A New Ultra Long Range Plane Is Set to Make the Longest Direct Flight in the World


A huge Airbus A350-900ULR is being delivered to Singapore Airlines today where, once in service, it will make the longest continuous flight in the world, from Singapore to Newark airport—a flying time of just under 19 hours.

The ULR in the name of the craft stands for “Ultra Long Range,” which is an apt name, considering this beast can cruise for 9,000 nautical miles (or 9,537 miles). The A350-900 is capable of flying further than any other commercial aircraft, with a maximum flying time of around 20 hours.

No one needs to be on a plane that long. That’s just ridiculous.

The plane will enter service starting October 11, and is the first of seven aircraft ordered by Singapore Airlines to increase direct travel between Singapore and Newark, two cities that are quite literally half a world away from each other. Airbus was able to accomplish this long flight time with just a few tweaks to the fuel system, allowing the plane to carry 165,000 liters of fuel, an increase of 24,000 over normal A350 planes. That gives the A350-900 1,600 miles of extra range. Aerodynamic updates also reduced fuel needs for the A350-900 by 25 percent over other Airbus models.

Of course, the extra weight requires extra fuel—a problem well known to aerospace engineers. The bigger the plane, the less fuel efficient it is because it has to haul all that extra fuel. It’s a circular problem where more fuel is needed to haul the extra fuel that will propel the plane farther. The largest commercial plane in the world, the Airbus A380 Super Jumbo, has 500 seats and usually scores about 65 miles to the gallon per seat, according to the Wall Street Journal. Smaller planes are more efficient on longer flights so the A350-900 comes with a twin-aisle wide body style, with two classes for flyers to choose from—67 seats in business and 94 in economy.

“It takes fuel to carry fuel,” Airbus spokeswoman Mary Anne Greczyn told the Journal.

The company believes that the roomier aircraft will be comfortable enough for the nearly day long flights, providing customers a quieter cabin and more space to stretch and move around.Air inside the cabin is recycled every two minutes to make flyers more comfortable and cut down on the effects of jet lag, Airbus claims. There’s also a whole suite of entertainment opinions and wifi as well, but with a 19-hour flight, you might just want to bring a big bottle of Ambien if you don’t want to end up counting your teeth over and over for hours on end. If you’re already a misanthrope, 19 hours on a plane probably won’t cure you of your hate for humanity, but is perfect if you hate connections more.

This isn’t Singapore Airlines’ first foray into long-distance flights. From 2004 to 2013, the airline flew to Newark airport from Shanghai on an Airbus A340-500. That flight required 222,000 liters of fuel—10 times the weight of the passengers aboard, according to The Guardian. That flight was an 8,900 nautical mile trip over the North Pole. The flights were eventually canceled due to revenue losses.

Several plane manufactures are taking up the challenge of long-haul, non-stop flights, which allowed airlines to serve underserved areas rather than relying on connecting flights to get people to flyers destination. Right now, the longest continuous flight crown belongs to the Boeing 777 that runs from New Zealand to Qatar, a distant of 9,025 miles with 16 to 17 hours of travel. So far, ultra long flights have been limited by engineering problems. Problems companies are now over coming with more efficient machines. Fuel is the second-highest cost airlines face, and getting fuel economy right can mean the difference between a huge bonus for airline CEOs and a mega-huge bonus.

Of course, less seats in a plane means higher costs of tickets. These flights are aimed at high-earning business people who are willing to pay for the most direct route possible. Expect even “economy” to run a pretty penny. There’s no information yet on what exact path the plane will take.

Singapore Airlines also plans to use the plane on its trans-Pacific flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Singapore. The company will take delivery of six more Ultra Long Range planes in the next year, and plans to ramp up direct flights to and from the U.S. from 40 to 53 by December, according to CNBC.

That’s a lot of teeth-counting.

via Gizmodo https://gizmodo.com

September 24, 2018 at 03:24PM

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Google Lens Functionality Coming to Images in Search


Google announced changes for image searches on mobile this week, with the company stating that it is bringing Google Lens to the service to help dive deeper into image results.

Written in its blog, “In the coming weeks, we’ll bring Lens to Google Images to help you explore and learn more about visual content you find during your searches.”

Once this happens, should you come across an image in Search that you want to find other relevant info on, you can tap on a new Lens button right below the image. Once tapped, Lens will analyze the image, then provide additional information, such as other photos and product links. Furthermore, Google will allow users to draw on any part of a photo to be analyzed, just in case the part of a photo you want scanned wasn’t picked up properly by Lens.

