie/" rel="nofollow">hobbylink.tv</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Read my Forbes blog <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/" target="_self">here</a>.</em></p>” readability=”42.2632794457″>

One of the most interesting anime series of the late 80s, Red Photon Zillion, has now been picked up for a Western release and its gaming lineage is also pretty interesting.

Zillion is a curious anime on various counts. From it being the start of Production I.G as a spin-off studio from Tatsunoko Production to the amazing mecha design by Ammonite but the really fascinating part about the series is how it tied into the Sega Master System.

Two games were spawned from the anime, Zillion and Zillion II. There was also a laser-tag type toy sold in Japan and Brazil. However, the anime also introduced Opa-Opa from the arcade game Fantasy Zone as a recurring mascot.

Set on Mars, the anime deals with the alien invasion of the Nohzas, that want to wipe out humanity. The name “Zillion” refers to the special gun the main characters carry that is very powerful and almost impossible to mass produce.

‘Zillion’ is finally getting a Western release.Credit: Funimation, Tatsunoko Production

A few years back, Japan received an amazingly nice remastered Blu-ray version of this anime and I had hoped that at some point it would come Westward.

After checking in with Funimation, it seems that this Blu-ray release is the one they have picked up and that the Western version will also have English subtitles.

What’s more, this release will also include the OVA as well as the whole TV series. The SRP will also be $64.98 for the set.

While we don’t have details on when Zillion will be released, the fact this classic anime is finally getting a proper release outside of Japan is great news.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. I also manage Mecha Damashii and do toy reviews over at hobbylink.tv.

Read my Forbes blog here.

Silicon Valley employees flex newfound political muscles

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Employees at several of the world’s biggest technology companies have been exercising newfound political power where they work, pushing their bosses on business ethics with help from established and fledgling nonprofit groups.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is surrounded by members of the media as he sits down to testify before a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein –

Most of the highly paid professional workers at Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and other tech companies have little experience with labor unions, and many have avoided other civil movements. But several organizations such as Tech Workers Coalition and coworker.org are helping techies learn new skills like building consensus across workgroups, drafting effective petitions and protecting themselves under labor law.

More established groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are also growing more active in Silicon Valley, engaging companies on more topics and helping workers who want to raise issues with management.  

Political concern grew following the 2016 presidential campaign. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in April before the U.S. Congress about concerns ranging from lack of data protection to Russian agents using Facebook to influence U.S. elections. Recently, activism among Silicon Valley employees has accelerated.

Last month, workers and rights groups persuaded Google not to renew a contract to supply artificial intelligence tools to help the Pentagon analyze footage from drone aircraft. More than 4,000 employees signed the petition which argued that the project could lead to more automated killing.

“We have all this power, and we’re learning to recognize that and apply it, because we are the ones actually building stuff,” said coalition member Tyler Breisacher, who helped spread word on issues within Google before joining a smaller company in May.

In what has become a regular ritual, more than 50 tech workers shared an evening meeting last week in San Francisco’s Mission District. Attendees said they traded stories about accomplishments and tips on sounding out potentially sympathetic coworkers while reducing the risk of termination.

The event was one of a series in the tech hubs of San Francisco and Seattle held by volunteers in the loosely structured Tech Workers Coalition. Formed in 2015, its membership has surged since the 2016 election.

“We have a broad network of community groups, unions, and non-profits that we collaborate with, but the best education comes from other workers and their past struggles,” the coalition wrote in response to emailed questions. Another relative newcomer, coworker.org, coaches on campaign strategy and media relations.

After the petition drive, Google employees are debating whether, when and how to go public in the future. Many said they would rather be heard internally, earlier in the product cycle.

As Google engineer and activist Liz Fong-Jones put it in a recent talk to software developers: “Ethics crises are a process failure.”

While Google has always prided itself on an open and freewheeling corporate culture, activism is newer to other big tech employers.

AMAZON AND MICROSOFT

Amazon employees wrote a letter protesting the company’s sale of facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies, noting the software can make errors and infringe on privacy and due process rights.

At Microsoft, more than 300 workers complained about contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that had been separating families on the U.S.-Mexico border and rounding up longtime residents for deportation.

Longtime activists said they sense a golden opportunity with Silicon Valley employees who often had more experience as the subject of protests. San Francisco residents, for instance, have frequently thrown rocks at company buses they viewed as symbols of gentrification driving out longtime city dwellers.

Activists said tech executives who provide those buses, along with massages and gourmet chefs to workers, are eager not to alienate those same employees with company policies.

“If the morale goes down the tubes and the employee base is not with you, you are going to have a tough time,” said Lynn Fox, spokeswoman for the nonprofit Center for Humane Technology, begun by former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris.

ELECTION WAS A CATALYST

Many liberal-leaning tech employees became more politically active out of concern that Facebook, Alphabet’s YouTube and Twitter had helped elect U.S. President Donald Trump, if only through inaction over incendiary posts and gamed algorithms. Others are growing more concerned about industry issues such as addictive products.

Meanwhile, activists with human rights groups said they are frustrated at fruitless efforts to influence Washington. They are going directly to Silicon Valley with campaigns involving issues such as social media and artificial intelligence.

“It is more important than ever that technologists, engineers and leadership of tech companies incorporate a human rights-based approach into the design of their products,” said Scott Campbell, a staffer for the U.N.’s permanent human rights office.

Campbell moved to California in hopes of setting up a permanent outpost there. Amnesty International started an area branch in November, and Human Rights Watch opened a Silicon Valley office in 2016.

In February, Amnesty convened a session about the implications of artificial intelligence, with engineers and policy experts from Facebook, Google, Microsoft and IBM Corp (IBM.N). The result was the Toronto Declaration, which says companies need to make sure that machine learning does not extend discrimination.

The statement was formally released at a May conference in Toronto run by digital rights group Access Now. Advance participation by engineers helped keep the language practical and improves the odds their companies will sign, people familiar with the process said.

The interplay among internal pressure and outside pressure is complex, activists said. For instance, top executives who want to take an ethical stand may find it more convenient to have employees take the lead, said Patrick Ball, director of research at Human Rights Data Analysis Group and adviser to many larger rights groups.

He explained that executives at publicly traded corporations “can’t do anything that takes them away from an obvious sale without an obviously countervailing force” such as employees leaving or public embarrassment.

Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Greg Mitchell and David Gregorio

Facebook Closes Loophole That Revealed Personal Data of People in ‘Closed’ Groups

Facebook has closed a loophole that allowed third parties to view and collect personal information about members of groups set to the “closed” privacy setting. An extension for Google’s Chrome browser called Grouply.io was specifically made to allow third parties to collect names, locations, email addresses, employers, and other personal data from Facebook groups, according to a report from CNBC.

What finally caused Facebook to close the loophole were complaints from a group of women with the BRCA gene, a gene mutation associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer. The BRCA Sisterhood group, which did not want members’ names to be known, ran a “closed” Facebook group. Technically, “secret” is Facebook’s most restrictive setting, but choosing to make a group “secret” hides it from public listings entirely. The BRCA Sisterhood was open to new members and selected the “closed” setting for that reason.

A security researcher who helped the BRCA Sisterhood moderators investigate whether the plugin could harvest their personal information also found that Facebook groups for individuals coping with other sensitive issues, such as addiction recovery and HIV/AIDS, were easily searchable using the Chrome plugin.

This type of personal data can be used in marketing and advertising. But it comes with another more fraught consideration for Facebook: healthcare privacy compliance. While a social media site like Facebook is not required to be compliant under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States, it may catch the attention of European regulators, where Facebook is facing an uphill battle under new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules.

