Tag Archives: Ships

Suez Canal backlog officially over as last stranded ships pass through

The last ships stranded by the grounding of a giant container vessel in the Suez Canal passed through the waterway on Saturday, according to the canal authority, which said an investigation into the incident would report its findings soon.

The Suez Canal Authority said the last of 422 ships stranded by the grounding of the giant container ship Ever Given made their way through the canal by Saturday, ending the backlog caused by the blockage.

International supply chains were thrown into disarray when the 400-metre-long Ever Given ran aground in the vital trade artery on March 23, with specialist rescue teams taking almost a week to free her after extensive dredging and repeated tugging operations.

The massive container vessel was finally dislodged on Monday, thus ending the backlog of shipping that built up during the crisis.

An SCA investigation began on Wednesday into what caused the vessel to run aground in the Suez Canal and block the waterway for six days, Rabie told the MBC Masr private TV late on Friday.

“The investigation is going well and will take two more days, then we will announce the results,” he added.

WATCH | High tide, tugboats help free ship stuck in Suez Canal:

The gigantic container ship Ever Given has been freed from a sandy bank in Egypt’s Suez Canal after a team of tugboats helped pull its heavy bow from the shore and send it on its way. 0:56

The Ever Given had crashed into a bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about six kilometres north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez.

That forced some ships to take the long, alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip — a 5,000-kilometre detour that costs ships hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and other costs. Others waited in place for the blockage to be over.

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8 other times ships have run into problems in the Suez Canal

The massive cargo ship currently blocking the Suez Canal — holding up of billions of dollars worth of shipping each day — isn’t the first time something has shut down the link between the Mediterranean and Red seas.  

The 400-metre-long Japanese-owned MV Ever Given has been stuck in a single-lane stretch of the famed canal, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, since Tuesday. And although every effort is being made to clear the way, more than 300 ships were still waiting to get through as the problem persisted on Saturday.

But the canal has seen this kind of trouble before in its long history, sometimes shutting down for hours, days, weeks or — in one case — eight years.

In 1937, the U.K.-bound ship Viceroy of India ran aground, causing a holdup for its 700 passengers and the vessels behind it.

It shut down “all shipping” for a time, according to a report by The Associated Press from Cairo on April 11, the day traffic returned to normal.


An aerial view taken from the porthole of a commercial plane shows ships stranded in the Red Sea, as the MV Ever Given container ship — measuring 400 metres long and 59 metres wide — remains lodged sideways on Egypt’s Suez Canal on Saturday. (Mahmoud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images)

“She was refloated after part of the cargo was unloaded,” the report said.

A British freighter, the Lord Church, also ran aground in September 1953, “holding up six following ships,” The Associated Press reported, and a year later a 10,000-ton tanker called the World Peace struck a railway bridge, causing another traffic tie-up.

WATCH | Efforts to get Ever Given moving:

Shipping traffic is halted for another day on one of the world’s busiest trade routes, after the Ever Given ran aground on Tuesday. 0:31

The World Peace, owned by a Greek company headed by the brother-in-law of Aristotle Onassis, managed to block the canal “more effectively than Axis bombs did in World War II,” according to the New York Times.

More than 200 ships were forced to anchor while the problem, which cleared after three days, was dealt with, Reuters reported.

One year later, Egypt sparked a brief war when President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal, which until then had been controlled by British and French interests.


Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt that fall. But the Suez Crisis, as it became known, lasted little more than a week — quelled in November by a United Nations peacekeeping force that Lester Pearson, the future Canadian prime minister, helped muster and for which he later won the Nobel Peace Prize.


Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, investigates the situation after the Ever Given became wedged across the canal. (Suez Canal Authority/The Associated Press)

The crisis closed the canal until March 30, when, according to a report in the Toronto Star, “the first convoy to transit the Suez Canal in five months cleared through Port Said … and passed into the Mediterranean to a deafening salvo of whistles and cheers.”

Five months later, in August, a 9,000-ton tanker called the Barbaros ran aground, damaged its rudder and held up traffic for nearly a day, according to The Associated Press.


Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser waves as he moves through Port Said, Egypt, on June 18, 1956, during a ceremony in which Egypt formally took over control of the Suez Canal from Britain. (The Associated Press)

The stranded ‘Yellow Fleet’

A decade later, at the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war — also known as the Six-Day War — Egypt closed the Suez Canal to international shipping traffic. More than a dozen cargo ships were stranded partway along the canal route for eight years.

The ships stranded on Great Bitter Lake were “manned by skeleton crews, employed by insurance companies who paid off the owners long ago and hope one day to recover part of their losses,” journalist Arnold Bruner reported from the scene for CBC News in late 1973.

By that point, Bruner said, all that was left were the ships, which the crews called the “Yellow Fleet,” and cargo that could not be salvaged — including some rotted cotton shown in the footage in his report.


A group of cargo ships are seen anchored in place in the Suez Canal in late 1973. The canal remained closed to international shipping for eight years after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

“If peace does come to the Middle East and the Suez Canal is eventually opened, these ships may finally go home,” Bruner said.

“When will that be? That’s what the men of the rusting Bitter Lake fleet have been asking themselves for six and a half years, and the answer is as far away as ever.”

The canal reopened on June 5, 1975, with a ceremony attended by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

The Toronto Star quoted Sadat the following day as saying he hoped the canal would again be “a channel of prosperity for the world.”

The same report said a commercial convoy — involving ships from Kuwait, Greece, the Soviet Union, China and Yugoslavia — began transiting the canal two hours after the ceremony.

Other, more recent, delays have included another grounding in 2016 and a multi-ship collision in 2018, according to Bloomberg News.


Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, wearing dark glasses and naval uniform, attends the reopening ceremony for the canal on June 5, 1975. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

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Nostalgic Gamers Rejoice: Microsoft Flight Simulator Also Ships on 10 DVDs

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If you’re feeling nostalgic for a physical game release and you’re interested in Microsoft Flight Simulator, you’re in luck: Aerosoft has announced that it has partnered with Microsoft to offer a physical version of the game — on 10 DVDs.

Sadly, it doesn’t look as if the game is playable on DVD, which means modern gamers won’t get to enjoy the Full Floppy Experience, but swapping all those discs ought to get older stick jockeys feeling a bit nostalgic.

One of the peculiarities of 1990s gaming was the enormous gulf between CD capacity and the humble 1.44MB floppy. Multiple products attempted to bridge it and mostly failed in the process. Games shipped on either a single CD or a ridiculous number of floppies. Later in the decade, games would shift to shipping on multiple CDs, with Phantasmagoria, Wing Commander III, WC4, and Prophecy all needing multiple CDs for install and play. No CD-based game ever pushed up to 11-15 discs, however, while floppy-based games absolutely did.

In any event, Aerosoft is building out this physical collection specifically for people who have slow internet connections or who simply want a physical copy of the game. The 10 DVDs include 90GB of Microsoft’s maps and other downloadable data, identical to what you’d download if you bought the game that way.

Aerosoft’s own employees seem genuinely excited about the game. Mathijs Kok, root forum admin, had this to say about the first time he saw MSF2020 in action:

We were all (and I mean everybody) assuming the videos we seen were rendered on some high end server farm. But here I was, stick in hand, on a rather modest machine, in meeting room, seeing the sim at 50 fps on a 4k screen. My yaw[sic] hit the floor. And I have seen a lot of yaws[sic] hit the floor since then. This was default sim, no add-ons, and the aircraft were pretty solid and the world was alive and looked totally amazing. Not just Frankfurt airport, but also my house. In the default sim. No add-on in FS or P3d has my house. I mean this is very rural France. A village of 300 persons. Looking even closer I noticed that even the trees were accurate. They have a tree database. Not kinds of trees, but actual locations of trees around the world. Mind blown.

There’s a new trailer for the game released just a few days ago, embedded below:

I have to admit, the claims of hyper accuracy on that scale make the game sound objectively interesting. It’s one thing to imagine flying a flight sim with well-detailed airports and major cities, but with countrysides that are more or less pseudo-real. The terrain and major landmarks might be accurate, but you don’t really expect to find your house in a rural community. If Asobo (the actual developers creating the game for Microsoft) included that level of detail for the US and other environments, MSF2020 could be a truly mind-blowing simulation indeed.