Again, Google says this Lens functionality in Image Search will be available in the coming weeks.

// Google

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September 24, 2018 at 03:32PM

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Some iPhone Users Are Saying Colors Look ‘Off’ After Upgrading to iOS 12


Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

After a series of bugs plagued iOS 11, Apple reportedly decided to slow down on adding new features to iOS 12 in order to focus on improving performance and stability. In general, that strategy seems to have worked, with multiple sites reporting that iOS 12 runs faster on nearly every supported iPhone and iPad, even five-year-old devices like the iPhone 5S.

However, it appears that at least one noteworthy bug still managed to make its way into the general release of iOS 12, with users on Reddit, Twitter, and elsewhere reportedly seeing muted or “washed out” colors after updating their devices from iOS 11 to iOS 12. Gizmodo was not able to duplicate this apparent bug.

The majority of complaints center around colors generally looking “off” on the iPhone X, with some users theorizing that Apple may have tweaked or adjusted the display profile for iPhone X’s OLED screen as part of the update.

Unfortunately, the true cause of the apparent issue has been difficult to pin down, because other changes in iOS 12 such as a new filtering technique (confirmed by Apple senior vice president Craig Federighi) used by Apple to “improve text legibility” on some wallpapers and a new darker shade of gray for folders has lead to confusion between users when trying to identify potential problems.

Still, these reports are a bit of a bummer since, as the first iPhone with an OLED display, one of the iPhone X’s biggest selling points was its much wider color gamut and improved contrast when compared to older iPhones with LCD screens.

We’ve reached out to Apple for a comment on the matter and we’ll update this story if we hear back. But in the meantime, how has your update to iOS 12 gone? Have you run into any color issues, or have you encountered an entirely different issue? If so, feel free to send us a tip at sam.rutherford@gizmodo.com.

[DP Review, Forbes]

via Gizmodo https://gizmodo.com

September 24, 2018 at 09:54AM

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WhatsApp hires grievance officer to battle fake news in India



WhatsApp has hired a grievance officer for India in order to meet a key demand set by the country’s government to halt the spread of fake messages that triggered mob lynchings. In an update to its FAQ section, WhatsApp directs users to lodge complaints through the mobile app, send an email, or write in to grievance officer Komal Lahiri (formerly of Facebook and PayPal), who’s based out of the US. According to her LinkedIn, Lahiri was brought on in March as “senior director of global customer operations and localization.”

Earlier this year, a series of violent mob attacks fuelled by misinformation circulated via WhatsApp left 12 people dead in the span of a month. Since then, the company has taken out ads in newspapers in an effort to educate locals on fake news. It also began labelling forwarded messages and limiting the ability to forward texts to multiple chats at once. India’s other key demands require WhatsApp set up a local presence that meets the country’s laws (which it’s reportedly working on). But it’s thus far refused to track messages as it goes against its policies on privacy and security.

via Engadget http://www.engadget.com

September 24, 2018 at 07:30AM

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SiriusXM to buy Pandora in $3.5 billion streaming push


Satellite radio firm Sirius XM will buy music streamer Pandora Media in a $3.5 billion all-stock deal, as it seeks to build scale to battle heavyweight streaming rivals Spotify and Apple Music.

Sirius XM, controlled by media mogul John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp, has built a name supplying more than 175 channels to car drivers, but has largely trailed Pandora and Spotify Technology in mobile and streaming content.

Monday’s deal gives the pair a market value of about $34 billion, topping Spotify’s $31.2 billion, and follows through on Sirius’ purchase of a 15 percent preferred-stock stake in Pandora for $480 million last year.

Shares in Pandora, which has posted losses for at least the past eight quarters, initially soared 18.4 percent to $10.75 in premarket trading, topping an offer value of $10.05 based on Sirius’ Friday closing price.

Sirius shares, however, fell 5 percent to $6.63 as investors worried the company had overpaid.

The deal, worth $2.68 billion at that offer price, is expected to generate more than $7 billion in expected pro-forma revenue in 2018. Analysts said the two businesses were largely complementary.

“SIRI cannot offer on-demand radio, and cannot offer customization, and Pandora offers both,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

“Sirius can merge Pandora’s radio business into its satellite subscription business, and can also begin to offer on-demand to its large installed base of satellite subscribers.”

Pandora shareholders will receive a fixed-exchange ratio of 1.44 newly-issued SiriusXM shares for each share they hold.

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019.

Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma and Arjun Panchadar

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September 24, 2018 at 07:51AM

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Porsche’s Sleek Chargers Will Power up EVs in Just 15 Minutes


Until now, if you wanted a fun, stylish, luxurious, long-range electric car, you had to buy a Tesla. Elon Musk’s automaker was the first to produce battery-powered vehicles that could stay on the road for hundreds of miles without stopping to recharge. Drivers finally had good reason to take their electrics far beyond their daily trundlings between work, home, and the grocery store—but the infrastructure to keep them charged up didn’t exist. So Tesla built them an international network of Superchargers—stations where they could stop for a spell and plug in, reaching an 80 percent charge in a little more than half an hour.

As Porsche prepares to launch its fully electric car, the Taycan sedan (née the Mission E concept), it faces a different problem: How to stand out in a field full of cool, capable EVs from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Audi, and others, along with old dog Tesla. Porsche’s solution, though, looks a lot like Tesla’s. Unable to offer a rousing engine note or beautifully precise gearbox, the automaker this week unveiled the “electric pit stop”—a setup that can add 250 miles worth of charge to a battery in just 15 minutes.

In keeping with its Teutonic taste for beautiful but functional design, Porsche split the charging stations in parts. Customers will interact with a slender, black and white, cranelike mast that offers up the cable and a 10-inch touchscreen. Behind the scenes, up to 300 feet away, it’s all about big white boxes holding all the gubbins. A FlexBox measures about 4 feet on each side and comes in different varieties, hiding the transformer and power electronics, for example, or a version with cooling fins and loud fans keeps things at the correct temperature.

Porsche split its charging stations into modular parts. The only bit customers will interact with is a cranelike mast that offers up the cable and a 10-inch touchscreen.


A third type of box contains a big battery (either 70 or 160 kWh), which the system can use to charge cars extra quickly, even when the connection to the grid isn’t powerful enough. The battery does need to recharge between fast-charging sessions though, so it’s best suited for locations where demand isn’t too high and it wouldn’t make economic sense to upgrade the main supply.

Porsche says it plans to equip its nearly 200 US dealers with the setup, which will at least serve the more wealthy areas where their buyers live and drive. No word yet on how much plugging in might cost, but it’s free to power up at the one station Porsche has at its engineering center in Germany.

Most automakers dislike the idea of building out their own networks, but the alternative isn’t too appealing. Today, drivers of non-Tesla EVs often end up with accounts with various charging companies like EVgo and Chargepoint—and a pile of RFID cards in their glove box. The fastest (non-Tesla) chargers are typically 50 kW (compared to 120 for Tesla and 300 for Porsche), which can add around 150 miles of range in about an hour.

EVgo strategy chief Jonathan Levy says the company will soon offer 80- and even 150-kW chargers but adds that that drivers shouldn’t put too much stock in those numbers. “Lots of consumers are not aware that the vehicle is the limiting factor,” he says. Fifty kW has been plenty for the cars on the market until now. But with the new cars coming, things are getting interesting. (EVgo is also looking at battery storage systems like Porsche’s, which can help balance demand on the grid and avoid fees that electricity providers charge for heavy duty consumers.)

Chargepoint is slowly building up to chargers that can deliver up to 400 kW, at which point topping up a battery would take about as long as filling a large gas tank and buying a cup of coffee. “It’s becoming more and more important as car batteries are getting bigger, and people want these as their primary vehicles,” says Simon Lonsdale, the company’s chief strategy officer. At those sorts of levels, the cables have to be liquid cooled to keep them at a safe temperature for human hands.

All of which is to say, Porsche’s move isn’t revolutionary. It may not stand out as special by the time the Taycan hits the market. As these systems proliferate and batteries keep getting better, quick charging times will become a given—just like quick 0-to-60 mph times. But for now, at least, electric driving is a newfangled thing. Any move that makes it seem easier and more attractive—even luxurious—should help Porsche stand out.

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September 20, 2018 at 06:06AM

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Why the SpaceX Lunar Tourists Won’t Walk on the Moon


So far in human history, 12 people — all men, all NASA astronauts — have walked on the moon. Twelve more people — again, all men and all NASA astronauts — have gone around it without ever setting foot on the surface. That second number may be set to climb, though, now that Elon Musk has promised to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and six to eight artists into orbit around our celestial neighbor aboard the SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). (Musk previously promised to put a tourist around the moon by the end of 2018. This time, he said the ride will happen in 2023.)

Maezawa will pay for the pleasure cruise, with what is presumably a hefty chunk of even his multibillion-dollar fortune. But whatever sum he’s paying (it has not been disclosed), it will buy him and his posse a rare view of the moon, but no landing or excursions onto the lunar surface.