Facebook issued a cease-and-desist letter to Grouply.io developers, who discontinued the Chrome plugin earlier this year. Facebook has also says it closed the third-party loophole overall.

Despite ongoing privacy concerns and controversies plaguing the social media giant, Facebook stock recently closed at an all-time record high. Mark Zuckerberg also recently became the world’s third richest person, passing Warren Buffet.

Apple’s Airplay 2 May Be the Boost Sonos Needs for Its IPO

It’s not often that a simple software upgrade can improve the prospects of an imminent tech IPO, but that could happen with Sonos, which announced support for Apple’s Airplay 2 technology Wednesday.

Unlike lo-fi bluetooth connections, Sonos speakers need a proprietary app to connect the hardware with streaming music sources and users’ libraries. While some users found the Sonos app’s user-interface challenging, everyone generally conceded it was the trade-off required for enjoying Sonos speakers’ superb sound quality.

Over time, Sonos let music services like Pandora and Spotify control the output on their speakers by allowing users to use the streaming apps for selecting songs and playlists. Sonos also ported Amazon’s voice-powered Alexa technology to its speakers last fall. But while the company became the first third-party hardware manufacturer to integrate Apple Music, Sonos owners who streamed from Apple still needed to make their musical selections through that clunky app.

With support for Airplay 2, Sonos speakers will be able to play songs on multiple speakers from the Apple Music app—and from any other iOS app that is compatible with Airplay 2. The Airplay integration is available on most Sonos speakers, including the Sonos One, Beam, Playbase, and the second generation Play:5. Supported speakers will also be able to use Siri to control Apple Music by voice.

The upgrade has been expected. Last fall, when Sonos added Alexa voice control to its speakers, it said support for Airplay would come sometime in 2018. Still, the timing of the news works well for Sonos, which filed to go public last week. Sonos is expected to be valued between $2.5 billion and $3 billion following the IPO.

Sonos’ brand-name recognition could help its debut, as well as the success of last fall’s successful IPO of Roku, another gadget manufacturer. But Sonos posted a net loss of $14.2 million last year and its revenue grew by only 10%, so it could use an extra boost as it approaches the public stock market.

The Apple Airplay integration could help investor confidence in the company’s future. The lack of a user-friendly interface has put off some Sonos owners from buying more speakers for their house or caused people to buy instead lower-fidelity but easier-to-use speakers like the Echo. Sonos’ big-sound-in-small-speakers design has won praise, along with loyalty of some users who install them in multiple rooms.

Perhaps more importantly, Sonos is strengthening its prospects by branching out beyond its reliance on Amazon’s Alexa. Sonos warned in its IPO prospectus that it could be hurt if Amazon ever disabled Alexa on the devices, noting it could do so at any time. With Airplay integration, Sonos adds Siri to its voice assistant mix. The company has also said support for Google Assistant is coming this year, although it’s still yet to happen.

Finally, Airplay integration will make Sonos speakers more attractive to people with iPhones. Amazon is estimated to have sold between 20 million and 30 million Echos. But Apple has 800 million iTunes accounts, the best gauge of how many people actively use their iPhones and iPads. Sonos’ Airplay integration will mean that, for most of those iPhone users, its speakers should be much easier to use now—and at less than half the cost of Apple’s HomePod.

British regulator to fine Facebook over data protection breaches

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s information regulator said on Wednesday she intends to fine Facebook (FB.O) for breaches of data protection law as her office investigates how millions of users’ data was improperly accessed by consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at the Facebook logo on an iPad in this photo illustration taken June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Illustration

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has faced questioning by U.S. and EU lawmakers over how Cambridge Analytica improperly got hold of the personal data of 87 million Facebook users from a researcher.

Updating on her investigation into the use of data analytics by political campaigns, Britain’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she intended to fine Facebook 500,000 pounds ($663,850), a small figure for a company with a market value of $590 billion, but the maximum amount allowed.

Denham said that Facebook had broken the law by failing to safeguard people’s information and had not been transparent about how data was harvested by others on its platform.

“New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters. But this cannot be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law,” she said in a statement.

Facebook can respond to the commissioner before a final decision is made, and said it was reviewing the report and would respond soon.

“As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015,” Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, said in a statement.

“We have been working closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the US and other countries.”

British lawmakers have launched an inquiry into “fake news” and its effect on election campaigns, and have increasingly focused on Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Donald Trump in 2016, has denied its work on the U.S. president’s successful election campaign made use of data.

It has also said that, while it pitched for work with campaign group Leave.EU ahead of the Brexit referendum in Britain in 2016, it did not end up doing any work on the campaign.

However, the Information Commissioner’s report said other regulatory action would include a criminal prosecution against Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm, SCL Elections, for failing to deal with the regulator’s enforcement notice.

It also said it would send warning letters to 11 political parties to compel them to audit their data protection practices.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison

Lawmakers Push Apple and Google to Reveal Data Collection Practices

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee want Google and Apple to explain more about how they handle user data.

The lawmakers sent letters on Monday to Apple (aapl) CEO Tim Cook and Larry Page, CEO of Google parent Alphabet (goog), asking the tech giants to explain their data collection practices.

Recent data privacy blunders by Facebook (fb) as well as alleged Russian meddling of the 2016 presidential election has raised concerns by politicians that tech companies fail to safeguard user data.

Additionally, lawmakers worry that these companies are not transparent about how they share user data with third-party firms as they collect people’s data to improve their own technologies and grow their businesses.

In the letter sent to Alphabet’s Page, the lawmakers asked that the company address recent media reports that exposed some of Alphabet’s data practices. Last week, for example, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google allows some third-party organizations to access user emails. Google said in 2017 that the company would no longer scan Gmail messages for advertising purposes.

Some of the questions lawmakers want Google to answer about its email policies include:

How many outside software developers, or third parties, are permitted to access user’s email contents with or without consent on Gmail?

What restrictions, if any, does Google place on how data from Gmail users may be used?

What additional steps, if any, are taken by Google to verify that the activity of companies granted access to user’s email contents meets Google’s terms of service?

In their letter to Apple’s CEO, the lawmakers want to know more about the company’s data-collection practices related to its flagship iPhone. The House representatives want to know if Apple collects and stores user information “through a different data-collection capability” even if people disable location-tracking services on their iPhones.

Lawmakers also want to know if people’s iPhones collect audio recordings without their consent and if Apple could “control or limit the data collected by third-party apps available on the App store.”

The House members also point to Cook’s various public comments about Apple’s data privacy practices in relation to competitors like Google and Facebook. They referred to Cook recently saying that Apple “felt strongly about privacy when no one cared,” but then pointed out that Apple lets users download Google and Facebook apps from its online store, which is significant because these services and others are “contradictory to Apple’s values.”

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The implication that Apple should bar Google and Facebook apps from its online store is a sensitive one. Some lawmakers would likely accuse Apple of unfair business practices if it removed competitors from its app store.

Fortune contacted Apple and Google for comment and will update this story if they respond.

Snap and Amazon Are Reportedly Working on a Visual Search Feature for Snapchat

Snap appears to be laying the groundwork for a partnership with e-commerce giant Amazon.

According to TechCrunch, a version of Snapchat being developed for Android phones includes code for a new feature called “Visual Search” that can use Snapchat’s camera to send images of a product or a barcode scan to Amazon, which then display search results.

TechCrunch spotted source code in the Snapchat app that included pop-up text reading, “Press and hold to identify an object, song, barcode, and more! This works by sending data to Amazon, Shazam, and other partners.”

