Why Donald Trump’s war on Big Tech is doomed to fail

Patrick

Donald Trump is mad at Twitter, Facebook, and other big technology companies, and in an Oval Office statement on Thursday, he pledged to do something about it.

“A small handful of social media monopolies controls a vast portion of all public and private communications in the United States,” he said. “They’ve had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter, virtually any form of communication between private citizens and large public audiences.”

After his comments, Trump signed an executive order designed to bring social media companies to heel. But Trump has a problem: US law doesn’t give the president

Artificial “tongue” for maple syrup weeds out batches with “buddy” off flavors

Patrick
Enlarge / A sampling of different brands of Canadian maple syrup. Scientists at the University of Montreal have developed an artificial “tongue” using gold nanoparticles to detect batches with “buddy” off flavors.

Genuine maple syrup is a treat for the taste buds, whether you prefer light golden varieties or robust darker syrups. But sometimes batches can have off-putting flavors. Scientists at the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, have developed an artificial “tongue” using gold nanoparticles that can weed out bad batches early on. It’s not so much an electronic device as a simple, portable chemistry test that detects a

Choosing 2FA authenticator apps can be hard. Ars did it so you don’t have to

Patrick

Aurich & Hannah Lawson

Last year, Sergio Caltagirone found himself in a tough spot. While traveling, his phone broke and stopped working completely. With no access to his Google and Microsoft authenticator apps, he lost access to two-factor authentication when he needed it most—when he was logging in from IP addresses not recognized by the 30 to 40 sites he had enrolled.

“I had a whole bunch of sites [that] I had to go through a massively long account restoration process because I lost my 2FA,” said Caltagirone, who is senior VP of threat intelligence at security firm Dragos. “Every

Review: Revisit the controversial Biosphere 2 project with Spaceship Earth

Patrick

Official trailer for Spaceship Earth, a documentary about the controversial Biosphere 2 experiment in the early 1990s.

In September 1991, amid much media fanfare, eight people entered a closed experimental facility called Biosphere 2 for a two-year stint in total isolation. They endured hunger, a dangerous rise in CO2 levels, interpersonal squabbles, a media backlash, and sharp criticism from the scientific establishment. Today, most people might recall Biosphere 2 as a colossal failure. But the truth is much more nuanced than that, as we learn in Spaceship Earth, Director Matt Wolf’s self-described “stranger than fiction” documentary about the

Pixel Buds 2 review: These earbuds are “much better than OK,” Google

Patrick
Enlarge / OK Google, try again with Pixel Buds 2.

Sam Machkovech

The 2017 Pixel Buds were one of Google’s worst hardware launches in the company’s history. Really, these things were an utter nightmare. Their sound quality, feature set, awkward fit, and finicky case might have been tolerable as a free pair of buds included with a Google-branded phone—but not a standalone $160 purchase.

Any hardware refresh had enough work to do to catch up to 2017’s standard of quality and convenience, but Google put itself into a deeper hole by launching this month’s Pixel Buds 2 nearly three

On the Moon, astronaut pee will be a hot commodity

Patrick
Enlarge / Future moon bases could be built with 3D printers that mix materials such as Moon regolith, water, and astronauts’ urine.

Ever since President Donald Trump directed NASA to get boots on the Moon by 2024, the agency and its partners have been hard at work trying to make it happen. Late last month, NASA awarded contracts to three companies to develop a crewed lunar lander, but getting to the Moon is just the start. The agency also plans to build a permanent Moon basebefore the end of the decade and use it as a stepping

Right-to-repair groups fire shots at medical device manufacturers

Patrick

Buda Mendes | Getty Images

The website iFixit has long been known for its electronics repair kits and for its very public stance that repair manuals should be accessible to everyone. That’s one of the foundational arguments of the broader right-to-repair movement, which lobbies that regular consumers should be able to repair the products they’ve purchased—everything from smartphones to washing machines to farming equipment—without violating a warranty. Now, in the time of COVID-19, iFixit and a prominent consumer interest group are tackling a more immediate concern: access to repair manuals for medical devices.

The company said this week it’s releasing

The story of cheaper batteries, from smartphones to Teslas

Patrick

Aurich Lawson / Getty

In 2010, a lithium-ion battery pack with 1 kWh of capacity—enough to power an electric car for three or four miles—cost more than $1,000. By 2019, the figure had fallen to $156, according to data compiled by BloombergNEF. That’s a massive drop, and experts expect continued—though perhaps not as rapid—progress in the coming decade. Several forecasters project the average cost of a kilowatt-hour of lithium-ion battery capacity to fall below $100 by the mid-2020s.

That’s the result of a virtuous circle where better, cheaper batteries expand the market, which in turn drives investments that produce further

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