TLDR Daily Update 2019-10-16

Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, OpenAI’s Dactyl solves Rubik’s cube

Big Tech & Startups

In new headache, WeWork says it found cancer-causing chemical in its phone booths (2 minute read)

WeWork has closed down around 2,300 phone booths at some of its sites in the US and Canada after it discovered elevated levels of formaldehyde. The discovery was made after a tenant complained of odor and eye irritation. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to the development of certain types of cancers. WeWork is currently facing cashflow issues, and the extra costs of testing and replacing the booths will add to their problems. It is currently in talks with SoftBank and JPMorgan Chase over deals that can help save the company.

Google announces Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL (2 minute read)

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL have been officially announced at an event in New York City. It is now available for preorder and will ship on October 24th. There will be three new colors: white, black, and a limited-edition orange option. The Pixel 4 will have a 5.7-inch display at 1080p and start at $799, and the Pixel 4 XL will have a 6.3-inch Quad HD display and start at $899. Both devices will have a 90Hz max refresh rate, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 processor, and will come in either 64GB or 128GB storage with 6GB RAM. Google has developed its own face unlock system and an interaction method called Motion Sense, which allows the Pixel 4 to be controlled with hand gestures. The camera now has a telephoto portrait lens beside the standard primary rear camera. New software has also been added to improve photography features, and there is a new Recorder app that can transcribe text that can be searched.
Science & Futuristic Technology

NASA engineer's 'helical engine' may violate the laws of physics (3 minute read)

An engine designed by David Burns at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama may be able to travel across the stars without any propellant at all. The design uses a change in mass in a key component to create forward acceleration. Burns' current design would require a 200 meter long, 12 meter in diameter engine, requiring 165 megawatts of power to generate 1 newton of thrust. Previous attempts at designing propellant-less engines have failed due to the law of conservation of momentum. Burns says that much of the energy that the accelerator will lose in heat and radiation will be able to be harvested and that momentum can be conserved through the spin of the accelerated ions used in the engine.

OpenAI’s AI-powered robot learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube one-handed (6 minute read)

OpenAI's latest milestone has its Dactyl robotic hand solving a Rubik's cube one-handed. Dactyl learned to solve the cube through virtual simulations, and the feat demonstrates the dexterity of its robotic appendages. Videos are available that show Dactyl solving the Rubik's cube. This project demonstrates how a robot can learn to perform a variety of real-world tasks without having to train for long periods of time and without needing to be specifically programmed. Other robots have been able to solve the Rubik's cube at much faster rates, but the Dactyl was able to solve it without having been built for that purpose.
Programming, Design & Data Science

hyperfine (GitHub Repo)

hyperfine is a command-line benchmarking tool. It is able to show statistical analysis across multiple runs, support arbitrary shell commands, provide constant feedback about benchmark progress, detect statistical outliers, export results to various platforms, and more. It is cross-platform and be run on Linux, macOS, and Windows systems.

The Unix Game (Website)

The Unix Game is a programming contest where players solve coding challenges by constructing pipelines of UNIX text processing utilities to complete the solution. There is a leaderboard and users can display badges of honor to showcase progress to friends.

I just lost my wallet on the way home from work (Twitter Thread)

After Twitter user Tim Cameron lost his wallet without much identifying information, he was surprised when a good samaritan contacted him via his bank account. The person who found his wallet made four separate transactions of £0.01 each, using the 18-character-limit reference to send Cameron a contact number to reclaim the property. Bank cards in the UK have bank account details printed on them. The thread replies have anecdotes of how other people have used technology creatively to return lost items to their owners.

Google employees are fighting over their company’s decision to ban a Hong Kong protest video game app (6 minute read)

Google removed a pro-Hong Kong protestor mobile game from the Google Play store, resulting in many of its employees posting messages of solidarity with Hong Kong protesters in internal mailing lists and message boards. The issue was addressed by leadership at the company's most recent TGIF meeting, where a debate occurred about Google's ethical responsibilities regarding supporting democratic movements. The Revolution of Our Times was a game that allowed players to participate in virtual recreations of the pro-democracy demonstrations. Proceeds from the game were donated to charity. Google claims that the game capitalized on sensitive events, which violated one of its policies. Other tech companies such as Blizzard and Apple have recently made controversial decisions related to the protests in Hong Kong.

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