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Date/Time of Last Update: Sun Sep 19 18:00:24 2021 UTC




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This Week in Apps: Apple’s iPhone event, App Annie hit with securities fraud, OpenSea goes mobile
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:30:12 +0000
Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices […]
Match ID: 0 Score: 105.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 trade, 25.00 google, 10.00 whatsapp, 10.00 microsoft, 10.00 development, 10.00 california, 10.00 apple, 5.00 startup

China Roundup: Beijing is tearing down the digital ‘walled gardens’
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 16:07:02 +0000
Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world. This week, China gets serious about breaking down the walled gardens that its internet giants have formed for decades. Two major funding rounds were announced, […]
Match ID: 1 Score: 75.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 trade, 25.00 google, 10.00 whatsapp, 10.00 development, 5.00 startup

OpenSea released an app — but it’s for browsing, not buying and selling
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 19:44:55 +0000
It’s a big day for the Amazon of the decentralized internet — OpenSea now has an app for iOS and Android. For most companies, having a mobile app is a milestone you’d reach before hitting a $1.5 billion valuation. But like any store — whether you’re selling NFT art or not — there’s a hefty […]
Match ID: 2 Score: 75.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 trade, 25.00 google, 10.00 apple, 10.00 amazon, 5.00 startup

The GoPro-ification of the iPhone
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:58:20 +0000
Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review! Last week, we talked about some sunglasses from a company that many people do not like very much. This week, we’re talking about Apple and the company 1,600 times smaller than it that’s facing similar product problems. If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you […]
Match ID: 3 Score: 65.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 15.00 musk, 10.00 tesla, 10.00 apple, 5.00 startup

SEC Regional Director Erin Schneider is joining us at Disrupt
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:26:59 +0000
If ever there was a time when working at the Securities and Exchange Commission was a dull affair, that’s no longer true. The federal agency that’s responsible for protecting investors and maintaining fair and orderly functioning of our securities markets is busier than ever, thanks to the rise of SPACs, cryptocurrencies and new rules around […]
Match ID: 4 Score: 65.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 15.00 musk, 10.00 tesla, 10.00 california, 5.00 startup

Daily Crunch: Apple, Google bow to Russian pressure
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 22:15:37 +0000
Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Friday, September 17th! What a week, ya’ll. It is now just days before Disrupt, which means the TechCrunch hive is buzzing. I’ll leave it by noting that Reid Hoffman is coming, which is going to be a treat.
Match ID: 5 Score: 65.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 15.00 musk, 10.00 tesla, 10.00 apple, 5.00 startup

Help Build the Future of Assistive Technology
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:09:18 +0000


This article is sponsored by California State University, Northridge (CSUN).

Your smartphone is getting smarter. Your car is driving itself. And your watch tells you when to breathe. That, as strange as it might sound, is the world we live in. Just look around you. Almost every day, there's a better or more convenient version of the latest gadget, device, or software. And that's only on the commercial end. The medical and rehabilitative tech is equally impressive — and arguably far more important. Because for those with disabilities, assistive technologies mean more than convenience. They mean freedom.

So, what is an assistive technology (AT), and who designs it? The term might be new to you, but you're undoubtedly aware of many: hearing aids, prosthetics, speech-recognition software (Hey, Siri), even the touch screen you use each day on your cell phone. They're all assistive technologies. AT, in its most basic form, is anything that helps a person achieve enhanced performance, improved function, or accelerated access to information. A car lets you travel faster than walking; a computer lets you process data at an inhuman speed; and a search engine lets you easily find information.


CSUN Master of Science in Assistive Technology Engineering

The fully online M.S. in Assistive Technology Engineering program can be completed in less than two years and allows you to collaborate with other engineers and AT professionals. GRE is not required and financial aid is available. Request more information about the program here.

That's the concept – in a simplified form, of course. The applications, however, are vast and still expanding. In addition to mechanical products and devices, the field is deeply involved in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and neuroscience. Brain machine interfaces, for instance, allow users to control prosthetics with thought alone; and in some emergency rooms, self-service kiosks can take your blood pressure, pulse and weight, all without any human intervention.

These technologies, and others like them, will only grow more prevalent with time – as will the need for engineers to design them. Those interested in the field typically enter biomedical engineering programs. These programs, although robust in design, focus often on hardware, teaching students how to apply engineering principles to medicine and health care. What many lack, however, is a focus on the user. But that's changing. Some newer programs, many of them certificates, employ a more user-centric model.