Snap already has a similar partnership with Shazam, in which songs captured through Snapchat’s camera can be relayed to Shazam’s music database. The feature allows users to discover artists through Shazam and then follow them on Snapchat.

Visual and barcode search is not new for mobile apps. Amazon’s own app includes a barcode scanning feature. In early 2017, Pinterest introduced its Lens feature, which uses artificial intelligence to identify objects and bring up images of similar or related items. Last fall, Pinterest announced an advertising agreement with Target and its Lens feature.

Snap has been struggling to boost its revenue following its 2017 IPO. In its most recent quarter, Snap’s revenue of $150 million fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. Snap’s stock closed at $13.65 a share Monday, below its $17 a share offering price.

Four Most In-Demand Freelance Skills To Hone This Year

Pexels.com

In-demand skills for freelancers

To remain competitive, freelancers should constantly look into expanding and upgrading their skills. In the ever-changing job landscape, adaptability is the key to remaining an in-demand hire.

Upwork recently released a new study that indicates how the cooperation between businesses and freelancers will change in the next few years and what skills will remain in high demand. According to the study, the majority of respondents state that solid talent is hard to find, especially in certain specific areas.

The need for skills is becoming far more specialized. Businesses no longer seek to hire just a “good developer”. They look for candidates with specialized skills – data science, AI, robotics, blockchain technology, etc.

Companies are developing far more flexible attitudes toward the use of remote workers, teams and freelancers, both for short and long-term needs. Fifty-nine percent of hiring managers stated that they are currently using what they call “flexible” talent – freelancers and other temporary talent supplied by agencies. And most of them believe that this trend will significantly increase over the next decade.

While companies are obviously thinking “outside the box” (i.e., their offices and their cities), freelancers must also gear up to meet the newer needs of businesses and enterprises, if they intend to remain competitive.

The rising challenges for freelancers

As a freelancer specializing in design, programming, and development, you have a couple of choices.

  • You can remain in more generic areas of your craft and continue to seek clients who want websites designed, who want basics of development (e.g., shopping carts, customer service automation, etc.)
  • Or you can make the decision to specialize, based upon what research says will be in demand moving forward.

Here’s the thing: generic design, programming and developing are functions that most businesses (unless really small) have in-house. Your client base will continue to dwindle as businesses discover that technology and tools allow them to perform the functions that you perform – website design and development, videos, AR/VR experiences, etc. You will become a dinosaur.

Option two seems to be in your best interest, and it will obviously involve a commitment to significant education/training. If you are motivated and “up” for it, you can gain a competitive advantage with marketable skills that are and will be in high demand.

Skills that will be in demand

As we move forward over the next decade, freelancers in these high-tech areas will be in high demand. If you’re a tech freelancer, your challenge will be to develop your skills in one or more of these specialized areas. A word of caution here: focus on one area for training and development at a time. They are complex, and you want to ensure your expertise if you are to be successful.

Hawaii Grows Each Day Lava From The Kilauea Eruption Flows To The Ocean

, I cover science and innovation and products and policies they create. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

PAHOA, HAWAII – JULY 02: People aboard Lava Ocean Tour’s boat, ‘Hot Shot,’ off shore of what used to be Kapoho Bay, watch as lava flows into the ocean after traveling down from Fissure No. 8, near the Leilani Estates community in the Kilauea Lower East Rift Zone, on Monday, July 2, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

</div> </div> <p>So far the two-month long <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2018/06/20/lava-from-kilaueas-eruption-in-hawaii-is-flowing-faster-than-you-can-run/" target="_self">eruption of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii</a> has sown an epic amount of destruction, covering entire neighborhoods with lava, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2018/06/05/kilauea-volcano-eruption-filled-in-hawaiis-biggest-lake-in-hours-and-is-now-reshaping-coastline/" target="_self">evaporating the island’s largest lake</a> and transforming a tropical landscape to something more like Mordor.</p> <p>But while the devastation is both tragic and impressive, there is some irony in that the eruption is actually a net gain for this island, at least in terms of total land mass.</p> <p><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2018/05/31/kilauea-volcano-eruption-update-hot-fast-lava-flows-force-new-evacuations/" target="_self">Lava erupted from two dozen fissures in Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone</a>, transforming the Puna area, especially the communities of Leilani Estates and Kapoho. But in recent weeks most of the action has come from fissure 8, which has been providing steady and even rapid flows of lava making its way down to the ocean entry at Kapoho.</p> <p>A few months ago, there was a picturesque half-moon bay at this spot, but since then lava has completely filled in the bay and begun forming a brand new lava delta. As of Friday, the eruption had laid down a total of 585 acres of new land where previously there was only ocean. That’s almost an entire square mile of added land mass, and each day it grows further.</p> <p> </p>

USGS

Map of lava flows in Kilauea’s lower east rift zone.

</div> </div> <p>But despite what you may have heard, the creation of new real estate in paradise doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. Actually, the law says all those new acres belong to the Hawaiian state government. But with the ongoing eruption showing no signs of slowing, it’s going to be a while before any new state parks or beaches are constructed.</p>

<p>Besides, the reshaping of the coastline may just be getting started. According to data from the USGS, last week the lava delta and the island grew at a rate of about ten new acres added each day.</p>” readability=”42.4361549498″>

PAHOA, HAWAII – JULY 02: People aboard Lava Ocean Tour’s boat, ‘Hot Shot,’ off shore of what used to be Kapoho Bay, watch as lava flows into the ocean after traveling down from Fissure No. 8, near the Leilani Estates community in the Kilauea Lower East Rift Zone, on Monday, July 2, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

So far the two-month long eruption of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii has sown an epic amount of destruction, covering entire neighborhoods with lava, evaporating the island’s largest lake and transforming a tropical landscape to something more like Mordor.

But while the devastation is both tragic and impressive, there is some irony in that the eruption is actually a net gain for this island, at least in terms of total land mass.

Lava erupted from two dozen fissures in Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone, transforming the Puna area, especially the communities of Leilani Estates and Kapoho. But in recent weeks most of the action has come from fissure 8, which has been providing steady and even rapid flows of lava making its way down to the ocean entry at Kapoho.

A few months ago, there was a picturesque half-moon bay at this spot, but since then lava has completely filled in the bay and begun forming a brand new lava delta. As of Friday, the eruption had laid down a total of 585 acres of new land where previously there was only ocean. That’s almost an entire square mile of added land mass, and each day it grows further.

USGS

Map of lava flows in Kilauea’s lower east rift zone.

But despite what you may have heard, the creation of new real estate in paradise doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. Actually, the law says all those new acres belong to the Hawaiian state government. But with the ongoing eruption showing no signs of slowing, it’s going to be a while before any new state parks or beaches are constructed.

Besides, the reshaping of the coastline may just be getting started. According to data from the USGS, last week the lava delta and the island grew at a rate of about ten new acres added each day.

To jack in to my brain and get more on the latest in science, tech and innovation, follow me here on Forbes, as well as on Twitter @ericcmack and on Google+.

Amazon Sold Books, Backpacks, and Toys Promoting Hate to Kids, Report Shows

A new report finds that Amazon sells or has sold a wide variety of products representing or promoting white supremacist ideology, including a number of items aimed at children. The report further alleges that Amazon has “a history of responding slowly – or not at all – to public pressure” to remove or block hateful products.

The report, published this month by the Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy, found an array of children’s products on the site featuring imagery widely considered hateful. Arguably the most disturbing products included a baby onesie featuring a burning cross – a terroristic symbol of the Ku Klux Klan – and a children’s backpack featuring a cartoon frog wearing a Nazi SS officer’s cap. Others are more debatably objectionable, such as unofficial Lego-style figures modeled on German World War 2 soldiers.

