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Luke Skywalker’s Mandalorian Cameo Guided by Star Wars Memories

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Mark Hamill dressed all in black as Luke Skywalker, pre-VFX, while shooting The Mandalorian season two finale.

You’ve probably watched Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Mandalorian by now (or read our post about the coolest things we learned from it), but there’s always more story to tell. Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker cameo in the finale of The Mandalorian season two wasn’t just a surprise, it was a triumph after a whole lot of work.

The latest Disney+ behind-the-scenes episode explained a lot but Industrial Light & Magic VFX supervisor, Richard Bluff, spoke to IndieWire about a few more details that went into the process. Though the team was aiming for Luke to look like he did around the time of the third Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi, Bluff said showrunner Jon Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni wanted Hamill there to use him in every way possible — not only to help advise on the performance, but also to use his physicality and his actual face whenever possible.”

But because Hamill is older now, they also used Max Lloyd-Jones as a body double, and to make both performances come to life as one, they hired Lola Visual Effects (already in use by Marvel Studios). While the company used deepfake technology, Bluff said they didn’t rely too heavily on it because the resolution wasn’t high enough. (You may recall Lucasfilm recently hired a deepfake creator to work for Industrial Light and Magic after he “improved” the Luke scene they’d worked so hard on.)

Speaking of resolution: “People’s memory of Luke Skywalker isn’t in 4K sharp resolution,” Bluff said. “[The softness] was a choice to match some of the imagery that we’ve seen in the past.” He added, “It was all based upon steering the audience toward an image they remember seeing rather than putting the character in a completely new situation.”

The Disney Gallery episode is currently streaming on Disney+ and we’re waiting to hear exactly when The Mandalorian season three will grace us with its presence. In the meantime, we’ve got The Book of Boba Fett to look forward to and, I suppose, Disney Gallery: Star Wars: The Book of Boba Fett.


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New Study Confirms Its Much Safer to Get Vaccinated Than to Catch Covid-19

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A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine

A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine
Photo: Jack Guez (Getty Images)

New research from Israel offers some unsurprising but reassuring news on the safety of covid-19 vaccines. The study found that the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine was not associated with a higher risk of most potential adverse events. And for rare suspected complications such as myocarditis, the risk was still substantially higher in those who got covid-19.

When symptoms show up after taking a drug or vaccine, they’re known as adverse events. These events may be true side effects of a treatment, but they may have happened regardless of the drug. One key way to determine the risk of a potential side effect is to see how often a population of people who received the treatment experience these symptoms compared to those who didn’t take the treatment, the latter being a real-world control group. And that’s what these researchers did, combing through data from the largest health care system in Israel from the start of the vaccination campaign late last year. The study collectively involved more than a million people.

The researchers compared the rate of adverse events documented in vaccinated people to unvaccinated people matched up in age and other demographics. Ultimately, they found that the vaccine wasn’t associated with a higher risk of most adverse events in the 42 days after vaccination. There were some events with a stronger link to vaccination, though. These included appendicitis, swollen lymph nodes, and myocarditis (heart inflammation). But when the researchers then looked at people with confirmed covid-19 and compared them to vaccinated people, the difference was stark.

Potentially severe adverse events much more common in the infected than in the vaccinated. For instance, the rate of myocarditis in the vaccinated was 2.7 cases documented in every 100,000 people, but it was 11 cases per 100,000 in the infected—a fourfold difference. There were also other conditions that vaccinated people didn’t have any added risk of experiencing, but that were more likely to show up in people who contracted covid-19, such as heart attacks, kidney damage, and pulmonary embolisms.

“[O]ur results indicate that SARS-CoV-2 infection is itself a very strong risk factor for myocarditis, and it also substantially increases the risk of multiple other serious adverse events,” the authors wrote in their study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

While it may seem obvious that taking a vaccine to gain immunity to a disease will be safer than catching the disease itself, it’s always important to keep an eye out for any major side effects that might have gone unnoticed in clinical trials.

