science & technology

The alien-hunting Kepler telescope has discovered something big

NASA has called a press conference to reveal a breakthrough discovery from its alien-hunting Kepler telescope. The discovery was driven by Google’s machine-learning artificial intelligence software.

The announcement will be live-streamed on NASA’s website, according to a press release. It will take place Thursday, December 14, at 1 p.m. EST.

The Kepler telescope—which launched in 2009—has discovered thousands of planets outside our solar system. “Thanks to Kepler’s treasure trove of discoveries, astronomers now believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky,” the press release states.

Kepler’s original mission was completed in 2012. It confirmed the existence of 2,337 exoplanets and 4,496 possible candidates.

Thirty exoplanets exist in habitable zones. This means they are the right distance from their neighboring stars to host extraterrestrial life.

In 2014, Kepler began a new exoplanet-hunting mission: K2. This has confirmed the existence of 178 exoplanets to date, with 515 further potential planets. K2 is also “introducing new research opportunities to study young stars, supernovae and other cosmic phenomena,” according to the press release.

Machine Learning

Experts from NASA and Google will be on hand to explain the latest breakthrough. Attendees will include Paul Hertz, the director of NASA’s astrophysics division in Washington, D.C., as well as Christopher Shallue from Google. Shallue is a senior research software engineer at Google Brain—the tech giant’s machine intelligence research team.

Google Brain is responsible for research that helps robots pick up sand and teaches machines to be fair.

Cagey on the details, NASA’s press release states that machine learning “demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data.”

Exactly what this new method of combing has revealed, we will have to wait until Thursday to see.

Courtesy: Newsweek
Read more

Apple’s $999 iPhone X packs an edge-to-edge display and dual cameras

The iPhone X (pronounced "iPhone Ten") is real, and it's finally here. CEO Tim Cook just unveiled the biggest redesign of the iPhone we've seen yet, at today's event in the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple's brand-new campus. As expected, the phone is dominated by a massive screen that takes up the entire front of the display. Just as on Samsung's Galaxy S8, the bezels are barely there, though the iPhone X has a slightly odd "cutout" at the top of the phone to allow for the front-facing camera and sensors. The lack of bezels means the phone isn't that much bigger than the iPhone 7.

The "Super Retina" display is 5.8 inches, with a 2436 x 1125 resolution -- that works out to 458 pixels per inch, by far the highest ever seen on an iPhone. Phil Schiller also notes that it's an OLED screen, the first that's "good enough" for an iPhone. The screen supports HDR, and naturally includes 3D Touch technology and the "True Tone" display found on the iPhone 8 and iPad Pro.

To accommodate this giant display, Apple has ditched the home button and Touch ID. You can raise the phone to wake it up, but you can also tap the screen to do the same. Given that every iPhone has had a home button, this change might even be a bigger deal than the bigger screen. To get home, Apple has added gestures like the ones we've seen on the iPad for years — a swipe up from the bottom gets you back to the home screen, while swiping up and pausing will bring you to the multitasking menu. To access Siri, you can say "Hey Siri" or hold the side button, which Apple has enlarged. The phone is wrapped with stainless steel and has glass on the front and back; surprisingly, it comes in only two finishes: silver and black.


To replace Touch ID, the iPhone X is locked until you look at it and it recognizes you. Apple is calling this "Face ID." It uses the front-facing camera as well as other sensors, including an infrared sensor, flood illuminator and dot projector, to unlock the phone. (Apple refers to it as a True Depth sensor.) It'll update your face scan frequently to account for changes like haircuts, hats and beards. Schiller says it's a one-in-a-million chance that someone else's face would unlock your phone, as compared with one in 50,000 for Touch ID.

Face ID will also let you authenticate Apple Pay purchases -- by clicking the side button twice and looking at the screen, your phone will make the desired payment. And Apple's also using the True Depth sensors to let you create and share animated emojis. The company is starting with a dozen different emojis (most of them animals) that you can animate using your face.

As for the camera, it's a dual camera, much like that on the iPhone 8 -- it has dual 12-megapixel sensors with a f/1.8 aperture on the wide end and f/2.4 on the telephoto lens. The big thing to note here is that both lenses have optical image stabilization, while the iPhone 8 Plus has only OIS on the wide-angle lens. It also features factory calibration on the cameras, for augmented reality, as well as the new software-enhanced "Portrait Lighting" mode found in the iPhone 8 Plus.

The processor is the same as the A11 Bionic chip found in the new iPhone 8, and it sounds like a big step up over last year's processor. It's a six-core CPU, with two high-performance cores. Those high-performance cores are 25 percent faster than the A10, while the four high-efficiency cores are 70 percent faster than the A10. Apple also designed the GPU for the first time and says that its optimized for the company's Metal 2 graphics framework.

Despite all the new features and power of the A11 chip, Schiller says that the phone should last two more hours than the iPhone 7. Like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, the iPhone X will also include wireless charging for the first time. To facilitate wireless charging, the entire iPhone lineup now has glass backs, just like the iPhone 4 and 4S had many years ago. Somewhat surprisingly, Apple is using Qi, one of the biggest open wireless charging standards. That means that plenty of wireless charging pads out there should work with the iPhone X right out of the box.

Naturally Apple has made its own charging mat that can accommodate the iPhone X or iPhone 8, the series 3 Apple Watch and Airpods, provided you buy a new wireless charging case for them. It's called AirPower, but it doesn't come out until next year unfortunately.

There are a few changes to navigating iOS to accommodate for the lack of a home button. Since swiping up from the bottom gets you home or to multitasking, you now access control center by swiping down from the top of the screen, You need to hit the targets on the left or right where your status and battery indicator live to do that, though. Apple hasn't shown the notification center yet, but we're guessing you can get it by swiping down from the middle of the screen.

One of the biggest questions about the iPhone X has been its cost. It'll start at $999 for 64GB, and the 256GB model will likely run an extra $100. Pre-orders start on October 27th, and the phone will begin shipping on November 3rd. Start saving your couch change, folks.

Read more

The best alternatives to Apple"s iPhone 8

Apple’s (AAPL) much-hyped iPhone 8 is nearly upon us, and we’re as excited as the next person to see what the Cupertino, California-based company has cooked up this time around. Will the 8 match up with all of the rumors we’ve read over the past few months? Will it be the greatest iPhone yet? Will it give you the power of heart like that one kid from “Captain Planet?” God, I hope not.

If you’re an Android user, though, you probably don’t care about any of that. In fact, you’re probably wondering what the best alternatives to Apple’s upcoming handset are. Well lucky you, because that’s exactly what we’re serving up.
A camera that’s better than the iPhone 7 Plus’s

Galaxy Note 8

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 is the follow-up to the company’s Galaxy Note 7, which was not only a great smartphone, but also doubled as a hand grenade thanks to its exploding batteries.

The Note 8 more than makes up for the 7’s issues and builds on the features the brand is known for: big screens and a slick stylus. But the standout feature of the Note 8 is its dual-lens camera. Like the iPhone 7 Plus, the Note 8 has one wide-angle lens and a second telephoto lens.

But Samsung ups that ante by adding optical image stabilization (OIS) to both of those lenses. Apple, on the other hand, only offers (OIS) on its wide-angle lens. That’s a problem because when you zoom in on a subject, every slight movement of your hand becomes drastically exaggerated. By adding OIS to the Note 8’s telephoto lens, Samsung ensures that zoomed images will come out nice and clear.

A big screen without a big phone

Galaxy S8

The Galaxy S8 was one of the first of the new breed of phones to sport a gorgeous edge-to-edge display. It also doesn’t hurt that the S8 is just flat-out beautiful, either. From its exceptional 5.8-inch wraparound Infinite Display to its excellent camera that rivals the iPhone 7’s own shooter, the S8 is easily one of the best phones on the market.

What’s more, the S8 offers many of the same features as the Note 8, with the exception of the dual-lens camera and stylus, for a far lower price. So not only is it a great iPhone alternative, but it’s also the perfect Note 8 alternative.

A pure Google phone

Google Pixel

Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Pixel is the company’s first piece of hardware designed in-house and it’s one heck of a freshman effort. I used the Pixel XL, the larger 5.5-inch version of the 5-inch handset, for months and loved every minute of it. The Pixel’s display is vibrant, the camera is surprisingly impressive given the poor quality of older Google phones’ camera and, best of all, there is no carrier bloatware.

Yes, the Pixel is free of any of that nonsense your carrier throws on your phone, not to mention what other other phone makers add to your phone — I’m looking at you, Samsung and LG. And with your choice of 32 GB or 64 GB of storage and unlimited cloud storage for your photos, the Pixel is one wonderful smartphone.

A unique, all-Google phone

Essential Phone

If Google’s Pixel is just too mainstream for you, then you’ll want to opt for the new Essential phone. Created by the father of Google’s own Android operating system, Andy Rubin, the Essential is designed to be a third option in the smartphone wars outside of Apple and Samsung.

Courtesy: Yahoo news

Read more

These chip-sized spacecraft are the smallest space probes yet

Spacecraft have gone bite-sized. On June 23, Breakthrough Starshot, an initiative to send spacecraft to another star system, launched half a dozen probes called Sprites to test how their electronics fare in outer space. Each Sprite, built on a single circuit board, is a prototype of the tiny spacecraft that Starshot scientists intend to send to Alpha Centauri, the trio of stars closest to the sun. Those far-flung probes would be the smallest working spacecraft yet.

“We’re talking about launching things that are a thousand times lighter than any previous spacecraft,” says Avi Loeb, an astrophysicist at Harvard University who is part of the committee advising the initiative. A Sprite is only 3.5 centimeters square and weighs four grams, but packs a solar panel, radio, thermometer, magnetometer for compass capabilities and gyroscope for sensing rotation.

These spacecraft are designed to fly solo, but for this test, they hitched a ride into low Earth orbit on satellites named Max Valier and Venta-1. Each satellite has one Sprite permanently riding sidecar, and the Max Valier craft has another four it could fling out into space. Unfortunately, as of August 10, ground controllers haven’t yet been able to reach the Max Valier satellite to send a “Release the Sprites!” command. One of the permanently attached Sprites — probably the one on Venta-1 — is in radio contact.

Before sending next-gen Sprites off to Alpha Centauri, scientists plan to equip them with cameras, actuators for steering and other tools. “This was really just the first step in a long journey for Starshot,” Loeb says.


Read more

This 18-year-old designed the world’s lightest satellite

This teen literally reached for the stars, and it looks like he made it.

An 18-year-old from India built the world’s lightest satellite — and NASA’s going to send it into space.

Rifath Shaarook created a 4-centimeter (1½-inch), 3D-printed cube that weighs 2¼ ounces, making it lighter than an iPhone.

“We built it completely from scratch,” he told India’s Business Standard. “It will have a new kind of on-board computer and eight indigenous built-in sensors to measure acceleration, rotation and the magnetosphere of the Earth.”