The report also details a range of media sold by Amazon, particularly music and books, that it says promotes violence and racism. Those include dozens of books from the white nationalist publishing house Counter-Currents, self-published using Amazon’s platform and featuring titles like Truth, Justice, and a Nice White Country. One item is a children’s book by American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell that appears intended to promote xenophobia.

Many of the items described in the report appear to violate Amazon’s own rules, which prohibit products that “promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.” As the report details, Amazon itself collects royalties of up to 40% of the sales price of media including books, and in some cases even more. Fortune has contacted Amazon for clarification of its policies and how they are implemented.

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Some of the items detailed in the report appear to have been recently removed, but many, including Rockwell’s children’s book, remain available at this writing. Other items still on the site display symbols recently adopted by white supremacists, including Pepe the Frog stickers and t-shirts, and flags for the “Republic of Kekistan” – Amazon even features one Kekistan flag as “Amazon’s Choice.” Amazon also sells rings, necklaces, and medals displaying the Iron Cross, a German military honor which predates the Nazi regime and remains in use by the modern German military, but retains associations with the Nazi era.

The report recommends that Amazon stop selling items bearing hate symbols, including books, and stop providing publishing and other services to known hate organizations. The sponsoring organizations are also promoting a petition to push for those changes.

That might seem like an easy ask, but the situation puts Amazon on the horns of a dilemma inherent to its business model, which allows almost any seller to list items on the site. Carrying white supremacist materials exposes Amazon to serious public relations risks, particularly as such groups are seen as increasingly influential and toxic to world politics. But removing offensive materials, particularly books, would itself expose Amazon to accusations of censorship or political bias.

The situation echoes similar quandaries that have roiled social media sites in recent years. Twitter, for instance, long touted its commitment to free-speech absolutism, but in 2016 began aggressively suspending or banning accounts associated with white supremacists, including for targeted abuse or promotion of violence. Those and similar platform bans have in turn become a rallying cry for the far right, who often both mask their positions and seek broader sympathy by positioning themselves as victims of censorship by digital platforms.

Never Prebook Your Return Flight From a Rocket Launch

Anyone who travels to rocket launches regularly knows three things: Bring snacks, wear sunscreen, and don’t book your flight home for the night after the scheduled takeoff. Chances are, you’ll either miss the launch or your plane.

A company called Rocket Lab provides no exception. The commercial space organization hopes to send up rockets just the right size for smaller satellites. But of three total launch attempts, it has delayed or scrubbed all of them.

That chronological stuttering can feel like a contradiction. Rocket Lab cultivates a persona of quickness: Its engineers 3-D-print the engines, it aims to launch one rocket a month, it’s agile, an upstart. But despite its marketed image, Rocket Lab has been cautious about actually lobbing rockets. “We’re a conservative bunch of people,” says Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “We’ll fly when everything is great.” And in these early stages, both customers and analysts appear to see the delays as normal—and preferable to combustive paroxysm. They’re not worried. Yet.

On June 22, Rocket Lab started the countdown for its first real launch, in operational and not experimental mode, called “It’s Business Time.” The Electron, looking like the little pencil that could, stood on a launchpad on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, clouds of vapor billowing toward the cold sky. But they were the only things that would go up that day: The launch was called off at T-minus-23-minutes when a tracking dish, an antenna that communicates with and pinpoints the rocket, acted up.

On June 26, the Electron stood up to try again. But minutes after the launch window opened, the company said there was “an issue” with the motor controller, which manages commands sent to and from hardware and software on the rocket.

Rocket Lab had already delayed this inaugural commercial launch by two months, for a similar motor-controller problem. “It’s kind of like a hazard light flicking on in the dash of your car,” says Beck. “You would never go on a big trip.” Beck believed the company’s engineers had resolved the issue, but when that same metaphorical hazard light lit up again, the company called off the countdown and shut the launch window. “We’re not in the business of taking risk,” says Beck.

But no one in the launch business can be 100 percent successful, 100 percent of the time. Even much-vaunted aerospace vehicles, like the Falcon 9, explode. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed. The Russian Proton hasn’t always been a roaring success either. They’re rockets, man: They don’t work sometimes. “You can never have all the risk figured out,” says Caleb Williams, a space systems analyst at engineering and consulting firm SpaceWorks. “So there’s always going to be some leap of faith at some point.”

But it makes sense for the company to skew conservative during the Electron’s infancy. It’s kind of like if you want to make a good first impression at a party, and your options are (A) blowing up the house, (B) throwing the hosts’ valuables where they don’t belong, or (C) being late—and making everyone watch a livestream of the door till you arrive.

You’d probably pick Option C.

Curt Blake, the president of Spaceflight Industries, agrees. “I think you’re probably always better off not blowing stuff up,” he says. Spaceflight has signed on for three Rocket Lab launches—but not for its own satellites: The company gathers up other people’s smallsats and books their launches, usually on bigger rockets with VIP bigger satellites. Rocket Lab, as a dedicated smallsat launch option, gives Spaceflight’s customers more control. And the delays don’t have Blake worried. “This is not uncommon and certainly not out of the realm of what we expected in terms of the first few launches,” he says.

Other customers, like York Space Systems, seem unconcerned as well. York is trying to facilitate access to orbit with standardized small-sat platforms that you can customize—kind of like buying a base-model car and souping it up. In April, York and Rocket Lab partnered to also standardize the launch logistics, and York signed some of its customers on to Electron rockets. Dirk Wallinger, York’s founder and CEO, isn’t worried about Rocket Lab’s call-offs, and neither are York’s customers. “If they have some delays for a month or two, even for the next three to four launches, we get it,” he says.

But, at least historically, with the bigger rockets, people haven’t been willing to sit around ad infinitum to go ad astra. “There’s a finite amount of time they’re going to wait,” says Williams, the analyst. “These customers are not opposed to pulling their payload and going to another provider.” That’s happened at Spaceflight Industries, which will sometimes pull out a particular smallsat that needs or wants to fly sooner, and then swap in a spacecraft from another customer that’s either been standing by for less time or cares less.

Whatever happens with the next launch (and whenever it happens), that stellar Latin phrase has another half, which always seems relevant to rocket science. It’s per aspera ad astra: through hardship to the stars.


More Great WIRED Stories

How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac

In the age of ephemeral communication, you need the receipts. Screenshots act as digital proof of what’s been said and done. They’re also a convenient way to capture, save, and send information to yourself and to your friends.

You probably already know how to take one. But do you know all the ways to do it? Here’s a primer on capturing screenshots on a Mac.

Entire Screen Shot

You’re watching West World on your laptop and Dolores is making a particularly fierce facial expression that you want to savor forever. This is a perfect time to take a screenshot of your whole computer screen. Press Command, then Shift, then 3. The image of your entire screen will be saved to your computer’s desktop. Use it to make the Dolores meme of your dreams.

Window Shot

Maybe you don’t want your whole screen, but a specific window open on your desktop. Hold down Command + Shift + 4, and then press space. Your cursor will turn into a little camera icon. With this activated, any window you hover over will turn gray; the entire window or application will appear in your screenshot. Click on the window you want to capture.

Selection Shot

You’re planning to see the Incredibles 2 at your local movie theater, but you and your date haven’t decided on a showtime. Instead of texting the movie times one by one, send your date a screenshot. You don’t need to send them the whole window, and you definitely don’t need to send them the whole screen. You want a cropped image that centers the Incredibles 2 showtimes. Press Command + Shift + 4, and a marquee selection tool will appear. Click and drag to highlight the selection you need. When you release, the selected area will be saved to your desktop.

