WIRED Awake: 10 must-read articles for May 1
Jimmy Wales — Cofounder of Wikipedia
Your WIRED daily briefing. Today, Turkey has blocked access to Wikipedia, Elon Musk has outlined his plans for an underground road network, Twitter and Bloomberg are to announce the creation of a new streaming news service on the microblogging network and more.
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Turkey has entirely blocked Wikipedia, making it only the second country – after China – to prevent its citizens from accessing the online encyclopaedia (TechCrunch). The block was approved by Ankara’s first criminal court over Wikipedia’s refusal to remove content that Turkey’s Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ministry described as “part of an information source which is running a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena”. Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales responded on Twitter, saying that: “Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people, I will always stand with you and fight for this right.”
Elon Musk has said that his new urban tunnelling business would allow cars to travel at 200km/hour underground, slashing journey times from Westwood in Los Angeles to the city’s airport to just six minutes (WIRED). The business, which he calls The Boring Company, is initially targeting Musk’s home town of Los Angeles but could extend across the US. When asked about costs, Musk said the LA subway extension cost $2bn for two and a half miles so he’s hoping for “at least a tenfold improvement in the cost of tunnelling per mile with The Boring Company. Musk argued that tunnelling has advantages over flying cars. “There’s a challenge of flying cars – there’ll be quite noisy, the wind force generated will be quite high. And with these things above, it’s not an anxiety-reducing situation. You’ll think, did they service their hubcap – or will it come off and guillotine me?”
Media giant Bloomberg has told The Wall Street Journal that it will partner with Twitter to create the microblogging network’s first 24-hour streaming video news service. Bloomberg CEO Justin Smith said: “It is going to be focused on the most important news for an intelligent audience around the globe and it’s going to be broader in focus than our existing network.” The as-yet-unnamed feed will be running original content and will become the latest addition to Twitter’s growing range of discussion-driving streams, which have included sporting events and the USA’s presidential debates. An announcement confirming the partnership is to be made later today at an advertiser event run by Michael Bloomberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
Researchers in the USA have presented promising results from a trial that saw 107 sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) successfully treated with a combination of psychotherapy and the drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy (Science). The team, from the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), reports that 67 per cent of participants who received two or three sessions of MDMA-assisted therapy no longer suffered PTSD symptoms, as compared to only 23 per cent of the control group. The USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the data and recommended that the researchers move on to phase III trials: the last step before the drug can be approved for medical use.
A new study has demonstrated the protective effects of gut microbes in mice, showing that an undeveloped microbiome is a key reason that infants are more susceptible to infection than adults (Ars Technica). Adult germ-free mice were given a transplant of the gut contents of neonatal, adolescent and adult mice, altering their gut microbiome to match that of the donor. Although all of the recipients’ immune systems were fully developed, those that had infant microbiomes proved to be far more vulnerable to salmonella: half of them died, while all of the mice with adult microbiomes survived. The team then showed that introducing the naturally occurring symbiotic gut bacteria Clostridia greatly helped mice resist infection. The research adds to a growing body of evidence that points towards animals’ symbiotic microbiota as playing an important role in their health.
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Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Rocketry Team have successfully fired a rocket motor that they 3D printed out of plastic (Engadget). The team said that “we think this is the first time anyone has done so”. Although the rocket was only designed to be single use, they carried out two tests, once with a less energetic propellant, which worked successfully, and a second attempt with a more energetic propellant, which rapidly eroded the throat of the motor case – already damaged during the first firing , which was then unable to maintain pressure. The team has shared a video of its success, and said: “Printing rocket motors from plastic is a unique accomplishment. Several groups, including SpaceX and NASA, print rocket engines from metal. But metal printers are expensive, costing north of six figures. Our plastic motor is produced on an innovative, lower-cost plastic printer, which has a price accessible to hobbyists and small teams. We also designed our case to work with modern composite propellants.”
Ben Tippett, from the University of British Columbia, and David Tsang, from the University of Maryland, have devised a mathematical framework for travelling through time, and while the name of the paper, “Traversable acausal retrograde domains in spacetime”, might spell out the acronym TARDIS, the pair is serious about its implications (WIRED). “People think of time travel as something as fiction,” says Tippett. “And we tend to think it’s not possible because we don’t actually do it. But, mathematically, it is possible.” The method relies on the hypothetical existence of a form of exotic matter able to bend spacetime in a way that causes time to slow down. “The time direction of the spacetime surface also shows curvature. There is evidence showing the closer to a black hole we get, time moves slower,” explains Tippett. “My model of a time machine uses the curved spacetime to bend time into a circle for the passengers, not in a straight line. That circle takes us back in time.”
Amazon has announced that it will be ending its Underground Actually Free app programme, which allowed users to download normally-premium games and apps for free, and compensated developers based on the time users spent in each app (TechCrunch). Amazon’s Becky Young wrote: “Access to the Underground Actually Free store through Amazon’s Appstore for Android devices will end in summer 2017”. Amazon Fire tablet users will be able to use apps they’ve already installed and access the Underground store until it shuts down entirely in 2019.
Nintendo’s NES Classic Mini console sold 2.3 million units worldwide between its release in November 2016 and its discontinuation in April (VG24/7). Speaking to Time, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé said: “We had originally planned for this to be a product for last holiday. We just didn’t anticipate how incredible the response would be. Once we saw that response, we added shipments and extended the product for as long as we could to meet more of that consumer demand”. He also confirmed that Nintendo is currently focussed on its future – in the form of the very successful new Switch hybrid console – and didn’t indicate that the company has any current plans for a second edition release of NES mini consoles in the USA or Europe.
YouTube macro videography team The Macro Room have produced an astonishing short video showing clouds of ink merge and roil around tiny 3D printed planets and cities, creating colourful nebulae and highrise-engulfing fogs (Gizmodo). The hypnotic result looks like something out of a sci-fi film and makes for singularly mesmerising viewing.
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Nintendo has discontinued its massively popular NES Classic Mini console just months after launch, with every indication that the tiny, non-upgradeable, 50-game console was only ever supposed to lead a brief, shining existence as a festive special edition. However, just because Nintendo’s own Linux-based emulator console is off the market doesn’t mean you have to give up hope of getting your 1980s 8-bit kicks. Our Raspberry Pi 3 project comes in at a similar cost of around £50, depending on your choice of case and controllers, can give you far more than 50 games to play and isn’t hobbled by the oddly short controllers that came with Nintendo’s mini console.
She told Apple to pay $13 billion in back taxes – now she could change the way Google does search and Facebook does social. In this issue, we profile Margrethe Vestager, the woman bringing the European Commission’s fight against monopolies to the heart of Silicon Valley. Plus, we go inside the Macedonian fake news factory and hear how Brexit could impact the UK’s technology sector. Subscribe now and save.