See Bill Nye’s super shiny LightSail 2 solar sail stretch out in space

This image shows the LightSail 2 with its sail deployed.


The Planetary Society

Space ahoy! The LightSail 2 space propulsion test project passed a major milestone by deploying a shiny Mylar solar sail on Tuesday. Images released on Wednesday show the sail during and after its glorious unfurling process.

Solar sailing is both futuristic and old-fashioned. Instead of relying on wind like a sailboat, LightSail is pushed by photon particles from the sun bouncing off the large reflective surface of the sail.

The Planetary Society, which is headed up by CEO and science celeb Bill Nye, is running the LightSail 2 project. “All indications are that LightSail 2 has successfully deployed its solar sail,” the group tweeted on Tuesday. 

The society followed up with a final confirmation of success.

Lightsail 2 hitched a ride to space on board a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in June. Science stars Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson spearheaded a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 to help fund the mission. It raised over $1.2 million.

The Planetary Society says LightSail 2 “aims to become the first spacecraft in Earth orbit propelled solely by sunlight.” The group wants to demonstrate that solar sailing could be used to as a means of propulsion for CubeSats, tiny, inexpensive satellites that explore and conduct science in space.

If LightSail 2 is a success, it could open the path for more ambitious solar sail missions beyond Earth orbit, all the way to other planets and even other star systems.

Now we just need Katrina & The Waves to rerecord their ’80s hit song as Sailing on Sunshine instead.

Originally published July 23. 

Update, July 24, 4:26 p.m. PT: Adds image of Lightsail 2 with its sail deployed. 

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LightSail 2 successfully demonstrates solar sailing

After the month has passed, the craft will spend another year gradually deorbiting.

It’s a rare achievement in spaceflight, and notable when LightSail relied partly on crowdfunding to make their project a reality. What’s important, though, is what comes next. The Society intends to share data with others so they can implement or refine plans for solar sailing in their own vehicles, such as NASA’s asteroid-bound NEA Scout cubesat. You could see a wave of mini satellites that only need solar nudges to adjust their positions, and possibly larger spacecraft beyond that.

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How To Undo and Prevent Windows Updates

Illustration for article titled How To Undo and Prevent Windows Updates

Major Windows 10 updates aren’t always smooth sailing. And if you own Microsoft’s Surface Book 2, you’ll probably be a bit annoyed to know that you can’t update to Windows 10 version 1903, the latest iteration of Microsoft’s operating system, thanks to a bug with Nvidia GPUs.

To be fair, errors like this are bound to crop up when a company pushes updates for an operating system installed on PCs with wildly varying hardware configurations and capabilities. Microsoft is usually quick with patches to fix some of these issues, but sometimes you need an immediate fix if you pulled the trigger and borked your system.

How to roll back a Windows update

If you act fast, you can fully undo major Windows updates. You only get a 10-day windows after installing the latest version of Windows, so act quickly if your system starts having major issues..

  1. Open the Windows 10 Settings Menu by clicking the gear icon in the Windows Start menu, or by pressing “Windows+I” keys.
  2. Click “Update & security”
  3. Click the “Recovery” tab on the sidebar
  4. Under “Go back to the previous version of Windows 10,” click “Get started.”

  5. Follow the remaining on-screen instructions to complete the rollback.

While Windows 10 notes that you probably won’t have to back up your files before initiating a rollback, it never hurts.

How to uninstall minor Windows updates

You’re also able to uninstall all Windows updates that have been applied since the most recent build. Use this only if you know which update(s) caused the issue, as overzealous deleting could lead to even more problems.

Illustration for article titled How To Undo and Prevent Windows Updates

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse
  1. Open the Windows 10 Settings menu by clicking the gear icon from the Windows Start menu, or by pressing “Windows key+I”.
  2. Click “Update & security”
  3. Open the “Windows Update” tab
  4. Click “Update history,” and then click “Uninstall updates”
  5. In the new screen that appears, find the update you wish to remove from the list (under “Microsoft Windows”) and click “Uninstall”

Last resort: Reinstall Windows

If neither of the above options work, the last-ditch options are to either “reset” or reinstall Windows, which we have a guide for here. Resetting Windows will keep your files and apps, while a clean installation reverts to a pure version of Windows 10, deletes your files/apps, and resets all your hardware drivers and system settings to their factory defaults. A clean install will likely solve software issues you’re having, but it’s a tedious process, and should be your last resort.

Prevent automatic updates

Once you’ve rolled back to a safe version of Windows or uninstalled problematic Windows updates. you may want to prevent Windows from automatically re-downloading and installing them. As long as you’re running the April 2019 version of Windows or later, you can do this within the Home version of the operating system. (This feature is automatically built into Windows 10 Pro.)

To pause updates, head back to the Windows Update screen and look for the option; you can’t miss it:

Illustration for article titled How To Undo and Prevent Windows Updates

Screenshot: David Murphy

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Caught Up in the College Admissions Scandal: Stanford’s Boathouse

A sailing coach pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the cheating and bribery scheme. A rowing coach was fired, but the university won’t say why.