One recent example is the Master of Science in Assistive Technology Engineering at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The degree, designed in collaboration with industry professionals, is a hybrid of sorts, focusing as much on user needs as on the development of new technologies.

CSUN, it should be noted, is no newcomer to the field. For more than three decades, the university has hosted the world's largest assistive technology conference. To give you an idea, this year's attendees included Google, Microsoft, Hulu, Amazon, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The university is also home to a sister degree, the Master of Science in Assistive Technology and Human Services, which prepares graduates to assist and train AT users. As you can imagine, companies are aggressively recruiting engineers with this cross-functional knowledge. Good UX design is universally desired, as it's needed for both optimal function and, often, ADA compliance.

In addition to mechanical devices, the field of Assistive Technology is deeply involved in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and neuroscience

The field has implications in war as well – both during and after. Coming as no surprise, the military is investing heavily in AT hardware and research. Why? On the most basic level, the military is interested in rehabilitating combat veterans. Assistive technologies, such as prosthetic limbs, enable those wounded in combat to pursue satisfying lives in the civilian world.

Beyond that, assistive technology is a core part of the military's long-term strategic plan. Wearable electronics, such as VR headsets and night vision goggles, both fit within the military's expanding technological horizon, as do heads-up displays, exoskeletons and drone technologies.

The Future of Assistive Technology

So, what does the future have in store for AT? We'll likely see more and better commercial technologies designed for entertainment. Think artificial realities with interactive elements in the real world (a whale floating by your actual window, not a simulated one). Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine refers to this layered reality as the "Mirrorworld." And according to him, it's going to spark the next tech platform. Imagine Facebook in the Matrix... Or, come to think of it, don't.

An increasing number of mobile apps, such as those able to detect Parkinson's disease, will also hit the market. As will new biomedical hardware, like brain and visual implants. Fortunately, commercial innovations often drive medical ones as well. And as we see an uptick in entertainment, we'll see an equal surge in medicine, with new technologies – things we haven't even considered yet – empowering those in need.

Help build the future of assistive technology! Visit CSUN's Master of Science in Assistive Technology Engineering site to learn more about the program or request more information here.







Match ID: 6 Score: 65.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 2 days
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 microsoft, 10.00 development, 10.00 california, 10.00 amazon

New Evidence of Corruption at EPA Chemicals Division
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 10:02:45 +0000

EPA whistleblowers have provided evidence that agency officials avoided calculating the health risks posed by hundreds of new chemicals.

The post New Evidence of Corruption at EPA Chemicals Division appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 7 Score: 50.00 source: theintercept.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 50.00 genes

Google abused dominant position of Android in India, antitrust probe finds
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 08:56:43 +0000
Google has abused the dominant position of Android in India to illegally hurt competitors in the world’s second largest internet market, a two-year antitrust probe by the nation’s watchdog has found. The Android-maker reduced device manufacturing firms’ ability and incentive to develop — and sell — devices running alternative versions of Android (more popularly known […]
Match ID: 8 Score: 50.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 apple, 10.00 amazon, 5.00 startup

Sickle cell: 'Did our son have to die to change things?'
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 13:11:12 GMT
It's the fastest-growing genetic condition in the UK but some feel the illness, which mostly affects black people, isn't taken seriously.
Match ID: 9 Score: 50.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 2 days
qualifiers: 50.00 genetic

EUA liberam documentos sobre a pesquisa com coronavírus no laboratório de Wuhan
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 06:00:05 +0000

O Intercept obteve mais de 900 páginas de documentação relacionada à pesquisa sobre coronavírus no laboratório chinês, financiada pelos Estados Unidos.