Pricing on the game has not been formally announced, but there will be two different physical packages (likely the standard and premium versions). In the US, those versions are expected to sell for $ 59.99 and $ 119.99 respectively. While it hasn’t released pricing data, Aerosoft has stated we should expect pricing very close to the downloadable version. The Aerosoft announcement is here.

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Canadian crew stranded on 2 cruise ships finally allowed home

Canadians working aboard two cruise ships, who have been prevented from coming ashore due to COVID-19 concerns, have finally been allowed to return home.

Global Affairs Canada said Saturday that 18 Canadians and one permanent resident on Holland America’s Koningsdam disembarked and had left Los Angeles on Friday. 

Several dozen others left Princess Cruises’s Emerald Princess in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday and headed to Miami where they boarded a chartered flight to Toronto, according to statements from the government and the cruise line. Global Affairs said the group included 49 Canadian citizens and five permanent residents. 

Earlier this week in Nassau, Bahamas, crew members from Canada aboard the Emerald Princess were told to prepare to be flown home in a charter plane, but the Bahamian government did not allow the ship to dock

‘Like a mini-vacation,’ but only at first

“We’re in Toronto and feeling great even though it’s snowing,” Michelle Joly, a singer with Princess Cruises, said in a phone interview Saturday after her charter flight arrived from Florida.

Joly said her first two weeks with only crew on board were sweet. She was performing aboard the Sky Princess when all the passengers were offloaded on March 14, and she said she continued to perform every second night for her fellow crew members.

“We felt like we were having our own mini vacation. We were allowed to utilize a lot of the guest areas that we wouldn’t
normally use, like the pools, and the pizza and burger place was open,” said Joly.

That changed on April 1 when they had to go into self-quarantine and were confined to their cabins, only being allowed out for brief periods, such as for meals. Then she was transferred to the Emerald Princess on April 26, she said.


In this April 28 photo provided by Melinda Mann, she shows the empty deck on board the Koningsdam, a Holland America cruise ship. Mann, a youth program manager for the cruise line, was stuck on board for weeks. (Melinda Mann via AP)

Global Affairs said the Canadian government continues to work with airlines, cruise lines and foreign governments to bring Canadians home.

“We encourage Canadian crew members on cruise ships who are experiencing difficulties in returning to Canada to contact the closest Canadian consulate or embassy, or Global Affairs Canada headquarters, to request consular assistance,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Approximately 99 U.S. crew members were also allowed to leave both ships, Princess Cruises said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month that about 80,000 crew members remained on board ships off the U.S. coast after most passengers had disembarked. There are hundreds of Canadians on dozens of ships yet to return home.

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Russia seizes, fires upon Ukrainian ships near Crimea

Russia's coast guard opened fire on and seized three of Ukraine's vessels Sunday, wounding two crew members, after a tense standoff in the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula, the Ukrainian navy said.

Russia blamed Ukraine for provoking the incident, which sharply escalated tensions that have been growing between the two countries since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and it has worked steadily to bolster its zone of control around the peninsula.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council has been called for 11 a.m. ET Monday over the escalating situation.

Earlier on Sunday, Russia and Ukraine traded accusations over a separate incident involving the same vessels, prompting Moscow to block passage through the narrow Kerch Strait, which separates the Crimean peninsula from the Russian mainland.

The Ukrainian navy said two of its gunboats were struck and Russian crews boarded and seized them and an accompanying tugboat.

Russia's Federal Security Service, known as the FSB and which oversees the coast guard, said there was "irrefutable evidence that Kiev prepared and orchestrated provocations … in the Black Sea. These materials will soon be made public."

The FSB confirmed early Monday that it fired on the vessels to force them to stop, and then seized them.

In this file photo taken and distributed by Ukrainian Navy Press Service on Sunday, two Ukrainian forces navy ships are seen near Crimea. (Ukrainian Navy Press Service via AP)

The European Union and NATO called for restraint from both sides and for Moscow to restore access to the strait, which Ukraine uses to move ships to and from ports on either side of the peninsula.

Ukrainian authorities said they had given advance notice to the Russians that the vessels would be moving through the strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.

