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Elon Musk says he'll rename flamethrower

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.

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Not a flamethrower after all?

Screenshot by Mike Sorrentino/CNET

It was the must-have gadget of, well, last week. Elon Musk’s Boring Company flamethrower, retailing at £500, sold out within days of its launch. All 20,000 were gone.

Everyone wanted one, it seemed.

Musk had made it appear so very exciting. Now he has to face a familiar problem: delivery. And it seems there is indeed a little problem here.

So much so that he insists he’s going to have to rename the product. No, he isn’t going to call it the Exciting Company flamethrower.

Now Playing: Watch this: Elon Musk’s flamethrower is a hot seller 1:37

Instead this, he says, is a customs issue. In a Friday tweet, Musk explained the problem. “Apparently,” he tweeted, “some customs agencies are saying they won’t allow a shipment of anything called a ‘Flamethrower.’ To solve this, we are renaming it ‘Not a Flamethrower.'”

Apparently, some customs agencies are saying they won’t allow shipment of anything called a “Flamethrower”.

To solve this, we are renaming it “Not a Flamethrower”.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 2, 2018

It’s an imaginative solution, for sure. I can foresee the world’s customs officers looking at a package labeled “Not a Flamethrower” and thinking: “Well, that’s a relief. Flamethrowers can be very dangerous.”

Musk might be aware of this. In another Friday tweet, he suggested an alternative name: “Temperature Enhancement Device.”

Or maybe “Temperature Enhancement Device”

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2018

Yes, that should take the heat out of the situation. Still, some might wonder whether “not a flamethrower” is actually a more accurate description of the gadget.

To remain legal in the US, the device shoots flames less than 10 feet. Military flamethrowers can send them anywhere from 30 to 100 feet. The more sanguine among us might therefore describe Musk’s version as a fancy blowtorch. A Boring Company spokesman told my CNET colleague Amanda Kooser: “The Boring Company flamethrower is safer than what you can buy right now off-the-shelf on Amazon to destroy weeds.

Much like a rollercoaster, this is designed to be thrilling without danger. Dangerous flamethrowers are already regulated and require a permit to own in California.” Nevertheless, one California lawmaker wants it banned.

Perhaps calling it “Not a Flamethrower” everywhere would assuage the lawmaker’s concerns. Oh, this is all amusing marketing for Musk. It keeps him in the spotlight, while taking a little focus away from Tesla, which is currently enjoying some production and delivery issues with its Model 3.

Perhaps Musk could start delivering some less-than-finished cars and label them “Not a Model 3”?

Just to keep the customers entertained for now.

Customs problem solved! pic.twitter.com/6D0Fbm8NFI

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2018

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Critical pieces of the Webb telescope handle the cold like a champ.

NASA/Chris Gunn

And you thought it got cold in winter. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope made it through a frigid trial in a cryogenic chamber. An exposed human couldn’t survive in there, but a NASA camera did and we can all enjoy a fascinating look at what went on inside.

NASA’s photo, released Friday, looks like a still from a sci-fi movie, but it shows how important elements of the telescope react to the kind of extreme cold it will face in space. Webb, scheduled to launch in 2019, represents the next generation of space-faring telescopes. It will be the most powerful ever built and will pick up where Hubble and Spitzer leave off.

It will look for clues leading back to the early formation of the universe. Chamber A at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas is legendary. The massive thermal-vacuum facility once hosted Apollo spacecraft (and sometimes the crew members), but it got a remodel to help it simulate deep space conditions for testing the James Webb telescope.

NASA placed the combined optical and science instrument part of the telescope in the chamber and snapped a long-exposure photo at the mind-boggling temperature of 50 kelvins (around -369.7 degrees Fahrenheit/-223.2 degrees Celsius).

The camera was meant to monitor the telescope’s alignment and keep an eye on the black material used around the primary mirror to block out light. NASA says “the telescope shrank ever so slightly in the extreme cold of the chamber.”