Copy to Clipboard

If you just need a shot for immediate copy-and-paste purposes—not something you want to save to your desktop—add the Control button into the mix. For screenshot of the entire screen, you’ll press Command + Shift + Control and then 3. This will copy the screenshot to your clipboard instead of saving it to your desktop. When you’re ready to paste it, hit Command + V.

Use Preview

You can also take screenshots through the Preview Application. Open Preview, and from the File dropdown menu, hover over Take Screenshot. From there choose to capture a screenshot of a Selection, Window, or Entire Screen. Once it’s been taken, the image appears in preview. With Preview, you can change the automatic PNG format to JPEG, PDF and more.

Full Page Screen Capture

Sometimes you want to capture an entire webpage to save an article or story. This can be especially useful if you’re about to be without internet for a while. The Chrome extension, Full Page Screen Capture, lets you do just that. Download the extension for free from the Chrome web store. It’s icon will appear as a little camera in the top right corner of the page. Go to the page you’d like to save and simply click that icon when you’re ready to save it. From there, you’ll be given the option to save it in PNG format as an image, or PDF format as a file.

More Great WIRED Stories

Altice, Huawei tie-up aims to make Portugal a European leader in 5G

LISBON (Reuters) – The Portuguese unit of telecoms firm Altice, the country’s largest operator, is working with Chinese electronics giant Huawei to make Portugal a leader within Europe in the development and roll-out of next-generation 5G networks.

FILE PHOTO: The Huawei logo is seen during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

“I believe that the Portuguese market will be one of the first globally to be able to use this (5G) technology,” said Alexandre Fonseca, CEO of Altice Portugal, after the first demonstration of the technology on Wednesday using a prototype Huawei router with a top speed of 1.5 gygabytes per second.

Fonseca expects the first commercial devices to crop up in Portugal in 2019 or 2020, although regular users are unlikely to have access to the technology before 2021 or 2022, “because various questions need answers, such as investment versus profitability of the business”.

At a global level, the first commercial 5G projects are expected to launch in the United States this year, followed by Japan and South Korea in 2019 and China in 2020.

Providers across Europe are also working to roll out services. Vodafone, whose Portuguese unit competes with Altice Portugal, said last month it will begin testing 5G mobile networks in seven of Britain’s 10 largest cities later in 2018, before starting limited deployments in some markets next year.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of cable and mobile telecoms company Altice Group is seen during a news conference in Paris, France, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

In Italy, communications regulator AGCOM said the government would auction frequencies for 5G mobile services in September.

Portugal is no stranger to world-class technological innovation. The world’s first prepaid mobile phones were launched here, as were single, country-wide electronic motorway tolls. It has a dense fiber network, which makes it a fertile ground for the development of the new telecoms standard.

Wednesday’s demonstration followed two years of research and testing, which Fonseca says puts the partners ahead of their competition in Portugal.

When implemented on a larger scale, with a denser network of smaller antennae than the current 4G standard, the 5G technology will allow data transfer speeds 50 to 100 times faster than now.

Dutch-based Altice bought the assets of former telecoms monopoly Portugal Telecom in 2015. Altice’s fiber networks, which will help deliver the 5G service, cover 4.3 million homes in Portugal out of the total of 5.3 million, and Altice expects to cover the remainder by early 2020.

“This is extraordinary and does not happen in other European countries, such as Germany,” said Chris Lu, head of Huawei in Portugal. He projects that his company will develop a 5G smartphone prototype by next year or in 2020.

Industry analysts expect 5G upgrades to kick in next decade for faster phones, fixed wireless video and new industrial business uses. So far, there has been no clear game-changing device or service to emerge to drive 5G network demand.

Writing by Andrei Khalip, editing by Axel Bugge and Jan Harvey

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Samsung's second quarter profit may flag as smartphone innovation dries up

SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) is expected to post its smallest profit growth in more than a year in the second quarter, as lackluster sales of its premium Galaxy smartphones overshadow its highly profitable chip business.

FILE PHOTO: A close-up view of a Samsung washing machine is seen in a store in Singapore January 26, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo

Analysts expect Samsung’s smartphone sales to drop in the April-June quarter, following a more than 2 percent drop in the previous quarter as consumers flock to cheaper models from Chinese rivals such as Xiaomi Corp (1810.HK).

Samsung’s lead over Apple Inc (AAPL.O) in the global smartphone market is under pressure after the U.S. firm’s iPhone X exceeded market expectations while a lack of technological innovation dogs Samsung offerings.

“Functions (that) Samsung’s mobile phones have are not attractive enough for customers to spend more money on,” said Song Myung-sup, analyst at HI Investment & Securities.

Samsung’s latest Galaxy S9 flagship phone, launched in mid-March, boasts lots of software but little in the way of technological wizardry. It is on track to sell less in its launch year than its predecessor Galaxy S8 series sold in 2017 after its debut, analysts said.

This is expected to drag on profit growth when the Korean conglomerate posts second-quarter earnings on Friday.

Analysts expect an operating profit of 14.9 trillion won ($13.3 billion) for the quarter, up 5.7 percent from a year earlier but less than the record 15.6 trillion won it posted in the March quarter, according to a Thomson Reuters poll.

Samsung, whose shares are down 9 percent so far this year, is also expected to issue guidance for the April-June quarter on Friday, giving estimates for revenue and operating profit. It will disclose detailed results in late July.

CHINESE CHALLENGERS

Samsung relies on traditional distribution to sell phones, whereas competitors have pulled ahead by leveraging online sales to provide high-end smartphones at competitive prices, Counterpoint analyst Shobhit Srivastava said.

Some investors are skeptical whether Samsung’s upcoming line-up of foldable phones with sleek OLED screens will be innovative enough to gain traction with customers. The new Galaxy Note will debut on August 9 in New York.

“Samsung has to show something that will change the paradigm,” said Park Jung-hoon, a fund manager at HDC Asset Management that owns Samsung Electronics shares.

“Market watchers don’t have high expectations for its smartphone business at the moment, when Chinese players have already caught up in technology and ideas.”

In China, the world’s biggest smartphone market, Samsung’s market share was just 1.3 percent in the first quarter, according to data from research firm Strategy Analytics, compared with Huawei’s [HWT.UL], 22.5 percent.

Chinese smartphone makers – Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi – held the top spots in China, while Apple was the only foreign firm in the top five.

In India, Xiaomi displaced Samsung as market leader last year and continued to lead in the world’s second-biggest smartphone market in the first quarter, according to a report from research firm Counterpoint.

To be sure, Samsung remains the world’s largest smartphone maker, selling about 80 million gadgets a quarter and holding more than a fifth of the global market.

Its troubles in the mobile segment are overshadowing the success of its chips business, which generates about three quarters of Samsung’s operating profit and about a third of its revenue.

Operating profit in the chips business is expected to grow about 50 percent to a record 12.5 trillion won in the second quarter versus a year ago, according to analysts, as servers, gaming PCs and cryptocurrency mining devices demand more firepower to process streaming data.

(This version of the story has been refiled. It removes the extraneous character in Huawei in paragraph 13.)

Reporting by Ju-min Park and Heekyong Yang; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Stephen Coates

LeBron James and the All-Star Rally Cry Around His Sponsor's Stocks

CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 05: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after hitting the game winning shot to beat the Toronto Raptors 105-103 in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 5, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

On July 1, 2018, LeBron James signed a 4-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. On the back of this announcement, his sponsors may be finding the news, hype and publicity the equivalent to that of an all-star slam dunk contest. The rumors surrounding NBA free agents were wild going into last Sunday, and the league was in a chaotic state with the discussion surrounding LeBron James. With LeBron landing such a lucrative contract, his sponsors may be the biggest benefactors.  