The satellite was one of 80 experiments selected through “Cubes in Space,” a student competition organized by NASA and the education company I Doodle Learning. The contest received more than 86,000 submissions from 57 countries.

Shaarook nicknamed his design KalamSat, after Abdul Kalam, India’s former president and famed rocket scientist.

NASA will send the tiny box on a four-hour, suborbital spaceflight June 22, but KalamSat will only operate for 12 minutes in a micro-gravity environment.

The up-and-coming scientist told the Times of India that the satellite’s main purpose is to “demonstrate the performance of 3D-printed carbon” and see if the material can withstand the launch.

Shaarook, who also invented a helium weather balloon when he was 15, is the lead scientist at Space Kids India. The Chennai-based organization, which sponsored his submission, promotes science education for Indian children and teens.

Courtesy: NYPOST

Read more

Meet the new Google Earth, launching on mobile and desktop this week

For the past two years, Google has been working on a new version of one of its most popular tools: Google Earth. Along with introducing several new features to the popular mobile and desktop app, it also makes the app more usable and more informative than it has been in any of its previous iterations.

Don't Miss: The first major Galaxy S8 problem concerns the phone’s most important feature
When you load up the new Google Earth for the first time, it will give you several things to try. First it will tell you to search for a location you want to check out. Once you reach a destination, you will be presented with a series of Knowledge Cards for the various points of interest in that area, pulling information from Wikipedia to give you a basic rundown of landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building.

Once you’re down learning, you can zoom back out and hold the Shift button while dragging on the map to orbit the world in 3D. You can also explore the new Voyager feature to take interactive guided tours from partners like BBC Earth and DigitalGlobe. You’ll even be treated to clips from Planet Earth II.

In addition to the features mentioned above, Google has also added a 3D button to the map that will let users view locations from any angle and an “I’m Feeling Lucky” button to the menu that will randomly drop them somewhere interesting. In other words, it’s more fun than ever to waste time playing with Google Earth.

You can try out the new Google Earth now on Chrome browsers. Google plans to roll out the latest version of the app this week on Android devices and says that it will be available soon on iOS and other browsers.

Credit: Yahoo

Read more

Massive explosion from unknown source billions of light years away baffles astronomers

At 10:49pm Western Australian time on February 2 this year, cosmic gamma rays hit the Nasa satellite, Swift, orbiting the Earth. Within seconds of the detection, an alert was automatically sent to the University of WA's Zadko Telescope. It swung into robotic action, taking images of the sky location in the constellation Ophiuchus.

What emerged from the blackness, where nothing was seen before, was a rapidly brightening "optical transient", which is something visible in the sky for a brief period of time.

The event, named GRB170202, was a very energetic gamma ray burst (GRB). After less than a minute, the gamma rays switched off, and the GRB appeared as a brightening and then fading optical beacon.

The Zadko Telescope recorded the entire evolution of the optical outburst. During its biggest outburst, GRB170202 was equivalent in brightness to millions of stars shining together from the same location.

About 9 hours 42 mins after the GRB, the Very Large Telescope in Chile acquired the spectrum of the light from the optical afterglow.

This enabled a distance to the burst to be measured: about 12 billion light years. The universe has expanded to four times the size it was then, 12 billion years ago, the time it took the light to reach Earth.

GRB170202 was so far away, even its host galaxy was not visible, just darkness. Because the GRB was a transient, never to be seen again, it is like turning on a light in a dark room (the host galaxy) and trying to record the detail in the room before the light goes out.

Mystery of gamma ray burst

The flash of gamma radiation and subsequent optical transient is the telltale signature of a black hole birth from the cataclysmic collapse of a star. Such events are rare and require some special circumstances, including a very massive star up to tens of solar masses (the mass of our Sun) rotating rapidly with a strong magnetic field.

These ingredients are crucial to launch two jets that punch through the collapsing star to produce the gamma ray burst (see animation). The closest analogue (and better understood transient) to a GRB is a supernova explosion from a collapsing star. In fact, some relatively nearby GRBs reveal evidence of an energetic supernova linked to the event.

Simulations show that most collapsing stars don't have enough energy to produce a GRB jet, a so-called "failure to launch" scenario. Both observation and theory show that GRBs are extremely rare when compared to the occurrence of supernovae.
The stars that produce GRBs are born and die within some tens to hundreds of thousands of years, unlike our Sun which has been around for billions of years. This is because very massive stars exhaust their fuel very quickly, and undergo violent gravitational collapse leading to a black hole, on the timescale of seconds.

A plethora of rogue black holes

The rates of black hole formation throughout the universe can be inferred from the GRB rate. Based on the observed GRB rate, there must be thousands of black hole births occurring each day throughout the entire universe.

So what is the fate of these cosmic monsters? Most will be lurking in their host galaxies, occasionally devouring stars and planets.

Others will be in a gravitational death dance with other black holes until they merge into a single black hole with a burst of gravitational waves (GWs), such as the first discovery of such an event by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

At the frontier of understanding black hole formation is the search for a special kind of GRB that marks the merger (collision) of two neutron stars. So called "short GRBs" are flashes of gamma radiation that last less than a second and could be the "smoking gun" for neutron star mergers.

David Coward, University of Western Australia

At 10:49pm Western Australian time on February 2 this year, cosmic gamma rays hit the Nasa satellite, Swift, orbiting the Earth. Within seconds of the detection, an alert was automatically sent to the University of WA's Zadko Telescope. It swung into robotic action, taking images of the sky location in the constellation Ophiuchus.

Trending: Massive explosion from unknown source billions of light years away baffles astronomers

What emerged from the blackness, where nothing was seen before, was a rapidly brightening "optical transient", which is something visible in the sky for a brief period of time.

The event, named GRB170202, was a very energetic gamma ray burst (GRB). After less than a minute, the gamma rays switched off, and the GRB appeared as a brightening and then fading optical beacon.

Don't miss: Fragment of King Khufu's ancient boat unearthed near Great Pyramid of Giza

The Zadko Telescope recorded the entire evolution of the optical outburst. During its biggest outburst, GRB170202 was equivalent in brightness to millions of stars shining together from the same location.

About 9 hours 42 mins after the GRB, the Very Large Telescope in Chile acquired the spectrum of the light from the optical afterglow.

Most popular: Schloss Klessheim: Nazi past of Hitler's lavish Austrian palace uncovered by historians

gamma ray burst

This enabled a distance to the burst to be measured: about 12 billion light years. The universe has expanded to four times the size it was then, 12 billion years ago, the time it took the light to reach Earth.

GRB170202 was so far away, even its host galaxy was not visible, just darkness. Because the GRB was a transient, never to be seen again, it is like turning on a light in a dark room (the host galaxy) and trying to record the detail in the room before the light goes out.

Mystery of gamma ray burst

The flash of gamma radiation and subsequent optical transient is the telltale signature of a black hole birth from the cataclysmic collapse of a star. Such events are rare and require some special circumstances, including a very massive star up to tens of solar masses (the mass of our Sun) rotating rapidly with a strong magnetic field.

These ingredients are crucial to launch two jets that punch through the collapsing star to produce the gamma ray burst (see animation). The closest analogue (and better understood transient) to a GRB is a supernova explosion from a collapsing star. In fact, some relatively nearby GRBs reveal evidence of an energetic supernova linked to the event.

Simulations show that most collapsing stars don't have enough energy to produce a GRB jet, a so-called "failure to launch" scenario. Both observation and theory show that GRBs are extremely rare when compared to the occurrence of supernovae.

fast radio burst

The stars that produce GRBs are born and die within some tens to hundreds of thousands of years, unlike our Sun which has been around for billions of years. This is because very massive stars exhaust their fuel very quickly, and undergo violent gravitational collapse leading to a black hole, on the timescale of seconds.

A plethora of rogue black holes

The rates of black hole formation throughout the universe can be inferred from the GRB rate. Based on the observed GRB rate, there must be thousands of black hole births occurring each day throughout the entire universe.

So what is the fate of these cosmic monsters? Most will be lurking in their host galaxies, occasionally devouring stars and planets.

Others will be in a gravitational death dance with other black holes until they merge into a single black hole with a burst of gravitational waves (GWs), such as the first discovery of such an event by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

At the frontier of understanding black hole formation is the search for a special kind of GRB that marks the merger (collision) of two neutron stars. So called "short GRBs" are flashes of gamma radiation that last less than a second and could be the "smoking gun" for neutron star mergers.

black hole

Importantly, merging neutron stars should be detected from their gravitational radiation by LIGO. Hence, a coincident detection in gamma rays, optical and gravitational waves is a real possibility.

This would be a monumental discovery allowing unprecedented insight into the physics of black hole formation. The revolution is like listening to the radio on a 1920s receiver and then watching a modern high definition surround sound movie.

Future challenges

Given the above rate of thousands of black holes created per day, it seems that coincident detection of GRBs and gravitational waves is a no brainer.

But in reality we must take into account the limited sensitivity of all the telescopes (and detectors). This reduces the potential observation rate to some tens per year. This is high enough to inspire a global scramble to search for the first coincident gravitational wave sources with electromagnetic counterparts.

The task is extremely difficult because the gravitational wave observatories cannot pinpoint the location of the source very well. To counter this, a strategy of searching for coincident gravitational wave and electromagnetic detections in time may be the best bet.

The newly funded ARC Centre of Excellence OzGrav mission is to understand the extreme physics of black holes.

One of the goals is to search for optical, radio and high energy counterparts coincident with gravitational waves from black hole creation. Australia is poised to play a significant role in this new era of "multi-messenger astronomy".

David Coward, Associate professor, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Credit: Yahoo news

Read more

Nasa scientist floats idea of putting a magnetic shield around Mars

If living on Mars is of the realm of sci-fi fantasy, one Nasa scientist has an idea, which could make it possible in a matter of years.

Speaking at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop at the Nasa headquarters in Washington, one scientist presented the extraordinary idea to put a magnetic shield around Mars to restore its atmosphere, which eventually could make it habitable.

In a talk, Nasa’s Planetary Science Division Director James Green set out how the organisation could be in a position to carry out daily science and exploration on Mars.

The workshop was aimed to discuss ambitious space projects that could be implemented or at least started by 2050. Speakers included a range of experts on space technology, which set out their vision for what planetary science may look like in the future.

Mr Green said that launching a “magnetic shield” to a stable orbit between Mars and the sun could shield the planet from high energy solar particles.

In the past Mars had a significant amount of water before the planet lost between 80 and 90 per cent of its atmosphere over its lifetime.

The shield would consist of a large dipole, which is a close electric circuit powerful enough to generate an artificial magnetic field, Popular Mechanics reports.

The shield would allow Mars to slowly restore its atmosphere.

Mr Green’s modelling of the shield found that the structure could enable Mars to build up half the atmospheric pressure of the earth in a matter of years.