Russia said the three Ukrainian vessels made an unauthorized passage through Russian territorial waters, while Ukraine alleged that one of its boats was rammed by a Russian coast guard vessel.

The tugboat, which was rammed, was travelling with the two Ukrainian gunboats from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol, an eastern Ukraine port, via the Kerch Strait.

Russian jet fighters fly over a bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula on Sunday. (Pavel Rebrov/Reuters)

"Russian coast guard vessels … carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian navy ships," the Ukrainian statement said, with the tugboat suffering damage to its engine, hull, side railing and a lifeboat.

The Kerch Strait is the only passage into the Sea of Azov. The strait is spanned by the recently completed Kerch Bridge, connecting Crimea to Russia. Transit under the bridge has been blocked by a tanker ship, and dozens of cargo ships awaiting passage are stuck.

Russia has not given any indication of how long it will block the strait, but a long-term closure would amount to an economic blockade of Ukrainian cities on the Azov coast. Russia's Black Sea Fleet greatly outmatches the Ukrainian navy.

Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov include strategically vital centres such as Mariupol, the closest government-controlled city to Donetsk and Luhansk, the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists. Thousands of people in those regions have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian troops and the separatists since 2014.

Dispute over strait

The FSB told Russian news agencies on Sunday after the first incident that the Ukrainian ships held their course and violated Russian territorial waters. 

"Their goal is clear," an FSB statement said — "to create a conflict situation in the region." The statement didn't mention ramming a Ukrainian tugboat.

Though a 2003 treaty designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters, Russia has been asserting greater control over the passage since 2015.

(CBC News)

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in an earlier statement that Russia's actions were a violation of the UN Charter and international law, and pledged to "promptly inform our partners about Russia's aggressive actions."

"Such actions pose a threat to the security of all states in the Black Sea region," the statement said, "and therefore require a clear response from the international community."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, after a meeting with his National Security Council, said in a statement he would ask parliament Monday to take up the issue of whether to implement martial law over the incident.

About 50-100 people gathered outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv to protest Moscow's actions.

Smoke from a flare thrown by a protester is seen during a rally in front of the Russian Embassy in Kyiv on Sunday. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Dmitry Kiselyov, a commentator on the state-controlled Rossiya channel, told viewers of his Sunday evening news program that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — encouraged by the U.S. — is looking to pick a fight with Russia in the Black Sea.

The talk show host also said that the U.S. talked Poroshenko into staging a provocation against Russia as a means to disrupt the upcoming meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at this week's Group of 20 summit in Argentina.

"What is happening now at the [Kerch] bridge threatens to turn into a very unpleasant story," Kiselyov warned.

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Floating IBM Robot Ships Out to International Space Station

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in the wee hours Friday morning. The unmanned mission will bring new supplied and instruments to the station, along with something a bit… different. A floating robotic head called CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion) will soon be buzzing around the ISS.

CIMON is a project from German Aerospace Center, Airbus, and IBM. The floating head will arrive at the station on Monday as the autonomous Dragon capsule links up with the crew. At its most basic level, CIMON will act as a flying camera. Using fans and maneuvering fins, CIMON will zip around the station to serve as a camera to monitor experiments and repairs.

This robot doesn’t have a body, but IBM seemed keen to avoid any direct HAL 9000 comparisons. Rather than an unsettling red eye, CIMON has a pleasant face adorning a large display on the front (if a spherical robot has a front). It weighs in at 11 pounds (5 kg) and is a little larger than a human head.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst will conduct all the initial testing of CIMON — CIMON was actually trained to recognize Gerst’s voice and appearance. During their time together, the pair will conduct three procedures. The human and robot will work together to solve a Rubik’s Cube. That’s fun, but the robot will also help with an experiment on crystal formation in space. It will also assist Gerst on a complex medical experiment by acting as a camera relay.

CIMON learned to recognize people.

This robot is more than a flying camera — it can also chat with the crew using IBM’s Watson AI. It understands natural language and can respond to many queries. It also learns over time to become more useful to ISS crew. The AI has been tuned to understand space lingo and common issues that pop up aboard a space station. IBM believes that CIMON’s presence and ability to make small talk will also help astronauts cope with the stress of spaceflight. For example, if CIMON thinks an astronaut is expressing a longing for home, it can reply in a more “sympathetic” voice.