Since their authorization last year, scientists have found that vaccinated people can have a higher risk of some adverse events that weren’t documented in the original clinical trials, including myocarditis in those who get an mRNA vaccine like the Pfizer or Moderna shot. And there have been cases of serious illness and even deaths linked to vaccines, such as the death of BBC journalist Lisa Shaw in May following a rare blood clotting condition tied to the AstraZeneca vaccine. But so far, all of the real-world data has shown that these sorts of serious events remain very rare, while covid-19 deaths and long-term complications are far more common. In the U.S. alone, vaccines may have prevented up to 140,000 deaths by early May. In other words, the benefits of covid-19 vaccination continue to vastly outweigh any risks.

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Number of People With Hypertension Has Doubled Since 1990, Stressful Report Finds

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A doctor taking a patient’s blood pressure measurement.

A doctor taking a patient’s blood pressure measurement.
Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

More and more people around the world are living with high blood pressure, new research this week finds. The study, based on data from nearly 200 countries, estimates that more than a billion adults globally had hypertension in 2019—double the number estimated in 1990. What’s more, more than half of these cases are going untreated, and few people are keeping it well-controlled.

High blood pressure is usually defined as consistently having systolic blood pressure 140 mm Hg or greater (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and diastolic blood pressure 90 mm Hg or greater (bottom number). Though it typically doesn’t cause any visible symptoms on its own, chronic hypertension can stress and damage the body, particularly the cardiovascular system, over time; this then raises the risk of other conditions like heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. In the U.S. alone, hypertension was estimated to contribute to nearly 500,000 deaths in 2018.

The new research, published Tuesday in the Lancet, is the work of researchers from the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC), a network of scientists looking into the prevalence of major contributors to non-communicable diseases across the world. The group works closely with the World Health Organization and is coordinated by researchers from Imperial College London. Their study is intended to provide the first estimates of hypertension and how it’s being diagnosed, treated, and controlled in every country.

The team reviewed 1,201 studies of more than 100 million people between the ages of 30 and 79, spanning back 30 years in 184 countries—studies that had a nationally representative sample of participants. People were defined to have hypertension if they had a 140/90 and over blood pressure reading or if they were taking blood pressure medication. This data was then used to estimate rates of hypertension in 200 countries and territories throughout those years.

All told, they estimated that 1.27 billion people between ages 30 and 79 fit the bill for hypertension in 2019, up from 650 million in 1990. After adjusting for age (older people are more likely to have hypertension and people are generally living longer now than three decades ago), though, the global prevalence of hypertension didn’t significantly change during those years, with around a third of men and women estimated to have it back in 1990 as well as in 2019.

A diet high in sodium as well as a lack of exercise can contribute to high blood pressure, while other conditions, like diabetes, are risk factors. Aside from lifestyle changes, there are readily available drugs that can help control it. But the authors estimate more than half of all cases (720 million) currently go untreated, while only around 20% of people had their blood pressure well-controlled. Poorly managed or untreated hypertension only further raises the risk of health problems.

There were some local successes, with countries such as the UK, Spain, Canada, and Switzerland experiencing a sharp drop in their prevalence of hypertension since the 1990s. But many other countries worsened or stayed the same. In two countries, Paraguay and Tuvalu, more than 50% of women had hypertension in 2019, while over 50% of men had hypertension in nine countries, including Argentina, Hungary, and Paraguay. Just over a billion people with hypertension are thought to live in low- to middle-income countries.

The U.S. ranked 38th on the list of countries with the lowest prevalence of hypertension in 2019, with no major change in prevalence since 1990. In 2019, 29% of women and 34% of men were estimated to have hypertension. But it ranked 4th in actually treating it, with 73% of people getting some amount of care. In 2017, it should be noted, new guidelines from leading organizations in the U.S. recommended that hypertension be defined as having a minimum 130/80 reading, not 140/90. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using these recommendations, instead estimates that 45% of American adults over 18 have hypertension.

“Despite medical and pharmacological advances over decades, global progress in hypertension management has been slow, and the vast majority of people with hypertension remain untreated, with large disadvantages in low- and middle-income countries,” said senior author Majid Ezzati, a researcher at Imperial College London, in a statement released by the Lancet.

