Hilarious deepfake turns Wednesday Addams into Ron Swanson – CNET

wedron2social

Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson would make the perfect addition to The Addams Family.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family movies and TV series is already kinda spooky, but when you replace her face with Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson, she seems even creepier. 

YouTuber Speaking of AI decided it would be fun to swap out actress Christina Ricci — who played Wednesday Addams in the 1993 film Addams Family Values — with the face of Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson played by Nick Offerman in this hilarious and convincing deepfake video.

Deepfakes are fake videos that convincingly show people appearing to be doing or saying things they never did. In this case, it’s grafting Swanson’s stern expression onto the face of Wednesday Addams.

In the deepfake video, we see Swanson’s mustached face on Wednesday Addams’ body. He looks just as perturbed to be stuck at summer camp with “normal” kids as Wednesday would. 

It’s hard now not to imagine Swanson as a distant Addams Family cousin. Both Swanson and Wednesday share a constant dislike for most people. Plus both actors Offerman and Ricci are experts at delivering deadpan dialog.

This isn’t the first time Offerman’s Ron Swanson character has been the subject of a disturbing yet funny deepfake video. YouTube user DrFakenstein swapped Swanson’s mustached mug to replace all the faces of every character in the ’90s family-friendly sitcom Full House.

The latest Section 230 hearing showed that Republicans want to make the internet smaller

Well, we had another hearing with the platform CEOs.

The dream with this sort of thing is that Congress shows up with a full command of the issues, and asks the CEOs good-faith questions about matters of policy and law. And then I’d come along at the end of the day to walk you through the more provocative questions and productive answers, and gesture at what likely policy outcomes we could expect from this exercise in representative democracy.

But “Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?,” a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, was not that kind of exercise. The word “sham” got kicked around a lot, especially by the participants. “Stunt,” too. Some of the Democrats declined to ask any questions at all.

It was not the first of these. In April 2018, House Republicans organized a hearing to investigate why the two conservative vloggers known as Diamond and Silk had experienced a decline in traffic sent to them by Facebook. The most likely explanation was that changes to Facebook’s algorithms often affect traffic patterns, to publishers of all kinds, although we would later learn that the changes made in 2017 largely benefited conservative publishers at the expense of more liberal ones.

In fact, most of the research I have read has suggested that conservatives reap outsized benefits from the existence of social media, which provides ample room for their views to make regular end runs around the mass media. On Wednesday morning, Media Matters published results of a nine-month study showing that right- and left-leaning pages generate engagement at similar rates — but that right-leaning pages generated 43 percent of total interactions by pages posted about American politics, despite making up only 26 percent of posts.

But the platforms are big, and make mistakes, and those mistakes turn into anecdotes. Anecdotes can be merged into a working theory about platform governance, such as that the platforms are biased against conservatives.

And so less than a week before the election, with their candidate trailing in polls and an effort to shake up the race with a story that dozens of former intelligence officials say is likely a Russian disinformation campaign failing to gain traction, Senate Republicans held a hearing to complain about the unfairness of it all.

Here are David McCabe and Cecilia Kang in the New York Times:

The theatrics, which often devolved into shouting, meant that the topic of the hearing — the future of a legal shield for online platforms — was barely debated. The event had been billed as a discussion about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that protects social media companies from liability for what their users post and is regarded as sacrosanct by the platforms. […]

But the hearing’s barbed exchanges pointed to how the debate over online speech has become increasingly divided, with the companies caught in the middle. Of the 81 questions asked by Republicans, 69 were about censorship and the political ideologies of the tech employees responsible for moderating content, according to a tally by The New York Times. Democrats asked 48 questions, mostly about regulating the spread of misinformation related to the election and the coronavirus pandemic.

More than one observer noted that the main point of the hearing seemed to be to generate clips of Republicans looking pugnacious in the face of hated Silicon Valley elites, which they could then distribute on those elites’ own platforms. (“Basically a TikTok house for politicians,” in the words of Protocol’s David Pierce.) This seemed especially true of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, who had promoted the fight on Twitter with a UFC-style infographic promising, in all caps, a FREE SPEECH SHOWDOWN. And, sure enough, his timeline today includes at least 19 clips of his sparring with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, including one that Cruz pinned to the top of his page for long-term viewing.

