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LanceList - Issue #171

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SpaceX Nails It; The Woman Behind the Black Hole Photo; Alexa and People Are Listening; Twitter's Ove
 

LanceLetter

April 12 · Issue #171 · View online
Stuff that matters.

SpaceX Nails It; The Woman Behind the Black Hole Photo; Alexa and People Are Listening; Twitter’s Over-enthusiastic Bot Killers

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Space is hard. What a day for space! First you have the tragedy. The Israeli Beresheet probe, what would have been the first private Moon lander, didn’t exactly land on the moon. As it was preparing for its final descent, the probe accelerated at an alarming speed and then crashed into the moon. Apparently, it was a failure of the main engine, which turned the controlled descent into a free fall. Hours later, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off for its first official commercial mission, delivering a large Arabian satellite into orbit. That was exciting, but the big moment came when all three rocket boosters stuck their landings on the return to earth – a first for SpaceX. It was thrilling.
SpaceX launches Falcon Heavy and lands all three rocket boosters for the first time
Einstein was right. We now have the first photo of a black hole, proving, once and for all, that Albert Einstein was right about these everything-bending voids, which have such an insanely powerful gravitation field that not even light can escape them. The image looks like a fiery donut with a very black hole at the center. What’s more amazing about all this is that we captured the image at all. Like most breakthroughs, this took some new science, developed by a now celebrated 29-year-old woman.
Katie Bouman: The 29-year-old woman behind first-ever black hole image
Listening up. Amazon’s Alexa is a source of joy and frustration in millions of homes. The digital voice assistant is ready with the answer to “How old is Barbara Streisand?” or “What’s the capital of Minnesota?”, but it’s also piping up when we least expected. The problem is the “Watch Word,” the phrase, “Alexa,” that makes Alexa start listening for a command. Often, it thinks its hears “Alexa,” starts listening, and then doesn’t understand what you’re talking about. Annoying, right? The problem is that Alexa’s not the only one listening. Amazon apparently has an army of humans transcribing random convos to learn more about how people interact with Alexa and improve its responses. But you see the problem, right? There’s no telling what actual humans are hearing and writing down. Amazon says, basically, “Calm down, we don’t know who is saying what.” and they really don’t care. Still total lack of transparency much? Here’s’ how to make sure your voice assistants aren’t breaching your privacy.
How To Make Your Amazon Echo and Google Home as Private as Possible | WIRED
Swept up. Twitter has a huge spam and bot problem that it’s been trying to address for years. In the last year or so, it’s gotten a lot more aggressive and, it seems effective in ridding the social media platform of bots, trolls, spam, and haters. However, it’s also inadvertently hurting the good guys. Here’s my tale on one very good guy on Twitter who got swept up in Twitter’s bot cleaning activities and struggled to return to the social media platform he loves.
Twitter’s Suspension Bots Are Out of Control – OneZero
Why buy a Tesla. Tesla is now letting customers lease a Model 3 instead of buy one. That may or may not help with affordability. The primary purpose, though, appears to be helping Tesla build a road-tested self-driving fleet, since the company is not letting leasers buy the Model 3’s when they’re done with their lease.
Tesla launches Model 3 leases, will keep cars for autonomous Uber-like service after term - Electrek
Public Uber. After months of speculation, Uber finally filed for its Initial Public Offering (IPO) with a lengthy S1 document that revealed all kinds of fun facts about the ride-sharing company, including its rapid growth, diversified business, and significant risks. One bit of good news is that when Uber goes public, drivers who’ve been with them for a while (who are all private contractors), will receive anywhere from $100 to $10,000 (depending on length of service). Now that’s a tip.
Uber officially files paperwork for IPO, ending months of speculation
Housekeeping
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