Because some countries have been able to improve their high blood pressure problem during these years, with some middle-income countries now doing better than most wealthier countries, the authors do hold out hope that much more can be done to reduce its threat globally. But many of the best ways to combat hypertension will depend on sweeping structural changes within these countries, as well as ample financial resources.

“Policies that enable people in the poorest countries to access healthier foods—particularly reducing salt intake and making fruit and vegetables more affordable and accessible—alongside improving detection by expanding universal health coverage and primary care, and ensuring uninterrupted access to effective drugs, must be financed and implemented to slow the growing epidemic of high blood pressure in low- and middle-income countries,” Ezzati said.

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Pentagon Orders US Airlines Provide 18 Planes to Help With Afghan Evacuation

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British and Canadian soldiers stand guard near a canal as Afghans wait outside the foreign military-controlled part of the airport in Kabul on August 22, 2021.

British and Canadian soldiers stand guard near a canal as Afghans wait outside the foreign military-controlled part of the airport in Kabul on August 22, 2021.
Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP (Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered 18 aircraft from U.S. airlines be delivered to the Department of Defense to help with the effort to evacuate Americans and Afghan refugees from Afghanistan according to a press release last Sunday. The airplanes will not be sent to Kabul, but instead be used to ferry passengers to the U.S. once they’ve reached bases in the Middle East by military planes.

The 18 aircraft have been requested through a voluntary program known as the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, a partnership between the U.S. military and U.S. civilian commercial airlines that allows the Department of Defense to call up aircraft in emergency situations.

Created in the 1950s, the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program has only been used twice before, according to the DoD press release, including in the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 1990-91 invasion of Iraq, known as Desert Storm.

The 18 aircraft have been requested from American Airlines (three planes), Delta (three planes), United (four planes), Hawaiian Airlines (two planes), Atlas Air (three planes), and Omni Air (two planes).

“Under CRAF, the commercial carriers retain their Civil Status under FAA regulations while USTRANSCOM exercises mission control via its air component, Air Mobility Command,” the DoD said while announcing the move.

At least 17,000 people have been evacuated by the U.S. in the past week following the withdrawal of coalition troops from the country. The Taliban took control of the entire country, including the capital city of Kabul, with virtually no resistance, but there have been violent skirmishes at the airport as people try to flee.

The U.S. military is evacuating people in aircraft such as the C-17 to staging areas in the United Arab Emirates and Germany in a mission officially known as Operation Allies Refuge. The U.S. will temporarily house the Afghan refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas and Fort McCoy in rural Wisconsin.

Roughly 22,000 people have been flown out of Afghanistan since mid-July, according to Defense One, when Operation Allies Refuge commenced. President Joe Biden has promised that every American and Afghan refugee who worked with the Americans will be evacuated to safety, but it’s difficult to see how that promise can be made with so many reports of people unable to get to the Kabul airport.

The Taliban has established checkpoints surrounding the airport in Kabul and while Taliban leadership have promised safe passage for people who want to leave the country, that’s not always happening, according to reports on the ground.

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Henri Strengthens to a Hurricane as it Closes In on New England

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Hurricane Henri is expected to make landfall “at or near hurricane strength” somewhere around New York’s Long Island or southern New England by Sunday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center. Henri strengthened from a tropical storm on Saturday as it built up steam over the Atlantic with maximum sustained winds near 75 mph (120 kph).

This Category 1 storm, the first hurricane of the season, threatens to hit the Northeast with high winds, flooding, and dangerous storm surges ahead of its landfall. Across coastal regions of New York and New England, “large and dangerous waves” could accompany storm surges of up to 5 feet (1.5 meters), the NHS warned. Hurricane conditions are projected to hit portions of Long Island, Connecticut, and Rhode Island beginning late Saturday or early Sunday.

Forecasts show between 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15.2 centimeters) of rain buffeting southeastern New York, northern New Jersey, and New England on Sunday and into Monday, with isolated totals of up to 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) expected in these areas.