In the face of so much bad-faith arguing, I could not help but feel roused when Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) called the hearing “a scar on this committee.” “What we are seeing today is an attempt to bully the CEOs of private companies into carrying out a hit job on a presidential candidate by making sure they push out foreign and domestic misinformation meant to influence the election,” Schatz said, and I’m tempted to just leave the whole thing there.

Except that I can’t, because the question over Section 230 and how the internet ought to be regulated is one of the most important debates facing the tech industry. (If you’re unfamiliar with the law and the many controversies around it, I wrote an in-depth explainer earlier this year.)

Among Republicans, Democrats, and tech CEOs, there is agreement that the law is showing its age, and in need of updating. (Even if each group would amend it in very different ways.) And if you sweep away all the bad-faith arguments and even worse policy proposals, you’re left with genuine questions about power and responsibility. What speech should tech platforms be allowed to host, and to amplify? When they err, what is a just response? When a citizen is terrorized by online harassment, what recourse should they have?

From these broad questions, you might derive a basic set of principles. But that’s not enough to craft policy or law. To get there, you have to start asking really nettlesome questions.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter have signaled varying degrees of support for amending Section 230. Facebook has gone the furthest, suggesting that Congress set performance targets for the speedy removal of illegal content and requiring platforms to comply with them. Google and Twitter, by contrast, have encouraged restraint, noting that the ripple effects of such a change could be broad. (As Adi Robertson notes in this thread, changes to Section 230 could require newspapers to close their comments section, or consumer complaints sites to shut down completely.)

In fact, the last time Section 230 was amended — with Facebook’s full support — the ripples were broad and destructive.

The 2018 FOSTA-SESTA law, nominally designed to curb sex trafficking, resulted in many online personals sites shutting down completely over liability fears. Its aftermath confirmed what academics had long warned: that the most predictable effect of limiting Section 230 would be to prompt platforms to over-moderate themselves, limiting speech on the internet.

FOSTA-SESTA did not come up once today’s hearing — even though, in a sane world, that’s where the hearing would have begun.

Next time around, it won’t be the personals sites that suffer from Section 230 reform — they’re already gone. Nor is it likely to be Facebook, or Google, or Twitter, all of whom have the resources to adapt to whatever changes come their way. (Twitter has the fewest resources of the three, but it uses the same centralized moderation model that its peers do.)

Instead, the victims are likely to look more like Reddit, which relies on volunteers to help moderate the site in a way that an amended Section 230 might no longer allow. “What would be super unfortunate is if we end up throwing out 230 in an effort to punish the largest internet players for their perceived or real abuse of their dominance,” Reddit’s general counsel, Benjamin Lee, told Protocol. “Unraveling 230 would basically further ensure that dominance, while undermining the ability of smaller companies like Reddit to challenge that dominance with alternative models of innovation.”

I still believe that Section 230 can be modernized in a way that makes the internet better. If Senate Republicans had their way, though, the internet would only become smaller.

This column was co-published with Platformer, a daily newsletter about big tech and democracy.

2022 Genesis GV70 SUV debuts with spectacular looks – Roadshow

The GV70 will be Genesis’ smallest SUV.

Genesis

Genesis finally revealed the first photos of its new GV70 crossover without any camouflage on Wednesday, and it looks absolutely incredible. The GV70 will slot under the GV80 in the automaker’s lineup, essentially existing as the G70 sedan’s SUV counterpart. While Genesis hasn’t announced any real details about the GV70 just yet, there’s still a lot to talk about.

The GV70 takes obvious design cues from the GV80 and G80, with four thin LED headlights and taillights, a massive crest grille and a swage line that starts from the hood and falls back toward the taillights. The greenhouse gives us total Porsche 928 vibes (in a good way), with a body-color C-pillar and rear quarter window that give the GV70 a look unlike any other car on the road.

It’s the interior where things get especially radical. The GV70 has the same football-shaped steering wheel as the GV80, and that oval shape is carried through in the design of the dashboard. The climate controls consist of some physical buttons and a digital screen, and are situated in an oval that’s bisected by the steering wheel, with more buttons on the left side and some others integrated into the aluminum trim. A large touchscreen sits atop the dash, and some thin air vents are partly hidden in a piece of trim that encircles the entire interior.

