14 Aug 2022


Why Alphabet's 'Smart City' in Toronto Failed

Alphabet's "urban innovation" arm Sidewalk Labs planned to build a model "smart city" along a 12-acre patch of Toronto waterfront known as Quayside. But they abandoned the project in 2020, points out MIT's Technology Review, "at the tail end of years of public controversy over its $900 million vision for a data-rich city within the city." Sidewalk's big idea was flashy new tech. This unassuming section of Toronto was going to become a hub for an optimized urban experience featuring robo-taxis, heated sidewalks, autonomous garbage collection, and an extensive digital layer to monitor everything from street crossings to park bench usage. Had it succeeded, Quayside could have been a proof of concept, establishing a new development model for cities everywhere. It could have demonstrated that the sensor-Âladen smart city model embraced in China and the Persian Gulf has a place in more democratic societies. Instead, Sidewalk Labs' two-and-a-half-year struggle to build a neighborhood "from the internet up" failed to make the case for why anyone might want to live in it.... The project's tech-first approach antagonized many; its seeming lack of seriousness about the privacy concerns of Torontonians was likely the main cause of its demise. There is far less tolerance in Canada than in the U.S. for private-sector control of public streets and transportation, or for companies' collecting data on the routine activities of people living their lives. "In the U.S. it's life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," says Alex Ryan, a senior vice president of partnership solutions for the MaRS Discovery District, a Toronto nonprofit founded by a consortium of public and private funders and billed as North America's largest urban innovation hub. "In Canada it's peace, order, and good government. Canadians don't expect the private sector to come in and save us from government, because we have high trust in government." With its very top-down approach, Sidewalk failed to comprehend Toronto's civic culture. Almost every person I spoke with about the project used the word "hubris" or "arrogance" to describe the company's attitude. Some people used both. In February Toronto announced new plans for the area, the article points out, with "800 affordable apartments, a two-acre forest, a rooftop farm, a new arts venue focused on indigenous culture, and a pledge to be zero-carbon.... Indeed, the philosophical shift signaled by the new plan, with its emphasis on wind and rain and birds and bees rather than data and more data, seems like a pragmatic response to the demands of the present moment and the near future." The article calls it "a conspicuous disavowal not only of the 2017 proposal but of the smart city concept itself."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

14 Aug 2022 7:34am GMT

Are Things 'Looking Grim' For Movies Based on DC Superheroes?

"The fate of Warner Bros. DC Comics movies is looking grim," writes the Verge. Since April's merger between Warner Brothers and Discovery, they call it "fairly obvious" that "the new guard at Warner Bros. Discovery wants to jettison or at the very least put some distance between itself and the DC Extended Universe's current iteration (along with all the baggage associated with the endeavor.)" The DC Extended Universe was plagued by a number of issues long... like a general lack of cohesion, subpar storytelling, and an association with a toxic fandom whose obsession eventually devolved into harassment campaigns against studio executives. Looking back, Justice League as it was released in 2017 was a haphazard attempt to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that put far too much faith in the power of people's general familiarity with characters like Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman who didn't really have presences in the DC Extended Universe at the time. Screen Rant calls Justice League "a movie that polarized audiences and was less successful than Man of Steel at the box office" - then explains what happened next: The DC Extended Universe had been struggling with highly divisive or critically panned movies, such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, but it was not until Justice League that the franchise really took a significant financial hit. In addition, Justice League was also the start of a series of behind-the-scenes controversies, and at this point, it is difficult to picture the Justice League cast all returning for a sequel.... With Ben Affleck seemly done with Batman and the studio wanting to move away from everything Justice League-related, DC needed a way to combine what had been working, such as Jason Momoa's Aquaman and Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, with new strategies, such as Michael Keaton's [appearing in the upcoming Flash movie as] Batman. The answer seemed simple - the multiverse.... The fact that Batgirl, a movie that would have shown the aftermath of The Flash's multiverse journey, was canceled [last week] proves that the multiverse is no longer a priority for DC. Not only that but right before Batgirl's cancelation was announced, it was reported that Ben Affleck would replace Michael Keaton's rumored cameo in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.... During Warner Bros. Discovery's earning calls on August 5, CEO David Zaslav mentioned that the new management will make upcoming DC Extended Universe movies like Black Adam and The Flash "even better", suggesting that reshoots could be on the way.

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14 Aug 2022 3:49am GMT

Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough Confirmed: California Team Achieved Ignition. Research Continues

"A major breakthrough in nuclear fusion has been confirmed a year after it was achieved at a laboratory in California," reports Newsweek: Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) recorded the first case of ignition on August 8, 2021, the results of which have now been published in three peer-reviewed papers.... Ignition during a fusion reaction essentially means that the reaction itself produced enough energy to be self-sustaining, which would be necessary in the use of fusion to generate electricity. If we could harness this reaction to generate electricity, it would be one of the most efficient and least polluting sources of energy possible. No fossil fuels would be required as the only fuel would be hydrogen, and the only by-product would be helium, which we use in industry and are actually in short supply of.... This landmark result comes after years of research and thousands of man hours dedicated to improving and perfecting the process: over 1,000 authors are included in the Physical Review Letters paper. This week the laboratory said that breakthrough now puts researchers "at the threshold of fusion gain and achieving scientific ignition," with the program's chief scientist calling it "a major scientific advance in fusion research, which establishes that fusion ignition in the lab is possible at the National Ignition Facility." More news from this week's announcement by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Since the experiment last August, the team has been executing a series of experiments to attempt to repeat the performance and to understand the experimental sensitivities in this new regime. "Many variables can impact each experiment," Kritcher said. "The 192 laser beams do not perform exactly the same from shot to shot, the quality of targets varies and the ice layer grows at differing roughness on each target...." While the repeat attempts have not reached the same level of fusion yield as the August 2021 experiment, all of them demonstrated capsule gain greater than unity with yields in the 430-700 kJ range, significantly higher than the previous highest yield of 170 kJ from February 2021. The data gained from these and other experiments are providing crucial clues as to what went right and what changes are needed in order to repeat that experiment and exceed its performance in the future. The team also is utilizing the experimental data to further understanding of the fundamental processes of fusion ignition and burn and to enhance simulation tools in support of stockpile stewardship. Looking ahead, the team is working to leverage the accumulated experimental data and simulations to move toward a more robust regime - further beyond the ignition cliff - where general trends found in this new experimental regime can be better separated from variability in targets and laser performance. Efforts to increase fusion performance and robustness are underway via improvements to the laser, improvements to the targets and modifications to the design that further improve energy delivery to the hotspot while maintaining or even increasing the hot-spot pressure. This includes improving the compression of the fusion fuel, increasing the amount of fuel and other avenues. "It is extremely exciting to have an 'existence proof' of ignition in the lab," said Omar Hurricane, chief scientist for the lab's inertial confinement fusion program. "We're operating in a regime that no researchers have accessed since the end of nuclear testing, and it's an incredible opportunity to expand our knowledge as we continue to make progress." Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader hesdeadjim99 for sharing the news.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

14 Aug 2022 1:34am GMT

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