The shield would protect the planet from solar winds and the greenhouse effect would start to heat the planet and eventually melt the ice under its poles.

"Perhaps one-seventh of the ancient ocean could return to Mars.

"The solar system is ours, let's take it. That of course includes Mars and for humans to be able to explore Mars, together, with us doing science, we need a better environment," he said.

If the theory seems possible, this could be one step closer towards transforming Mars into a habitable planet in the next 100 years.

Read more

NASA experiments show how astronaut’s genes changed in space

Living in space for one year can change a lot about a person, including their DNA. 

For NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, his year spent living and working on the International Space Station made him more of an environmentalist and gave him a view of our planet that most people will never see in person. 

But beyond those shifts in perspective, Kelly's body may have changed in other ways.

SEE ALSO: This astronaut just spent 340 days in space. Here's why it was worth it.
According to preliminary data released by NASA, Kelly's genes, fine motor skills, microbiome and other aspects of his body were altered during the 340 days he spent in orbit from 2015 to 2016.

Using Kelly's data to get to Mars

Learning more about how a long trip to space affected Kelly is particularly important because NASA is aiming to send humans to Mars in the next two decades, a mission that would require astronauts to live in the weightlessness of space for several months while traveling to and from the red planet's surface. 

One experiment, which was performed when Kelly and his year-in-space partner Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko got back to Earth, simulated various tasks astronauts may have to perform when they first arrive on Mars.
Kelly and Kornienko appeared to have the hardest time with tasks involving "postural control and stability and muscle dexterity," according to a NASA statement. This makes sense if you think about it: The two Space Station crewmembers were living in weightlessness for nearly a year. After that, you probably wouldn't exactly have the best core strength either.

This also follows the results of another experiment, which showed that the fine motor skills of the crewmembers may be impacted by long stays in space, meaning that it's possible astronauts traveling to another world will have trouble using computers after such long trips, NASA said.

Twinning in space

The early results from NASA's twin studies — a series of experiments designed to track how Kelly's physiology changed when compared to his twin brother, astronaut Mark Kelly — are also starting to trickle in.
By comparing biological samples collected from both brothers before, during and after Scott's flight to space, scientists should be able to figure out how Scott's body shifted while in orbit as Mark acted as a control subject on the ground.

Apparently, Scott changed quite a bit. 

One study looking at the Kelly brothers' chromosomes found that Scott's telemeres — the bits at the end of each chromosome — lengthened while in space. Telemeres tend to shorten over the years as a person gets older, but Kelly's lengthening telemeres may have had something to do with his diet and exercise routine on the station, NASA said.

Once Kelly got back to Earth, those bits of his chromosomes shortened again. 

"Interestingly, telomerase activity (the enzyme that repairs the telomeres and lengthens them) increased in both twins in November, which may be related to a significant, stressful family event happening around that time," NASA said in a statement.

According to another study focusing on Kelly's gastrointestinal tract, the ratio of two groups of bacteria shifted while Kelly was in space but returned to normal once he was back on the ground. 

Scott and Mark's microbiomes were different through the course of Scott's stint on the Space Station, but that was expected, because of their differences in diet and lifestyle.

Research focusing on genome sequencing showed that Scott and Mark also have hundreds of mutations in their genomes when compared to one another, NASA said. 

This genetic detective work is just beginning. The scientists conducting the study "will look closer to see if a 'space gene' could have been activated while Scott was in space," NASA added.

While none of these experiments are totally definitive, the results will go a long way toward helping NASA figure out just what astronauts will face when stretching farther out into the solar system.

Credit: Yahoo news

Read more

An 80-year-old prediction may come true: Scientists turn hydrogen into a metal

An 80-year-old prediction may come true: Scientists turn hydrogen into a metal

A team of scientists say they have successfully turned hydrogen into a metal, potentially confirming a prediction made 80 years ago.

In 1935, scientists predicted that the element hydrogen could become a metal if subjected to enough pressure. Teams have been attempting to confirm the prediction ever since, but have not been able to construct a vise capable of squeezing the element enough without breaking the equipment.

But a team of scientists at Harvard University published a paper this week in the peer-reviewed journal Science saying they managed to squeeze hydrogen in a diamond vise to the point that the element became reflective, a key property of metals.

The study is not merely a parlor trick. Metallic hydrogen is thought to be a superconductor, meaning it could conduct electricity without any resistance. Electricity traveling through normal circuits loses energy to resistance overtime, often in the form of heat. This is why it is harder to send electrical currents (say, through the electricity grid) over long distances than short ones. But a current traveling through a superconducting material loses nearly zero energy.

Superconductive metals are used to make the magnets for devices such as hospital MRI machines and particle accelerators such as CERN. The trouble with many superconductors is that the materials now used need to be cooled to extremely low temperatures in order to work, which is expensive.

It is also possible that metallic hydrogen material may be "metastable," according to Science Magazine. This means that, once formed, it may retain its metallic properties even at normal temperatures and pressure levels, like diamonds. If so, it could conduct electricity at nearly 100 percent efficiency in normal conditions. Again, this could dramatically reduce the costs of transferring electrical currents, meaning more powerful and efficient electric motors, and a far more efficient electrical grid.

Scientists have been searching for such a material almost as long as they have known about superconductivity.

Of course, the study has its critics. Eugene Gregoryanz, a physicist at the University of Edinburgh, told Science Magazine he sees a several problems with the experiment's procedures.

"The word garbage cannot really describe it," said Gregoryanz, of the experiment.

The video below, from Harvard, discusses the discovery in detail:

Credit : Science CNBC/ yahoo

Read more

Clip Amazon Echo"s ears with a home-brewed "kill switch"

Amazon's Echo is hearing you all the time, and that isn't necessarily a good thing. The device can randomly order items you don't want, record conversations, and has raised several privacy concerns.

But there is a way to shut off Echo through voice commands. A hardware hacker, Shawn Hymel, has created an innovative kill switch that can accept voice commands to shut off the device. The kill switch is a circuit board attached to Echo via a USB port.

A user can shout a custom command like "Alexa, trigger Echo shutdown" and the kill switch will turn off the Echo by shutting down its power supply. The Echo can be switched back on through a voice command to the kill switch, or by pressing a button on the homemade device.

The Echo kill switch isn't available off the shelf; it's a homebrew project that requires simple hardware assembly and writing some code. The project is rated as easy, but you'll feel more comfortable if you've soldered on circuit boards before.

Full instructions to make the Amazon Echo kill switch are provided on Hymel, an engineer at SparkFun Electronics, also provides the code needed for the project.

The kill switch assembly will cost you around $100. You'll need to buy the popular $69 Particle Photon mini-board, wires, and an additional breadboard with a USB port, with the extra supplies adding up to about $25.

Activating the kill switch will also involve creating a trigger phrase on the IFTTT service to shut down Echo Dot. An applet created on IFTTT connects the Particle board and Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant, which can recognize the shutdown command. Once you ask Alexa to shut down the Echo, IFTTT does the rest.

Amazon's Alexa was popular at the recent CES trade show and its functionality is making its way to cars, refrigerators, smart devices, and other electronics.

Overall, the kill switch is a somewhat expensive but fun project, and it serves a real purpose. It's also a cool way to start making electronics at home.

Read More :

Read more

6-inch Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is on the way alongside 5-inch S8

Samsung is making two different Galaxy S8 sizes next year, new rumors from its home country of South Korea are saying. One, called Galaxy S8, will have a display around 5 inches in size, just like its predecessor - the Galaxy S7. The other phone, however, will go where Samsung hasn't gone before when it comes to the screen size of a flagship.

The Galaxy S8 Plus is rumored to arrive at the same time as the S8 (and sharing most of the specs), but sporting a 6-inch AMOLED panel. Past reports have mentioned both phones would have curved displays, and this new speculation doesn't contradict that. Intriguingly, the S8 Plus is said to have a very similar overall footprint to the now-discontinued Galaxy Note7, which had a 5.7-inch screen. This will be achieved by cutting bezels even more, to the point where the screen really will take up almost all of the phablet's front fascia.

The S8 Plus won't have a stylus, though Samsung has thought about this possibility. Eventually it has decided against it, which probably means there will be a new Note-branded handset revealed in August. Samsung seems to want to keep its strategy of outing a couple of high-end devices in the first part of the year, followed by a Note in the second half, since this has worked very well so far.

The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus will be unveiled at an event in New York in April. Both of them should come with Samsung's own AI-based smart assistant. The bill of materials for the S8 line is expected to rise by 15-20% compared to the S7 models, which means the S8 and S8 Plus will probably end up being more expensive than their predecessors

Read more :

Read more

Nokia sues Apple for infringing patents, industry back on war footing

Nokia Corp (NOKIA.HE) said on Wednesday it had filed a number of lawsuits against Apple Inc (AAPL.O) for violating 32 technology patents, striking back at the iPhone maker's legal action targeting the one-time cellphone industry leader a day earlier.

Nokia's lawsuits, filed in courts in Dusseldorf, Mannheim and Munich, Germany, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, cover patents for displays, user interfaces, software, antennas, chipsets and video coding.

"Since agreeing a license covering some patents from the Nokia Technologies portfolio in 2011, Apple has declined subsequent offers made by Nokia to license other of its patented inventions which are used by many of Apple's products," Nokia said in a statement.

Apple on Tuesday had taken legal action against Acacia Research Corp (ACTG.O) and Conversant Intellectual Property Management Inc [GEGGIM.UL], accusing them of colluding with Nokia to extract and extort exorbitant revenues unfairly from Apple.

"We’ve always been willing to pay a fair price to secure the rights of patents covering technology in our products," said Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock. "Unfortunately, Nokia has refused to license their patents on a fair basis and is now using the tactics of a patent troll to attempt to extort money from Apple by applying a royalty rate to Apple’s own inventions they had nothing to do with."

Read More at :

Read more

War in space: Kamikazes, kidnapper satellites and lasers (Must Read)

It was May 2014 when a small team of American airmen monitoring a Russian satellite launch saw something they had never seen before. An object the team thought was a piece of debris from the launch suddenly came to life.  

"The one object that we assumed was a piece of debris started to maneuver in close proximity to the (rocket) booster," recalled Lt. Gen. David Buck, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Buck, who oversees US military space forces, said the deliberate maneuvers the mystery object made close to the rocket's booster were a red flag. Getting that close to another object in space is a complex feat, as objects can move as fast as 17,500 miles per hour. "That got our attention," Buck said.

In other words, what the US military was witnessing was not debris at all, but instead a satellite with a dangerous capability, one that could allow it to cozy up next to another satellite and potentially destroy it. 

As US adversaries like Russia and China sprint to gain greater control of space, the US finds itself in a new, more ominous arms race with a dizzying array of capabilities that sound like Hollywood creations but are now reality -- from what could be kamikaze and kidnapper satellites launched by Russia and China to lasers and space drones deployed by the US. 