“Heavy rainfall may lead to considerable flash, urban, and small stream flooding, along with the potential for widespread minor to isolated moderate river flooding over portions of Long Island, New England, eastern New York and New Jersey,” the agency said.

Hurricane warnings have been issued for roughly 6 million people across much of Long Island, Block Island, and from New Haven, Connecticut, to west of Westport, Massachusetts. Tropical storm warnings have been issued for coastal regions of New York and New Jersey, including New York City. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced a voluntary evacuation of Fire Island, New York, on Saturday and urged residents to leave for their own safety. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a similar appeal as he declared a state of emergency, warning people who live in areas with a history of flooding to move to safety immediately.

“If you have to get to higher ground it has to be today,” he said during a televised news briefing Saturday.

President Joe Biden held a conference call Saturday afternoon with federal emergency officials and the governors of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Jersey. On the call, Biden assured state leaders that they have “the full support” of the federal government to assist in local emergency response efforts, according to a White House press statement. Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Criswell said the agency is pre-positioning more than 700 response personnel, meals, tarps, and generators in the region.

“We’re going to see power outages, we’re going to see downed trees, and even after the storm has passed, the threat of falling trees and limbs is still out there,” Criswell told CNN on Saturday.”

And Hurricane Henri may just be the beginning. Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t peak until September, and the NHS’s forecast of an active season this year has proven right so far. So hunker down, folks. And stay safe.



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What’s the Best Way to Save Electricity & Decarbonize My Home?

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An apartment complex in New York.

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP (Getty Images)

Welcome to Burning Questions, a series where Earther answers the most common asks we get on how to address climate change. Many people want to do something, anything to help address the climate crisis. We answer your questions about how to help change your life—and the systems that will save us.

If you want to clean up the planet, there’s no better place to start than in your own home. Roughly 38% of all carbon pollution is tied to buildings.

Bad news, yes. But the bright side is, there is no shortage of tactics to clean up those emissions and doing so will save us money and make our homes more comfortable places to live. There are two big buckets to draw from when it comes to reducing how much buildings pollute: improving efficiency and electrifying everything. An increasing number of states and cities are making it easier to do both those things, trade unions are hopping on board, and some utilities are even coming around to the idea that yes, it’s a good business decision to not burn down the planet.

Better Energy Efficiency Is the Easiest First Step

If you want to make the biggest dent in your home energy bills, the answer is efficiency. It might not be as exciting as, say, putting a wind turbine in your backyard or a wall of batteries in your apartment building’s basement. But improving how efficiently homes use electricity and resources is crucial right now given our continued reliance on fossil fuels.

“Energy efficiency is more invisible than some of the other solutions, but it really is crucial for decarbonization,” said Rachel Gold, the head of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s utilities program. She pointed to a recent International Energy Agency report on how we could limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), a goal laid out in the Paris Agreement. While everyone—including this very outlet—made hay out of the need to end oil and gas exploration and renewable energy ramp up, the report also contains a message on energy efficiency: The world must do energy efficiency retrofits at “three times the average of the last two decades.”

ACEEE’s own research has found upgrading water heaters and furnaces to more efficient versions offers major carbon cuts. So, too, can adding insulation and plugging leaks where air can seep in or out. Doing so comes with added comfort by cutting down on drafty spots.

Those are relatively costly upgrades for a homeowner and require professional installers. But even smaller actions can add up, like more efficient showerheads. Yes, even the much-mocked changing your lightbulbs to LED bulbs is among those actions. In fact, ACEEE’s recommendations for improving energy efficiency standards includes light bulbs near the top of that list along with the aforementioned big-ticket items.

“Choices that you can make in your home really do matter,” Gold said, “and matter not just for yourself, but also because when you make efficient choices in your home and then talk about it with your neighbors and your friends, it really does influence them.”

