Category: Sci-Tech

World’s first solar plane ‘Impulse’ to fly across US

Houston: A first of its kind ultra-lightweight plane powered completely by the sun is set to fly coast-to-coast this spring. The Solar Impulse plane will stop in Dallas city in Texas during its historic cross-country journey that begins on May 1, its creators announced today. The plane, which requires zero fuel and relies solely on solar panels and battery power, would be the world’s first plane powered purely by solar energy. The two Swiss pilots of the plane, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, want to complete a flight from Moffett Field to New York City, after spending 10 years designing it. It is expected to arrive in the Big Apple by early July and will stop in Phoenix (Arizona), Dallas-Ft. Worth, Washington DC and either Nashville (Tennessee), Atlanta (Georgia) or St. Louis along the way. “It carries only one pilot and no passengers, but it carries a lot of message,” Piccard said. “Today we can’t imagine having a solar plane with 200 passengers. But in 1903 it was exactly the same,” he said, noting the sense of impossibility that surrounded the first airplane flight that took place that year. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but we have to start and see where technology takes us,” he said. The US flight is the latest step towards the ultimate goal of Solar Impulse team; that of...

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Apple apologises after China state media attacks its ‘arrogance’

APPLE issued an apology to Chinese consumers after government media attacked its repair policies for two weeks in a campaign that reeked of economic nationalism. A statement Apple posted in Chinese to its website on Monday said the complaints had prompted “deep reflection” and persuaded the company of the need to revamp its repair policies, boost communication with Chinese consumers and strengthen oversight of authorised resellers. State broadcaster CCTV and the ruling party’s flagship newspaper, People’s Daily, had led the charge, accusing Apple of arrogance, greed and “throwing its weight around” and portraying it as just the latest Western company to exploit the Chinese consumer. The attacks started backfiring almost as soon as they began and were mocked by the increasingly sophisticated Chinese consumers who revere Apple and its products. State-run media also inadvertently revived complaints over shoddy service by Chinese companies. Nonetheless, Apple responded with an apology from CEO Tim Cook. “We’ve come to understand through this process that because of our poor communication, some have come to feel that Apple’s attitude is arrogant and that we don’t care about or value feedback from the consumer,” Cook’s Chinese statement said, as translated by The Associated Press. “For the concerns and misunderstandings passed on to the consumer, we express our sincere apologies.” Although Apple enjoys strong support from Chinese consumers, the vehemence of the attacks and the importance of...

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Star birth in cepheus may help reveal history of universe

Washington: Studies show that half of the common stars, including our Sun, formed in massive clusters, rich with young stars, from which they eventually escape. As part of his PhD thesis work, Thomas Allen, University of Toledo, has been observing such a region where stars are forming. Named Cep OB3b, this cluster is located in the northern constellation of Cepheus, and is similar in some ways to the famous cluster found in the Orion Nebula. But unlike the Orion Nebula, there is relatively little dust and gas obscuring our view of Cep OB3b. Its massive, hot stars have blown out cavities in the gaseous cloud with their intense ultraviolet radiation, which mercilessly destroys everything in its path. Cep OB3b may show us what the Orion Nebula Cluster will look like in the future. In a recently study, Allen and an international team of astronomers from seven different universities and institutes (University of Toledo, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, University of Rochester, University of Exeter, Keele University, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Space Telescope Science Institute) have found that the total number of young stars in the cluster is as high as 3,000. Infrared observations of the stars from the NASA Spitzer satellite show about 1,000 stars that are surrounded by disks of gas and dust from which solar systems may form. As the stars age, the disks disappear as the...

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Outcast black holes living on the edge of our galaxy

As many as 2000 black holes kicked away from their homes are now living on the outskirts of our Milky Way galaxy, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz, used new computer simulations to look at how our galaxy grew through mergers with smaller galaxies. Scientists believe that every galaxy may have a black hole at its centre. As galaxies merge, their central black holes merge too, building a supermassive black hole millions of times the mass of the Sun. But collisions between black holes create gravitational waves, which can kick a newly merged black hole out of its host galaxy, New Scientist reported. Valery Rashkov and Piero Madau of the University of California, ran simulations that show 70 to 2000 of these outcasts may now linger in the halo of the Milky Way, depending on the properties of the objects that collided. Some might have been stripped bare, while others may carry a few clusters of stars and dark matter, said Avi Loeb of Harvard University, who has proposed a similar idea. Though faint, these star clusters should be observable with current or future telescopes....

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Time is ripe for smartwatches

Washington – Amid much speculation on the future of the “smartwatch,” the consensus is growing: the time is right. In recent weeks, reports have surfaced about plans for smartwatches from tech giants Apple, Samsung and Google, with launches possible later this year. “I think we have reached a tipping point,” said Avi Greengart, analyst on consumer devices at the research firm Current Analysis. Greengart said 2013 may be the year for the smartwatch because “the components have gotten small enough and cheap enough” and a large number of consumers now have smartphones that can connect to a wearable device. The idea of the connected watch has been around for at least a decade: Microsoft had one in 2003. And some devices are already on the market including from Sony, the crowdfunded maker Pebble and Italian-based firm i’m. Up to now, smartwatches have been able to connect to phones wirelessly to give users signals about new messages, and allow some limited web access. New device But analysts say once they gain traction, app developers can come up with new functions, possibly drawing on health and fitness monitoring devices now in use. The likely entry of new heavyweight players like Apple “can catalyse the market,” Greengart said, while noting that any new device has to prove its utility to consumers. “This is a market that needs to be created.” Even though...

