Staring at Firefly Aerospace’s hot rocket-engine flames in a Texas pasture

Staring at Firefly Aerospace’s hot rocket-engine flames in a Texas pasture

Pro tip: If you just want to see the raw engine fire, skip ahead to the ~3:15 mark.

CEDAR PARK, Texas—”Last time you came out here, it was just a pile of dirt,” Firefly Aerospace CEO and rocket scientist Tom Markusic tells me. I looked it up afterwards—he’s not lying. Back in 2014 when Ars Senior Editor Lee Hutchinson traveled just north of Austin to visit Markusic’s then-infant new space company, he essentially got a rocket science lesson (charts and everything) and walked the patch of non-grass where the company would one day build its engine testing facilities. It looked like this…

But during this week’s South by Southwest conference, Markusic has a different offer for the small group of press and rocket enthusiasts willing to ditch the main convention for a few hours. Not only would we get to see Firefly’s revamped R&D facility, but this trip to the testing site in rural Briggs, Texas, would offer views of vintage rocket parts, functioning clean rooms, testing rigs of both the vertical and horizontal variety… and a genuine, 15,000lbs-of-thrust test fire of Firefly’s upper-stage Lightning engine. I didn’t take a single snapshot of dirt.

Welcome to Cedar Park

The bus turns right at the chain Tex-Mex restaurant and pulls into what seems like a nondescript strip mall. Flanked by a church and portrait studio, this unmarked office building is what Firefly’s R&D folks call home.

Walking through the open-concept space, you’re reminded of just how young this rocket company is (established January 2014) and how ambitious its goal may be. In a little more than a year, Firefly hopes to send a 1,000kg payload to low Earth orbit on top of its Alpha launch vehicle powered by its Lightning engine. Yet four years ago the testing site didn’t really exist, and just two years ago the company had to reemerge from bankruptcy.

Thus, employees here all seem quite busy today. A machine shop buzzes in the back, and a Mission Control stands in the center so the team here can coordinate with the testing facility during the company’s daily engine routine. To oversimplify, the engineers and analysts in Cedar Park continually collect information to perfect the in-progress equipment. Notably as part of this initiative, Firefly partners with the nearby University of Texas for access to Stampede, one of the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world.


via Ars Technica

March 17, 2018 at 12:41PM

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Are There Risks From Secondhand Marijuana Smoke? Early Science Says Yes

Are There Risks From Secondhand Marijuana Smoke? Early Science Says Yes

Scientists are finding that, just as with secondhand smoke from tobacco, inhaling secondhand smoke from marijuana can make it harder for arteries to expand to allow a healthy flow of blood.

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Scientists are finding that, just as with secondhand smoke from tobacco, inhaling secondhand smoke from marijuana can make it harder for arteries to expand to allow a healthy flow of blood.

Maren Caruso/Getty Images

The inspiration arrived in a haze at a Paul McCartney concert a few years ago in San Francisco.

“People in front of me started lighting up and then other people started lighting up,” says Matthew Springer, a biologist and professor in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “And for a few naive split seconds I was thinking to myself, ‘Hey, they can’t smoke in AT&T Park! I’m sure that’s not allowed.’ And then I realized that it was all marijuana.”

Recreational pot was not legal yet in the state, but that stopped no one. “Paul McCartney actually stopped between numbers and sniffed the air and said, ‘There’s something in the air — must be San Francisco!’ ” Springer recalls.

As the visible cloud of pot smoke took shape, so did Springer’s idea to study the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke.

He started thinking: San Franciscans would never tolerate those levels of cigarette smoke in a public place anymore. So why were they OK with smoke from burning pot? Did people just assume that cannabis smoke isn’t harmful the way tobacco smoke is?

Springer was already researching the health effects of secondhand tobacco smoke on rats at his lab at UCSF. He decided to run the same tests using joints.

“By the time I left the concert, I was resolved to at least try to make this happen,” he says.

He knew it would be difficult. Marijuana is still an illegal drug under federal law, and Springer’s research uses federal funds; so he has to purchase specially approved government cannabis for study. He also can’t test it on humans; hence, the rats.

In the lab, Springer puts a cigarette or a joint in a plexiglass box. Then he lights it, and lets the chamber fill with smoke, where an anesthetized rat is exposed to the smoke.