View the complete video :

Read More:

Read more

A Promising New Form of Immunotherapy for Cancer

New research suggests a way to increase the staying power of CAR T cells, a promising form of immunotherapy for cancer.

In people with chronic infections or cancer, disease-fighting T cells tend to behave like an overworked militia — wheezing, ill-prepared, tentative, in a state of “exhaustion” that allows disease to persist. In a paper posted online by the journal Science, researchers at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center report that, in mice with chronic viral infection, exhausted T cells are controlled by a fundamentally different set of molecular circuits than T cells effectively battling infections or cancer.

An accompanying study, led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and co-authored by Dana-Farber scientists, reports that these differences in circuitry remain largely unchanged by a type of cancer immunotherapy known as checkpoint inhibition, potentially closing off one avenue of improving this technique.

The studies bring renewed focus to the epigenetics of T cells — the multilayered system of molecular switches, accelerators, and throttles that controls the activity of genes. Scientists have known for years that the pattern of genes is different in exhausted T cells than in functional T cells that are fully engaged in fighting disease, but the actual extent of these differences has been uncertain.

One difference that is clear is that exhausted T cells express the programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1), which commands them not to attack normal, healthy cells, but can also prevent them from striking at cancerous or chronically infected cells. Blocking PD-1 with checkpoint-inhibiting drugs — and thereby restoring the cancer-killing zeal of T cells — has become one of the most successful new approaches to cancer treatment in nearly a decade. However, it has shown effectiveness in only about a quarter of cases.

“Exhausted T cells display a variety of functional defects,” said Nicholas Haining of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s, the senior author of the new paper. “They are paralyzed and don’t have the firepower to destroy cancer or virally infected cells. For us, the question in this study was, do exhausted cells represent a distinct type of T cell or are they merely a ‘groggy’ version of functional T cells?”

With chronically infected mice as their model, the researchers used a new technology called ATAC-seq to map the regulatory regions of the genome — the sections of DNA involved in switching genes on and off — in the animals’ exhausted and functional CD8+ T cells. (CD8+ T cells are programmed to identify and eliminate cancerous and infected cells.)

“We found the landscape of regulatory regions to be fundamentally different in exhausted and functional T cells,” Haining said. “There were thousands of instances where a regulatory region appeared in exhausted T cells but not in their functional counterparts, and vice versa. This tells us that the two types of cells use very different wiring diagrams to control their gene activity.”

The researchers then tested whether removing a regulatory stretch of DNA that spurs the production of PD-1 would drive down expression of the protein. Using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, they snipped out that region and indeed, PD-1 expression dropped.


Read more

This NASA astronaut voted from space

From infinity and beyond, he found a way to vote.

Shane Kimbrough, a NASA astronaut currently living on board the International Space Station, filed his ballot in Tuesday's presidential election, according to a Tumblr post by NASA.

NASA told Yahoo News that Kimbrough filed his ballot in the 2016 election from the space station sometime over the past few days.

For astronauts who will be in space on Election Day, the voting process starts a year before launch. At that time, they are able to select the elections in which they want to participate.
Then, six months before the election, astronauts are provided with the form "Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request -- Federal Post Card Application."

NASA astronaut David Wolf was the first American to vote in space while on the Russian Mir Space Station in a 1997 local election, according to NPR.


Read more

Ford will be able to back itself into a parking space

Ford Motor Co. said today that its next-generation advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) will enable vehicles to automatically back into parking spaces, detect objects in the road to avoid collisions and prevent wrong-way driving.

Ford already offers a plethora of ADAS features, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning with land-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, driver monitoring, adaptive high-beam assist, blind spot alerts and advanced parallel parking assistance.

Ford offers the ADAS features on the Escape, Taurus, F-150, Fusion and Edge line of vehicles.

The new autonomous systems are part of the company's commitment to triple its investment in developing driver-assist technologies, Ford said.

"Driver-assist technologies help us all be better drivers because they enhance our ability to see and sense the road around us," Scott Lindstrom, Ford's manager of driver-assist and active safety, said in a statement.

The new features will also allow next-generation Ford vehicles to avoid collisions when backing out of parking spaces. Called Cross Traffic Alert with Braking, the system uses rear-vehicle sensors to detect pedestrians or vehicles passing behind a car when the driver is backing out of a parking space and automatically sounds an alert and applies the brakes if the driver doesn't respond.

Read More at:

Read more

Microsoft Launches Surface Studio At Windows 10 Event

Microsoft unveiled its Surface Studio device and a host of new 3D tools at its Windows 10 event Wednesday.

The Surface Studio is an all-in-one PC that boasts a 28-inch ultra-HD 4.5K touchscreen display. Microsoft is touting the 12.5 mm thick display as the thinnest LCD monitor ever built. With 13.5 million pixels, the display also offers 63 percent more than a 4K TV, according to Microsoft.

The Surface Studio can work with Surface pen, touch, or a new Surface Dial device that was unveiled at the New York City event. When the Dial is placed on the screen it brings up a set of tools specific to the app that is open, such as changing the color or the size of a digital brush tip.

The Surface Studio’s hinged display can also be adjusted, turning it into a sort of digital drafting board.

“This is really a new way to create, a new way to produce,” said Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Surface Computing, at the event. “It’s meant to turn your desk into a studio.”

Priced at $2,999, the Surface Studio is available now for pre-order. The device will be available in limited quantities this holiday season, with broader availability early next year.  

Microsoft also introduced three new Surface Books powered by Intel Core i7 processors. The devices offer twice the graphics processing power as the original Surface Book, it said. Priced from $2,399, the Surface Books are available for pre-order now, with availability starting Nov. 10.
Away from hardware, the tech giant showed off its free “Creators Update” for Windows 10, which will be available early next year. “We’re expanding on our vision for mixed reality,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group. “This includes 3D for everyone.”

As part of the update, Microsoft showcased a new 3D version of its Paint app and technology that uses smartphone cameras to capture 3D renderings of objects. The company also plans to integrate 3D across its most popular apps over the next year, such as PowerPoint.

The update will also let people send 3D images to 3D printers, as easily as they send documents to regular printers today. The idea is to also let people post 3D creations on social media easily.

Additionally, Microsoft announced that HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer and ASUS will ship the first headsets capable of mixed reality through the Creators Update next year. Mixed reality combines virtual reality and augmented reality, where a digital “overlay” appears over the physical world.

Related: Apple set to announce new MacBooks on Thursday

“I believe that the next 10 years will be defined by technology that empowers creation,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, during the event. “I am inspired by the 'Minecraft' generation who see themselves not as players of a game but as creators of new works that they dream up.”

However, Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, warns that Microsoft faces stiff competition from Apple, whose products are widely used by creative professionals. “Though today's products are a good start, it takes a long time to change deeply-entrenched perceptions, and Microsoft has its work cut out in trying to convince potential customers that its products are more than just the workhorses they've always been for many,” he said, in a statement. “Workflows and cultures in many creative companies are built around Apple products, and that won't change overnight. However, Microsoft's timing for these new products is great, coming at a time when Apple has been accused of neglecting its creative community.”

Apple is expected to launch new MacBooks at its own event on Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Credit: foxnews

Read more

Cosmic census of galaxies updated to 2 trillion

Two trillion galaxies. That’s the latest estimate for the number of galaxies that live — or have lived — in the observable universe, researchers report online October 10 at This updated headcount is roughly 10 times greater than previous estimates and suggests that there are a lot more galaxies out there for future telescopes to explore.

Hordes of relatively tiny galaxies, weighing as little as 1 million suns, are responsible for most of this tweak to the cosmic census. Astronomers haven’t directly seen these galaxies yet. Christopher Conselice, an astrophysicist at the University of Nottingham in England, and colleagues combined data from many ground- and space-based telescopes to look at how the number of galaxies in a typical volume of the universe has changed over much of cosmic history. They then calculated how many galaxies have come and gone in the universe.

The galactic population has dwindled over time, as most of those 2 trillion galaxies collided and merged to build larger galaxies such as the Milky Way, the researchers suggest. That’s in line with prevailing ideas about how massive galaxies have been assembled. Seeing many of these remote runts, however, is beyond the ability of even the next generation of telescopes. “We will have to wait at least several decades before even the majority of galaxies have basic imaging,” the researchers write.


Read more

115 Years,the Longest Humans Can Live

On Aug. 4, 1997, Jeanne Calment passed away in a nursing home in France. The Reaper comes for us all, of course, but he was in no hurry for Mrs. Calment. She died at age 122, setting a record for human longevity.

Jan Vijg doubts we will see the likes of her again. True, people have been living to greater ages over the past few decades. But now, he says, we have reached the upper limit of human longevity.

“It seems highly likely we have reached our ceiling,” said Dr. Vijg, an expert on aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “From now on, this is it. Humans will never get older than 115.”

Dr. Vijg and his graduate students Xiao Dong and Brandon Milholland published the evidence for this pessimistic prediction on Wednesday in the journal Nature. It’s the latest volley in a long-running debate among scientists about whether there’s a natural barrier to the human life span.
Leading figures in the debate greeted the new study with strong — and opposing — reactions.

“It all tells a very compelling story that there’s some sort of limit,” said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who has made a similar argument for over 25 years.

James W. Vaupel, the director of the Max-Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of Aging, has long rejected the suggestion that humans are approaching a life span limit. He called the new study a travesty.

“It is disheartening how many times the same mistake can be made in science and published in respectable journals,” he said.

Dr. Vaupel bases his optimism on the trends in survival since 1900.

A child born in the United States in 1900 had an average life expectancy just short of 50 years. An American child born today can expect to live on average to age 79. Japan’s average life expectancy at birth has risen the most of any country so far, to 83 years.

But when Dr. Vijg and his students looked closely at the data on survival and mortality, they saw something different.

The scientists charted how many people of varying ages were alive in a given year. Then they compared the figures from year to year, in order to calculate how fast the population grew at each age.
The fastest-growing portion of society has been old people, Dr. Vijg found. In France in the 1920s, for example, the fastest-growing group of women was the 85-year-olds.

As average life expectancy lengthened, this peak shifted as well. By the 1990s, the fastest-growing group of Frenchwomen was the 102-year-olds. If that trend had continued, the fastest-growing group today might well be the 110-year-olds.

Instead, the increases slowed down and appear to have stopped. When Dr. Vijg and his students looked at data from 40 countries, they found the same overall trend.

The shift toward growth in ever-older populations started slowing in the 1980s; about a decade ago, it stalled. This might have occurred, Dr. Vijg and his colleagues said, because humans finally have hit an upper limit to their longevity.
To further test this possibility, the researchers analyzed the International Database on Longevity, assembled by Dr. Vaupel and his colleagues. It contains detailed reports on 534 people who have lived to extremely old age.

