3-D PRINTED GUNS

Starting next month, you’ll likely have an easier time finding and downloading the schematics one would need to 3D print a functioning firearm.

That’s thanks to a recent Justice Department settlement with a crusader named Cody Wilson, who since 2015 has been battling regulators and government attorneys over his right to publish the 3D-printed gun CAD files online through an open source platform. It’s an unexpected twist in a long legal battle that seemed all but over after the Supreme Court refused to hear the case back in January. Josh Blackman, one of Wilson’s attorneys told Inverse that preventing Wilson from publishing the designs was a free speech issue.

“The argument is that they have a first amendment right to speech, and the government was telling Cody he couldn’t put these files on the internet,” Blackman explained. “The State Department used to regulate this kind of technical data, but the government shifted that to the Commerce Department which is a much more lenient approach … Cody was the only one subject to this old regime.”

3d printed guns
Defense Distributed will begin republishing the software code to 3D print firearms starting on August 1. 

It does seem fair to point out that it isn’t particularly difficult for someone who wants to find these designs to get them, torrent files have been available pretty much since Wilson first posted them.

But gun control activists like Adam Skaggs, chief counsel at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, tells Inverse the decision will make it easier for people who can’t buy guns legally to 3D print their own. They also worry that the more widely available these schematics are, the more likely it is law enforcement officials will encounter more untraceable guns without serial numbers.

“What we see again and again is that people who aren’t legally allowed to have guns — they go into a gun store and fail a background check — they’re just going to turn around and go online,” Skaggs explained. “And with the click of a mouse, they’ll get the info and materials to build their own, that’s exactly what they’re going to do.”

Fortunately, the technology for manufacturing 3D printed guns isn’t terribly effective yet, and 3D printers can also be expensive. But the problem may have more to do with what tomorrow’s criminals are able to do with Wilson’s designs as opposed to what will happen when the software files go back online later this summer.

“When you make it that easy to buy guns where you don’t have to pass a background check, they don’t have registered serial numbers … that presents a huge range of problems,” Skaggs said. “Criminal enterprises that face challenges in legally acquiring guns are just going to start avoiding gun stores entirely and just building their own.”

WARR AND THE HYPERLOOP

Hyperloop just took a huge step to becoming the transport system of the future. WARR Hyperloop claimed the top prize at SpaceX’s third hyperloop competition on Sunday, beating out two other approved teams to record a final speed of 290 mph — even faster than the 240 mph record set by Richard Branson-backedVirgin Hyperloop One in December 2017.

The competition, held at SpaceX’s 0.8-mile test track in Hawthorne, California, saw 18 teams compete to accelerate and brake their pod while achieving maximum top speed. Rigorous safety checks meant only three teams sent their pods through the test tube: WARR, Delft Hyperloop (which came second with a top speed of 88 mph), and EPFL Hyperloop (which came third with a top speed of 53 mph).

WARR Hyperloop group photo.
WARR Hyperloop group photo.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, whose 2013 white paper first outlined the vacuum-sealed transit system, congratulated the teams on his victory. The Verge reports that Musk attended with girlfriend Grimes and his five sons, declaring that the competition was about “things that could radically transform cities and the way people get around.” Musk’s podium was constructed from interlocking bricks made from The Boring Company’s excavated tunnel dirt — a company aiming to build a public hyperloop running between New York City and Washington, D.C.

Hyperloop@Hyperloop

22 student teams from around the globe will be showcasing their pods at @SpaceX’s 2018 Hyperloop Competition → http://hyperloop.com  pic.twitter.com/C24fFgo8OI

Elon Musk

@elonmusk

Congratulations to all teams in the student @Hyperloop competition! To make high-speed pods that can operate in vacuum is very difficult. Was great to meet everyone!

This competition was a marked change from the competitions held in January 2017 and August 2017, where contestants were judged on a range of criteria including construction and teams were able to use SpaceX-built drives to launch their pods. WARR set the top speed in the first competition of 56 mph, but lost out the overall prize to Delft Hyperloop. The second competition saw a big improvement over the first, with WARR claiming the top prize and reaching a speed of 201 mph.

While these speeds seem a far cry from the 700 mph top speeds in the white paper, both WARR and Delft noted prior to the competition that the participants are limited by the length of the track. The latter team told Inverse last week that the hyperloop could comfortably reach its top speed over a distance of around 45 miles, gradually accelerating to maintain passenger comfort. WARR claims that the team’s pod accelerates along the test track five times faster than an airplane during takeoff.