This looks good.

Genesis

The center console houses a rotary gear selector and a second controller for the infotainment system. The example you see in these photos has some interesting silver and purple trim on the door cards and the sides of the center armrest, all in an oval shape, and other design elements like the door handles and door pockets are similarly shaped as well. As we’ve come to expect from Genesis, the detailing looks absolutely exquisite — you would never expect this interior to be in an “entry-level” model.

In addition to the standard model, Genesis also released photos of the GV70 Sport. It has a unique front bumper design with larger air intakes, more gloss-black trim, larger wheels and a different rear bumper with two big exhaust tips. The inside of the Sport gets a more traditional-looking steering wheel, microsuede upholstery and (likely faux) carbon fiber trim.

While we don’t have any powertrain specifics yet, we expect the GV70 to be offered with the same turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder and twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 as the GV80. The GV70 likely rides on the same platform as the GV80 and will be offered with rear-wheel drive as standard or all-wheel drive as an option. The Sport model may get more power than the standard versions, as well as different tuning for the suspension and steering.

The GV70 will go on sale by the end of this year in South Korea before hitting US shores at some point in 2021. Expect a starting price close to $40,000, with fully loaded models topping out close to the $60K mark.

Samsung posts highest-ever quarterly revenue as demand roars back – CNET

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Samsung has been getting a boost from its components business, which go in everything from phones to data centers. 

Angela Lang/CNET

The pandemic-caused lull in demand for phones appears to be over, at least for Samsung. The company on Wednesday reported its highest ever quarterly revenue, thanks to “significant increase in consumer demand” for its smartphones, computers and other products. 

The company reported its third-quarter operating profit soared 59% from the previous year to 12.35 trillion won ($10.9 billion), while its net profit jumped to 9.36 trillion won ($8.2 billion) from 6.29 trillion won. Sales climbed 8% to 66.96 trillion won ($59 billion), better than the 64.7 trillion won ($57 billion) expected by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. 

Samsung said it saw “a boost in demand for smartphones and consumer electronics as well as efficient cost management.” It also benefited from stronger sales of memory chips and other consumer products. “Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues around the world, reopening of key economies led to significant increase in consumer demand,” Samsung said in a press release. 

Still, Samsung warned its rebound may be short-lived. The company expects its profit to decline for the last three months of the year as server customers buy fewer memory chips and as competition heats up in smartphones and other consumer electronics. Apple, in particular, will be a tough rival for Samsung this quarter. The company introduced four new iPhones, all of which come with 5G connectivity.

Samsung does expect 2021 to be better for the electronics industry. The company predicted “a recovery in overall global demand” but noted that “uncertainties will remain over the possibility of recurring epidemic waves of COVID-19.”

Now playing: Watch this: The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the midrange phone to beat


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Samsung may be known as a giant in phones and TVs, but it also has huge businesses making components like memory chips. The company has counted on its components business to buoy its revenue, while its other electronics have struggled. Since the novel coronavirus pandemic began, Samsung’s chip business has gotten a boost from data centers that rely on the technology to store everything we’re doing online. But the smartphone sector boomed back in the third quarter, both in terms of handset sales and the memory chips used in those devices. 

“Overall market demand increased in the third quarter as stimulus measures helped many economies recover following lockdowns during the second quarter,” Samsung said. “The company’s smartphone sales rose sharply from the previous quarter, with the launch of new flagship models such as the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Z Fold 2, as well as stronger sales of mass-market models in key regions including India.”

A phone rebound

2020 was supposed to be a strong year for the phone industry, as innovations like 5G and foldable screens got people shopping again. Instead, financial struggles and worries about COVID-19 will limit the number of devices companies can make and how many phones people will actually buy.

Samsung was one of the first companies to release a phone with 5G, but it’s been surpassed by Huawei. The Chinese handset maker became the biggest smartphone vendor in the world in the second quarter, the first time in nine years that Samsung or Apple hasn’t held that title. And analysts expect Apple to become the world’s second biggest 5G phone vendor this year — with less than three months of sales. That puts Samsung, once the leader with the new connectivity, in third place. 