Dr. Vijg and his colleagues combed through the data, noting the year that each person in the database died, and charted the greatest age that someone had reached in each year since the 1960s.

In 1968, the oldest age attained was 111. By the 1990s, that figure had increased to around 115. But then this trend stopped, too. With rare exceptions like Mrs. Calment, no one has lived beyond 115 years.

The stall is evident not just among the longest-lived. “When you look at the second-oldest person — and the third and the fourth and the fifth — the trend is always the same,” Dr. Vijg said.

On the researchers’ graph, Mrs. Calment is “clearly an outlier,” Dr. Vijg said. He and his students also calculated how likely it would be for someone to live much past her, given current trends. The verdict: practically nil.

“You’d need 10,000 worlds like ours to have the chance that there would be one human who would become 125 years,” Dr. Vijg said.

Given the data, the scientists predict the future will look a lot like the present. “We expect that the oldest person alive will be around 115 years for the foreseeable future,” said Mr. Milholland, who worked with Dr. Vijg on the study.

Scientists have long debated whether there’s a limit to life span — not just for humans, but for any species. Only now, thanks to the long increase in average life expectancy, are people living long enough to hit the ceiling, Dr. Vijg said.

But Dr. Vaupel points out that in some countries, such as Japan, the cohort enjoying the fastest growth is continuing to shift older. As for the world records for life span, Dr. Vaupel argued that Dr. Vijg had failed to use the most powerful statistical methods available to analyze the data.

On the other hand, Leonard P. Guarente, a professor of biology at M.I.T., praised the new study, saying it confirms an intuition he has developed over decades of research on aging.

“This paper is a good dose of medicine, if you’ll pardon the expression, for those who would say there is no limit to human life span,” Dr. Guarente said.

Starting in the late 19th century, average life expectancy started to rise because fewer children were dying. In recent decades, adults have also enjoyed better health.

Some of those improvements have come from quitting smoking and having better diets. Antibiotics and drugs for chronic disorders like heart disease have also helped. But all of the improvements of modern life, Dr. Guarente and others argue, have not turned back the underlying biological process of aging.

Based on his own experimental research, Dr. Vijg describes aging as the accumulation of damage to DNA and other molecules. Our bodies can slow the process by repairing some of this damage. But in the end it’s too much to fix.
“At some point everything goes wrong, and you collapse,” Dr. Vijg said.

The best hope for our species is not to extend our life spans, Dr. Vijg argues, but to lengthen our years of healthy living — with healthy habits and perhaps drugs that can repair some of the cellular damage that comes with time.

“There’s a good chance to improve health span — that’s the most important thing,” Dr. Vijg said.

Credit: NYTimes

Read more

How Tesla and Apple Could Be Good for Each Other

Great partnerships are often forged when each party enjoys a surplus of something the other needs, and there’s little conflict in their ambitions. By that logic, two of Silicon Valley’s best-known firms, Apple and Tesla Motors, really need each other right now. An investment in Tesla by Apple in return for some of the carmaker’s innovation dust might be just the ticket.

Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, is revamping the company’s approach to self-driving cars and its broader role in the future of transportation. He just fired some of the company’s autonomous car team, according to The New York Times.

At Tesla, the founder, Elon Musk, needs billions of dollars of capital as he ramps up the company toward its target of making 500,000 vehicles a year by 2018. He could also use an injection of corporate credibility as his proposed deal to buy his solar-panel venture SolarCity, also publicly traded, appears to be running into unanticipated headwinds.

The idea of Apple acquiring Tesla in its entirety isn’t new. It surfaced even before Mr. Cook poached some of Mr. Musk’s engineers a year ago. That move prompted Mr. Musk to tell a German newspaper: “If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple.” But it might not require a full purchase to address the strategic challenges of the two companies — which, arguably, are each becoming most prominent in areas where the other could fairly easily help.

Mr. Musk’s hurdles are the most obvious. The entrepreneur who runs the $30-odd billion Tesla is struggling to persuade investors of the merits of his plan for Tesla to acquire SolarCity. The deal, worth $2.6 billion when announced in early August, is supposed to create a “vertically integrated sustainable energy company.” Last week the deal was publicly panned by James S. Chanos, a prominent hedge fund manager. By the math of the all-share deal, its market-implied chances of success have been falling, too. Shares of SolarCity closed on Monday nearly 25 percent below Tesla’s offer price.

The acquisition and the potential conflicts it throws up are a distraction for Mr. Musk from Tesla’s carmaking ambitions, not to mention from the task of proving the safety of the company’s Autopilot feature after a fatal crash in May. Even if investors decide to back him in buying SolarCity, any slippage in either company’s plan could hurt its ability to hit up investors for additional funding. Both need regular cash injections — over $2 billion each last year — to fund operating and capital investment outflows.

Apple could easily address Tesla’s capital problem by buying, say, a 20 percent stake. While dilutive to existing owners — including Mr. Musk, who owns about 21 percent — that would bring in nearly $8 billion at $215 a share, just under a 5 percent premium to Monday’s market closing price.

That would take the question of capital off the table at Tesla for years to come. It would more than cover the negative free-cash flow estimated at $4 billion through 2020 by researchers at Auburn University, in a report titled “Driving Off a Cliff: The Case Against Tesla,” plus any extra needed for the accelerated production targets the company has since announced.

For Apple, with more than $230 billion of idle cash, the investment would be close to a rounding error. Its shareholders would probably rejoice at converting a sliver of money in the bank for a placeholder in an emerging leader in self-driving cars. Unlike a full purchase, buying a minority stake will not dilute Apple’s profitability, either. The company has projected gross margins of around 38 percent in its next fiscal quarter.

Now, what could Tesla do for Apple? With a market capitalization north of $600 billion, Mr. Cook’s business is doing fine at the moment. Shares of the company have gained some 5 percent since the iPhone 7 was unveiled earlier this month. Pre-orders for the new handset have been robust despite reviews that largely called it an incremental advance on its predecessor. Features like wireless earbuds are novel, but hardly game-changing.

Many analysts, investors and observers want Apple to develop more new products. Its last big product introduction, of watches, was a relative dud. Since the devices went on sale in April 2015, Apple’s shares have fallen 8 percent, and investors fret that the company has been running short of new ideas. At the same time, shares of Alphabet, Google’s parent, have rallied by nearly 50 percent.

One area in which Alphabet appears to be further ahead is self-driving vehicles. Apple doesn’t talk publicly about its plans in the car business, but earlier this month it fired dozens of staff members and closed parts of its so-called Titan project, focused on autonomous cars.

Ideas are something Mr. Musk has in abundance. In addition to running Tesla and creating SolarCity, he’s trying to make a going concern of space travel and freight through Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX. In his spare time, he also hatched the Hyperloop, an idea to use air pressure to speed human beings through tubes at extraordinary speeds.

In that respect, he resembles Steven P. Jobs. Even when Apple was in its relative infancy in 1986, its co-founder bankrolled the creation of Pixar, the animation studio. For two decades, that side project put him in conflict with some of the media companies whose content would become a key attraction for iPhone users. In 2006, a year before introducing the handset that changed the world, Mr. Jobs sold Pixar to Disney for $7.4 billion in stock; Disney put him on its board.

With competition no longer an issue, Mr. Jobs became a consigliere to Disney’s boss, Robert A. Iger, who told Fortune after the Apple founder died: “We would stand in front of a whiteboard and talk about ideas. And every once in a while he’d come to me thinking the sky’s falling apart and that our business was screwed. And I’d say, ‘Tell me how.’”

That sort of relationship would probably be hard to develop between a chief executive and a subordinate — one argument against Apple swallowing Tesla whole. But as a collaboration, with shared goals and running businesses that work together rather than competing for talent and customers, a functional Cook-Musk partnership might serve both companies’ shareholders.

As part of the deal, Apple could fold its wobbly car operations into a joint venture with Tesla, add a couple of directors to Tesla’s board — helping to handle deals with the likes of SolarCity — and bring Mr. Musk onto its own. Of course, the two executives would have to be capable of playing nice. Mr. Musk might have to walk back his crack last year that Apple was the “Tesla graveyard.”

credit: NYtimes

Read more

A Billion or More Jupiter-Like Worlds Could Be Orbiting Stars in the Milky Way

Using data from NASA’s Juno probe, astronomers hope to gain a better understanding of Jupiter and the the many Jupiter-like planets in our galaxy.

Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around.

Astronomers say that in our galaxy alone, a billion or more such Jupiter-like worlds could be orbiting stars other than our sun. And we can use them to gain a better understanding of our solar system and our galactic environment, including the prospects for finding life.

It turns out the inverse is also true — we can turn our instruments and probes to our own backyard, and view Jupiter as if it were an exoplanet to learn more about those far-off worlds. The best-ever chance to do this is now, with Juno, a NASA probe the size of a basketball court, which arrived at Jupiter in July to begin a series of long, looping orbits around our solar system’s largest planet. Juno is expected to capture the most detailed images of the gas giant ever seen. And with a suite of science instruments, Juno will plumb the secrets beneath Jupiter’s roiling atmosphere.

Not all Jupiters are created equal

Juno’s detailed examination of Jupiter could provide insights into the history, and future, of our solar system. The tally of confirmed exoplanets so far includes hundreds in Jupiter’s size-range, and many more that are larger or smaller.

The so-called hot Jupiters acquired their name for a reason: They are in tight orbits around their stars that make them sizzling-hot, completing a full revolution — the planet’s entire year — in what would be a few days on Earth. And they’re charbroiled along the way.

But why does our solar system lack a “hot Jupiter?” Or is this, perhaps, the fate awaiting our own Jupiter billions of years from now — could it gradually spiral toward the sun, or might the swollen future sun expand to engulf it?

Looking back in time

If Juno’s measurements can help settle the question, they could take us a long way toward understanding Jupiter’s influence on the formation of Earth — and, by extension, the formation of other “Earths” that might be scattered among the stars.

“Juno is measuring water vapor in the Jovian atmosphere,” said Elisa Quintana, a research scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “This allows the mission to measure the abundance of oxygen on Jupiter. Oxygen is thought to be correlated with the initial position from which Jupiter originated.”

If Jupiter’s formation started with large chunks of ice in its present position, then it would have taken a lot of water ice to carry in the heavier elements which we find in Jupiter. But a Jupiter that formed farther out in the solar system, then migrated inward, could have formed from much colder ice, which would carry in the observed heavier elements with a smaller amount of water. If Jupiter formed more directly from the solar nebula, without ice chunks as a starter, then it should contain less water still. Measuring the water is a key step in understanding how and where Jupiter formed.

That’s how Juno’s microwave radiometer, which will measure water vapor, could reveal Jupiter’s ancient history.

The chaotic early years

Where Jupiter formed, and when, also could answer questions about the solar system’s “giant impact phase,” a time of crashes and collisions among early planet-forming bodies that eventually led to the solar system we have today.

