Cheating the System
In news that’s sure to annoy environmentalists and motorists alike, Volkswagen admitted this week to designing some of its diesel vehicles specifically to “cheat” on one-yearly emissions tests. The software that came preinstalled on any diesel car with a type EA189 two-liter engine (models included the VW Golf and Passat, the Audi A4, and the Skoda Octavia) changed the way the engine functioned when it thought there was a test being performed, lowering emissions of a class of compounds called nitrogen oxides, a component in smog. When not being tested, the engines get better fuel efficiency and performance, but emit as much as forty times the amount allowed in some countries. The company has already set aside roughly $7.3billion US dollars to cover the possibility of massive recalls and adjustments which, for the owners of the vehicles, will result in worse mileage, worse performance, less trunk space, or some combination of the above. Check out The Guardian and The Verge for more.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk thinks we should all switch to electric now, because, you know, emission-free.
France has declined an informal appeal made by Google after the country ordered that “right to be forgotten” requests be applied to all of Google’s international domains, and not just the ones in Europe where the rule currently applies. The Guardian reports that the CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés – National Commission on Information and Liberties) seems to think this doesn’t “show any willingness on the part of the CNIL to apply French law extraterritorially… [but] simply requests full observance of European legislation by non European players offering their services in Europe.” I don’t see how that’s the case, unless CNIL wouldn’t mind Google just blocking those results on those domains in France somehow. Google’s next step may simply be to let the CNIL fine it so it can contest the fine in France’s supreme court, but I wouldn’t put it past the search giant to simply pull out of France and let the people there vote out their government out of anger. I mean what are they going to use instead, Bing? The Guardian has more on the story.
A new version of Microsoft Office is out. For most Windows users, it’s not going to change much. There are a few new tweaks — better co-editing, for instance, and a “please god tell me how to do this I could have sworn I used to know how to use this software once” feature where you can just ask it how to do something — but for the most part it’s just last year’s Office with a slightly different look. Unless you’re a Mac user, in which case, congratulations! You can finally upgrade from Office 2011. Check out The Verge for more on the story.
Making a Withdrawal
When the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was opened in 2008, I’m not sure anyone imagined there would be a withdrawal so soon. Designed to last for hundreds of years — inside a sandstone mountain on a Norwegian island just over 800 miles from the North Pole and high enough above sea level to be safe from all the world’s ice melting — it’s just seven years in and already proving its worth. The International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) deposited 325 boxes of samples, and now it’s withdrawing 130 of them due to the Syrian war. The organization’s headquarters — with its own seed bank — was in Aleppo, and they’re moving to the safer location of Beirut. When the seeds are released — which Reuters says is only a matter of paperwork — ICARDA will continue its mission to improve farming resources for drier parts of the world. Check out Reuters for more on the story.
In case you missed it, here’s a rundown of what we covered here at This Week In Tomorrow. On Monday I posted pictures from an art exhibition by a talented female artist named Jennie Suddick called Of Nails and Rope Ladders; on Tuesday we ran a biosketch of Maria Goeppert-Mayer — the second and most recent woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics — as a part of our countdown to Ada Lovelace Day; on Wednesday I just couldn’t help but share the craziest damn theory for what causes solar eclipses I’d ever heard; on Thursday I explained the ruling that put “Happy Birthday to You” squarely in the public domain; and on Friday, Lindsey took a look at the #ShoutYourAbortion movement and how it’s fighting the respectability politics of abortion in the US. If you missed any of them, take a minute to go back and have a look. You won’t be disappointed.
Best of the Rest
There’s always so much more going on than I can possibly tell you about. So, as usual, here’s a little linkspam to keep you in the loop:
- Wired reports that the US is finally getting interested in fighting antibiotic resistance
- Spaceflight Now gives us a great update on the progress of the Boeing Starliner program
- The Washington Post has a great article on the Perlan 2 Glider, which hopes to get up to 90,000 feet without an engine in 2016
- Phys.org has a piece on a team that’s managed to make silver act like gold by making near-identical “superatoms” out of them
- The Verge reports that Apple wants its driverless cars to be on the market by 2019
- Gizmodo shows us a video of drone building a bridge so that the robot army won’t need to slow down, and
- Skepticalraptor gives us a rundown on that jackhole who bought a cheap drug and raised the prices and has now been publicly shamed for it
Just a few reminders before you go: Tuesday is the official release of the Tesla Model X; Monday is a press conference in which NASA will say “things” about Mars; and tonight is the supermoon eclipse which I’m hoping to watch if I can give up my old man ways and stay up past ten.