So far, Springer and his colleagues have published research demonstrating that secondhand smoke makes it harder for the rats’ arteries to expand and allow a healthy flow of blood.

With tobacco products, this effect lasts about 30 minutes, and then the arteries recover their normal function. But if it happens over and over — as when a person is smoking cigarette after cigarette, for example — the arterial walls can become permanently damaged, and that damage can cause blood clots, heart attack or stroke.

Springer demonstrated that, at least in rats, the same physiological effect occurs after inhaling secondhand smoke from marijuana. And, the arteries take 90 minutes to recover compared to the 30 minutes with cigarette smoke.

Springer’s discovery about the effect on blood vessels describes just one harmful impact for nonsmokers who are exposed to marijuana. Statewide sampling surveys of cannabis products sold in marijuana dispensaries have shown that cannabis products may contain dangerous bacteria or mold, or residues from pesticides and solvents.

California law requires testing for these contaminants, and those regulations are being initiated in three phases over the course of 2018. Because much of the marijuana being sold now was harvested in 2017, consumers will have to wait until early 2019 before they can purchase products that have been fully tested according to state standards.

“People think cannabis is fine because it’s ‘natural,’ ” Springer says. “I hear this a lot. I don’t know what it means.” He concedes that tightly regulated marijuana, which has been fully tested, doesn’t have as many chemical additives as cigarettes.

But even if the cannabis tests clean, Springer says, smoke itself is bad for the lungs, heart and blood vessels. Other researchers are exploring the possible relationship between marijuana smoke and long-term cancer risk.

Certainly, living with a smoker is worse for your health than just going to a smoky concert hall. But, Springer says, the less you inhale any kind of smoke, the better.

“People should think of this not as an anti-THC conclusion,” he says, referencing the active ingredient in marijuana, “but an anti-smoke conclusion.”

So is the solution simply to avoid smoke from combustion? In other words, is it safer to eat cannabis-infused products, or use “smokeless” e-cigarettes or vaping devices?

Springer still urges caution on that score because vaping, for example, can have its own health effects. Vaping devices don’t produce smoke from combustion but they do release a cloud of aerosolized chemicals. Springer is studying the health effects of those chemicals, too.

All this research takes time. Meanwhile, Springer worries that people might come to the wrong conclusion — that the absence of research means the secondhand smoke is OK.

“We in the public health community have been telling them for decades to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke from tobacco,” Springer says. “We have not been telling them to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke from marijuana, and that’s not because it’s not bad for you — it’s because we just haven’t known. The experiments haven’t been done.”

Antismoking campaigners say we can’t afford to wait until the research is complete. Recreational pot is already a reality.

Cynthia Hallett is the president of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, based in Berkeley, Calif. The organization was established in 1976, before there was a lot known about the health effects of secondhand smoke from tobacco.

Now that cannabis is becoming more common across the country — more than 20 cities or states have legalized it in some form — her organization is taking on the issue of secondhand marijuana smoke, too.

Hallett says some of the arguments being made in support of cannabis remind her of the arguments made on behalf of tobacco decades ago.

“I’m seeing a parallel between this argument that, ‘Gee, we just don’t have a lot of science and so, therefore, let’s wait and see,’ ” Hallett says. “The tobacco companies used to say the same thing about tobacco cigarettes.”

In California, smoking cannabis is prohibited anywhere tobacco smoking is prohibited — including schools, airplanes and most workplaces. Hallett is worried that the legalization of pot could be used to erode those rules.

It starts with the premise of decriminalization, she says, and then, over time, there’s “a chipping away at strong policies.”

Some cannabis advocates want to see pot regulated like alcohol — cities would issue permits for specialized smoking lounges, similar to wine bars.

But Hallett points out that smoke drifts, and affects workers in a way that alcohol doesn’t.

“The difference is, if I were to spill my beer on you in a bar, it wouldn’t affect your long-term health,” she says. “If I choose to smoke, it can affect the health of the person near me.”

Pot is more like tobacco in that respect — and Hallett believes it should be regulated that way.

She says this era of California culture brings to mind a similar perioid in the 1970s and ’80s, when Americans started demanding more regulations for secondhand smoke, and a new etiquette around smoking took form.

When it comes to marijuana, Hallett says, “it is still polite for you to say: ‘Would you mind not smoking around me?’ “

At Magnolia, a cannabis dispensary in Oakland, Calif., pot smokers talk about what responsibilities — if any — they should have when it comes to nearby nonsmokers.