Companies that sponsor or are endorsed by James may find the news to be an extra boost of attention on the back of his already brilliant career. The 6’8” forward and former Cleveland Cavalier is #6 on Forbes’ list of highest paid athletes. In 2017, James earned $33.5 million in winnings and salaries accompanied by a staggering $52 million in endorsements. In the same year, ESPN ranked James as the second most famous athlete in the world. While having 22 million followers on Facebook, more than 39 million followers on Instagram and a whopping 41.8 million followers on Twitter, his reach could prove to be profitable for the companies that he supports.

The two companies listed below are not only endorsed by the four time NBA MVP, but both have strong underlying financial metrics which make them great stocks to own, independent of basketball relations. Below, we list two stocks for companies endorsed by James that could produce a profit for investors. The foundation of our process is to identify companies that perform best on the collective basis of value, growth, EPS revisions, profitability and momentum. The CressCap systematic trading model gathers data daily on 6,500 companies globally and assigns academic grades (A – F) for each financial metric. These grades are scored relative to the stocks region and sector.

CressCap Investment Research

Expand to see how our directional recommendations are computed: CressCap uses a multi-factor model to select the best-performing stocks. Our data is updated daily and the academic grades (A – F) for each financial metric are scored and ranked on a regional/sector relative basis. The foundation of our recommendations is to identify companies that possess the collective investment style of Value, Growth, EPS Revisions, Profitability and LT Momentum. Academic grades of C or better indicate that each metric scores well compared to the peer sector

Apple Inc. (AAPL-US)

Beats Electronics LLC, a company that produces audio products, has been endorsed by LeBron since the company’s birth 2008. Beats Electronics was bought out by Apple Inc. in 2014 for over $3 billion. Apple Inc., is a powerhouse in the information technology sector and is known for designing, developing, and selling consumer electronics, computer software, and online services. SPN writers Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst have stated that LeBron realized a $30 million payout following the Apple and Beats Electronics deal.

Apple ranks 81 of 1,928 companies in the CressCap universe of stocks and it ranks 26 out of 402 companies in the tech sector. This stock has strong fundamentals and is accompanied by an A+ CressCap sector grade with a buy recommendation. On May 1, 2018, the company released their fiscal 2018 second quarter results. It posted a quarterly revenue of $61.1 billion, an increase of 16 percent from the year-ago quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.73, up 30 percent. The profitability metric of this stock is very impressive, with ROE out performing the sector 36.87% to 5.91%, along with an A CressCap grade for ROI, EBIT margin and operating margin. The P/E FY1 for the stock is 16.32x to that of the sector 22.49x and EV/EBITDA for the stock is 14.00x compared to sector 14.72x, both showing the stock is of good value.

Kia Motors Corporation (000270-KR)

ADR (KIMTF-US)

This South Korean car manufacturing company has been endorsed by James since October of 2014, when he signed on to endorse the Kia K900. The stock is given an A+ grade by CressCap computer intelligence and stands out against the rest of the consumer discretionary sector with an impressive performance in both value and growth. Its value metrics are trading at a large discount to the sector, with a P/B ratio of 0.46x compared to 2.71x, and an EV/EBITDA ratio of 4.25x compared to the sector 12.17x. Kia’s B+ CressCap grade for growth is supported by the company’s two-year forward EPS growth rate performance, beating the sector by a wide margin of 123.36% compared to 31.64%. President and CEO Han-Woo Park, stated that in 2017 their brand value continued to grow, reaching $6.7 billion, which placed Kia Motors as a global top-70 brand for the second consecutive year.  Although the momentum metric does not look favorable with a grade of C+, some of the more granular momentum metrics for this stock have us convinced it is one to watch. For the last 1 month and 6 months, analysts’ revisions have been A and A+ grades respectively, the latter with a 76% increase as the sector increased only 11% in the same period.

Written By: Steven Cress ([email protected]) and Alison Geary ([email protected])

For additional information, feel free to send questions to [email protected] or view our website www.cresscap.com. Please click here to view CressCap Investment Research’s full disclaimer.

What Is A Blockchain Operating System?

, I track enterprise software application development & data management. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Nynja

The Nynja blockchain-enabled virtual operating system has a communications layer and a secure payments layer, with a multi-currency wallet.

</div> </div> <p>Blockchain, as more and more people are finding out, is a ledger system for keeping records. More specifically, blockchain is an open (i.e. public, not held inside one company, unless it’s a private blockchain) distributed (it exists on many computers) immutable (it can not be altered, in theoretical terms, although it can be reverse-engineered and compromised to degrees) and permanent (needs no explanation) ledger system to record transactions between two parties.</p> <p>Built initially as the underpinning foundation for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain has since been applied to other use transaction-focused use cases.</p> <p><strong>What is a blockchain Operating System?</strong></p> <p>So if blockchain is blockchain and your computer, tablet and smartphone has an Operating System (OS) such as Windows, Apple OS X or iOS, Linux or Android… then what is a blockchain Operating System?</p> <p> </p> <p>Actually the question should be: what is mobile blockchain-enabled virtual Operating System? First emerging for smartphones (hence the mobile prefix), a blockchain-enabled virtual operating system is one that gives the mobile device the ability to combine communication and commerce in a single unified platform. The ‘virtual’ aspect meaning that the intelligent stuff happens back in the cloud datacenter, not on the device itself per se.</p> <p>The emergence of this newly unified technology proposition means that, in the theory at least, users can start engaging with blockchain-based services on smartphones with security and privacy already locked down.</p>

” readability=”43″>

Nynja

The Nynja blockchain-enabled virtual operating system has a communications layer and a secure payments layer, with a multi-currency wallet.

Blockchain, as more and more people are finding out, is a ledger system for keeping records. More specifically, blockchain is an open (i.e. public, not held inside one company, unless it’s a private blockchain) distributed (it exists on many computers) immutable (it can not be altered, in theoretical terms, although it can be reverse-engineered and compromised to degrees) and permanent (needs no explanation) ledger system to record transactions between two parties.

Built initially as the underpinning foundation for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain has since been applied to other use transaction-focused use cases.

What is a blockchain Operating System?

So if blockchain is blockchain and your computer, tablet and smartphone has an Operating System (OS) such as Windows, Apple OS X or iOS, Linux or Android… then what is a blockchain Operating System?

Actually the question should be: what is mobile blockchain-enabled virtual Operating System? First emerging for smartphones (hence the mobile prefix), a blockchain-enabled virtual operating system is one that gives the mobile device the ability to combine communication and commerce in a single unified platform. The ‘virtual’ aspect meaning that the intelligent stuff happens back in the cloud datacenter, not on the device itself per se.

The emergence of this newly unified technology proposition means that, in the theory at least, users can start engaging with blockchain-based services on smartphones with security and privacy already locked down.

