WIRED Awake: 10 must-read articles for November 30
Your WIRED daily briefing. Today, a new shelter has been placed over Chernobyl’s Unit 4 reactor, Ford will start testing self-driving cars in the UK next year, the Internet Archive wants to set up a Canadian backup archive following Trump’s election and more.
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The Chernobyl Unit 4 nuclear reactor in Ukraine, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, has now been safely covered by a new shelter (Ars Technica). The New Safe Confinement (NSC) shelter has been moved into place inch-by-inch on tracks over the last few days and, at 108 metres high and 257 metres tall, is the largest mobile metal structure in the world. The NSC is built to keep in any radiological releases from the ruined reactor for the next 100 years, as well as serving to protect the site from environmental damage.
Ford has confirmed that, starting in 2017, it will be testing autonomous cars at research facilities in Essex, and in Aachen and Cologne in Germany (TechCrunch). The testing is part of a lead-up to Ford’s planned launch of an autonomous ride-sharing fleet in Europe, some time after the service’s planned US debut in 2021. Ford has been surveying Europeans for their opinions on self-driving car technology – only 16 per cent would trust an autonomous car to drive their kids to school – and has also found that Europeans spend an average of 10 entire days every year in their cars.
The Internet Archive – the world’s largest repository of the web’s history – has announced that it plans to create a complete copy of its digital collections in Canada because “lots of copies keep stuff safe” (Motherboard). The move has been prompted by the pending US regime change following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, which the organisation describes as a “firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change.” The Archive’s content includes the Wayback Machine, which stores iterated versions of websites, saving more than 300 million pages every week. Concerned and appreciative users are encouraged to donate whatever they’re able.
The ExoMars Trance Gas Orbiter (TGO) has sent back the first images of Mars taken since it arrived in orbit on October 19 (BBC). The orbiter’s CaSSIS (the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System) camera system has captured high resolution imagery of the Hebes Chasma as a distance of just 250km above the planet’s surface. Although its accompanying Schiaparelli lander failed to deploy on its descent to the Martian surface, the TGO is working as intended and is set to continue on its seven-year mission, which will also see it acting as a communication link to future ExoMars rovers and landers.
After months of rumours and anticipation, Sky has officially announced Sky Mobile – a new mobile network designed to rival the likes of EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three (WIRED). Sky Mobile comes with three plans – 1GB for £10 per month, 3GB for £15 per month and 5GB for £20 per month. Non-Sky TV customers can add Unlimited Calls and Texts for £10 per month, or pay for calls and texts on a Pay As You Use (PAYU) basis. This means they don’t pay for inclusive calls and texts they don’t need. This latter feature’s flexibility is unique to Sky Mobile, and the firm said it is offering “something entirely different for the UK mobile market”. For example, for the first time mobile owners will be able to keep unused data for up to three years.
Ada Poon and her team at Stanford University in the USA have modified mice by introducing genetically engineered brain cells into the premotor cortex, which sends signals to the rodent’s muscles (Popular Science). This allows their movement to be remote controlled by a tiny light embedded in the mouse’s skull. When the modified neurons are exposed to light, they activate, prompting the mouse to begin running in a circle. Unlike previous wireless control experiments, the implant doesn’t require the mouse to carry a bulky and conspicuous battery pack, but is instead powered wirelessly, using radio waves transmitted through a specially designed cage.
Creator of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has described the Investigatory Powers Bill as a “security nightmare” (BBC). Speaking in an interview with the BBC Lee said that “the bulk collection of everyone’s internet browsing data is disproportionate, creates a security nightmare for the ISPs who must store the data – and rides roughshod over our right to privacy. Meanwhile, the bulk hacking powers in the Bill risk making the internet less safe for everyone.” A petition calling for the act to be repealed has now exceeded 140,000 signatures, although it’s very unlikely to succeed, with the bill set to become law before the end of the year.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has signed on as creative producer to adapt Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy, starting with The Name of the Wind, for TV (io9). The series documents the life of arcanist and musician Kvothe in a world of otherworldly threats and human intrigue. Miranda, best known for creating Broadway hit Hamilton and composing the score to Disney’s Moana said that “Pat writes about the act of making music more beautifully than any novelist I’ve ever read.”
If you own a copy of Darksiders on either Steam or GOG, it’ll be automatically upgraded to THQ Nordic’s new and improved Warmaster Edition (PC Gamer). The newly revised version of the game, which was first released in 2010, introduces 4K support, re-rendered cutscenes, doubled texture resolutions, new graphics options, Steam controller support and Steam trading cards. Darksiders follows the journey of apocalyptic horseman War as he strives to clear his name in the midst of the final conflict between Heaven and Hell. If you don’t own the game, it’s currently available for a heavy discount on both distribution platforms.
Facebook is continuing its push into gaming with the launch of a slate of games playable from within Messenger chats (WIRED). The new Instant Games feature lets you play Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Words with Friends: Frenzy and 14 other casual and competitive titles directly in your chat window. The feature works through both your phone’s Messenger app and within chat tabs on your desktop Facebook homepage. In any chat window, you’ll now see a game controller icon. Tap it, and you’ll be presented with a list of games to play. Select one that takes your fancy, it loads near-instantly, and you’re good to play. Once your ’round’ is over and you’ve set a high score, you’ll be able to share it with your friends. Instant Games works perfectly well in chats with just two partners, but comes alive in group chats, where each group gets its own leaderboard.
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First it was ARM, then NXP and more recently Skyscanner. These jewels in the crown of the UK’s economy have all been bought in recent months (for a combined total of around $71 billion) by international tech giants eager to take advantage of Europe’s thriving tech hub. Far from being a relatively new phenomenon, though, this trend has been rising since 2011, and has been led by the likes of Apple and Google. Now, a chart in this year’s State of European Tech report has highlighted just how many acquisitions have been made in Europe by tech giants in the past five years.
In this month’s issue we reach for the skies. We meet the visionaries reinventing flight for us all here on Earth and as we look to journey beyond our planet. We handpick our favourite gear of the year and give a preview of The WIRED World in 2017. The fifth annual yearbook hits newsstands and app stores this month and shows virtual reality, post-reality, CGI celebrities and contagious diseases that are going to start making news over the next 12 months. Out now in print, iPad and iPhone. Subscribe now and save.