That’s because, as challenging as safely launching humans into lunar orbit is, it’s essentially a matter of designing a crew vehicle that can keep people alive for the voyage and a descent back into Earth’s atmosphere and building a rocket big enough to push it where Maezawa wants to go. [The BFR in Images: SpaceX’s Giant Spaceship for Mars & Beyond]

Landing on the moon is a lot more complicated.

Why can’t SpaceX just land its crew vehicle on the moon?

If you watched the Apollo landings on TV in the late 1960s and early ’70s (or one of the movies made about them later), you saw that the Command Module — the ship that carried astronauts to and from lunar orbit — never actually landed on the moon.

Instead, each successful landing required two astronauts to clamber into the Lunar Module (LM) — a sort of lightweight, spacefaring dinghy — and ride it down to the lunar surface while a third astronaut waited in the module overhead. After each moonwalk, the astronauts would hop back into the LM and blast themselves back into space, where their third companion would pick them up for the ride back to Earth.

That wasn’t always the plan, though. In the earliest days of the Apollo project, NASA engineers seriously considered trying to land the whole Command Module on the moon. But they soon realized that a Command Module capable of landing on the moon, blasting back off into space, propelling itself back to Earth and surviving re-entry would have to be impractically gargantuan, even by Apollo mission standards.

SpaceX’s BFR is set to be more powerful than the Apollo missions’ Saturn V rocket, but not by much. The company released a promotional video in early 2018 showing a simulated BFR crew vehicle landing on the moon like this, but released no technical information suggesting that it’s actually overcome the technical challenges involved.

NASA, of course, gave up on the project of overcoming those challenges in the 1960s. Thus, the idea of a disposable, ultralight lander for moonwalks was born.

Why can’t SpaceX build its own lunar lander?

Actually, in theory, there’s no obvious, overwhelming reason SpaceX couldn’t do this. The company has, after all, managed plenty of tricky Earth landings that NASA couldn’t have dreamed of in the 1960s. And Musk has claimed — whether sensibly or otherwise — that his company will one day land people on Mars. 

But the reality is that, if history is any guide, designing and building a lunar lander is an entirely separate project that represents a good chunk of the cost of building a rocket that can get to the moon in the first place.

Between 1963 and 1973, NASA’s Lunar Module program cost $2.24 billion, compared with the Command Module’s $3.73 billion and the Saturn V’s $6.42 billion. Adjusted for inflation, the lander cost about $17 billion in 2018 dollars. Its design, as lead engineer Thomas Kelly recounted in a 2012 book about the effort, was a matter of endless downsizing to make the module lightweight enough for the journey.

The original design for the lander, Kelly wrote, involved a seated cockpit with wide, glass viewing windows, so the astronauts could watch their descent to the lunar surface in all its panoramic glory. By the time they had the thing stripped down for its first uncrewed flight aboard Apollo 5 in January 1968, it included just a single, little, triangular window and clip-in cable hoists, in place of seats, to keep the astronauts standing. By the time NASA conducted a crewed test with a lunar module in low Earth orbit aboard Apollo 9 in 1969, the astronauts had named it “Spider,” thanks to its alien, many-legged appearance.

That lander design carried just two astronauts at a time to the moon, though later models did manage larger cargo loads. A SpaceX lander would presumably have to safely ferry its entire paying passenger complement to the lunar surface, in at least marginally more comfort and safety than NASA’s cable hoists and stripped-down navigational and docking systems offered.

And that gets to the biggest obstacle preventing SpaceX from giving its passengers a real lunar excursion.

In the end, the problem is the people

If SpaceX’s goal were to explore the moon, which at least nominally was NASA’s goal in the ’60s and ’70s, then the company might have more options. Highly trained, expert astronauts can ferry themselves around in limited craft that require everyone on board to contribute to the project of landing, exploring, launching and docking — all while peering through a tiny, triangular window to find their way.

But no matter how much training SpaceX’s passengers receive before their trip, they won’t be there as space pilots, nor experts in the operation of spacesuits or other technical procedures involved in the landing. That means that if SpaceX were to attempt to put people on the moon, they would essentially be dead weight, along for the ride and taking up space while expert astronauts and automated systems handled the many technical challenges.

That means that a theoretical SpaceX tourist lander would have to carry far more bodies, likely in more comfort and safety, than one carrying a NASA-style pared-down crew of experts and equipment there for scientific research. So, instead, the tourists will at best be left up in space, where they can enjoy looking down at the moon but won’t have much to do in the way of groundbreaking exploration.

Originally published on Live Science.

via Space.com https://www.space.com

September 19, 2018 at 11:31AM

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