Page 1 / 2

USCIS Changed Website To Block Foreign Student Jobs

, I write about globalization, business, technology and immigration. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed its website in an attempt to stop international students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields from working at third-party sites. Immigration experts have concluded the USCIS action does not prevent students from working at such sites. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

</div> </div> <p>Businesses thrive on certainty but erratic government policies can cause companies to stumble. On trade and immigration, the Trump administration has not been friendly towards business: Uncertainty on the impact of <span><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2018/06/11/evidence-that-new-tariffs-not-immigrants-costing-jobs/#7f3040ba313f" target="_self">new tariffs</a></span> has <span><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2018-06-15/across-the-u-s-wary-businesses-gird-for-a-trump-trade-war" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2018-06-15/across-the-u-s-wary-businesses-gird-for-a-trump-trade-war" rel="nofollow">inhibited investment</a></span>, while immigration actions have encouraged companies to move work out of the country and scramble to understand shifts in policy. A case in point is the government’s policies on international students in training status and work on third-party customer sites.</p> <p>In April 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed its <a href="https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment/stem-opt#_Eligibility_for_the" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment/stem-opt#_Eligibility_for_the" rel="nofollow">website</a> without notice and appeared to prohibit international students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) from working at third-party locations. This raised more than a few questions: Is it actually against the law or current regulations for students in STEM OPT status to work at third-party sites? Would individuals who continue to do so be violating their immigration status? Does USCIS have the authority to make this change, particularly in this manner?</p> <p>To answer these and other questions, I interviewed Andrew Greenfield, managing partner of the Washington, D.C. office of the <span><a href="https://www.fragomen.com/about" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.fragomen.com/about" rel="nofollow">Fragomen</a></span> law firm. Andrew has more than 20 years of experience in employment-based immigration law.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Stuart Anderson: </strong>What is the difference between Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT? How do the rules differ?</p> <p><strong>Andrew Greenfield:</strong> International students holding “F-1” visa status and pursuing degree programs in the United States are typically granted one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) in order to gain work experience related to their major fields of study. Students commonly complete their studies before commencing OPT so they can seek employment for a continuous year after graduation. For students whose degree is in a qualifying STEM field, they may apply for an additional 24 months, or a total of 36 months, of OPT work authorization, known as STEM OPT.</p> <p>Students may apply for OPT and receive an employment authorization document (EAD) without first securing a job offer from a U.S. employer. However, to obtain an additional 24 months of STEM OPT, the international student must have a job offer and the prospective employer must participate in the U.S. government’s E-Verify program. In addition, the STEM OPT employer must assist the student in completing a training plan that explains how the employer will provide the student with work-based learning opportunities related to the student’s curriculum, evaluate his or her performance, and provide oversight and supervision. The training plan must then be reviewed by the student’s school before USCIS will issue a new employment authorization document to cover the additional 24-month STEM OPT period.</p>

<p><strong>Anderson: </strong>How does the U.S. government define a “third-party” site and an “employer-employee relationship”?</p>” readability=”52.2680876614″>

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed its website in an attempt to stop international students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields from working at third-party sites. Immigration experts have concluded the USCIS action does not prevent students from working at such sites. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Businesses thrive on certainty but erratic government policies can cause companies to stumble. On trade and immigration, the Trump administration has not been friendly towards business: Uncertainty on the impact of new tariffs has inhibited investment, while immigration actions have encouraged companies to move work out of the country and scramble to understand shifts in policy. A case in point is the government’s policies on international students in training status and work on third-party customer sites.

In April 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed its website without notice and appeared to prohibit international students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) from working at third-party locations. This raised more than a few questions: Is it actually against the law or current regulations for students in STEM OPT status to work at third-party sites? Would individuals who continue to do so be violating their immigration status? Does USCIS have the authority to make this change, particularly in this manner?

To answer these and other questions, I interviewed Andrew Greenfield, managing partner of the Washington, D.C. office of the Fragomen law firm. Andrew has more than 20 years of experience in employment-based immigration law.

Stuart Anderson: What is the difference between Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT? How do the rules differ?

Andrew Greenfield: International students holding “F-1” visa status and pursuing degree programs in the United States are typically granted one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) in order to gain work experience related to their major fields of study. Students commonly complete their studies before commencing OPT so they can seek employment for a continuous year after graduation. For students whose degree is in a qualifying STEM field, they may apply for an additional 24 months, or a total of 36 months, of OPT work authorization, known as STEM OPT.

Students may apply for OPT and receive an employment authorization document (EAD) without first securing a job offer from a U.S. employer. However, to obtain an additional 24 months of STEM OPT, the international student must have a job offer and the prospective employer must participate in the U.S. government’s E-Verify program. In addition, the STEM OPT employer must assist the student in completing a training plan that explains how the employer will provide the student with work-based learning opportunities related to the student’s curriculum, evaluate his or her performance, and provide oversight and supervision. The training plan must then be reviewed by the student’s school before USCIS will issue a new employment authorization document to cover the additional 24-month STEM OPT period.

Anderson: How does the U.S. government define a “third-party” site and an “employer-employee relationship”?

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Coming soon from Netflix: Three dozen billboards in Hollywood

NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Netflix Inc, the streaming video pioneer that revolutionized television, is investing in one of the oldest forms of media to gain an edge in the raging battle for online viewers and top-notch talent.

A billboard is pictured on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 28, 2018. Picture taken June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

Known for acclaimed shows such as “Stranger Things” and “The Crown,” Netflix will soon own up to 35 billboard displays on roughly two dozen structures along West Hollywood’s famed Sunset Strip, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Netflix, already a heavy advertiser on billboards in the area, was offering $300 million in April to acquire Los Angeles-based Regency Outdoor Advertising, Reuters previously reported.

The sources told Reuters that Netflix decided to buy only half of Regency’s assets for $150 million, to focus on the Sunset Strip in a deal expected to close in July. It is also considering acquiring other Regency billboards in Hollywood, such as near the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, they added.

A Netflix spokesman had no comment.

Locking up prime ad inventory on the busy Sunset Strip – seen daily by actors, writers and directors – is Netflix’s latest move to demonstrate its prowess to be a leading Hollywood producer and distributor. The company plans to release about 700 original TV series, movies and other programming this year.

The new strategy calls for Netflix to use the billboards in house and not rent space to other companies, according to the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the agreement has not been announced.

Billboards are pictured on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 28, 2018. Picture taken June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

That means advertisements for rivals such as AT&T Inc’s HBO and CBS Corp’s Showtime, which currently promote shows on Regency billboards in the area, will cycle off once the deal closes, a person close to the talks said.

This approach differs from CBS and other media companies that have owned billboards but rented space out to other media customers. That said, competing TV and movie producers still will have access to dozens of billboards owned by other companies on the Sunset Strip and in other locations across Los Angeles.

Representatives for HBO and Showtime had no comment.

Advertising on billboards is part of the $2 billion that Netflix plans to spend on marketing this year to help grow its 125 million streaming customer base around the world.

Billboards must compete with digital advertising and the fact that people often are glued to their phones rather than the advertising on the street. And yet advertisers remain interested in billboards in part because they are hard to ignore by captive audiences in cars, and many take photos of them to post on social media, expanding their reach.

In Hollywood, studios use billboards to impress talent with a highly visible show of support. This helps lure filmmakers who crave attention for their movies, which Netflix releases in only a limited number of theaters, according to one Hollywood executive.

“This is a way for you to feel better that your name and your product and your film is getting the exposure to the public that you want at some level,” the executive said.

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A STRATEGY TO SPEND AND SAVE

Netflix will save marketing dollars over time in the deal because its rates will never go up on these billboards, and it could recoup the deal’s cost in a short time, sources said.

“It makes total economic sense,” said Gino Sesto, owner and founder of Dash Two, a company that buys outdoor and digital advertising for clients including Universal Music Group and Vice Media.

Renting a single billboard on the Sunset Strip averages around $25,000 a month, Sesto said. For billboards it owns, Netflix would have to pay only the price of replacing the vinyl on the sign, which costs about $800, plus minimal maintenance costs, he said.

Plus, Netflix will have more flexibility to change a billboard in the middle of a month.

