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The Falcon Heavy has a launch date, and this time it seems real

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Enlarge / Rendering of a Falcon Heavy on the launch pad. (credit: SpaceX)

Thursday night, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted that the Falcon Heavy rocket would make its maiden launch in November from Launch Complex-39A in Florida. Although this event has been long promised by the company, with real hardware being tested and moved across the country, this date finally feels real.

Musk has recently attempted to set expectations for the maiden launch, which will carry a dummy payload because the rocket is so experimental. "I encourage people to come down to the Cape to see the first Falcon Heavy mission," Musk said earlier this month during a talk at the International Space Station Research & Development Conference. "It's guaranteed to be exciting."

The Falcon Heavy is powered by a modified Falcon 9 rocket as its center core, with two Falcon 9 first stages as side boosters. To work, its 27 orbital-class engines must ignite simultaneously, and SpaceX has been conducting tests on the ground. But the challenges don't end there. The company isn't sure about the airflow around the rocket as it goes through the sound barrier, nor how it will handle loads at MaxQ, when the vehicle is under maximum dynamic pressure.

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In wake of CTE study, Ravens’ smarty John Urschel retires from football at 26

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Enlarge / John Urschel, #64 of the Baltimore Ravens, retired from football. (credit: Getty | Matt Hazlett)

John Urschel, a Baltimore Ravens’ offensive lineman and PhD candidate in applied mathematics at MIT, has announced his retirement from football at the age of 26. The announcement comes just days after publication of a case study that found widespread signs of a degenerative brain disease among football players who donated their brains to research.

"This morning John Urschel informed me of his decision to retire from football," Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. "We respect John and respect his decision. We appreciate his efforts over the past three years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Urschel played with the Ravens for three seasons and was competing for the starting center job. Thus far, he has not publicly discussed his reasoning for the early and abrupt retirement, which was announced just before the first full-team practice. However, a team source told ESPN that his decision was linked to the new brain study.

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India’s transport minister vows to ban self-driving cars to save jobs

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Enlarge / Nitin Jairam Gadkari, minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping of India at the India Economic Summit 2016 in New Delhi, India. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell (credit: World Economic Forum)

Companies in the United States, Germany, Japan, and other countries are racing to develop self-driving cars. But India's top transportation regulator says that those cars won't be welcome on Indian streets any time soon.

"We won’t allow driverless cars in India," said Nitin Gadkari, India's minister for Road Transport, Highways, and Shipping, according to the Hindustan Times. "I am very clear on this. We won’t allow any technology that takes away jobs."

In recent years, new technology has mostly created jobs for drivers. In India, the leading ride-sharing services, Ola and Uber, completed 500 million rides in 2016, creating work for Indian drivers. But Uber's ultimate goal is to introduce fully self-driving cars that will make these driving jobs obsolete.

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Why did United try to ban Comic-Con travelers from checking comic books?

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Travelers leaving San Diego Comic-Con on United Airlines got an unwelcome surprise this weekend, when United said that comic books were banned in checked luggage. United claimed this was a TSA-mandated rule for all airlines operating out of San Diego — only to have the TSA publicly refute United’s claim on Twitter.

As The Consumerist reported yesterday, United posted a notice telling “Comic-Con attendees [to] remove all books from checked bags.” When people complained on Twitter, United confirmed the news. “The restriction on checking comic books applies to all airlines operating out of San Diego this weekend and is set by the TSA,” a spokesperson wrote. From there, things got even weirder: it told one confused attendee that only comic books were banned in checked baggage, while regular books were “A-OK.” But then, the TSA categorically denied this rule’s existence, saying that all books were fine in both checked and carry-on baggage.

“They are incorrect. There is no problem with [people] taking comic books, which are not a security threat, in their checked baggage,” TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers told The Verge. “The bottom line is, there's no restriction. We're working with United Airlines to figure out where this is coming from.” The agency also posted a tweet telling United that there was no rule about checking books of any kind.

A TSA spokesperson told The Consumerist that it would contact any airlines that promoted this “rule,” but as far as we know, only United posted anything about it. Dankers described a previous incident where Southwest Airlines incorrectly advised against packing glossy magazines, but said it was unrelated. It’s not clear how widely United enforced its fake restriction, although the aforementioned attendee apparently did end up packing her comics in a carry-on.

So how did this happen? Dankers didn’t speculate, and United hasn’t responded to our request for comment yet. But it’s possible that United massively misread a 2016 TSA blog post aimed at Comic-Con attendees. In a list of “suggestions” for packing, it advised putting brochures, comic books, and magazines in carry-on bags instead of checked luggage, because large stacks of them could trigger bag searches that slowed down security. But that was a logistical guideline, not a literal security rule.

This isn’t the first book-related TSA scare we’ve had this year. In May, a report suggested that people might have to start taking all books out of carry-on bags during security screenings, something the agency later said was part of a small, discontinued test program. It’s not often you see the TSA come out of an airport security story looking like the heroes.... but then again, it’s hard to find an airline that’s more widely hated than United, too.

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How to get free US military weapons—build fake website and DOD will oblige

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Enlarge / Some of the free gear the Defense Department handed over to a fake police agency with a fake website. (credit: GAO)

If you're not a US military or police buff, you probably have never heard of the 1033 Program. It essentially provides a bureaucratic means to transfer excess military grade weapons to local law enforcement agencies. Sure, you may not like local police departments having all types of military gear, such as grenade launchers, helicopters, boats, M14s, M16s, and so on.

And you probably won't like how the agency seemingly doles out the weapons to anybody. All you have to do is apply, create a fake website, and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) will oblige. Law enforcement experience is not required. There doesn't seem to be a requirement that the requesting agency actually be real, either.

That's according to a new Government Accountability Office report. The government auditing agency created a fake website of a fake police department and applied for the surplus goods. The fake agency was handed $1.2 million in weapons, including night-vision goggles, simulated rifles, and simulated pipe bombs. The simulated rifles and pipe bombs could have been turned into "potentially lethal items if modified with commercially available items," according to the report. Simulated weapons are used for training purposes.

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Delta Enters Next Phase Of Testing Fingerprints As Boarding Passes

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Back in May, Delta announced that it would test allowing a subgroup of passengers to access its Sky Club lounge at Reagan National Airport using only a fingerprint. That test was apparently successful, and now the airline will begin allowing that same group of passengers to actually board the aircraft using their fingerprint instead of a boarding pass.

If you want to try the service, now it’s only available to passengers boarding flights at Reagan National Airport (DCA) who are members of Delta’s SkyMiles frequent flyer program and CLEAR, a third-party service that lets travelers zoom past security lines for $179 per year.

Being part of CLEAR puts your fingerprint on file, since that’s how the service authenticates you. Delta combines this information with your boarding pass data, and now a fingerprint sensor has been added at boarding,

The final phase will allow travelers to check their bags using a fingerprint in place of a boarding pass, possibly eliminating the need to bother with boarding passes at all for the subgroup of passengers eligible to use the program.

Coming soon to a finger near you?

After Delta sees that everything is working, you might see this service available at an airport near you sooner than you think.

“Once we complete testing, customers throughout our domestic network could start seeing this capability in a matter of months – not years. Delta really is delivering the future now,” Delta’s senior executive vice president and chief operating officer Gil West said in a statement, using what would perhaps be a more appropriate tagline for UPS or FedEx.

Other airlines are also experimenting with biometric boarding and checkin, though JetBlue and British Airways have their hopes pinned on facial recognition technology, not fingerprints.







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1 public comment
mkalus
7 days ago
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Time to buy a boat if I want to go abroad.
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
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