One thing we do regularly at Ars is try out new types of content. We can make some pretty informed guesses as to what our readers will want to see but still find ourselves surprised at times—who knew you guys would be such big archeology fans?
But you readers have made it very clear that you're really not into scientific awards and prizes. We've tried out a number and received a clear message: not interested. The one, not-surprising exception had been the Nobel Prizes, which consistently drew a significant readership. (That shouldn't be much of a surprise, given that our science section started out as a blog named Nobel Intent.)
But that's started to change over the last couple of years, and with the falling reader interest, we're starting to re-evaluate our decision to cover these prizes. So, what follows is an attempt to spell out the pros and cons of Nobel coverage and an opportunity for you to give us your thoughts on the matter.
James Dyson, the inventor and Brexiteer, revealed in 2017 that his company was planning on making an electric vehicle. The plan was to invest $3.2 billion (£2.5 billion) in the project, which would capitalize on the company's expertise with smaller electric motors—the ones in his vacuum cleaners—as well as developing solid-state batteries to power the vehicle. The battery EV was due to arrive in 2021 and would have been built not in the UK but in Singapore. But now, those plans are cancelled.
Despite developing what he referred to as "a fantastic car," in an email to his staff Dyson revealed that "[t]hough we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to make it commercially viable." Which is bad news for the 532 employees who have been working on the Dyson BEV for the last four years, although the company will do its best to absorb those workers into other roles.
In the email, Dyson revealed that he had been trying to find a buyer for the project but was unable to do so. This difficulty will come as no surprise to industry watchers; although Tesla has managed to establish itself as a car company, it's had a harder time making money selling those cars. Meanwhile, other more recent entrants like Faraday Future and Nio have had an ever rougher time.
More than a year has passed since Bloomberg Businessweek grabbed the lapels of the cybersecurity world with a bombshell claim: that Supermicro motherboards in servers used by major tech firms, including Apple and Amazon, had been stealthily implanted with a chip the size of a rice grain that allowed Chinese hackers to spy deep into those networks. Apple, Amazon, and Supermicro all vehemently denied the report. The National Security Agency dismissed it as a false alarm. The Defcon hacker conference awarded it two Pwnie Awards, for "most overhyped bug" and "most epic fail." And no follow-up reporting has yet affirmed its central premise.
But even as the facts of that story remain unconfirmed, the security community has warned that the possibility of the supply chain attacks it describes is all too real. The NSA, after all, has been doing something like it for years, according to the leaks of whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Now researchers have gone further, showing just how easily and cheaply a tiny, tough-to-detect spy chip could be planted in a company's hardware supply chain. And one of them has demonstrated that it doesn't even require a state-sponsored spy agency to pull it off—just a motivated hardware hacker with the right access and as little as $200 worth of equipment.