Still, Huawei’s struggles with the US government have benefited Samsung. The company has picked up more sales for its smartphones and its networking gear as customers worry about Huawei’s longevity in the electronics market. 

Samsung also has shifted its plans to deal with changing consumer preferences during the pandemic. In September, it introduced the Galaxy S20 FE, a cheaper model for its flagship smartphone lineup. The phone starts at $700 phone — $300 less than the regular S20 costs — and comes as the pandemic prompts demand for less expensive devices. 

That plans appear to be working. Samsung said sales in its mobile business climbed 6.1% from the previous year to 29.81 trillion won ($26.3 billion). The level is up a whopping 51% from the second quarter, when the pandemic hurt demand. Samsung attributed the climb to demand for its new flagship products.

It also noted that it cut marketing expenses. And within mobile, sales increased for Samsung’s new tablets and wearables including the Galaxy Tab S7, Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy Buds Live

Samsung’s consumer electronics division saw sharp growth in sales of premium TVs and appliances

At the same time, Samsung’s components business continues to see strong demand. While memory chip prices fell, strong demand for phones and PCs led to higher-than-expected shipments. The company also benefited from the sale of other components for smartphones, and its business manufacturing processor for customers got a boost from chip designers making parts for data centers. 

Earlier this month, Samsung said it expected its third quarter profit jumped 58% to 12.3 trillion won. It also projected its revenue increased by nearly 5% to 66 trillion won. Both amounts were higher than Wall Street’s consensus estimates at the time. 

AMD Might Benefit From Nvidia’s Mishaps

Illustration for article titled AMD Might Benefit From Nvidias Mishaps

Screenshot: AMD

Nvidia’s RTX 3070 officially hits retail stores tomorrow. After the fiasco that was the RTX 3080 release, actual buyers will hopefully be able to get their hands on these cards rather than see them snatched up by bots to scalp on eBay.

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After that previous incident, Nvidia said it was not prepared, nor were its partners, for such overwhelming demand. But Nvidia forum members and Twitter users were quick to point out that Nvidia hadn’t been using a CAPTCHA to prevent bot purchases at checkout, which led to many, many potential customers seeing “out of stock” notices as soon as the RTX 3080 went on sale.

Nvidia said it not only implemented a CAPTCHA at checkout this time around, but it also moved its store to a “dedicated environment with increased capacity and more bot protection” and “implemented additional security protections to the store APIs.” How these will work with the launch of the RTX 3070 tomorrow remain to be seen.

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If it goes well, great! But the RTX 3080 stock is still sold out everywhere. Amazon, gone. Newegg, gone. Nvidia shop, gone. Best Buy, gone. One of the only ways to get hold of an Nvidia RTX 3080 right now is to buy a pre-built PC, and not everyone is going to want to do that (or needs to). You might be able to find some at a Micro Center, but you have to buy one in person and there are only a handful of stores around the U.S. Of the 3080s I was able to find listed for sale, sellers on Amazon were not letting them go for under $1,000.

It’s also hard to know if anyone who tried to get a 3080 will opt for a 3070 instead. My guess is likely not. The performance increase from the 3070 to the 3080 is worth the extra $200. If this stock situation continues into next month (and for the moment there’s no consensus on when retailers, or what retailers, will start restocking the RTX 3080), that leaves the door open for AMD to attract more buyers, especially if its upcoming RX 6000-series cards do get equivalent or better performance than Nvidia’s 3000-series for a cheaper price.

But AMD will have to prepare for that potential influx of customers, and hopefully it takes every measure possible to prevent bots and scalpers from ruining all the fun. Nvidia’s cards are the more popular cards, but nefarious individuals might be looking to take advantage of the situation. For now, the best thing consumers can do is wait and hope—both that AMD’s new cards not only have the performance the company says they do, and that there’s stock to go around.

Astronomers probe black hole origins after 39 new cosmic collisions detected – CNET

The number of gravitational wave events, caused by massive collisions between black holes and neutron stars, has quadrupled. In a suite of new papers, researchers from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations cataloged 39 “new” events, adding to the 11 already detected since the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave detectors were switched on in 2015. 

Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time caused by collisions between black holes and other extreme cosmic phenomena. When massive cosmic bodies merge, they release exceptional amounts of energy, causing a wave to ripple out from their location. Eventually, that wave washes over the Earth, pinging detectors in the US (LIGO) and Italy (Virgo). Gravitational wave detections have revolutionized the way we see the universe, helping scientists to understand some of the most mystifying objects in space.

The new catalog, announced on Wednesday, is known as GWTC-2 and features 50 total events, including black hole mergers, neutron star mergers and, potentially, collisions between a black hole and neutron star. Thirty-nine events were detected between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2019 after the LIGO and Virgo facilities received a number of upgrades, increasing their sensitivity. 

The catalog update includes some of the most extreme cosmic collisions ever detected, including one revealed in September which created a black hole 150 times more massive than the sun — the biggest yet — and a particularly unusual merger between a black hole and a “mysterious object” that doesn’t seem to fit in with previous discoveries.   

But the merger motherlode has excited gravitational wave astronomers because it gives them a ton of new data with which to probe the very nature of these extreme cosmic collisions.

An animation displaying all 50 gravitational wave events detected since 2015.

Zoheyr Doctor/University of Oregon/LIGO-Virgo Collaboration

“It’s kind of like the difference between finding a single Iguanodon bone and finding hundreds of Iguanodon fossils,” explains Eric Thrane, an astrophysicist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and chief investigator with OzGrav, an Australian research center studying gravitational waves.

In one new preprint paper, submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the collaboration studied 47 of the 50 events and analyzed the physical properties of black hole mergers.

“Black holes are fascinating objects because they’re very simple,” says Thrane. “They only have two numbers describing them: their mass and their spin.”

The spin of a black hole can be determined by the gravitational wave signal. This gives scientists a window into how black holes meet and fall into each other in deep space, revealing how they met.

Black holes are created when huge stars collapse in on themselves. Sometimes, two stars have been orbiting each other for eons in what is known as a “binary.” Over time, they lose their mass and eventually die, collapsing to form black holes. But they continue orbiting each other until they collide and form a much larger black hole. In this instance, the spin doesn’t change — it points in the same direction. 

On the other hand, if the black holes have been wandering the cosmos in dense clusters of stars, all alone, then bump into one another, theory suggests this would mess with their spin. “When that happens, you’d expect the spin to be pointed in different directions,” says Thrane.

Importantly, with the truckload of new observations, the LIGO and Virgo collaboration are seeing both types of black holes. 

“We’re getting at the origin of where the black holes come from where [and] how they get together and merge,” says Thrane.

The last observation run by LIGO and Virgo, O3b, took place between Nov. 1 2019 and March 27, 2020 before being stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic. Data from this period is currently being analyzed and will expand the catalog of gravitational wave events, once again furthering our understanding of extreme cosmic collisions.

Sure, Buying a PS5 to Play Bugsnax for Free Isn’t Wise, but It Is Right

Illustration for article titled Sure, Buying a PS5 to Play Bugsnax for Free Isnt Wise, but It Is Right

Screenshot: PlayStation

Finally, a rare bit of good news.

Game studio Young Horses has revealed that its PlayStation release Bugsnax—a confounding game evidently about bugs that also are snacks—will be available to PlayStation Plus subscribers on PlayStation 5 the same day the device launches. And buddy, you better believe that the at-minimum $400 you’re going to throw at PlayStation’s next-generation console is going to be justified by this single game. Have you listened to its title track? (It slaps.) If you are not digitally downloading this game on day freaking one, what are you even doing?

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The good news is that if you do not have hundreds of dollars to spend on a new console right now, which personally I do not, Bugsnax will also be available on PS4—though you’ll have to pay for it if you’re gaming on the older console. Disc versions for both console generations are available for pre-order starting today for $40, as are a Bugsnax t-shirt and a Snax Pak pin collection that will absolutely trigger your cute aggression.

As a little treat, Young Horses also gave us some additional information about this frankly absurd-sounding PlayStation experience. You, a journalist, will hunt for a missing explorer named Elizabert Megafig on Snaktooth Island while recording findings about Bugsnax in your Bugapedia. (You will first have to scan them with your Snaxscope, obviously.) Along this hero’s journey, you will also meet creatures called, among other names, Flamin’ Cheepoofs and Grumpuses—a revelation that assures me this game is indeed as unhinged as it first sounded.