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CreditCreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

Billy WitzDavid W. Chen

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — A Stanford sailor arrived at the university’s gleaming boathouse to clean out her locker at the end of the school year. The doors would not open.

“Did they change the locks again?” she said with an air of exasperation.

It was a reasonable question. In March, when the sailing coach John Vandemoer was fired after being snared in a nationwide admissions scandal, the locks were changed at the Arrillaga Family Rowing and Sailing Center. In April, they were changed again, after the men’s rowing coach Craig Amerkhanian was mysteriously fired — late in the season, weeks before his planned retirement.

Stanford’s boating troubles stem from the work of William Singer, the private college consultant who collected millions of dollars in payments from wealthy parents and paid college coaches and athletic administrators to designate non-athletes as recruits for admissions purposes at elite universities. In some cases, the college coaches pocketed the money. In others, Singer, who goes by Rick, made donations to the athletic programs.

Stanford is investigating the scope of the wrongdoing. It has hired the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett to review how its athletes are recruited and how athletics-related gifts are accepted.

The university has reviewed email accounts, phone records and computers of coaches and athletic department staff. It has acknowledged that Singer contacted other coaches at Stanford — Amerkhanian among them. At least one parent indicted in the scandal, a Canadian businessman, also contacted Amerkhanian to discuss a recruiting spot for his son. Stanford maintains it has not unearthed any other cases of admissions fraud, however.

“Stanford is strengthening its internal controls and processes in an effort to prevent something like this from happening again,” E.J. Miranda, a university spokesman, said in a statement.

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CreditKatherine Taylor for The New York Times

That Stanford is in this position is startling. It has a $26.5 billion endowment and prides itself on achieving athletic excellence without sacrificing integrity. But the turmoil in these two modestly financed athletic programs, along with another pair of dismissals, has resulted in what has long been seen as the ultimate sin at Stanford — sullying the university’s reputation.

“You didn’t do anything that could tarnish Stanford’s name,” Jay Kehoe, a former head sailing coach, said. “That was definitely the culture.”

When Vandemoer, wearing a navy suit and holding his wife’s hand, walked into a Boston courthouse for a sentencing hearing last month, the lawyers on both sides sparred over the extent of the damage done to Stanford’s reputation.

Since the scheme was revealed in March, federal prosecutors have brought criminal charges against more than 50 people, including coaches, Hollywood actresses and prominent figures from the worlds of law and finance.

Vandemoer, who pleaded to conspiracy to commit racketeering, was the first to be sentenced: six months of home confinement for receiving more than $600,000 from Singer in exchange for designating applicants as sailing recruits. The best-known case involved a student from China whose parents paid Singer $6.5 million.

Vandemoer, who put the money from Singer into a fund that supports Stanford’s sailing program, lost his job and his Stanford housing. He now lives at the vacation home of a Stanford benefactor and coaches privately, at a club run by his wife, just a few hundred yards from the Stanford boathouse.

“Stanford is a place that I love,” Vandemoer told reporters last month in front of the courthouse. “I have brought a cloud over Stanford, and for that I’m deeply ashamed.”

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CreditKatherine Taylor for The New York Times

The sentencing capped a turbulent few months at Stanford. In March, a week before the admissions scandal broke, James Shirvell, an admissions officer, was fired after the police charged him with the attempted murder of his girlfriend while under the influence of LSD. Stanford’s president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, and provost, Persis Drell, vowed to review the applications Shirvell judged “to assure his assessments were sound.”

Then, in April, Stanford abruptly fired two longtime coaches: Shannon Turley, who oversaw strength and conditioning for all varsity sports, and Amerkhanian, who had planned to retire in August, after his 19th season.

In an interview, Turley, who had been praised for reducing injuries, especially among football players, declined to comment on his firing. But he said that “for any errors of judgment that I may have made at Stanford, I can sleep well at night knowing that I did everything in the best interest of the student-athletes.”

Stanford takes great pride in its athletics program, which for the 25th consecutive year won the N.C.A.A.’s Directors’ Cup, the award for overall excellence. The university is also notoriously tight-lipped about personnel matters. Few people were aware of why any of the coaches was dismissed.

“Stanford athletics is a really cold, calculating, bureaucratic organization,” said the Olympian Silas Stafford, a rower who graduated in 2008. Noting how Amerkhanian’s firing was publicly described as a retirement, Stafford said: “I would call it cowardice. If there’s really dirt, let it see the sunlight. If there’s not, let him go out in style.”

When Stanford was informed last week that multiple people had told The New York Times that Amerkhanian had been dismissed, it acknowledged he was given a choice — retire or be fired — for violating employee behavior policies. Stanford said the violations came to light this year, but refused to specify if they were spurred by the federal investigation or if they were gleaned from the scrubbing of computers and phones.

Amerkhanian, 62, declined to comment.

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CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

Tall, lean and boisterous, Amerkhanian often used an air horn to get his rowers’ attention and leaned on Springsteen lyrics and historical references for inspiration, like commemorating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Selma to Montgomery march with a 54-mile row.