Other less costly upgrades include things like smart thermostats that can further help with efficiency, though those can come with security and privacy concerns. In Texas, utilities raised some residents’ smart thermostats during a heat wave to conserve electricity, so if you go that route, read the fine print. But these devices and other appliances that can connect to the internet and stay abreast of electricity rates could provide savings while using less energy.

“There’s all sorts of cool stuff that we can bring into that picture like flexible demands [where] your water heater is going to know that it’s windy in the middle of the night and use that time to heat up the water so that it’s ready to go when you want to take a shower in the morning,” said Mike Henchen, a principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute who’s working on building decarbonization.

Electrifying Everything Makes Sense, Too

It’s exceeding strange that we keep poison detectors in our homes to ensure our appliances don’t kill us. Carbon monoxide is the most immediate public health danger of gas-powered stoves, water heaters, furnaces, and other appliances. But those appliances are also frying the planet by emitting carbon dioxide and methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas. That’s why we can’t just improve-efficiency our way out of cleaning up our homes.

“[It’s] yes and,” Henchen said. “Whatever energy we’re still going to use—which is still going to be a lot—we need to understand how that energy is being produced.”

Getting natural gas out of homes by installing a heat pump that efficiently handles heating, cooling, and water heating, is a surefire way to reduce your household’s carbon footprint, save money, and also not risk death by explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. (Induction stoves are a good option, too.) These can be expensive upgrades upfront, though they’ll save money in the long run. A growing number of states and utilities offer rebate programs and incentives to install heat pumps, though, which can help bring that cost down.

Advocate for Policies So Everyone Can Enjoy the Good Life

Even those rebate programs aren’t enough to bring down costs or make more comfortable, decarbonized homes available to all. The programs there are for low-income residents—notably, the incredibly acronymed Weather Assistance Program (WAP)—are underfunded and have long waiting lists. Henchen pointed to a report by the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative that shows only 35,000 households get weatherized a year through the program while there are 40 million that qualify.

Remember, we need to triple the rate of efficiency upgrades to meet the Paris Agreement target. That means expanding access to efficiency and electrification for all, particularly since economically disadvantaged households spend quadruple the amount of their income on utility bills as well-off ones.

So, by all means, install your heat pump and swap in your LED lightbulbs. But, as Henchen noted, “there’s a big need for public investment and housing upgrades.” For WAP alone, the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative calls for $423 billion in sustained funding for the program. That would help meet people’s needs, create jobs, and bring costs down. So, too, would proposals such as a Green New Deal for Public Housing that would address the $70 billion backlog in repairs. Both Gold and Henchen also mentioned local legislation with requirements for landlords to improve efficiency that would benefit the third of us who rent our homes or apartments.

If you don’t want to be the only one enjoying a carbon-free house, then pick one of those fights—or find another since there’s no shortage. And don’t forget to talk with your neighbors, friends, and family while you’re at it.

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Russian Space Junk Likely Hit Chinese Satellite Yunhai 1-02

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A spectacular view of Earth from low Earth orbit.

A spectacular view of Earth from low Earth orbit.
Image: NASA

The mysterious breakdown of the Yunhai 1-02 satellite in March has likely been solved. The discarded remnants of an old Russian rocket appear to have smashed into the Chinese satellite, in what is an ominous sign of things to come in our increasingly cluttered low Earth orbit.

On March 22, 2021, the 18th Space Control Squadron of the U.S. Space Force published a surprising tweet announcing the breakup of Yunhai 1-02—a Chinese military satellite launched in September 2019. The breakup had occurred four days earlier, and it wasn’t immediately clear as to why this satellite, at less than two years old, should suddenly experience such a calamitous malfunction. In its tweet, the Space Force squadron said its “analysis is ongoing” and that it would track the 21 newly created pieces of debris.

This sort of thing is not without precedent. Satellites do get wrecked in orbit, though it happens very rarely. Back in 2016, for example, Japan’s Hitomi satellite spun out of control owing to human errors and crummy software; the satellite spun wildly out of control, causing it to break up. Frighteningly, a similar scenario could’ve played out on the International Space Station a few weeks ago, when Russia’s Nauka module began to fire its thrusters shortly after docking.

