Posted Mar. 20, 2017 at 6:07 a.m.

Tech wrap: Uber prez out; nuke test films declassified (+ video); SpaceX back to Earth; Meetup vs. Trump; asylum seeker dialect analysis

Published: 2017-03-20 06:07:00
Updated: 2017-03-20 06:07:00

Bulldog Bulldog

In today's Bulldog wrapup of science and technology news:

  • President of embattled Uber leaves after 6 months on job
  • US nuclear test films declassified
  • SpaceX capsule returns space station science to Earth
  • Meetup takes risky leap into the Trump resistance
  • Germany to test dialect analysis software on asylum-seekers

The details:

  • President of embattled Uber leaves after 6 months on job

Jeff Jones, president of the embattled ride-hailing company Uber, has resigned just six months after taking the job, the company confirmed Sunday.

In a brief statement, Uber didn't say why Jones left. "We want to thank Jeff for his six months at the company and wish him all the best," it said.

Jones told the tech blog Recode, which first reported his resignation, that his values didn't align with Uber's.

"The beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride sharing business," he said in a statement.

Jones is the latest of several high-level executives to leave the San Francisco-based company.

Last month, a top engineering executive, Amit Singhal, left Uber five weeks after his hire was announced. He allegedly failed to disclose that he'd left his previous job at Google because of a sexual harassment allegation.

Ed Baker, Uber's vice president of product and growth, resigned earlier this month. So did Charlie Miller, Uber's top security researcher, who left to join Didi, China's larger ride-hailing company.

Jones' departure comes days after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the company will hire a chief operating officer who can help write its "next chapter."

  • US nuclear test films declassified

From the deserts of southern New Mexico and Nevada to islands in the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. government conducted dozens of nuclear weapons tests from the 1940s until the early 1960s.

VIDEOS: Watch a roundup at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWpqGKUG5yY

Vintage rolls of film collected from high-security vaults across the country show some of the blasts sending incredible mushroom clouds into the sky and massive fireballs across the landscape. Others start with blinding flashes of light followed by rising columns of smoke in the distance.

A team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory this week published more than five dozen films salvaged from government installations where they had sat idle for years.

Lab physicist Greg Spriggs said the decades-old films were in danger of decomposing and being lost to history. He called them a big part of the nation's history and an important tool for providing better data to modern scientists who now use computer codes to help certify that the U.S. nuclear stockpile remains safe and effective.

"We don't have any experimental data for modern weapons in the atmosphere. The only data that we have are the old tests," he said, noting that the manual methods used in the 1950s to analyze the blasts weren't that accurate.

By scanning the film and reviewing it along with data sheets from the original tests, the team discovered that much of the data initially published were wrong. Some of the answers were off by 20 percent.

"One of the payoffs of this project is that we're now getting very consistent answers," he said. "We've also discovered new things about these detonations that have never been seen before."

Of the 10,000 or so films that are thought to have been made over the testing period, Spriggs and his team have located about 6,500 of them. Only a fraction of the films have been reanalyzed and declassified.

  • SpaceX capsule returns space station science to Earth

A SpaceX capsule is back on Earth with a full load of space station science samples.

The Dragon cargo ship parachuted into the Pacific on Sunday off the Southern California coast. Astronauts set it free from the International Space Station 5½ hours earlier.

The Dragon flew to the space station a month ago from the same Florida launch pad used for NASA's Apollo moon shots. It took up more than 5,000 pounds of supplies and brought back just as much in completed experiments and used equipment.

NASA's other supplier, Orbital ATK, plans to launch its own supply ship Friday, also from Cape Canaveral, Florida. That one, however, burns up on re-entry.

The space station is home to one Frenchman, two Americans and three Russians.

  • Meetup takes risky leap into the Trump resistance

Meetup is taking a leap into the Trump resistance.

The New York-based networking site will unveil plans in the coming days to partner with a labor group — under the guidance of a former Hillary Clinton aide — to coordinate protests among more than 120,000 activists already involved with anti-Trump Meetup groups.

It's a risky move for a tech company that has helped millions come together to share interests of all kinds, from hiking to languages to President Donald Trump himself. But it reflects an increasing willingness of some major technology firms to push back against the Republican president.

Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman told The Associated Press that the new arrangement, to be known only as #Resist, gives the loosely organized protest movement the infrastructure needed to execute large responses to the new president's policies.

"It's one thing for a CEO to say, 'I'm going to stand up against a politician,'" Heiferman said. "It's even further for the company itself to mobilize people."

For Heiferman and other tech leaders, Trump's push to block immigration from several Muslim-majority countries marked a tipping point.

"When a certain line is crossed," he said, "we have a civic duty not to be quiet."

  • Germany to test dialect analysis software on asylum-seekers

Germany plans to test software that can automatically recognize a person's dialect to help determine whether asylum-seekers are really where they claim they're from.

Germany's Office for Migration and Refugees confirmed a report on the pilot project Friday by the Die Welt newspaper.

An agency spokeswoman says the software would complement existing methods used to verify a person's identity.

Andrea Brinkmann told The Associated Press that officials would still rely on a range of information, including documents presented by the asylum-seeker and an expert opinion, before reaching a final conclusion.

Authorities have expressed concern that some asylum-seekers from Arab countries are claiming to be from Syria in hopes of increasing their chances of staying in Germany.

Last year officials commissioned 1,405 language analyses, up from 431 in 2015.

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