Delft Hyperloop claimed prior to the competition that it could beat Virgin Hyperloop One to achieve the top speed, despite only starting work as a reformed team in September 2017 after most of the original team left to form a startup called Hardt Hyperloop. Nonetheless, the 37-strong team celebrated its second place victory with a group photo:

Delft Hyperloop@DelftHyperloop

YESSS! We are happy to announce we came in 2nd in the SpaceX Hyperloop competition!! 🎉

EPFL Hyperloop reacted positively to the third-place victory, having never competed in a hyperloop competition before. The team claims that a communications issue prevented the pod from reaching higher speeds.

“Being one of three teams to qualify for the final stage of the competition is an incredible performance,” Martin Vetterli, president of the team’s university of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, said in a statement at the end of the race. “The stakes were high, and the students pushed the equipment to its limits. We can be proud of these results – especially since this was our school’s first foray into such a high-profile international competition. Great job by a fantastic team!”

Alongside the winning pod design, WARR also produced a second prototype to further development of alternative systems like levitation and frictionless drive. These efforts are aimed at helping to develop a pod capable of supporting larger passenger compartments. The Verge reports that SpaceX awarded WARR a special innovation prize for these extra efforts, alongside prizes awarded to the University of Washington and Eirloop teams.

“The technology is still in the development phase and our prototypes are built with the initial objective of testing various technologies,” team leader Gabriele Semino said in a statement prior to the event. “However, this way we can contribute to making the hyperloop vision a reality one day.”

Photos via WARR Hyperloop, WARR

NAMING THE ESA ROVER

Before the European Space Agency (ESA) can send its rover to Mars in 2020, it’s going to need a name. The agency has launched a competition to crowdsource ideas for the vehicle, and judging by how these competitions work in Europe, the ESA might be giving the world yet another Boaty McBoatface.

The future Rovey McRoverface
The future Rovey McRoverface

According to contest rules, every entrant only gets one submission and must include a short explanation for their choice. Submitted names can be a single word, a short combination of words, or an acronym. The vehicle can’t be named after a past mission, nor can it be named after a person still living. However, it can be named after a person who died before October 10, 1993.

Whereas Boaty McBoatface was a product of the British people’s efforts, this competition is open to all residents of ESA member states and associate member states. This includes the European countries Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and UK, and one non-European country: Canada.

The search for Rovey McRoverface’s real name will remain open until October 10, 2018. Once the competition is closed, a panel of experts will read each submission and select the winner, who will not only see their namesake land on Mars in March 2021 but will be awarded a tour of the Airbus factory where the rover was built.

“Now is your chance to be a part of the mission by choosing the name,” reads the introduction before entering the competition. The innovation onboard the ExoMars Rover solidifies its place in space history, giving the public a rare opportunity to take part in that legacy.

MUSK SENDS AID AND ENGINEERING TEAM

Elon Musk Sends SpaceX Engineers to Aid Soccer Team Trapped in Thai Cave

Elon Musk Sends SpaceX Engineers to Aid Soccer Team Trapped in Thai Cave

Thai officers supervise the rescue mission inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Twelve boys and their soccer coach have been trapped in the cave for nearly two weeks and rescue workers are working to get them out of the cave.

Credit: Linh Pham/Getty

Elon Musk is sending engineers from his SpaceX and The Boring Co. companies to aid in the rescue of a youth soccer team in Thailand that’s trapped in a cave and running out of time.

Twelve boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach have been trapped in the Tham Luang cave in Thailand for almost two weeks as of today (July 6). The boys, who range in age from 11 to 16, were exploring the cave when a flash flood trapped them. As oxygen levels continue to drop, the boys are getting more and more exhausted, which in turn is leading to malnourishment among them. In addition, heavy rain is forecast this weekend for the area. Worried authorities say they fear time is running out to save the team.

Former Thai navy SEAL diver Saman Gunan (also reported as “Kunan”) died early this morning (July 6) while working as a volunteer alongside a rescue team. Despite the rescue mission’s extreme difficulty and danger, Musk is hopeful that his engineers can come up with a solution before it’s too late. [Gallery: Rescuers Race Against Time to Save Soccer Team Trapped in Thai Cave]

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“SpaceX & Boring Co engineers headed to Thailand tomorrow to see if we can be helpful to govt. There are probably many complexities that are hard to appreciate without being there in person,” Musk wrote via Twitter early this morning.

BIOCOMPUTING

I am convinced however that the true future of computing (and not necessarily faster computing, but much more robust, highly capable, and versatile computing) lies not in exotic material computing or even in more materially or systematically efficient computing but in (analog) Bio-Computing.

 

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