Another possibility is that the Yunhai 1-02 satellite was deliberately shot down. China did exactly this in 2007 with an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon, shooting down a defunct weather satellite. The incident created hundreds of pieces of debris and considerable international angst. India did a similar thing in 2019—an incident that likewise resulted in a dangerous debris field in low Earth orbit.

A collision with space junk could explain the demise of Yunhai 1-02, and again, a precedent also exists for this sort of scenario. In 2009, the Iridium 33 communications satellite smashed into Kosmos-2251, a defunct Russian military communications satellite. NASA described the incident as being the “most severe accidental fragmentation on record,” as the collision produced more than 1,800 pieces of debris larger than 4 inches (10 cm).

Some crafty sleuthing from Jonathan McDowell, a researcher at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, suggests something similar happened to Yunhai 1-02, in which a chunk of space junk slammed into the Chinese satellite. While scanning through the Space-Track.org catalog (which contains data from the 18th Space Control Squadron), McDowell noticed an odd note about orbital debris object 1996-051Q (48078). The debris object was described as having “collided with a satellite.”

“This is a new kind of comment entry—haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” wrote McDowell in a tweet published on Sunday, August 15. Diving deeper, the astrophysicist identified the debris object as being a remnant of a Russian Zenit-2 rocket, which delivered the Tselina-2 electronic intelligence satellite to orbit in 1996.

An obvious candidate for the affected satellite was Yunhai-1-02, which turned out to be the case. A quick analysis of the data showed that Yunhai 1-02 and the Russian space junk passed to within 0.6 miles (1 km) of each other on March 18, and “exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” McDowell tweeted. To which he added: “37 debris objects have been cataloged so far from the breakup—there are likely to be more.” He describes the incident as the “first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade,” referencing the aforementioned smash-up in 2009. Despite the collision, Yunhai 1-02, though no longer in use, is still making orbital adjustments, which suggests the collision wasn’t completely catastrophic, said McDowell.

I reached out to McDowell to learn more about the offending Russian space junk, the nature of the collision, and what should happen next.

The size of debris object 48078 is not known, but it’s likely somewhere from 2 to 12 inches (5 to 30 centimeters) wide, McDowell said. He explained that in-space collision involving a small object of this size will damage a satellite, “but not destroy it completely.” Small objects are increasingly appearing in orbit, “so we expect more incidents like this, and indeed we have been seeing about one a year.”

I’ve covered some close-calls in the last several years, including an incident involving two defunct satellites: the joint NASA-Netherlands Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) and the the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s GGSE-4 satellite, which launched in the late 1960s. And back in June, an errant chunk of space junk pierced a hole in Canadarm2, a robotic arm currently in service on the ISS.

The space junk problem “is real,” said McDowell, “and as the number of satellites increases we should expect many more like this as well as increasing numbers of the rarer but more serious debris events.” The Space Force will continue to monitor and catalog the debris that came from this event, but McDowell says we may never get official confirmation of this apparent collision. As for Yunhai 1-02’s unexpected movements, “it’s possible that it is just tracking mistakes,” he said.

An uncomfortable amount of space junk circles Earth. Estimates from the European Space Agency suggest 900,000 objects from 0.4 to 4 inches (1 to 10 cm) and 34,000 objects larger than 4 inches (10 cm) are currently in Earth orbit.

A major concern is that debris might trigger a Kessler Syndrome, which is akin to a snowball that increasingly gets bigger as it tumbles down a maintain. Upsettingly, the debris caused by this latest collision could go on hit other objects in space, resulting in an even larger debris field. A hypothetical cascade could conceivably destroy troves of satellites, which would be very bad and make low Earth orbit inaccessible. The time has come for us to better regulate space and clean up our junk.



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Here Are the 10 Ugliest Gaming Chairs

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Image: Gizmodo/Costway

I get it, really. If you’re going to hunker down for a long gaming sesh, you need a comfy chair. You need lumbar support. Maybe even a headrest.