Our solar system was extremely accident-prone in its early history — perhaps not quite like billiard balls caroming around, but with plenty of pileups and fender-benders.

“It definitely was a violent time,” Quintana said. “There were collisions going on for tens of millions of years. For example, the idea of how the moon formed is that a proto-Earth and another body collided; the disk of debris from this collision formed the moon. And some people think Mercury, because it has such a huge iron core, was hit by something big that stripped off its mantle; it was left with a large core in proportion to its size.”

Read More at :

Read more

Sony applies for patent on contact lens camera that shoots photos in a blink

A recent patent filed by Sony aims to allow people to shoot photos with the blink of an eye.

The company's patent application is for a "contact lens camera" that would allow the wearer to snap photos with a deliberate blink of the eye and store them on a wireless device like a smartphone or tablet.

The contact lens camera would also have enhanced features like zoom and image stabilization, with the ability to differentiate between regular blinking and deliberate blinking for capturing images.

Sony is one of several companies in a race to make the smart contact lenses a reality. Google, whose Google Glass was a first step toward eyewear that can shoot photos and video, applied for a patent for a contact lens camera in 2014. 

Compared to the Google patent, the Sony application lists more features like zoom, focus, change of aperture and stability to prevent blurry photos. 

 The images also can be stored in the lens itself before being transmitted wirelessly to another device.

While the patent provides a glimpse of the future, the technology to fit all of those functions into a tiny contact lens does not presently exist, so it's currently more of a prototype than reality. 

Read More at :

Read more

Towards a better screen

Harvard University researchers have designed more than 1,000 new blue-light emitting molecules for organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) that could dramatically improve displays for televisions, phones, tablets and more.

OLED screens use organic molecules that emit light when an electric current is applied. Unlike ubiquitous liquid crystal displays (LCDs), OLED screens don't require a backlight, meaning the display can be as thin and flexible as a sheet of plastic. Individual pixels can be switched on or entirely off, dramatically improving the screen's color contrast and energy consumption. OLEDs are already replacing LCDs in high-end consumer devices but a lack of stable and efficient blue materials has made them less competitive in large displays such as televisions.

The interdisciplinary team of Harvard researchers, in collaboration with MIT and Samsung, developed a large-scale, computer-driven screening process, called the Molecular Space Shuttle, that incorporates theoretical and experimental chemistry, machine learning and cheminformatics to quickly identify new OLED molecules that perform as well as, or better than, industry standards.

"People once believed that this family of organic light-emitting molecules was restricted to a small region of molecular space," said Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, who led the research. "But by developing a sophisticated molecular builder, using state-of-the art machine learning, and drawing on the expertise of experimentalists, we discovered a large set of high-performing blue OLED materials."

The research is described in the current issue of Nature Materials.

The biggest challenge in manufacturing affordable OLEDs is emission of the color blue.

Like LCDs, OLEDs rely on green, red and blue subpixels to produce every color on screen. But it has been difficult to find organic molecules that efficiently emit blue light. To improve efficiency, OLED producers have created organometallic molecules with expensive transition metals like iridium to enhance the molecule through phosphorescence. This solution is expensive and it has yet to achieve a stable blue color.

Aspuru-Guzik and his team sought to replace these organometallic systems with entirely organic molecules.

Read More at :    

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The original item was written by Leah Burrows. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Read more

Wearable cloud could be less expensive, more powerful form of mobile computing

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are exploring the concept of a wearable personal cloud -- a fully functioning, yet compact and lightweight cloud computing system embedded into clothing.

Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer and information sciences in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences, and Rasib Khan, Ph.D., a recent postdoctoral graduate student, presented the concept and prototype of a wearable cloud jacket at the 40th Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society International Conference on Computers, Software & Applications (IEEE COMPSAC) in June.

Using 10 low-cost, credit-card-sized computers called Raspberry Pi's, an old winter jacket, three power banks and a small remote touch screen display, Hasan and Khan developed a wearable system that brings all mobile computing solutions together, creating the ultimate smart device. The cloud jacket could make the design of mobile and wearable devices simple, inexpensive and lightweight by allowing users to tap into the resources of the wearable cloud, instead of relying solely on the capabilities of their mobile hardware.

"Currently if you want to have a smart watch, smartphone, an exercise tracker and smart glasses, you have to buy individual expensive devices that aren't working together," Hasan said. "Why not have a computational platform with you that can support many forms of mobile and wearable devices? Then all of these capabilities can become really inexpensive."


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Alabama at Birmingham. The original item was written by Tiffany Westry. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Read more

Imaging software predicts how you look with different hair styles, colors, appearances

When we go to the hair stylist, we can browse magazines with pictures of models and point to a photo we'd like to try. Actors change appearances all the time to fit a role. Missing people are often disguised by changing their hair color and style.

But how can we predict if an appearance change will look good without physically trying it? Or explore what missing children might look like if their appearance is changed?

A new system developed by a University of Washington computer vision researcher called Dreambit lets a person imagine how they would look a with different a hairstyle or color, or in a different time period, age, country or anything else that can be queried in an image search engine.

After uploading an input photo, you type in a search term -- such as "curly hair," "India" or "1930s." The software's algorithms mine Internet photo collections for similar images in that category and seamlessly map the person's face onto the results.

Initial results will be presented July 25 at SIGGRAPH 2016, the world's largest annual conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques. Plans are underway to make the system publicly available later this year.

Dreambit draws on previous research conducted at the UW and elsewhere in facial processing, recognition, three-dimensional reconstruction and age progression, combining those algorithms in a unique way to create the blended images.

The new software can also help show what a missing child or person evading the law might look like if their appearance has been purposefully disguised, or even how they would look at an advanced age if years have passed.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Desert elephants pass on knowledge -- not mutations -- to survive

Despite reported differences in appearance and behavior, DNA evidence finds that Namibian desert elephants share the same DNA as African savanna elephants. However, Namibian desert-dwelling elephants should be protected so they can continue to pass on their unique knowledge and survival skills to future generations.

"The ability of species such as elephants to learn and change their behavior means that genetic changes are not critical for them to adapt to a new environment," said lead author Alfred Roca, a professor of animal sciences and member of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois. "The behavioral changes can allow species to expand their range to novel marginal habitats that differ sharply from the core habitat."

Namibian desert-dwelling elephants have figured out how to prevent overheating in triple-digit temperatures by covering their bodies with sand wetted by their urine or regurgitated water from a specialized pouch beneath their tongue that holds many gallons of water. They also remember the location of scarce water and food resources across their home ranges, which are unusually large compared to those of other elephants. They play a critical role in this arid ecosystem by creating paths and digging watering holes.

Published in Ecology and Evolution, this study evaluated the nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of both desert-dwelling and non-desert-dwelling elephant populations throughout Namibia. Researchers found the desert-dwelling elephant DNA was not significantly different from the DNA of other savanna elephant populations in Namibia, except from those of the Caprivi Strip.

Read More at :

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Consumption of natural estrogens in cow"s milk does not affect blood levels or reproductive health

Estrogen occurs naturally in cow's milk. Recently, there has been concern that consuming milk containing elevated amounts of estrogen could affect blood levels of the hormone in humans, leading to an increased risk of some cancers. A new study published in the Journal of Dairy Science® investigated cow milk's effects on blood hormone levels in adult mice and found that naturally occurring levels, and even levels as high as 100 times the average, had no effect on the mice. The study further determined that only when the mice were given 1,000 times more estrogen than average did it have any impact on reproductive health.

"Our results suggest that estrogens in milk, even when derived from cows in the third trimester of pregnancy, do not pose a risk to reproductive health," concluded Dr. Majdic. "Even estrogens at concentrations 100 times higher than usually found in native milk did not cause any physiological effects in the present study." This is indicative that naturally occurring hormones in milk are found in far too low concentrations to exert any biological effect on consumers.

Read More at :

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Elsevier Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Tesla"s autopilot remains in the spotlight

The federal government released preliminary findings Tuesday from an investigation into the fatal Tesla crash that killed a driver using autopilot in May.

 The National Transportation Safety Board report found that Joshua Brown was driving 74 mph in a 65 mph zone prior to striking a tractor-trailer. His Tesla Model 3 was left largely intact aside from the roof of the car folding backwards as it struck the underside of the truck. The tractor-trailer, which was turning left in front of Brown, sustained only minor damage, according to the NTSB.

The government did not comment specifically on the autopilot software.

The NTSB's initial findings are consistent with how Florida police have already described the crash. The NTSB team will continue to investigate the crash and produce a final report in about a year.

This is one of two federal investigations into the Tesla autopilot system following the high-profile crash on May 7 near Williston, Florida. It's a reminder of the controversy surrounding Tesla's (TSLA) autopilot system, which takes over some driving responsibilities for drivers. Critics say it lulls drivers into a false sense of security, making them vulnerable to a crash like Brown's.
tesla truck crash

Earlier Tuesday, Mobileye, which supplies equipment for Tesla's autopilot, said it would not work with Tesla in the future.

"There is much at stake here, to Mobileye's reputation and to the industry at large," Mobileye said in a statement.

Mobileye doesn't believe the traditional relationship between a supplier and automaker is ideal in the era of autonomous vehicles. The company pointed to its close collaboration with BMW as an example of an arrangement it considers more fitting.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk described things as "especially intense" to the New York Times earlier this week. This month, Consumer Reports called on Tesla to disable autopilot until it's safer.

But Tesla isn't backing down, and believes autopilot is safer than traditional driving. It has said Brown's death is the first known fatality in over 130 million miles driven with autopilot, while there is a U.S. traffic fatality once every 94 million miles for cars not using autopilot.

Attorneys representing Brown's family told CNNMoney they're continuing to investigate the crash. 

Read more

The brilliant mechanics of Pokémon Go

If you haven’t seen it already, you will soon when you are walking down the street. Every person you pass who is fervently looking at their phone is likely playing the No. 1 game in the country right now: Pokémon Go.

You might think it’s popular because of the brand. Nintendo, which refused to make a Pokémon game for the longest time on a smartphone, has finally caved and brought its beloved franchise to the small screen. But what may be overlooked amid all that is that the game, on its own, is phenomenally well designed, despite myriad bugs and endless server outages. If you look at all aspects of the game loop — engagement, retention, virality and monetization — it nails pretty much everything on the head. Niantic managed to hit a very rare, exceptional home run on every textbook point of the game’s development.

That’s not an easy feat. Only a few games in the history of the iPhone have managed similar success. The closest analogies are probably Minecraft and Candy Crush Saga, which also rocketed to not only the top of the App Store download charts, but also the top-grossing charts. Pokémon — much like Minecraft before it — launched immediately at the top of the charts. So its immediate success, based on the App Store rankings, isn’t necessarily unprecedented.


