Tech News courtesy of Ars Technica
- Deadpool movie suffers for—and hilariously mocks—its major licensing issues
- SoCal Gas says it has “temporarily controlled” massive natural gas leak
- Activision confirms Destiny sequel delay to 2017, “expects” 2016 expansion
- SoundCloud has lost over $70M in 2 years, board cites “material uncertainties”
- 30 percent of science teachers give misinformation about climate change
- Congress passes permanent ban on Internet access taxes
- Dish to disable DVR ad-skip for 7 days after broadcast to resolve Fox suit
- Religion may explain why people are so weirdly cooperative
- Online legal publishers squabble over the right to copyright the law
- Ancient hook-ups with Neanderthals left lasting effects on our health
Yuh-oh—are we in for Yet Another Formulaic Comic Superhero Movie? On paper, Deadpool might seem that way. Its origin story sets up the launch of a brooding hero and a distressed damsel. Its cast is made up mostly of archetypes, including comic relief, stern ally, and bitter villain. Heck, its time-frozen, Matrix-styled intro, in which a climactic action scene is frozen so that cameras can spin all around it, has been done a bazillion times.
Luckily for us, this is Deadpool we're talking about. Marvel's latest comic-to-film conversion wastes no time in forcefully asserting itself as a very different kind of superhero flick.
The film's first moment of weirdness arrives only seconds into the runtime, when that opening sequence starts flashing unusual text crawls. Instead of the usual production company credit, we're told this is "some douchebag's film" directed by "an overpaid tool" whose stars include "a moody teen," "a British villain," and "god's perfect idiot"—in this case, Ryan Reynolds, whose real-life face briefly floats between dead and dying bodies on the cover of People magazine.
SoCalGas Aliso Canyon 3. (credit: SoCal Gas / Governor's Office of Emergency Services)
On Thursday afternoon, Southern California Gas Company (SoCal Gas) announced that it had “temporarily controlled” a natural gas leak that has spewed more than 80,000 tons of gas from a well just north of Los Angeles. The leak began on October 23, and after SoCal Gas exhausted all other solutions to plug the leak, the company began drilling relief wells as a last-ditch attempt in early December.
"On Feb. 11, 2016, the relief well intercepted the base of the leaking well, and the company began pumping heavy fluids to temporarily control the flow of gas out of the leaking well,” a statement from SoCal Gas read. "DOGGR [California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources] officials and representatives from other state and local agencies were at the site to observe the operation. The leak and the flow of gas will be declared ended once DOGGR has confirmed that the well has been permanently sealed."
The company will now have to seal the well with cement to permanently shut it down, a process that could take a few more days. Once that occurs, the thousands of displaced residents who lived in the nearby Porter Ranch community will have eight days to return to their homes, at which point SoCal Gas will terminate the leases on temporary housing that the company has been paying for.
Following rumors that the official sequel to Destiny would not arrive in time for its previously announced September 2016 window, Activision made the news formal as part of its Q4 fiscal report on Thursday.
The news of Destiny 2's "2017" release window—with no month or quarter mentioned—also came with the announcement of a previously unmentioned "large new expansion," which Activision "expects" to launch this year. No name or release window was included with that news. That may very well be bad news for Destiny's "25+ million registered users" that Activision bragged about in its statement, who the company says have logged "nearly 3 billion hours" inside of the game—and who are avidly complaining about a wave of underwhelming limited-time "events" in the game, particularly this week's Valentine's themed snoozer.
Activision announced good sales news for Call of Duty: Black Ops III, which it dubbed "the number one console game globally for the calendar year." The company claims to have released "four of the top ten games on next-generation consoles life-to-date," including CODBLOPS3 in the top position. In absolutely shocking and world-shaking news, Activision said gamers could expect another Call of Duty game by the end of 2016—to be designed by Infinity Ward.
New financial records released by SoundCloud show that the company has nearly doubled its losses from 2013 to 2014—those two years combined account for a total of €62.1 million ($70.3 million) in losses.
The Berlin-based audio social network has been the darling of independent producers and DJs worldwide who use it to share and comment on each other’s work. But like some startups, it has struggled to turn its massive user base into meaningful revenue. As a "freemium" service, most people use the site without paying.
With mounting losses, the company’s board of directors wrote that there are "material uncertainties facing the business."
Teens are left confused and misguided by science teachers. (credit: The Wall)
Though roughly 95 percent of scientists agree that climate change is caused by humans, you might not know it if you were learning about the environment in middle school or high school. In a recent randomized study of thousands of science teachers, a group of US researchers found that nearly a third of teachers tell students that the current observed trends in global climate change are "natural."
Published today in the journal Science, the results of the study reveal that science education on the subject is unevenly distributed. Teachers are all over the map when it comes to what they're teaching about climate change, with 30 percent telling students that "recent global warming 'is likely due to natural causes,'" and another 12 percent not emphasizing potential human causes of climate change. Additionally, 31 percent of teachers appeared to be giving students "mixed messages," teaching that Earth's climate changes could be caused by humans or by natural processes.
Making this scenario even more dismal is the fact that the average teacher only devotes one or two hours to climate change in their lesson plans. That means many students will graduate from high school having been exposed to perhaps only a single hour of teaching about climate change, which is arguably one of the most important drivers of both economic and scientific transformation in our time.