What I don’t get is why every single gaming chair has to either be utterly ridiculous or have the aesthetic of an edgy racecar bed. Whether it’s a 700-pound monstrosity, an egg-shaped pod, or a stumpy rocker with speakers built into the sides, every gaming chair is a loud eyesore. (Well, almost every gaming chair; the Herman Miller Logitech collab is at least inoffensive to look at.)

It’d be fine if some gaming chairs rocked the so-called gamer aesthetic. But all of them?! Surely, we have gamers out here that don’t want their home to look like a dank RGB cave. Don’t they deserve comfy chairs too? In any case, here’s a look at the 10 most ridiculous gaming chairs that made our eyes bleed. Feast your eyes on these hideous excuses for seating and despair.

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Facebook Messenger Calls Can Now Be End-to-End Encrypted

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Image for article titled Voice and Video Calls Can Now Be End-to-End Encrypted on Facebook Messenger

Photo: Jeff Chiu (AP)

Facebook wants you to know that Messenger is getting a little more secure and private (or as private as anything built by the company can be considered). In a nutshell, users now have the option to make voice and video calls end-to-end encrypted on Messenger.

But wait, weren’t those already end-to-end encrypted? Well, that’s what yours truly thought, but the company has only offered this security option for one-on-one text chats in recent years. In a news announcement, Facebook said it decided to add the new end-to-end encryption option to Messenger in light of the increase in audio and video calls in the recent year, which makes sense considering our pandemic restrictions.

The company pointed out that during this period, there were more than 150 million video calls a day on Messenger.

Other Facebook products, such as WhatsApp, already have end-to-end encryption built in. End-to-end encryption ensures that only you and the recipient have access to content in messages and calls. No one else, including Facebook, can read your messages or listen to your calls. Nonetheless, Facebook said users can always report an end-to-end encrypted message “if something’s wrong,” presumably referencing situations like harassment.

End-to-end encryption hasn’t reached all of Messenger yet, including group chats as well as group voice and video calls. Facebook said it would be testing these features with some users in the coming weeks.

In addition, Facebook also unveiled an update to its disappearing messages feature in Messenger, which allows users to control how long someone can see their messages in a chat before they disappear. With the update, users have more options to specify how soon they want their messages to disappear, ranging from five seconds to 24 hours.

Finally, the company will also be testing end-to-end encryption on Instagram direct messages. This test will involve adults from certain countries and will allow them to opt-in to receive end-to-end encrypted messages and calls for one-on-one conversations.

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Superman Almost Appeared in The Suicide Squad Movie

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The Suicide Squad crew

The Suicide Squad crew
Image: Warners Bros.

Who would have thought that Kal-El might have appeared in The Suicide Squad? Well, James Gunn wanted to make this a reality. Gunn reveals Superman was the initial big bad for the film instead of Starro the Conqueror in a new interview.

On the latest episode of the Script Apart, a podcast that talks to writers about the evolution of their scripts, The Suicide Squad director James Gunn mentions, “There was a time when I thought The Suicide Squad should fight Superman,” he says. He continues explaining why Starro was a much better choice.

“I thought that was a very interesting story. Then I came up with Starro. He’s a character I love from the comics. I think he’s a perfect comic book character because he’s absolutely ludicrous but also very scary in his own way. What he does is scary. He used to scare the crap out of me when I was a child, putting those facehuggers on Superman and Batman. So I thought he was one of the major, major DC villains that was probably never going to be put into another movie. And if they did, it’d have been a ‘black cloud’ version of Starro. Not a giant walking starfish, a kaiju that’s bright pink and cerulean blue, this ridiculously big, bright bad guy.”

Not only did Gunn think Starro was a better fit, but he talks about how the character of Superman is still feeling its way around the DCEU. “At the time, there were a lot of questions like, ‘Who is Superman in the DCEU? Is this movie outside the DCEU?’, and I just didn’t want to deal with it all that much,” Gunn said. “I just wanted to tell a good story.”

What kind of movie would The Suicide Squad have been with Superman as an antagonist? Let us know in the comments!


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