Some of the most popular games have bite-time playing sessions. But the session time in Pokémon Go can essentially be as long as the player wants, because there is a constant way to increase the length of the session time by walking to more pit-stops. That’s a really hard thing to do in a game. Most session times are restricted to levels or gated with lives or energy. For Pokémon Go, there’s just enough friction to inspire players to potentially pay to extend the length of their play session with less work, but also offer them the ability to go out of their way to extend that session time without having to pay.


An array of user-generated gameplay experiences is critical to building strong retention, and all the pieces are already built into the Pokémon Go experience. Each capture session is unique — the angle of the Pokéball is different, the placement of the Pokémon is different and there’s also an opportunity to have a unique experience tied with the real world. You have probably seen on your Facebook feed screenshots of Pokémon sitting on other peoples’ heads or in their laps. Each capture moment offers a unique player session, and while many will be similar, there’s the tantalizing opportunity to have something truly unique that’s really exciting.


What’s also unprecedented is Niantic’s spin on the game’s viral loop. In Pokémon Go, there’s no feature that allows you to extend the life of your playing session by inviting or reaching out to friends. In fact, the social graph is almost non-existent in Pokémon Go. Instead, your in-game social graph is an extension of a supplemented version of your real-world social graph. A smartphone owner sees someone playing the game, becomes curious, downloads the game and plays it — both interacting with other players and inspiring curiosity in other potential new players. And the rest of the time you’re looking at screenshots of what’s happening in the game in your Facebook feed, or texting friends when you managed to catch that rare Pokémon.


PokemonGO3So it’s no wonder that the game has already hit the top of the App Store’s top-grossing charts. There’s a lot going on in the monetization component of Pokémon Go, but again, it nails nearly every angle of attack to get players to make a payment.

Final thoughts

All this together creates a very powerful, sticky and accelerating game loop that is helping the game grow at such an incredible rate. But there’s another underlying thread amid all this: It bodes very well for holdout franchises to expand into mobile devices amid fear of cannibalizing devices or other parts of the market. Even Final Fantasy, in a way, has found its way onto mobile devices with Final Fantasy Record Keeper. A lot of these mechanics were pioneered in the company’s previous game, Ingress. But it’s hard to deny that all of these at the scale of Pokémon Go make it a completely different experience.


Read more

NASA to Build a Quieter Supersonic Passenger Jet

NASA’s award of a contract for the preliminary design of a “low boom” flight demonstration aircraft brings the return of supersonic passenger air travel is one step closer to reality. This is the first in a series of ‘X-planes’ in NASA’s New Aviation Horizons initiative, introduced in the agency’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced the award at an event Monday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia.

“NASA is working hard to make flight greener, safer and quieter – all while developing aircraft that travel faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently,” said Bolden. “To that end, it’s worth noting that it’s been almost 70 years since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 as part of our predecessor agency’s high speed research. Now we’re continuing that supersonic X-plane legacy with this preliminary design award for a quieter supersonic jet with an aim toward passenger flight.”

NASA selected a team led by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, to complete a preliminary design for Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST). The work will be conducted under a task order against the Basic and Applied Aerospace Research and Technology (BAART) contract at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

After conducting feasibility studies and working to better understand acceptable sound levels across the country, NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project asked industry teams to submit design concepts for a piloted test aircraft that can fly at supersonic speeds, creating a supersonic “heartbeat” — a soft thump rather than the disruptive boom currently associated with supersonic flight.


Read more

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

When most people think of artificial intelligence (AI) they think of HAL 9000 from "2001: A Space Odyssey," Data from "Star Trek," or more recently, the android Ava from "Ex Machina." But to a computerscientist that isn't what AI necessarily is, and the question "what is AI?" can be a complicated one. 

One of the standard textbooks in the field, by University of California computer scientists Stuart Russell and Google's director of research, Peter Norvig, puts artificial intelligence in to four broad categories: 

The differences between them can be subtle, notes Ernest Davis, a professor of computer science at New York University. AlphaGo, the computer program that beat a world champion at Go, acts rationally when it plays the game (it plays to win). But it doesn't necessarily think the way a human being does, though it engages in some of the same pattern-recognition tasks. Similarly, a machine that acts like a human doesn't necessarily bear much resemblance to people in the way it processes information. 

  • machines that think like humans,
  • machines that act like humans,
  • machines that think rationally,
  • machines that act rationally. 

Decades of research and speculative fiction have led to today's computerized assistants such as Apple's Siri.

Even IBM's Watson, which acted somewhat like a human when playing Jeopardy, wasn't using anything like the rational processes humans use.

Tough tasks

Davis says he uses another definition, centered on what one wants a computer to do. "There are a number of cognitive tasks that people do easily — often, indeed, with no conscious thought at all — but that are extremely hard to program on computers. Archetypal examples are vision and natural language understanding. Artificial intelligence, as I define it, is the study of getting computers to carry out these tasks," he said.  

Common sense

The issue is that much of "common sense" is very hard to model. Computer scientists have taken several approaches to get around that problem. IBM's Watson, for instance, was able to do so well on Jeopardy! because it had a huge database of knowledge to work with and a few rules to string words together to make questions and answers. Watson, though, would have a difficult time with a simple open-ended conversation. 

Beyond tasks, though, is the issue of learning. Machines can learn, said Kathleen McKeown, a professor of computer science at Columbia University. "Machine learning is a kind of AI," she said. 

Some machine learning works in a way similar to the way people do it, she noted. Google Translate, for example, uses a large corpus of text in a given language to translate to another language, a statistical process that doesn't involve looking for the "meaning" of words. Humans, she said, do something similar, in that we learn languages by seeing lots of examples.


Read more

Rainbow-Colored Shooting Stars May Fly Overhead Someday

Someday, stargazers may see pink, green and violet shooting stars streak across the night sky, thanks to a startup company that wants to launch tiny, human-made meteors, according to news sources. 

The Japanese company ALE plans to create and release artificial meteors into space that emit colorful trails when they burn up in Earth's atmosphere. For instance, a meteor made of copper would burn green; a barium one would burn blue; and potassium, rubidium and cesium meteors would burn various shades of purple.

"As one learns in high school science classes, when a substance burns, the flame emits a specific color; this is called the flame reaction," ALE said on its website. "By loading our satellite with various materials, we are able to turn our shooting stars into any color." 


Read more

Robots get creative to cut through clutter

Clutter is a special challenge for robots, but new Carnegie Mellon University software is helping robots cope, whether they're beating a path across the Moon or grabbing a milk jug from the back of the refrigerator.

The software not only helped a robot deal efficiently with clutter, it surprisingly revealed the robot's creativity in solving problems.

"It was exploiting sort of superhuman capabilities," Siddhartha Srinivasa, associate professor of robotics, said of his lab's two-armed mobile robot, the Home Exploring Robot Butler, or HERB. "The robot's wrist has a 270-degree range, which led to behaviors we didn't expect. Sometimes, we're blinded by our own anthropomorphism."

In one case, the robot used the crook of its arm to cradle an object to be moved.

"We never taught it that," Srinivasa added.

The rearrangement planner software was developed in Srinivasa's lab by Jennifer King, a Ph.D. student in robotics, and Marco Cognetti, a Ph.D. student at Sapienza University of Rome who spent six months in Srinivasa's lab. They will present their findings May 19 at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm, Sweden.

In addition to HERB, the software was tested on NASA's KRex robot, which is being designed to traverse the lunar surface. While HERB focused on clutter typical of a home, KRex used the software to find traversable paths across an obstacle-filled landscape while pushing an object.

Robots are adept at "pick-and-place" (P&P) processes, picking up an object in a specified place and putting it down at another specified place. Srinivasa said this has great applications in places where clutter isn't a problem, such as factory production lines. But that's not what robots encounter when they land on distant planets or, when "helpmate" robots eventually land in people's homes.


Read more

Graphene Provides a New Way to Turn Electricity Into Light

By slowing down light to a speed slower than flowing electrons, scientists have developed a new way to turn electricity into light.

When an airplane begins to move faster than the speed of sound, it creates a shockwave that produces a well-known “boom” of sound. Now, researchers at MIT and elsewhere have discovered a similar process in a sheet of graphene, in which a flow of electric current can, under certain circumstances, exceed the speed of slowed-down light and produce a kind of optical “boom”: an intense, focused beam of light.

This entirely new way of converting electricity into visible radiation is highly controllable, fast, and efficient, the researchers say, and could lead to a wide variety of new applications. The work is reported in the journal Nature Communications, in a paper by two MIT professors — Marin Soljačić, professor of physics; and John Joannopoulos, the Francis Wright Davis Professor of physics — as well as postdoc Ido Kaminer, and six others in Israel, Croatia, and Singapore.


Read more

What is Big Data?

Big data is a term used to describe the collection, processing and availability of huge volumes of streaming data in real-time. The three V’s are volume, velocity and variety 

Why Is Big Data Different?

The problem was that the database technology simply couldn’t handle multiple, continuous streams of data. It couldn’t handle the volume of data. It couldn’t modify the incoming data in real-time. And reporting tools were lacking that couldn’t handle anything but a relational query on the back-end. Big Data solutions offer cloud hosting, highly indexed and optimized data structures, automatic archival and extraction capabilities, and reporting interfaces have been designed to provide more accurate analyses that enable businesses to make better decisions.

What Are the Benefits of Big Data?

This infographic from Informatica walks through the risks and opportunities associated with leveraging big data in corporations.

Big Data is Timely – 60% of each workday, knowledge workers spend attempting to find and manage data.

Big Data is Accessible – Half of senior executives report that accessing the right data is difficult.

Big Data is Holistic – Information is currently kept in silos within the organization. Marketing data, for example, might be found in web analytics, mobile analytics, social analytics, CRMs, A/B Testing tools, email marketing systems, and more… each with focus on its silo.

Big Data is Trustworthy – 29% of companies measure the monetary cost of poor data quality. Things as simple as monitoring multiple systems for customer contact information updates can save millions of dollars.

Big Data is Relevant – 43% of companies are dissatisfied with their tools ability to filter out irrelevant data. Something as simple as filtering customers from your web analytics can provide a ton of insight into your acquisition efforts.

Big Data is Secure – The average data security breach costs $214 per customer. The secure infrastructures being built by big data hosting and technology partners can save the average company 1.6% of annual revenues.

Big Data is Authoritive – 80% of organizations struggle with multiple versions of the truth depending on the source of their data. By combining multiple, vetted sources, more companies can produce highly accurate intelligence sources.

Big Data is Actionable – Outdated or bad data results in 46% of companies making bad decisions that can cost billions.

Read more

Top 9 Computing Technology Trends for 2016

The nine technology trends to watch in 2016 are:

5G: Promising speeds unimaginable by today’s standards — 7.5 Gbps according to Samsung’s latest tests — 5G is the real-time promise of the future. Enabling everything from interactive automobiles and super gaming to the industrial Internet of Things, 5G will take wireless to the future and beyond, preparing for the rapidly approaching day when everything, including the kitchen sink, might be connected to a network, both local and the Internet.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: After many years in which the “reality” of virtual reality (VR) has been questioned by both technologists and the public, 2016 promises to be the tipping point, as VR technologies reach a critical mass of functionality, reliability, ease of use, affordability and availability. Movie studios are partnering with VR vendors to bring content to market.

