A weekly round-up of the best tech, science, and geek-related news from around the web
Google is planning a massive push into the augmented reality field with a $500 million investment into Magic Leap - a company specializing in "cinematic reality" that claims it can deliver a more realistic 3D experience than Oculus Rift. "On Oculus Rift and pretty much every other virtual and augmented reality experience, what the viewer sees is flat and floating in space at a set distance. What Magic Leap purports to do is make you think you’re seeing a real 3-D object on top of the real world."
The U.S. Air Force's unmanned X-37B space plane returned to earth this week after spending 674 days in orbit. No details on its mission have been released by the military, but conspiracy theories have bounced around ideas ranging from "space bombing" to spying on the Chinese space station. Check out a CNN video on the mysterious craft below:
On Wednesday, Will.i.am unveiled the Puls, a smart 'cuff' that makes phone calls, plays music, and monitors fitness - just don't call it a smartwatch (he said so repeatedly). Microsoft, meanwhile, is also planning on launching a fitness band of its own in the coming weeks.
Tom Hardy is reportedly in the running for the title role in Bryan Singer's upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse.
The Telegraph dives into the current age of the cyborg. “This is the frontline of the Human Enhancement Revolution,” wrote the technology author and philosopher Patrick Lin last year. “We now know enough about biology, neuroscience, computing, robotics, and materials to hack the human body.”
Terminator director James Cameron on why he's a proud owner of a 10-year-old flip phone: "Apple has enough people with their devices being tracked by the government. Every place you go with that thing they know exactly where you are. So you want to talk Skynet...Skynet has already won. Everyone is already wired to their computers."
Check out this faux-trailer for WALL-E, if the Pixar classic was a Christopher Nolan film instead (a la Insterstellar):
A mountain-sized comet known as Siding Spring charged past Mars earlier today at 125,000mph, and missed it by a little more than one-third the distance of the Earth to the Moon. Martian rovers were able to capture dramatic photos [such as the one to the right] of the passing comet.
The owners of a wedding chapel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho have filed a lawsuit claiming the city's ordinance prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians is unconstitutionally forcing them to violate their religious beliefs by performing same-sex marriages.
Hitching Post owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who are being represented by the anti-gay Christian litigation group Alliance Defending Freedom, claim that performing a gay wedding ceremony would force them to "condone, promote and even consecrate somehting forbidden by their religious beliefs and ordination vows."
According to the lawsuit, a man called the business Friday to ask about a same-sex wedding ceremony and was turned down. The Knapps are now asking for a temporary restraining order against the city to stop it from enforcing the ordinance. Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and jail time.
“The Knapps are thus under a constant, coercive and substantial threat to violate their religious beliefs due to the risk that they will incur the penalties of jail time and criminal fines for declining to speak a message and perform a wedding service that contradicts their religious beliefs and ministerial vows,” the suit reads.
NYC Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan spoke to George Stephanopoulos today about the Vatican's watered down final document for its synod on the family - a report that scrapped language that seemed to indicate a dramatic new tone in the church's response to homosexuality, divorce, and contraception.
Dolan, ever the bigoted firebrand, praised the African church leaders in attendance who were vocal about their opposition to any doctrine revisions that could be interpreted as pro-gay.
"There was a pretty good, vivid conversation especially with the African bishops, who I love more than ever, who obviously come from cultures and societies that I admire that have a very strong definition of marriage as man and woman with children and are kind of afraid of attempts to water that down. One of the fears that they would have would be what we would call same-sex marraige. So they were pastorally sensitive about a document giving any indication that the Church might be open to any change at all in the definition of marriage. So there was a good debate, a good conversation that went on."
Dolan also reiterated his belief that Pope Francis is trying to take the "middle road" on issues facing the church:
"Once again, you got overwhelming agreement on things - first of all on the definition of marriage given to us by God and faithfully handed on by the church: one man, one woman, lifelong, life-giving, faithful, bringing about new life and children. Enthusiastic response to that. And then the other side was how can we embrace and never alienate those who are unable to live up to that noble ideal. And as usual, Pope Francis is saying we've got to keep both those values in mind. "
Dolan has a lot of work to do to live up to the call to embrace and not alienate gays, however. Despite his claim that he's not "anti-anybody," Dolan has equated same-sex marriage to incest, denied LGBT Catholics entry to mass, and insisted LGBT individuals are entitled to friendship, not marriage - among a laundry list of other incendiary remarks.
