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      Spotify to lay off 17% of workforce / ArsTechnica · Monday, 4 December - 14:27

    The app icons for Spotify, Netflix, and Podcasts on an iPhone screen.

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | stockcam )

    Spotify will axe almost a fifth of its workforce after warning that economic growth had slowed dramatically and it needed to cut costs as the music streaming giant seeks to turn subscriber growth into consistent profitability.

    In a memo to staff on Monday, chief executive Daniel Ek said Spotify would cut about 17 percent of its global workforce, about 1,500 people. Spotify employs more than 9,000 people worldwide.

    “I recognize this will impact a number of individuals who have made valuable contributions,” Ek said. “To be blunt, many smart, talented, and hard-working people will be departing us.”

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      No further investments in Virgin Galactic, says Richard Branson / ArsTechnica · Saturday, 2 December - 18:58

    Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson.

    Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson. (credit: Eric Berger)

    Sir Richard Branson has ruled out putting more money into his lossmaking space travel company Virgin Galactic, saying his business empire “does not have the deepest pockets” any more.

    Virgin Galactic, which was founded by Branson in 2004, last month announced it was cutting jobs and suspending commercial flights for 18 months from next year, in a bid to preserve cash for the development of a larger plane that could carry passengers to the edge of space.

    The group has said it has enough funding to carry it through to 2026, when the bigger Delta vehicle is expected to enter service. But some analysts are expecting Galactic to ask investors for more money in about 2025.

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      Roar of cicadas was so loud, it was picked up by fiber-optic cables / ArsTechnica · Saturday, 2 December - 11:10


    Enlarge / BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ (credit: astrida via Getty Images )

    One of the world’s most peculiar test beds stretches above Princeton, New Jersey. It’s a fiber optic cable strung between three utility poles that then runs underground before feeding into an “interrogator.” This device fires a laser through the cable and analyzes the light that bounces back. It can pick up tiny perturbations in that light caused by seismic activity or even loud sounds, like from a passing ambulance. It’s a newfangled technique known as distributed acoustic sensing, or DAS.

    Because DAS can track seismicity, other scientists are increasingly using it to monitor earthquakes and volcanic activity . (A buried system is so sensitive, in fact, that it can detect people walking and driving above .) But the scientists in Princeton just stumbled upon a rather … noisier use of the technology. In the spring of 2021, Sarper Ozharar—a physicist at NEC Laboratories, which operates the Princeton test bed—noticed a strange signal in the DAS data . “We realized there were some weird things happening,” says Ozharar. “Something that shouldn’t be there. There was a distinct frequency buzzing everywhere.”

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      Montana’s TikTok ban blocked by federal judge / ArsTechnica · Friday, 1 December - 14:35

    Montana’s TikTok ban blocked by federal judge

    Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg / Contributor | Bloomberg )

    A federal judge has stopped a US state’s landmark ban on TikTok from going into effect, in an important test case for the widespread political backlash that has grown in the country against the Chinese-owned video-sharing app.

    Montana’s Senate Bill 419, which was signed by the state’s Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, in May, would have gone into effect in January and imposed a ban on downloads of the app.

    On Thursday, Judge Donald Molloy granted TikTok’s request for a preliminary injunction after the ByteDance-owned app challenged the legislation in court, denouncing it as an unconstitutional infringement of its rights. Some users of the app also joined the legal challenge.

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      How Huawei made a cutting-edge chip in China and surprised the US / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 30 November - 14:37

    montage of logos and chips

    Enlarge (credit: FT)

    In late 2020, Huawei was fighting for its survival as a mobile phone maker.

    A few months earlier, the Trump administration had hit the Chinese company with crippling sanctions, cutting it off from global semiconductor supply chains.

    The sanctions prevented anyone without a permit from making the chips Huawei designed, and the company was struggling to procure new chips to launch more advanced handsets.

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      Google’s DeepMind finds 2.2M crystal structures in materials science win / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 29 November - 18:42

    Lab picture

    Enlarge / The researchers identified novel materials by using machine learning to first generate candidate structures and then gauge their likely stability. (credit: Marilyn Sargent/Berkeley Lab)

    Google DeepMind researchers have discovered 2.2 million crystal structures that open potential progress in fields from renewable energy to advanced computation, and show the power of artificial intelligence to discover novel materials.