Webb successfully passed its cryogenic tests, which NASA describes as “a significant milestone in the telescope’s journey to the launch pad.” We can enjoy the peek inside the chamber and be glad we don’t have to brave that kind of cold.

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Polar bears struggling to catch enough seals as ice fades

This polar bear wears a high-tech collar for tracking its behavior, location and hunting success.

Anthony Pagano, USGS

The plight of the polar bear is looking more dire all the time. A new study finds the large predators have a higher metabolic rate than previously expected and prey is getting harder to catch as climate change causes sea ice to retreat sooner than ever. Researchers monitored a group of nine female polar bears in the Arctic over the course of two years.

They used collars equipped with point-of-view cameras and location-tracking tech to follow the bears’ movements and feeding behavior. They also measured the bears’ metabolic rates using blood and urine samples. “We found that polar bears actually have much higher energy demands than predicted.

They need to be catching a lot of seals,” says Anthony Pagano, a US Geological Survey wildlife biologist and doctoral candidate at University of California Santa Cruz. Five of the nine bears lost mass at a time when they should have been packing on body fat.

The team, led by Pagano, published its findings Friday in the journal Science. Polar bears can readily hunt seals on sea ice, but it’s much more difficult to catch the prey when the ice is gone and bears end up expending energy by traveling over greater distances.

“As sea ice becomes increasingly short-lived annually, polar bears are likely to experience increasingly stressful conditions and higher mortality rates,” the study says. Polar bears are currently listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. University of New Mexico biologist John Whiteman wrote a perspective piece on the study for Science.

Citing a previous study, Whiteman says, “Ice loss, if unabated, will eventually cause the extinction of polar bears in the wild, but continued research is needed to understand the climate-related pressures that polar bears face.”

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Apple pips Samsung for top smartphone spot over holiday season

Apple has its nose in front of Samsung once more. Apple’s phone sales fell second to the Korean electronics giant for the first three quarters of 2017, but with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X going on sale in the fourth quarter, it’s back in front, according to IDC’s quarterly report on smartphone market share. Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones in the last quarter of 2017 (19.2 percent market share), just ahead of Samsung’s 74.1 million (18.4 percent).

That was despite Apple’s overall sales of iPhones dropping 1 percent for the year compared to 2016. The iPhone X, Apple’s most expensive phone to date, didn’t fly off store shelves as expected, with reports pointing to Apple halving its production run for the first quarter of 2017. Still, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a press release that the iPhone X was “the top-selling iPhone every week since it shipped in November,” and the pricier iPhone lineup scored all-time records in quarterly profit and revenue.

For the year as a whole, 2017’s worldwide smartphone shipments suffered a small decline, less than 1 percent, with shipments falling from 1.473 billion units in 2016 to 1.472 billion. Outside the top two for 2017’s last quarter, Huawei held its place in third, with a market share of 10.2 percent. The most-improved was Xiaomi, whose impressive premium Xiaomi Mi 6 competes with the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7.

It hit fourth with a 7 percent market share, double its 2016 fourth quarter share of 3.3 percent, finding most of its new customers in India and Russia.

Oppo, another Chinese company looking to expand through Asia and worldwide, dropped to fifth.

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Potential witness list in Waymo v. Uber suit includes big names

The potential witness list for the Waymo v. Uber lawsuit was released Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, it contains some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names.

The list of potential witnesses in the Waymo v.

Uber lawsuit includes some big names.

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Among those who might be called: Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, former Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski and former head of legal at Uber Salle Yoo. Waymo, a self-driving car company owned by Google parent Alphabet, sued Uber in February 2017 alleging the company stole trade secrets involving self-driving cars. Waymo says that Levandowski stole 14,000 “highly confidential” files to develop Uber’s technology.

Uber has called the claim “baseless.” Jury selection for the trial is scheduled for Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco. iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.

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