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“All of the Bugsnax you discover interact with the player’s traps and with each other to create satisfying strategies and delicious surprises,” gameplay designer John Murphy wrote in a PlayStation blog post about the game’s release. “The Grumpuses of Snaktooth Island all have their own unique cravings for Bugsnax. It’s your job to catch and feed them those Bugsnax, but how you hunt those snax is up to you!”

Delightful. Just a perfect game concept.

Bugsnax 100% sounds like it was conceived after an especially long bong rip, and I for one cannot wait for every bizarre moment of gameplay.

Secret surfing life of remoras hitchhiking on blue whales

Sticking to the bodies of sharks and other larger marine life is a well-known specialty of remora fishes (Echeneidae) and their super-powered suction disks on their heads. But a new study has now fully documented the “suckerfish” in hitchhiking action below the ocean’s surface, uncovering a much more refined skillset that the fish uses for navigating intense hydrodynamics that come with trying to ride aboard a 100-ft. blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus).

In a study published Oct. 28 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, an international team of researchers studying the unique fluid environments of blue whales traveling off the coast of Palos Verdes and San Diego, CA has reported capturing the first-ever continuous recording of remora behavior on a host organism, using advanced biosensing tags with video recording capabilities.

The study shows the secrets behind the remora fish’s success in hitchhiking aboard baleen whales more than 30 times their size to safely traverse the ocean — they select the most flow-optimal regions on the whale’s body to stick to, such as behind the whale’s blowhole, where drag resistance for the fish is reduced by as much as 84%. The team’s findings also show that remoras can freely move around to feed and socialize on their ride even as their whale host hits burst speeds of more than 5 meters per second, by utilizing previously unknown surfing and skimming behaviors along special low-drag traveling lanes that exist just off the surface of the whale’s body.

Researchers say the study represents the highest-resolution whole-body fluid dynamic analysis of whales to date, the insights from which could potentially be used as a basis to better understand the behavior, energy use and overall ecological health of the species, as well as improve tagging and tracking of whales and other migratory animals in future studies.

“Whales are like their own floating island, basically like their own little ecosystems. …To get a look into the flow environment of blue whales within a millimeter resolution through this study is extremely exciting,” said Brooke Flammang, assistant professor of biology at New Jersey Institute of Technology and the study’s corresponding author. “Through lucky coincidence, our recordings captured how remoras interact in this environment and are able to use the distinct flow dynamics of these whales to their advantage. It is incredible because we’ve really known next to nothing about how remoras behave on their hosts in the wild over any prolonged period of time.”

Until now, scientists studying the symbiotic relationships between remoras and their hosts in their natural ocean habitat have predominantly relied on still images and anecdotal evidence, leaving much of how they go about their renown sticking behavior beneath the surface a mystery.

In their recent investigation, the researchers employed multi-sensor biologging tags with dual cameras that they attached to the whales via four 2-inch suction disks. The tags were able to calculate various measurements inside the whale’s ecosystem, such as surface pressure and complex fluid forces around the whales, as well as GPS location and traveling speeds through tag vibrations, all while video recording the remoras at 24 frames per second and 720p resolution.

“Fortunately, the drag on dimple-shaped airplane cockpits has been measured many times and we were able to apply this knowledge to help figure out the drag these remoras were experiencing,” said Erik Anderson, co-author, biofluid dynamics researcher at Grove City College and guest investigator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “But our study still required calculating, for the first time ever, the flow over a blue whale using computational fluid dynamics … it took an international team of biologists, programmers, engineers and a supercomputer to do that.”

The team’s 211 minutes of video footage and whale tag data processed by researchers at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center captured a total of 27 remoras at 61 locations on the whales overall, finding that the remoras were most often podding and traveling between three of the most hydrodynamically beneficial spots where separating flow and wakes are caused by the whale’s distinct topographical features: directly behind the blowhole, next to and behind the dorsal fin, and the flank region above and behind the pectoral fin.