    The trove of theoretically stable but experimentally unrealized combinations identified using an AI tool known as GNoME is more than 45 times larger than the number of such substances unearthed in the history of science, according to a paper published in Nature on Wednesday.

    The researchers plan to make 381,000 of the most promising structures available to fellow scientists to make and test their viability in fields from solar cells to superconductors. The venture underscores how harnessing AI can shortcut years of experimental graft—and potentially deliver improved products and processes.

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      New type of geothermal power plant powers data centers in the desert / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 29 November - 14:47

    Power plant from above

    Enlarge (credit: Google)

    Earlier this month, one corner of the Internet got a little bit greener, thanks to a first-of-its-kind geothermal operation in the northern Nevada desert. Project Red, developed by a geothermal startup called Fervo, began pushing electrons onto a local grid that includes data centers operated by Google. The search company invested in the project two years ago as part of its efforts to make all of its data centers run on green energy 24/7.

    Project Red is small—producing between 2 and 3 megawatts of power, or enough to power a few thousand homes—but it is a crucial demonstration of a new approach to geothermal power that could make it possible to harness the Earth’s natural heat anywhere in the world .

    Hot rock is everywhere, with temperatures rising hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit within the first few miles of the surface, but geothermal plants provide just a small fraction of the global electricity supply. That’s largely because they are mostly built where naturally heated water can be easily tapped, like hot springs and geysers. Hot water is pumped to the surface, where it produces steam that powers turbines.

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      Study finds no “smoking gun” for mental health issues due to Internet usage / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 28 November - 14:27

    young woman using smartphone

    Enlarge / The report contrasts with a growing body of research in recent years that has connected the beginning of the smartphone era with growing rates of anxiety and depression, especially among teenage girls. (credit: Isabel Pavia )

    A study of more than 2 million people’s Internet use found no “smoking gun” for widespread harm to mental health from online activities such as browsing social media and gaming, despite widely claimed concerns that mobile apps can cause depression and anxiety.

    Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, who said their study was the largest of its kind, said they found no evidence to support “popular ideas that certain groups are more at risk” from the technology.

    However, Andrew Przybylski, professor at the institute—part of the University of Oxford—said that the data necessary to establish a causal connection was “absent” without more cooperation from tech companies. If apps do harm mental health, only the companies that build them have the user data that could prove it, he said.

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      Complex, volatile coast makes preparing for tsunamis tough in Alaska / ArsTechnica · Monday, 27 November - 14:42 · 1 minute

    Tsunami damage

    Enlarge / Damage from the 1964 earthquake and tsunami in Kodiak, Alaska. (credit: Education Images via Getty )

    On an overcast day in September, Heidi Geagel negotiates familiar potholes on a gravel road in Seldovia, Alaska. Cresting a hill topped with a small chapel, her town spreads out below—in the bay, gently rocking fishing boats; onshore, the Linwood Bar & Grill, the Crab Pot Grocery, and a couple dozen homes on stilts.

    Geagel, Seldovia’s city manager, turns around to three people sitting in the back seat, who partner with the United States’ National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program and have traveled in from Anchorage and Fairbanks for a meeting with community leaders about tsunami hazards. She points out how much of the landscape could be underwater if one of the giant, fast-moving waves were to hit: “Pretty much the entire map of Seldovia is in the inundation zone, except for this hill.”

    Alaska is uniquely vulnerable to two types of tsunamis. The first, tectonic tsunamis, are linked to the long string of volcanic islands that curves like a tail from the state’s southern tip; these islands mark the northern edge of the Ring of Fire, a geologically active zone that generates approximately 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes. Tracing those islands, deep under water, is the Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone, a trench where vast plates of hard rock overlap and friction slowly builds. Once or twice a year, the subduction zone generates earthquakes strong enough to trigger tsunami alerts; every 300 to 600 years or so, it ruptures in a megaquake that sends devastating tectonic tsunamis to Alaska’s shores.

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