Congress has voted to make permanent a federal law that prevents states or localities from taxing Internet access.
The US Senate accepted the measure as part of a larger trade bill, which passed today on a 75-20 vote. Since the House has already passed a similar measure, the bill now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature.
There's long been general agreement in Congress that taxing access to the Internet is a bad idea and shouldn't be allowed. But permanent consideration of the tax ban was held up by some lawmakers, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who wanted it to be passed together with the Marketplace Fairness Act, or MFA.
Fox and Dish have settled a years-long copyright dispute over several Dish viewing features, including the Hopper ad-skipping DVR, Slingbox, and PrimeTime Anywhere streaming technology.
Not much detail is available at this point, but Dish has said it will disable ad-skipping powers on all Fox programming until seven days after a program airs. The companies released a joint statement today, which reads:
Fox Networks Group and DISH Network L.L.C. have reached an agreement resulting in the dismissal of all pending litigation between the two companies, including disputes over Slingbox technology and the AutoHop, PrimeTime Anytime and Transfers features. As part of the settlement, DISH’s AutoHop commercial-skipping functionality will not be available for owned and affiliated FOX stations until seven days after a program first airs.
Fox and NBCUniversal both sued Dish in 2012, saying that the ad-skipping could destroy "the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem." In the lawsuit, they said because the ad-skipping tech involves the creation of an unauthorized copy, it violates copyright law.
(credit: flickr user: gags9999)
The level of altruism that humans display is an anomaly in the animal world. Most species don’t interact peacefully with strangers every day or build large, stable societies that rely on cooperative behavior between unrelated individuals. Although there are animals that show altruistic behavior toward their relatives or breeding partners, we still don’t know how humans managed to develop the extreme level of cooperation between strangers needed to build and maintain our societies.
A paper in Nature hints that religion may be one of the keys to understanding this cooperation. The paper's authors suggest that, as people started to believe in gods who see everything and punish wrongdoing, they may have had more motivation to behave nicely toward strangers. They also suggest that beliefs in more powerful gods might widen the circle of cooperation: the more all-knowing your deity, the farther away people can be from you and still benefit from your cooperation.
To test this idea, the authors studied nearly 600 people with a wide range of beliefs from countries around the world. The beliefs included predominant world religions such as Christianity and Hinduism but also local traditions like ancestor worship, animism, and belief in supernatural entities like saints or ghosts. After answering detailed questions about what they believed, participants played a game to assess how they would act toward other people.
Two big-name legal research companies are battling in federal court over the right to exclusively publish the law—in this case, the Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations.
The lawsuit (PDF) comes as states across the nation partner with legal research companies to offer exclusive publishing and licensing deals for digitizing and making available online the states' reams of laws and regulations. The only problem is that the law is not copyrightable—or so says one of the publishers involved in the Georgia litigation. In this instance, District of Columbia-based legal publisher Fastcase wants a judge to fend off a cease-and-desist demand from rival Virginia-based Lawriter, which has been designated as the exclusive publisher (PDF) of Georgia's compilation (PDF) of the rules and regulations of its state agencies. The lawsuit says:
The Georgia Regulations are binding law—a broad-ranging collection of rules and regulations governing areas from consumer protection to banking to elections. The Georgia Regulations are promulgated by public agencies of the State of Georgia, and published for the benefit of the public by the Georgia Secretary of State, as required by O.C.G.A. § 50-13-7. Defendant Lawriter purports to have exclusive rights to publish the Georgia Regulations. Consistent with this claim of exclusive rights, Lawriter has sent Plaintiff Fastcase a demand that Fastcase remove the Georgia Regulations from its legal research service, which is provided as a free member benefit to members of the State Bar of Georgia. The Georgia Regulations are public law published under statutory mandate and are in the public domain. Defendant cannot claim any exclusive right in, to, or in connection with, the Georgia Regulations. Thus, Fastcase seeks declaratory judgment that Lawriter has no basis from which to prohibit Fastcase from publishing the Georgia Regulations in its subscription legal research service.
Fastcase also says Lawriter "cannot claim a valid copyright or an exclusive license to a valid copyright. It is well established in American law that state laws, including administrative rules and regulations, are not copyrightable, and must remain public as a matter of due process."
Comparison of Modern Human and Neanderthal skulls from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. (credit: hairymuseummatt)
WASHINGTON—Around 50,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans shacked up with some Neanderthals—and the genetic consequences are still doing a walk of shame through our generations.
The questionable interbreeding left traces of Neanderthal DNA that are linked to mood disorders, mostly depression, as well as tobacco-use disorders, skin conditions, and hypercoagulation (excessive blood clotting), according to a new study published Thursday in Science. The findings lend support to the theory that our past hominin hook-up has had a lasting influence on modern humans’ health. The data also offers hints at genetic adaptations of our ancient ancestors and, potentially, new insights into the diseases they help cause in modern humans, the authors suggest.
Having these traces of Neanderthal DNA doesn’t “doom us” to having these diseases, cautioned John Capra, bioinformaticist at Vanderbilt University and coauthor of the study. The genetic traces linked to disease in modern humans doesn’t mean that Neanderthals were stricken with those diseases either, he added. In fact, some of them could have been advantageous.