“This is the first time that I have heard secondhand smoke in reference to cannabis,” admits Lee Crow, a patient-services clerk at Magnolia. “I’ve tried to be courteous — just common courtesy, like with anything.”

The dispensary’s director of clinical services, Barbara Blaser, admits she thinks a lot about secondhand smoke from cigarettes, but not pot.

“Both of my parents died of lung cancer!” she says. “I will stop a stranger and say, ‘You shouldn’t be smoking. My dad died of that!’ “

California’s Proposition 64, approved by state voters in 2016, requires that some of the state tax revenue from the sale of marijuana to be distributed to cannabis researchers. In addition, the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is examining workplace hazards that are specific to the cannabis industry.

This story is part of NPR’s reporting partnership, local member stations and Kaiser Health News.


via NPR Topics: News

March 19, 2018 at 04:02AM

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Your can now own a personal torpedo watercraft

Your can now own a personal torpedo watercraft

Seabreachers are jet powered watercrafts that reach surface speeds of 50 mph and underwater speeds of 20-25 mph. They’re capable of diving to depths of 6 feet, carving left or right, and even jumping out of the water. Seabreachers come in 3 trims ranging from 80,000 – 100,000 U.S. dollars. Learn more at

Transcript: Your personal torpedo watercraft. Seabreachers are jet powered watercrafts that speed through water like jet skies. Unlike jet skies, Seabreachers can be operated above and below the water. Each Seabreacher maneuvers like an aircraft with full control of its pitch, roll, and yaw. It’s steered by two sticks and two pedals that engage the jet nozzle and fins of the watercraft, and also allow the Seabreacher to dive to depths of 6 feet, roll, carve left or right, and even jump. Seabreachers can reach surface speeds of up to 50 mph and underwater speeds of 20-25 mph with the help of its


hp supercharged engine. The hand built craft is fully customizable with airbrushed exterior and upholstered interior. Seabreachers come in 3 trims each watercraft ranges from 80k to 100k u.s. dollars.


via Autoblog

March 17, 2018 at 06:59PM

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Valve Is Quietly Deleting Hate Groups, But It Isn’t Solving Steam’s Big Problem

Valve Is Quietly Deleting Hate Groups, But It Isn’t Solving Steam’s Big Problem

Valve is notorious for a lot of things, but beyond not releasing Half-Life 3, one thing stands out: its hands-off, often silent approach to running the world’s biggest PC gaming platform, Steam. This has landed the company in hot water in the past, but in the face of calls to crack down on user groups that glorify…

Read more…


via Kotaku

March 16, 2018 at 08:08PM

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A simple artificial heart could permanently replace a failing human one

A simple artificial heart could permanently replace a failing human one

Nearly 4,000 people in the US are waiting for heart transplants. And on average, it takes about six months to get one, during which time some patients will die.

So researchers have been trying for decades to make an artificial heart that can be permanently implanted. But building one that imitates a real heart over a long period of time without breaking or causing infections or blood clots is incredibly difficult. One problem is that the more parts there are, the more things could go wrong.

To solve the problem, Sanjiv Kaul and his team at Oregon Health and Science University are developing an artificial heart with an extremely simple design—it contains a single moving piece with no valves. They believe it could be the first such device that could last the rest of a person’s life.

Originally designed by Richard Wampler, who co-invented the first artificial heart valve in 1960, OHSU’s artificial heart creates a blood flow that mimics a natural pulse. It replaces the human heart’s two lower chambers, the ventricles, with a titanium tube containing a hollow rod that moves back and forth. This back-and-forth motion pushes blood to the lungs so it can extract oxygen and then move the oxygenated blood through the rest of the body.

Kaul hopes the simple design will overcome the limitations of previous artificial hearts.

The OSHU team’s artificial heart contains a single moving piece and no valves.

OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff

The first artificial heart, AbioCor, got limited approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in 2006. It was implanted in just 15 people and is no longer available. About the size of a grapefruit, it was too large to fit in children and many women.

Only one artificial heart, made by SynCardia, is currently available in the US. It’s meant to be a temporary fix while patients wait for a heart transplant. It requires people to carry around an external air compressor in a backpack that pumps the implanted artificial heart from the outside.

