This week we’ve got some of the latest photos from Jupiter, the latest stories on transportation company Uber, and the Bitcoin upgrade that never was. It’s the science and technology roundup for Sunday, November 12, 2017!
First up this week we’ve got some stunning photos of Jupiter that have been making the rounds. Taken by Juno on October 24, the little probe that makes monthly breakneck dives through Jupiter’s deadly-to-electronics magnetic field caught incredible glimpses of the utterly incredible (and unfathomably powerful) storms at Jupiter’s poles. Check these out (click to embiggen).
There are even more photos to be seen if you go check out the Flickr album, and if you want to know more about the science of what you’re seeing in the photos, then Phil Plait’s got you covered over at SyFy. Truly incredible stuff.
Next up we’ve got two stories on Uber, as its fates swing wildly about in this brave new world of algorithms and worker exploitation. Earlier this week, Uber announced that it was partnering with NASA to work on air taxi control software. The plan is to work with other NASA partners to help create the software backbone of a driverless airborne taxi fleet. The phase of the project Uber would be involved in begins in 2019, and is about helping test services in dense, urban areas. Phases 1, 2, and 3 are for agricultural and firefighting drones, rural human transport, and suburban human transport (respectively), and Uber is not involved in any of those. Just a few days later, things got a little worse for Uber (though probably better for its UK drivers), when a court there ruled that it can’t classify its drivers as independent contractors, meaning that the payroll tax burdens and employee benefit requirements (and other laws pertaining to employees) do in fact apply to the company. Something tells me that the price of an Uber in the UK is about to go up—but if all they had to offer was price saving based on exploiting their workers, maybe it was never meant to be anyway. I guess we’ll see.
Bitcoin Upgrade Cancelled
Finally, you may have heard rumours that Bitcoin, long fractured by the block size debate, was finally getting an upgrade. The so-called “New York Compromise” was to create more unity in the developer base of the community by implementing two different growth strategies at once: “SegWit” (short for Segregated Witness) would keep the block size small but allow a little more data to be crammed in; this was to be packed along with an immediate doubling of the block size from 1MB to 2MB, and as such it was called “SegWit2x.” Many of the small block supporters were calling for a solo implementation of SegWit alone, and so were planning on not upgrading this week, which caused the SegWit2x developers to run home, tail between their legs. “Unfortunately, it is clear that we have not built sufficient consensus for a clean blocksize upgrade at this time,” read the message of cancellation that has left many in the Bitcoin community doubting that those responsible ever meant to implement any manner of block size increase at all. In response, at the time of writing this the price of Bitcoin has dropped some $1500 or so down to around $6000, while the price of an earlier Bitcoin fork, now called Bitcoin Cash (BCH or BCC, which has larger blocks and faster transaction times), has surged above $1500. Time will tell what the miners decide to do, but right now it’s much more profitable to mine Bitcoin Cash, so we may find out sooner rather than later.
Best of the Rest
Of course there’s always more to talk about than I can get to, so here it is, your weekly linkspam!
- A self-driving bus got crashed into by a bad human driver on its first day, because people suck at driving
- A new gene therapy has given a boy with incredibly fragile skin a new lease on life
- A Trump “space adviser” has proven he doesn’t understand space, or how to give good advice
- Syria has signed the Paris climate deal, leaving LITERALLY ONLY THE UNITED STATES OUT
- Some very smart people have started a company to teach robots how to do things themselves
- The US EPA has allowed the release of engineered mosquitoes to lower their population levels in 20 states
- Scientific consensus on the origins of the first Americans has shifted to the “kelp highway” hypothesis, and
- In a surprise to nobody at all, evidence shows that more guns do not keep people more safe
That’s all for today, folks. Have a great week.
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, YA author, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.