“Netflix has got so many shows that they can literally blanket the market for one show for a week, and then switch it out,” he said.

The billboards’ value stands to appreciate over time, particularly because Los Angeles authorities rarely approve construction of new ones, Sesto said.

Out-of-home advertising, which includes billboards, bus shelters and other locations, is the only traditional advertising platform projected to grow in the United States in 2018, according to Magna Global. The media buying firm projects a 21.9 percent increase to $8 billion.

Netflix could choose to upgrade static billboards to digital signs, which can play several video messages, or try adding other technology. Operators have been experimenting with having the signs interact with mobile phones and sometimes display personalized messages.

Even if they have to find a new billboard operator on the Sunset Strip, competitors could pull a copy-cat move: A process is still ongoing to sell the rest of Regency’s assets.

PJ Solomon, a unit of Natixis SA, advised Netflix and Moelis advised Regency Outdoor. The legal advisers were Loeb & Loeb for Netflix and Manatt for Regency. PJ Solomon, Moelis and Manatt declined to comment while Loeb & Loeb did not respond to a request for comment on the deal.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker in New York and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; editing by Edward Tobin

Innovation Is Making Lithium-Ion Batteries Harder To Recycle

Cut cobalt cathodes are held over a barrel in the Netherlands. Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

As manufacturers make lithium-ion batteries as cheap as they can, they’re removing valuable elements that make them worthwhile to recycle, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.

EPRI assesses the end-of-life cost of batteries in a report it published at the end of last year. Last week, Ben Kaun, the program manager for EPRI’s Energy Storage Program, told members of the Illinois Commerce Commission that the lack of recycling adds an end-of-life cost to lithium-ion batteries.

“Currently in lead-acid 98 percent I think of those systems can get recovered and turned into new lead-acid batteries. It’s almost a fully closed loop,” Kaun told commissioners. “Lithium ion is not like that. There’s not the same kind of level of high-value materials, and a lot of the innovations going on right now in lithium-ion batteries are actually to drive out the remaining high value materials, like cobalt, out of the system.”

The cost of cobalt, which is used as a cathode material in batteries, jumped from $32,500 at the beginning of 2017 to $81,000 in March of this year, according to the Royal Chemistry Society. Battery manufacturers have responded by redesigning batteries to minimize cobalt. In May, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company had all but eliminated cobalt from batteries it uses in automobile and stationary batteries.

That keeps batteries cheap, possibly too cheap to recycle. Without valuable contents recyclers have little incentive to capture used batteries, Kaun said.

“Lithium-ion batteries have not yet developed the same kind of recycling infrastructure that have developed in lead-acid batteries,” he said. “There’s a significant issue that needs to be looked at here and how that recycling infrastructure is going to emerge. Part of it is scale. And part of it is understanding what the incentives are to develop that infrastructure and how you can also up-cycle or at least maintain higher grade battery materials that can be re-manufactured the same way lead-acid can be.”

Without a recycling market, battery owners are left with a disposal cost instead of a recycling incentive.

But academics are working on the problem, including

Tap It: How Urban Transport Ticketing Transformed Banking

Transport for London

Millions of people rely on RFID-enabled cards to travel around their local transport network, but how many of them stop to think how it works? (Image provided by TfL)

If you’re in Vancouver, you might have a Compass, or in Sydney, an Opal. San Francisco favors the Clipper, while it’s the Navigo in Paris, and the Snapper here in Wellington. But arguably, the most iconic transport smartcard in the world is London’s Oyster card. And it turns out that it’s transformed far more than the way people move through the city.

To understand how, we need to start with paper tickets. In the early days of Britain’s railways, clerks in the booking office had to laboriously complete three-part tickets for each customer – the passenger kept one slip, the office kept the second, and the third slip was handed to the guard on the train. As train travel became more popular, operators began to struggle with long queues. The lack of serial numbers on these handwritten slips also led to issues with accountability – unscrupulous clerks and guards were found to be pocketing fares. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that a ‘standardized’, numbered ticket – the Edmondson system – was introduced to the UK, and was adopted in many other countries.

The following century saw an explosion in urban populations, and a requisite growth in the world’s railway network, but this was not accompanied by a substantial changes in the world of ticketing. Manually-operated entry gates to train stations had slowly become more common, but most public transport passengers continued to rely on bits of paper – or occasionally, metal tokens – to get around their city.

In 1950s London, this was starting to cause problems. The Tube network was bigger and busier than ever, which prompted operators to consider installing automated gates, like those in NYC. “We knew that this would help ease congestion, but it was complicated by the fact that London has always had fares based on distance,” Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer of Transport for London (TfL), told me, “Standard metal tokens weren’t an option.” So, the then-named London Transit Authority started looking at alternatives. The result, which was released to the world in 1964, was the printed magnetic stripe. The idea of using magnetism to store information had been around since the late 1800s, and magnetic tape was patented in 1928 by audio engineer Fritz Pfeulmer. But transport was its very first ‘real-world’ application. A full decade before the now-ubiquitous black/brown magnetic stripe was added to a single bank card, it was printed onto millions of tickets for the London Underground.

The stripe consists of carefully-aligned iron oxide particles suspended in a resin. Because these particles are ferromagnetic, they respond to external magnetic fields. By rapidly changing the current flow in a nearby ring magnet, data can be ‘written’ to the stripe as a series of 1s and 0s. Standard paper tickets used on the UK rail network have a storage capacity of 192 bits, allowing them to store information that includes the ticket type, and expiry date.

This system offered TfL the flexibility they needed in their ticketing system, and worked well for nearly twenty years. But that was partly because, during the same period, Tube passenger numbers had been steadily declining (attributed to a growth in the suburbs). As London transformed into a modern financial hub in the 1980s, the Tube began to get busier, and work patterns started to change. “By now the gates were a major point of congestion,” said Verma. “And we were dealing with enormous queues at the ticket windows.” TfL began to realize that they weren’t serving all of their customer base. “Those on monthly or annual travelcards were ok, but we had lots of regular, but not daily, customers too. They had to queue up for every single trip.” It wasn’t a good experience for anyone, really. As Verma told me, “Ticketing is not our core job – we’re there to get people to where they want to go.”

It was then that TfL started talking about smartcard technology; a small plastic card that could be used to store tickets for daily commuters, and a cash balance that could be topped up for casual users. TfL trialed the first iteration of this technology on the Tube in 1991, and on London buses in 1993. But despite the success of the trials, the scale of the changes needed to roll it out across the network were enormous, and other priorities kept reaching the top of their list. The Oyster card finally went live for customers on 30th June 2003 (Happy fifteenth birthday, Oyster!). London wasn’t the first city to use smartcards for transport – Hong Kong’s Octopus and Washington DC’s SmarTrip both predated it – but according to Verma, “…They both had relatively simple fare systems, especially compared with London.”

Since its introduction, the Oyster card has allowed people to move (relatively) seamlessly through London’s transport network, beeping them from Tube to bus to train, and back again. Like most transport cards, the Oyster achieves this using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. The card itself contains an integrated circuit with two main components – a tiny microchip that stores data, and an antenna that can transmit and receive data. The RFID readers – which on the Tube, are bright yellow disks found on every station gate – contain a two-way radio transceiver. When the card is brought close to the reader, the reader sends a pulse of radio waves to it. This effectively activates the chip, providing enough power for the reader to check the card’s serial number and the presence (or absence) of a ticket or pay-as-you-go balance. It is very much like a digital ticket-stamp. If Oyster users choose to register their card, TfL also collect anonymized data on their journeys. Across the entire network, this is a huge amount of information, and it is a key transport planning tool for the city. (CONTINUED…)