Nonvolatile Memory: While nonvolatile memory sounds like a topic only of interest to tech geeks, it is actually huge for every person in the world who uses technology of any kind. As we become exponentially more connected, people need and use more and more memory. Nonvolatile memory, which is computer memory that retrieves information even after being turned off and back on, has been used for secondary storage due to issues of cost, performance and write endurance, as compared to volatile RAM memory that has been used as primary storage.

Cyber Physical Systems (CPS): Also used as the Internet of Things (IoT), CPS are smart systems that have cyber technologies, both hardware and software, deeply embedded in and interacting with physical components, and sensing and changing the state of the real world.

Data Science: A few years ago, Harvard Business Review called data scientist the “sexiest job of the 21st century.” That definition goes double in 2016. Technically, data science is an interdisciplinary field about processes and systems to extract knowledge or insights from data in various forms, either structured or unstructured, which is a continuation of some of the data analysis fields such as statistics, data mining and predictive analytics. In less technical terms, a data scientist is an individual with the curiosity and training to extract meaning from big data, determining trends, buying insights, connections, patterns and more. 

Capability-based Security: The greatest single problem of every company and virtually every individual in this cyber world is security. The number of hacks rises exponentially every year, and no one’s data is safe.

Advanced Machine Learning: Impacting everything from game playing and online advertising to brain/machine interfaces and medical diagnosis, machine learning explores the construction of algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data.

Network Function Virtualization (NFV): More and more, the world depends on cloud services. Due to limitations in technology security, these services have not been widely provided by telecommunications companies — which is a loss for the consumer. NFV is an emerging technology which provides a virtualized infrastructure on which next-generation cloud services depend. With NFV, cloud services will be provided to users at a greatly reduced price, with greater convenience and reliability by telecommunications companies with their standard communication services. NFV will make great strides in 2016

Containers: For companies moving applications to the cloud, containers represent a smarter and more economical way to make this move. Containers allow companies to develop and deliver applications faster and more efficiently.

Read More

Read more

What You Need to Know About Apple’s Software Upgrades

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple customers have a lot to digest this summer.

The iPhone maker kicked off its annual conference for software developers on Monday with major upgrades for the operating systems powering its computers, mobile devices, smartwatch and TV box.

Technology enthusiasts and gear heads are usually excited about big upgrades, but for average consumers, the changes can be overwhelming. Will devices get better or worse? Will the software change so much that it will disrupt the tools we use for work?

Thankfully, Apple’s four upgraded operating systems — iOS, tvOS, MacOS and WatchOS — are due out in the fall, so there is plenty of time to research and prepare.

“At Apple, we believe that technology should lift humanity and should enrich people’s lives in all the ways they want to experience it — whether it’s on their wrist, in the living room, on the desk, in the palm of their hand,” Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said during Monday’s keynote presentation.

Here is a guide to how your devices will change if you install the software upgrades in a few months.

Apple’s next version of its mobile operating system, called iOS 10, will have an impact on how you communicate and potentially reduce the amount of time you spend fiddling with the phone.

Among them, the Messages app that iPhone and iPad users primarily rely on for sending text messages will get a major overhaul. In the app, you will soon be able to draw sketches and hand-write notes to others, as well as attach animations, like confetti or fireworks. Apple is also letting third-party software developers offer modifications to the Messages app, meaning you might be able to add special messages, like stickers, special emoji or animated GIFs.

Apple is also making major changes to its photo app included on iPhones and iPads. Similar to Google Photos, Apple’s Photos app will automatically scan your photo album and organize the photos based on when and where the photos were taken. In some cases, it may automatically combine images from an occasion, like a trip to Japan, into video montages called Memories.

Another significant change is the evolution of Siri, Apple’s voice assistant. Third-party app developers can take advantage of voice commands, so you should be able to use voice commands to summon an Uber car, send a message through WhatsApp or map a jog with a fitness app, among other tricks.

Other changes will not require a significant reset. With iOS 10, the iPhone screen will wake up when you raise it up — no need to press a button anymore. Apple also redesigned its music app with new colors and navigation features. Its default maps app will let outside developers integrate their services into the mapping app, so you might be able to book a restaurant table by tapping on a restaurant inside the map, for example. Apple is also adding the ability to search for nearby points of interest, like gas stations and coffee shops, similar to Google’s Waze app.

Apple’s Macs will soon work more seamlessly with other Apple devices. Among other changes, the Mac operating system, called MacOS Sierra, will gain access to Siri. So most of what you can do with Siri on your iPhone should also be doable on Mac computers.

Sierra will also have tighter integration with other Apple devices. If you are wearing an Apple Watch, you can log into a Mac computer without typing in a password. When shopping on the web, you can use an iPhone to pay with Apple Pay, the company’s mobile wallet service, by taking out the iPhone and registering your fingerprint to complete the purchase.

Apple Watch
Any owner of an Apple Watch is familiar with this situation: Try to open a third-party app like Instagram or Twitter on the watch, and it takes at least five seconds to load. At that point, you might as well just take out your iPhone and open the app there instead.

Apple is now trying to address this problem with WatchOS, the next version of the operating system for Apple Watch. The company says third-party apps will open instantly with the new update.

Another important change is coming to the fitness portion of Apple Watch. With the update, you will be able to see the fitness activity of other friends wearing Apple Watch, like the number of hours they have stood up and calories they have burned. Apple also added some new watch faces, letting you tailor the look to your liking.

Apple TV
The next version of tvOS, the Apple TV’s software system, caters largely to sports fans. A new feature called Live Tune In will let you immediately access a live broadcast. Speaking a command like “Watch ESPN2” can load a live sports game.

Other than that, Apple made several improvements to areas that were the most frustrating about Apple TV. For one, it will support a feature called Single Sign-On. If you have multiple apps that offer programming from the same pay-TV provider, you can log in just once and all of those apps will be authenticated. That will spare you the headache of entering the same user name and password repeatedly for each of those apps.

Apple also expanded its Apple TV remote-control app that it offers for iPhones. Basically, the remote app will gain the same capabilities as the physical remote for the Apple TV, which includes a button for accessing Siri. So in the event that your remote control vanishes between your couch cushions, you can launch the remote app on your iPhone and use Siri to find something to watch, or swipe around on the phone screen to select an app.

2 Cents More

When the upgrades are released this fall, consumers would benefit from a somewhat cautious approach. Often with big software upgrades, bugs creep into earlier versions, so it’s wise to wait at least a few weeks to assess whether the coast is clear before jumping in.

Read more

New glue instantly hardens with electric current

A new glue that forms a strong bond when activated by low voltage electricity may be the first of its kind.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore believe the adhesive may be a game-changer in manufacturing fields as diverse as biological implants and automobiles.

The new adhesive is a liquid gel that "cures" to form a polymer bond when a voltage of less than two volts is passed through it. Curing is the amount of time it takes for a glue to reach full strength after it dries. The glue stops curing as soon as the current is turned off. Users can fine-tune the bond's strength and flexibility by varying the current's voltage and duration.

The bonding agent is a light, low-viscosity flowing liquid that allows users to coat and exactly position the materials to be joined. Applying voltage to the gel then rapidly cures it to a strong bond with high elasticity and high shear strength.

Read More:

Read more

Plan to build human genome from scratch could kick off this year

Today a group of 25 scientists officially announced their plan to build a human genome from scratch within the next 10 years. They have also given more details about their intended applications for the synthetic DNA – but not everyone is convinced by their approach.

The team, which is led by maverick geneticist George Church at Harvard University and Andrew Hessel of design software company Autodesk, says it is aiming to launch the ambitious initiative – known as The Human Genome Project–Write – this year, depending on raising an initial £100 million.

Within 10 years, the project’s primary goal is to engineer large genomes of up to 100-billion base pairs (a human genome is 3 billion base pairs), which could include “whole genome engineering of human cell lines and other organisms of agricultural and public health significance”. This will require technological development early on in the project “to propel large-scale genome design and engineering,” the researchers write.

Read more

DEWA to Construct 3D Printed Laboratories in Dubai’s Solar Park

Over the last month alone, the UAE has made projections that 3D printed homes will soon take up of sizable portion of their housing market, the global investment group Dubai Holding launched plans to construct the International Centre for 3D Printing within Dubai Industrial City, and earlier this week, the city state also inaugurated their first-ever 3D printed office building. Now, it looks as if Dubai will soon have 3D printed laboratories at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, a solar power plan that was named after His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

  • The Electronics Laboratory: This lab will handle electrical design and repair services for drones, and will also provide the DEWA staff the ability to design and build customized circuits for various drone applications.
  • The Software Laboratory: This section will develop and provide the DEWA team with software-based products, research, and educational systems, and will also serve as the home for tests on avionic systems, flight controls, and electric power units.
  • The Mechanical Laboratory: This lab will conduct research and experiments on the behavior of and relationship between certain materials and combustion.
  • The Prototype Laboratory: will develop prototypes for different products that allow engineers to further develop their ideas.


Read more

The bionic skin that can feel a tumor

Tokyo (CNN):  Our skin is our largest organ. A gateway between our brain and the rest of the world.

Imagine then a scene where skin could communicate what's going on inside a human body. It could inform surgeons, provide alerts when our body is about to fall ill, or even diagnose diseases inside another human being, simply through the sense of touch.

University of Tokyo scientist Takao Someya is making that scene a reality.

Someya has invented a bionic, or electronic, skin (e-skin) with the potential to bestow amazing new powers of sensitivity upon humans.
It is as light as a feather, yet almost indestructible, and could one day change the field of medicine.

-- Courtesy CNN News

Read more

Report: Apple extending iPhone product cycle

At one point, iPhone launches were as predictable as the changing seasons. They launch a smartphone (iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6), then follow up with the slightly improved "S" model (4s, 5s, 6s).

That schedule could change. According to a report from Asia's Nikkei, Apple is going to extend the product cycle of its flagship device where a revamped version of the iPhone will launch every three years instead of two years.

The report also says that shift in cycle will start this year with the launch of a new iPhone featuring minor upgrades including an improved camera. That would mean the next major iPhone launch wouldn't happen until 2017.

Shares of Apple were down slightly in pre-market trading Tuesday.

The report says the move could have a big impact on Asian manufacturers who rely on iPhone production for their revenue.

Apple's extension of the product cycle follows a decline in iPhone sales. During its second-quarter earnings call, Apple reported the first drop in iPhone sales ever, down 13%. Apple CEO Tim Cook cited a saturated smartphone market for the dip.

-- Courtesy USA Today (Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23)

Read more