A former University of New Mexico student who claims she was shunned by school officials for making anti-gay remarks in a class paper can proceed with her First Amendment lawsuit against the school, a federal judge ruled late last month.
Chief U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo denied UNM’s motion to dismiss the case, rejecting the argument that restrictions the university placed on the student were “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogic concerns.”
Monica Pompeo filed the suit last year, claiming UNM acted improperly when she was kicked out of [professor Caroline Hinkley's] class for describing lesbianism as perverse in a critique of a lesbian romance film. [...]
After Hinkley graded the critiques, she advised Pompeo to pick up her paper from the cinematic arts office and “ponder the responses” she had written on Pompeo’s paper.
Those responses included a comment that the critique was “inflammatory and offensive.” She also blasted Pompeo’s view that a lesbian character in the film had a “perverse attraction to the same sex” and a “barren womb.”
The lawsuit alleges Hinkley violated her own syllabus, which called for “open minds” to examine “representations of a plethora of genders and sexualities.” Instead, Pompeo says, Hinkley accused her of resorting to “hate speech” and refused to grade her paper. The professor also made it clear that it would be in Pompeo’s best interests not to return to the class, Pompeo alleges.
Armijo's ruling questioned whether a "university can have a legitimate pedagogical interest in inviting students to engage in `incendiary' and provocative speech on a topic and then punishing a student because he or she did just that."
"Simply because Plaintiff expressed views about homosexuality that some people may deem offensive does not derive her views of First Amendment protection," the judge wrote.
Continuing the right-wing uproar over Houston's subpoena of local anti-gay pastors tied to a lawsuit against the city's LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, Mike Huckabee directed "every pastor in America" to send their sermons to mayor Annise Parker and every viewer to send her a Bible.
Said Huckabee on his Fox News program:
The Houston case reminds us how rapidly our country is being taken over by intolerant despots who will unleash a form of political genocide against Christians who still cling to their Bibles and refuse to bow their knee to the false gods of hate and religious bigotry. The Houston mayor and her ilk, like mayors in Chicago and Boston who tried to prevent businesses opening in their city because the business owners were bible believing Christians, well she needs to apologize and start respecting all citizens - or at least have the integrity to resign. They shouldn't expect taxpayers to fund hate-filled, gestapo-like tactics to openly attempt ot shut down the free exercise of religion and attempt to establish a religion of godless secularism.
On Saturday, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) - an HIV prevention strategy that reduces the risk of infection by the use of antiretroviral drugs. The group also endorsed the use of Truvada, the pharmaceutical produced by Gilead, while making it clear that PrEP is more than just about taking a pill.
HRC believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make an informed choice about their sexual health and about PrEP with an informed healthcare provider. PrEP should only be utilized in combination with other safer sex practices – including continued condom use – and patients need to stay on their medications. HRC believes that all PrEP users should be educated about their medications and the potential side effects, establish dosing routines that work for them, and work around financial or health needs that may impede adherence, as well as seek out social support.
The group is also calling on "insurers, regulators, and drug manufacturers to make PrEP available to all medically-qualified individuals, regardless of socioeconomic barriers."
Read the policy paper outlining HRC's new endorsement, AFTER THE JUMP...
Some doctors have been reluctant to prescribe the drug, Truvada, on the premise that it might encourage high-risk, unprotected sexual behavior. However, its preventive use has been endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and many HIV/AIDS advocacy groups. [...]
The CDC says studies have shown that Truvada, when taken diligently, can reduce the risk of getting HIV by 90 percent or more. Research discussed at the International AIDS Conference in July found that use of the drug does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses.
Others, such as AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weistein have labeled Truvada a "party drug" and maintain it will erode condom culture.