His firing, on April 18, stunned the Stanford rowing community, which had been planning to honor him at a retirement barbecue at the boathouse nine days later, to coincide with the annual Big Row against the University of California, Berkeley. Organizers scrambled to find another venue, but attendees described the event as awkward, with Amerkhanian complaining that he was a victim of Stanford’s post-scandal vigilance.

For years, Amerkhanian and Vandemoer operated out of a contemporary boathouse on the edge of San Francisco Bay named for the developer John Arrillaga Sr., a former Stanford basketball player and one of the university’s largest benefactors. His children, John Jr. and Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, attended college and graduate school at Stanford.

Inside the two-story, 16,500-foot facility, sculls are stacked in four bays on the ground floor, while a fifth is set aside for sailing. Upstairs, along with million-dollar views of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Bair Island Ecological Reserve and the bay, are rowing machines, stationary bikes and weights, along with a kitchen, laundry room and offices.

If sailing requires mental and physical dexterity, reading the wind and the opponent, and moving decisively on a small boat, then Vandemoer, 41, was a fitting avatar: short, serious, hardworking and quiet, with dark sunglasses and a Red Sox cap typically pulled tight over his brow out on the water.

Conversely, rowing requires long levers, brute strength and fierce determination to push through searing pain on the water. If experience is crucial in a sailboat, rowers can be made — and over the last 15 years, few have cranked out Olympians like Amerkhanian.

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CreditJordan Wallach/The Stanford Daily

But some former rowers and Stanford coaches said Amerkhanian could also be territorial, abrasive and a bully.

Stanford suspended him for three months and stripped him of his title as director of rowing during the 2010-11 school year, after a joint Pac-10 and Stanford investigation found violations of school policies, conference rules and abuse of authority, according to what the then-athletic director Bob Bowlsby told rowers at the time. Bowlsby, now the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, declined to comment other than to say the discipline wasn’t connected to admissions.

“He was always a square peg in a round hole in the bureaucracy of Stanford,” said Stafford, who credited Amerkhanian with molding him into an Olympian.

A problem Amerkhanian and Vandemoer had in common was the cost of competing against colleges in the Northeast. In the 2018-19 school year, the sailing team made 15 trips east of the Mississippi River.

According to Department of Education data on operating expenses, Stanford spent $182,000 on its sailing program in 2017 — more than any school other than Boston College, and nearly double what Yale and Georgetown spent. But Vandemoer said in an interview before his sentencing that his budget did not include equipment; his biggest fund-raising need was to replace a fleet of 18 sailboats — at a cost of about $120,000 — every five to eight years.

The rowing teams don’t travel as frequently — or as far — but they have a major expense that the sailors do not. They must transport their boats, which can run up to $80,000 for a carbon fiber shell, to races.

Stanford spent about $386,000 on its rowing programs in 2017 — down from a peak of $557,000. Other top rowing programs like Yale and Cal each spent around $675,000 in 2017, and the University of Washington spent $1.25 million.

Though Stanford said its coaches do not have fund-raising benchmarks, the external pressures to finance these programs were touched on in letters supporting Vandemoer to the judge who sentenced him. A parent of two Stanford sailors noted that the team stayed at his house in Annapolis, Md., to save money.

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CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

In addition, Joseph W. McCoy, a Stanford alumnus and avid sailor, wrote: “I am not at all surprised with how such low-profile and poorly funded sports like sailing, soccer, rowing, etc., became such easy targets in this rather ingenious criminal operation that created this mess.”

Singer, who was known among Silicon Valley’s rich and well-connected parents, sought coaches at Stanford and the University of Southern California to join his scheme. If he had more success at U.S.C., it was not for his lack of trying at Stanford, which acknowledged that Singer had contacted “several” coaches. Singer met Vandemoer in 2016, but several years before that he had asked Amerkhanian what he needed. The coach replied: Six-foot-five, 1,500 SAT and 4.0 G.P.A.

One parent who approached the coach was David Sidoo, a Vancouver businessman. He has pleaded not guilty to paying Singer at least $200,000 between 2011 and 2013 to hire a test administrator to take the SAT in place of each of his two sons and a Canadian high school graduation exam in place of his older son.

Sidoo discussed the possibility that at least one son, Jordan, a coxswain in high school, be recruited to Stanford. Amerkhanian mentioned the student to admissions, according to people who have talked to the former coach.

Jordan went to Cal, and was on the rowing roster for at least one season before graduating in 2018. But Cal is now investigating, and has noted that evidence of fraud may lead to diplomas being revoked.

A lawyer for Sidoo, Martin G. Weinberg, described his client’s interactions with Amerkhanian and Stanford as “nothing outside of what parents of students do.”


Billy Witz reported from Redwood City, Calif., and David W. Chen from Boston. Kate Taylor contributed reporting, and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

David W. Chen is an investigative reporter on the Sports Desk. He was previously an investigative reporter on the Metro desk, the City Hall bureau chief, and worked in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the San Francisco Bay Area before joining The Times in 1995. @davidwchen

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