There are no plans to bring CIMON back to Earth. IBM hopes the floating AI head will remain active on the ISS for years to come, where it will help conduct experiments and listen to everyone’s problems. Someone just has to remember to recharge it every now and then. 

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Canada, Australia to send military aircraft to monitor North Korean ships

The Canadian military is joining Britain, the U.S. and Australia in a new surveillance mission to monitor ship-to-ship transfers of oil and other goods to and from North Korea in violation of UN sanctions.

Canada is sending about 40 support personnel and a long-range patrol aircraft, a CP-140 Aurora, to the U.S. military’s Kadena air base on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, a spokesperson for the Canadian defence department confirmed in a statement on Saturday.

The aircraft and personnel are from Canadian Forces Base Comox in B.C.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan also issued statements saying the aim of Canada’s participation in the operation is to “counter North Korea’s maritime smuggling in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed his country’s role in the patrols on Saturday, a day after the eaders of North and South Korea pledged at a historic summit to work for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who is also set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in either May or June, has said he would maintain pressure on Pyongyang through sanctions that were imposed in a bid to rein in the North’s missile and nuclear programs.

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, also promised to keep up economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea.

“We do have a P-8A surveillance aircraft that is going to be working in the region to monitor compliance with sanctions, and that is part of our collaboration with our partners in that exercise to enforce those UN sanctions,” Turnbull said, speaking during a televised news conference.

‘Sanctions have been evaded’

“What has been occurring is that sanctions have been evaded by transferring materials from ship to ship … to add to the surveillance of the area enables that to be identified and then, of course, those who are a party to that to be held responsible and brought to account.”

Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said pressure had to be kept on North Korea to ensure the Korean peninsula was denuclearized.

Australia has offered up a P-8A surveillance aircraft to help monitor North Korea’s compliance with sanctions. The U.S. has accused China and Russia of breaching UN sanctions on North Korea by transferring oil from their ships to North Korean tankers out at sea to avoid detection.(Lukas Coch/EPA)

The move by Australia and Canada to deploy patrol aircraft comes after a British warship arrived in Japan this month to join efforts to police UN sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

“Japan welcomes these (surveillance) activities from the viewpoint of upholding the maximum pressure on North Korea while maintaining the solidarity of the international community,” the Japanese government said in a statement, referring to the moves by Australia, Canada and Britain.

Senior U.S. officials said in February the Trump administration and key Asian allies were preparing to expand interceptions of ships suspected of violating the sanctions on North Korea. The strategy called for closer tracking of ships suspected of carrying banned weapons components and other prohibited cargo to and from North Korea.

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IBM Ships Robotic Head to the International Space Station

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When one considers the types of equipment shipped up to the International Space Station, there’s a certain list of default equipment that makes sense. Spare parts? Check. Food and medical supplies? Check. Some manner of entertainment options? Check. Eleven-pound robot head? Not so much. But IBM has visions of how such hardware might be useful, and it’s developed such a device — the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON for short).

Meet Wilson, Watson, Cimon

Cimon is technically powered by what IBM calls “Watson” technology, but it has a unique mission on the ISS. It will work with German astronaut Alexander Gerst to run some crystal experiments, solve a Rubik’s Cube, and conduct a “complex medical experiment” using Cimon as a flying camera.

All of this sounds fairly rote, but some of the other functions are more interesting. Cimon is also intended to serve as a colleague to on-board astronauts, including working through prescribed checklists in coordination with its “teammates.” There’s also talk of Cimon being able to serve as a safety-improvement by giving warnings of impending failures before astronauts might see them on a control board.

Here’s how IBM describes Cimon’s ability to learn:

AI gives the space assistant text, speech and image processing capabilities, as well as the ability to retrieve specific information and findings. These skills, which can be trained individually and deepened in the context of a given assignment, are developed based on the principle of understanding – reasoning – learning.