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Smartphone users addicted and loving it

US smartphone owners tend to be connected from the instant they rise until they fall sleep and revel in every minute of it, a Facebook-sponsored study showed. “Smartphones, coupled with rich applications and mobile data services, allow us to connect with our family, friends and community from the moment we wake up until the end of our day,” IDC researchers said in the report, released this week. “Rather than feeling overwhelmed by it, we enjoy and value this increased social connectedness.” About half the US population uses smartphones, with the number of people expected to reach 181.4 million this year and climb to 222.4 million in the coming four years, according to IDC. A week-long IDC survey of more than 7000 people ranging in age from 18 to 44 years old with iPhones or Android-powered smartphones showed that four out of five check their handsets within 15 minutes of waking. The top three applications used were for messaging, Web browsing, and Facebook, in that order, according to IDC. “People have a universal need to connect with others, especially those they care deeply about,” IDC researchers said. “This coupled with mass market adoption of smartphones means that social engagement via phones has become mainstream.” About 84 per cent of the time spent communicating with smartphones involved email, text messages, or social networks while only 16 per cent relied on voice...

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Cyber attack targeting European spam-fighting group ‘originated in Russia’

Washington: A massive cyber attack targeting a European spam-fighting group that slowed some global Internet traffic have been launched by a gang of hackers from Russia and neighboring countries, an expert has said. The head of a Russian firm specializing in defending against such attacks, Alexander Lyamin, said the same group that caused trouble around the world with its attack against the non-profit Spamhaus Project Ltd. had earlier launched a series of brief strikes on several top Russian Internet companies as a trial run of their weapon known as a Domain Name System amplification attack. Lyamin, of Moscow’s Highload Labs, said that they first noticed incidents utilizing this technique a month-and-a-half ago in Russia, the Wall Street Journal reports. It started with a measly 10 to 20 gigabytes per second, but during the next month it grew to 60 and then 120 gigabytes, he said. Apparently the attackers were growing their network of hacked servers, he added. According to the paper, the attacks against Spamhaus began on March 19 and appeared to have subsided on Wednesday. Some experts said the attack grew to as large as 300 gigabytes per second, which would make it the largest ever seen, although others, including Lyamin, dispute that. Lyamin didn’t name the Russian companies that were the earlier targets because of “the very sensitive nature of this matter,” but said they included services...

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Shortcut to space: Earth to International Space Station in 6 hours

Moscow/Cape Canaveral: Two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut took a shortcut to the International Space Station on Thursday, arriving at the orbital outpost less than six hours after their Soyuz capsule blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The express route, used for the first time to fly a crew to the station, shaved about 45 hours off the usual ride, allowing NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin to get a jumpstart on their planned 5.5-month mission. The crew’s Soyuz capsule parked itself at the station’s Poisk module at 10:28 p.m. EDT (0228 GMT Friday), just five hours and 45 minutes after launch. Most Recent New York court upholds sales tax for online retailers Nvidia introduces GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST GPU for an affordable gaming experience Also See 17:11 Sunita Williams and crew talk to family and friends from space 1:20 Sunita Williams’ second space mission: Prayers for safe journey All previous station crews, whether flying aboard NASA’s now-retired space shuttles or on Russian Soyuz capsules, took at least two days to reach the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth. “The closer the station, the better we feel. Everything is going good,” the cosmonauts radioed to flight controllers outside of Moscow as the Soyuz capsule approached the orbital outpost, a project...

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Summer melt season ‘getting longer on Antarctic Peninsula’

Washington: A new research from the Antarctic Peninsula has shown that the summer melt season has been getting longer over the last 60 years. And the increased summer melting has been linked to the rapid break-up of ice shelves in the area and rising sea level. Antarctic Peninsula’s longer summer melt season has been linked to the rapid break-up of ice shelves in the area and rising sea level. New research from the Antarctic Peninsula shows that the summer melt season has been getting longer over the last 60 years. The Antarctic Peninsula – a mountainous region extending northwards towards South America – is warming much faster than the rest of Antarctica. As a result of strengthening of local westerly winds, which causes warmer air from the sea to be pushed up and over the peninsula, temperatures have risen by up to 3 degree celsius since the 1950s – three times more than the global average. This melting may have important effects as meltwater may enlarge cracks in floating ice shelves which can contribute to their retreat or collapse. As a result, the speed at which glaciers flow towards the sea will be increased. Also, melting and refreezing causes snow layers to become thinner and more dense, affecting the height of the snow surface above sea level. Dr Nick Barrand, who carried out the research while working for the...

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New technique discovered to make fuel from CO2 in air

Washington: Researchers have found a way to transform the carbon dioxide (CO2) trapped in the atmosphere into useful industrial products. The discovery may soon lead to the development of biofuels made directly from the CO2 in the air – responsible for global warming. “Basically, what we have done is create a microorganism that does with carbon dioxide exactly what plants do-absorb it and generate something useful,” Michael Adams, member of UGA’s Bioenergy Systems Research Institute, Georgia Power professor of biotechnology and Distinguished Research Professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Science, said. “What this discovery means is that we can remove plants as the middleman,” said Adams, co-author of the study. “We can take carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and turn it into useful products like fuels and chemicals without having to go through the inefficient process of growing plants and extracting sugars from biomass,” he said. The process is made possible by a unique microorganism called Pyrococcus furiosus, or “rushing fireball,” which thrives by feeding on carbohydrates in the super-heated ocean waters near geothermal vents. By manipulating its genetic material, Adams and his team created a kind of P. furiosus, capable of feeding at much lower temperatures on CO2. The research team then used hydrogen gas to create a chemical reaction in the microorganism that incorporates CO2 into 3-hydroxypropionic acid, a...

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