According to the team’s measurements, Anderson says that the shear force experienced by an average-sized remora in the wake behind the blow hole of a whale swimming at the casual speed of 1.5 m/s can be as low as 0.02 Newtons, half the force of drag in the free stream above. However, Anderson notes that the average remora’s suction force of 11-17 Newtons is more than a match for even the most intense parking spot on the whale, its tail, where the remora experiences roughly 0.14 Newtons of shear force. And though the forces are greater, the same is true even for large remora riding on whales swimming at much higher speeds.

“We learned that the remora’s suction disk is so strong that they could stick anywhere, even the tail fluke where the drag was measured strongest, but they like to go for the easy ride,” said Erik Anderson. “This saves them energy and makes life less costly as they hitchhike on and skim over the whale surface like a NASA probe over an asteroid or some mini-world.”

Remoras Go Surf’s Up

The tags showed that to conserve energy while getting about on their floating island, the remoras take advantage of the whale’s physics by surfing inside a thin layer of fluid surrounding the whale’s body, known as a boundary layer, where the team found drag force is reduced by up to 72% compared to the much more forceful free stream just above. Flammang says the fishes can lift within 1cm from their host in this layer to feed or join their mates at other low-drag social spots on the whale, occasionally changing directions by skimming, or repeatedly attaching and releasing their suction disks on the whale’s body.

Flammang suspects that remoras are able to move freely without being completely peeled from their speedy hosts, which can move nearly seven times faster than the remora, through something called the Venturi effect.

“The skimming and surfing behavior is amazing for many reasons, especially because we think that by staying about a centimeter off the whale body, they are taking advantage of the Venturi effect and using suction forces to maintain their close proximity,” explained Flammang. “In this narrow space between the remora and whale, when fluid is funneled into a narrow space it moves at a higher velocity but has lower pressure, so it is not going to push the remora away but can actually suck it toward the host. They can swim up into the free stream to grab a bite of food and come back down into the boundary layer, but it takes a lot more energy to swim in the free stream flow.”

Along with uncovering new details of the remora’s hitchhiking prowess, the team says they will continue to explore both the flow environments around whales and the mechanisms by which specifically adapted organisms like remoras successfully attach to hosts in order to improve animal tag technologies and designs for extended periods of behavioral and ecological monitoring. The team is also using their new insights into the remora’s preferred low-drag attachment locations to better inform where they might tag whales in studies to come.

“It’s an extremely arduous process to study whales what with permitting, research regulations and the game of chance of finding animals, all for the tags to usually fall off within 48 hours,” said Flammang. “If we can come up with a better way to collect longer term data through better tag placement or better technologies, it could really advance our learning of the species, and many other animals that remoras attach to.”

Halo Infinite loses director after being delayed to 2021 – CNET

343 Industries

Halo Infinite is the biggest game on the Xbox Series X’s horizon, but its development is looking increasingly troubled. After the game was delayed to 2021 from its originally scheduled launch in November, Bloomberg reports Halo Infinite lost its director, Chris Lee. 

Lee, a senior employee of Halo Infinite development studio 343 Industries, stepped back from his role as director earlier in the year, following a deflated fan response to an August showcase of the upcoming game. Fans were particularly disappointed by its graphics, criticizing Halo Infinite as not looking like a next-generation AAA title. 

“I have stepped back from Infinite and I am looking at future opportunities,” Lee said to Bloomberg. “I believe in the team and am confident they will deliver a great game and now is a good time for me to step away.”

Microsoft has confirmed the move. “Chris Lee remains a Microsoft employee and while he has stepped back from Halo Infinite right now, we appreciate all he has done for the project to date,” a spokesperson said. 

Perhaps most concerning is that Lee is the third key staff member Halo Infinite has lost. Creative director Tim Longo departed 343 Studios last August, and executive producer Mary Olson followed in October

Halo Infinite is a game of great importance for Microsoft. It’s key to selling not just the upcoming Xbox Series S and X consoles, but also the Xbox Game Pass service, in which users pay $10 per month for access to over 100 games, upon which Microsoft’s next-gen future equally relies. 

As it stands, the Xbox Series S and X will instead launch alongside AAA-but-multiplatform games Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion and Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War.