Watson speech and vision technologies helped train CIMON to recognize Alexander Gerst, using voice samples and Gerst, as well as “non-Gerst” images. It also used the Watson Visual Recognition service to learn the construction plans of the Columbus module on the International Space Station to be able to easily move around. CIMON also learned all the procedures to help carrying out the on-board experiments. Experiments sometimes consist of more than 100 different steps, CIMON knows them all.

Cimon is a long way off from demonstrating what experts refer to as “strong” AI — progress in that field hasn’t really budged, despite the widespread adoption of AI as a marketing term — but there’s real potential for advance here, we think.

One area where AI advances could truly revolutionize human capabilities is in the exploration of the solar system. Human exploration of objects beyond the moon is a difficult problem for many reasons, but the need to protect and preserve human life across an interplanetary journey ranging from months to years is one of the most significant issues. Most of NASA’s greatest exploration breakthroughs have been delivered by satellites and rovers controlled from Earth, but these systems have clear limits. Communications have to traverse at least three “hops,” first from the vehicle to Earth, then from Earth to the vehicle, and then from the vehicle to Earth again before NASA or one of the other space agencies knows that a specific action has completed successfully.

Cimon-Artist-Depiction

The idea of a rover or satellite as intelligent as, say, R2-D2, is still entirely within the realm of science fiction. But it’s not crazy to imagine a successor to Curiosity that’s equipped with the sensors and tools it needs to reach its own conclusions about which rock faces might be optimal for drilling, or which patches of ground might yield revealing soil samples. Initially, of course, these conclusions would be checked and triple-checked by scientists on the ground. But over time, as the probe proved itself, it might be possible to support the mission with fewer personnel, allowing for other projects to be pursued.

Meanwhile, the inevitable adjustments made to each probe once it began its exploration could be folded back into improvements to future probes. While some improvements would obviously be mission-specific, changes to instrument data integration or core adjustments to boost reliability and stability over the long term could drive a virtuous cycle over time.

That’s an awful lot of weight to put on the initial deployment of a single robot head, but it’s not a crazy idea. Maybe in 15-20 years we’ll be fielding space probes with self-directed exploration capabilities, accompanied by modest human oversight.

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Nintendo’s Switch is a Smashing Success, Ships 10 Million Units

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Nintendo’s Switch has been tearing up sales charts all year, handily outselling the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in multiple months, and generally establishing itself as the must-have console for the holiday season of 2017. According to Nintendo, the console just blew through the 10 million mark in its first nine months. For comparison, the Wii U sold just 13.56 million units over its entire lifetime.
Switch-Tweet

With the holiday season underway, the Switch (See it on Amazon) is bidding fair to set a historical record, even compared with other, extremely popular consoles. The Wii and PS4 moved more consoles in absolute terms at the 10.5-month mark, but the Switch has only been available for nine months. With the critical holiday period before us, it could wind up hitting equivalent numbers, if not exceeding them. The answer to the question “Will low game availability hurt the Switch” is “definitely not.”

Of course, the fact that you can actually buy one hurts nothing. The Switch is listed as being for-sale at multiple outlets according to NowInStock.net, and while many of these deals are bundles, they run the gamut from $ 299 to $ 359. The Super Nintendo Classic, on the other hand, is nowhere to be found.

If you’re having trouble finding gifts — like the aforementioned SNES Classic — there’s some evidence that shopping bots are to blame. Nicknamed “Grinch bots” by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, both Consumer Reports and the New York Times have reported on how bots are running wild through online store listings, buying up thousands of various products the very instant they become available online.

According to Omri Iluz, founder and CEO of an anti-bot company, these bots poll sites hundreds of times per second, scrape sites to find URLs before sales pages have even gone live, and use banks of up to 10,000 URLs and 500 credit cards to bypass retailer purchase limits. Retailers are trying to spin this as a reason to report to holiday sales in person (far from the worst idea we’ve ever heard), though most buyers want to know that a product is in-stock before driving to a store, and it’s not clear this presents a better alternative. If the store simultaneously sells product online, you could still end up traveling 20 minutes for products that are no longer available.

Of course, you can always buy gifts like this on eBay for two to three times the regular price. Still, with Switches actually in stock, it’s good news for Nintendo fans that want one — provided you don’t want the other console the company promised to have on store shelves come Christmas.

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