Other companies, like Cleveland Heart and French firm Carmat, have also been trying to build a fully artificial heart. Last year, Swiss researchers reported that they had 3-D-printed one, but it started to degrade after only 45 minutes.

Kaul and his team tested an early prototype of their artificial heart in cows and didn’t notice any problems or side effects. Next, they’re planning to test a smaller version—small enough to fit in children as young as 10—in sheep for about three months.

“If it works for that long, we think we’ll be able to put it in people,” he says.

Kaul thinks the device could be available to patients in five years or even perhaps even sooner.

OHSU’s artificial heart will probably need to be charged with a small, hand-held battery pack outside the body. But the hope is that a smaller, more efficient battery could eventually be implanted under the skin and be recharged from the outside.


via Technology Review Feed – Tech Review Top Stories

March 16, 2018 at 11:28AM

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Radio Giant iHeartMedia Files for Bankruptcy as the Realities of Digital Creep Up

Radio Giant iHeartMedia Files for Bankruptcy as the Realities of Digital Creep Up

Photo: Jason Kempin (Getty)

After electing to skip a multi-million dollar interest payment last month, the cash-strapped radio company iHeartMedia, which owns 850 stations and has a portfolio of digital offerings, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In a statement released Thursday, iHeartMedia Inc. said it will continue its day-to-day operations as usual, meaning you won’t need to change the presets on your car radio or stop using any of iHeartRadio’s unappealing streaming services. Still, the company’s outstanding $20 billion debt due to a leveraged buyout a decade ago might be hard to rectify. Indeed, the company is having a hard time turning the corner as competing digital listening options eat into its terrestrial radio revenue, and iHeartMedia’s own forays into digital are likely to be a losing proposition.

The missed $106 million interest payment to creditors prompted iHeartMedia, Inc. and its subsidiaries to file voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The restructuring is expected to reduce the company’s debt by over $10 billion, though it still has the small issue of the other $10 billion it owes to creditors. “The agreement we announced today is a significant accomplishment, as it allows us to definitively address the more than $20 billion in debt that has burdened our capital structure,” said iHeartMedia Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Pittman.

What does this mean for you? iHeartMedia Executive Vice President of Communications Wendy Goldberg told Gizmodo that subscribers and listeners to all iHeart stations will be completely unaffected. “iHeartMedia, iHeartRadio and all our stations are operating business as usual, and listeners and fans won’t notice any difference in the programming, on-air personalities and stations they love,” she said.

That’s great for now, and bully for the radio stations that continue to chug along despite the seemingly insurmountable debt hole iHeartRadio has been inside for a decade, but the reality is that the terrestrial radio stations are in what is likely a losing war with digital competitors. In his statement CEO Bob Pittman touted how the company had managed to transition the broadcast empire to “a true 21st century multi-platform, data-driven, digitally-focused media and entertainment powerhouse with unparalleled reach…” But despite what appears to be some success on the surface, iHeartMedia’s digital offerings—last year the company touted that its services had 100 million registered users—are unlikely to be a profitable path forward either. The reality is that digital audio is a very tough model even for the very best services, and counting on continued user growth to counter an overall decline in revenue from terrestrial radio isn’t a viable option, as iHeartMedia’s current predicament illustrates. Indeed, though companies like Spotify and Pandora are eating into iHeartMedia’s bottom line, they aren’t doing so well themselves.

Pandora, with its 5 million paid subscribers and 74 million active users as of 2017, has been struggling financially. It lost $343 million in 2016, and $518 million in 2017. Spotify, which filed to go public earlier this month, posted a loss of around $1.5 billion in 2017, and has never turned a profit, even with its 39 percent increase in revenue from 2016 to 2017, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company claims it will achieve profitability, but neglected to mention how many users it would need in addition to its current 71 million paying customers it had at the end of 2017.

It’s pretty clear that terrestrial radio is the past and the digital versions of its future don’t add up yet. No one seems to have a plan for what happens next.


via Gizmodo

March 15, 2018 at 03:18PM

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55” LG OLED55E7P OLED 4K HDR Smart HDTV for $1599 + Free Shipping (eBay Daily Deal)

55” LG OLED55E7P OLED 4K HDR Smart HDTV for $1599 + Free Shipping (eBay Daily Deal)

55” LG OLED55E7P OLED 4K HDR Smart HDTV for $1599 + Free Shipping (eBay Daily Deal)

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March 16, 2018 at 04:30PM

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