The post EUA liberam documentos sobre a pesquisa com coronavírus no laboratório de Wuhan appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 10 Score: 50.00 source: theintercept.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 50.00 genetic

How to meet the demand of EV infrastructure and maintain a stable grid
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 14:31:52 +0000
A combination of a new blueprint for managing energy on the grid plus behavior change is needed.
Match ID: 11 Score: 45.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 tesla, 10.00 development

User’s Guide to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 20:16:28 +0000
TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 approaches in just three days. Here’s your how-to guide for everything you can expect at Disrupt. Although the main show kicks off on Tuesday the 21st, there’ll be some sneak peeks and extras going down on Monday. Make sure to log in to Hopin by noon on Monday to catch it all, […]
Match ID: 12 Score: 40.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 development, 5.00 startup

Executive coaching for employees is complicated and emotional
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 18:05:02 +0000
BetterUp, a reskilling and coaching platform for employees before and beyond the C-suite, is getting in touch with its emotions. This week, the richly funded unicorn startup announced a pair of acquisitions in the emotional artificial intelligence and people management space: Motive and Impraise. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Match ID: 13 Score: 40.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 apple, 5.00 startup

Divining the real value of my favorite fintech sub-niche
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:15:59 +0000
Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by what the weekday Exchange column digs into, but free, and made for your weekend reading.
Match ID: 14 Score: 40.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 apple, 5.00 startup

Longtime VC, and happy Miami transplant, David Blumberg has a new $225 million fund
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 21:40:40 +0000
Blumberg Capital, founded in 1991 by investor David Blumberg, has just closed its fifth early-stage venture fund with $225 million, a vehicle that Blumberg says was oversubscribed — he planned to raise $200 million — and that has already been used to invest in 16 startups around the world (the firm has small offices in […]
Match ID: 15 Score: 40.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 california, 5.00 startup

Inside GitLab’s IPO filing
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 20:46:25 +0000
While the technology and business world worked towards the weekend, DevOps firm GitLab filed to go public. So we need to pause, digest the company's S-1 filing, and come to some early conclusions.
Match ID: 16 Score: 40.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 microsoft, 5.00 startup

Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty review – the most sublime show of the year?
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 12:00:35 GMT

Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
Slow, determined and infinitely hard-won, the woodcut prints of the late American artist transcend their rigid medium with visions of radiant liberation

The show of the season, if not the year, is a sequence of 36 visions of such overwhelming beauty at the Dulwich Picture Gallery that the urge is to remain there all day. It is like being surrounded by some ever-changing song. Ostensibly abstract, each work nonetheless touches on nature’s infinite sublime – snow pines and green glades, early spring and deep autumn, the curlicued complexities of late crab apples suspended in volumes of pale morning light.

Their soaring radiance is an abiding characteristic of the paintings of Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011), one of the great pioneers of American postwar abstraction. Yet a further astonishment, at Dulwich, is that these are not paintings at all; not canvases stain-soaked with her trademark colour washes, but something else entirely – formidably large woodcuts.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 17 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trade, 10.00 apple

Firms urged to protect workers from abuse in ‘wild west’ UK gig economy
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 10:58:38 GMT

Union says couriers reported being harassed at least once a week while doing their work

Gig economy firms are facing calls to better protect their workers, as an MP and a trade union warn of a wave of harassment and physical and emotional abuse facing couriers and taxi drivers.

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said it had received at least 90 reports from couriers who had faced some form of harassment at work in recent months, with more than 40 complaining that such incidents occurred at least once a week.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 18 Score: 35.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trade, 10.00 development

A new app helps Iranians hide messages in plain sight
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 11:00:37 +0000
Nahoft uses encryption to turn chats into a random jumble of words.
Match ID: 19 Score: 35.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 whatsapp

Google is getting caught in the antitrust net
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 10:00:34 +0000
One case in Turkey cuts to the heart of the search giant’s power.
Match ID: 20 Score: 35.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 apple

Apple and Google Go Further Than Ever to Appease Russia
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 00:27:00 +0000
The tech giants have set a troubling new precedent.
Match ID: 21 Score: 35.00 source: www.wired.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 apple

Demand Curve: How to get social proof that grows your startup
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 19:25:59 +0000
When people are uncertain, they look to others for behavioral guidance. This is called social proof, and using it effectively can lead to up to 400% improvement in conversion.
Match ID: 22 Score: 35.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 5.00 uber, 5.00 startup

The FAA releases initial report on Boca Chica launches, and it’s not terrible
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 19:20:40 +0000
"Support is greatly appreciated!"
Match ID: 23 Score: 35.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 20.00 feds, 15.00 musk

Apple and Google cave to Putin’s censors, block Navalny app as election begins
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 18:40:13 +0000
Navalny app designed to boost opposition candidates deemed "illegal in Russia."
Match ID: 24 Score: 35.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 10.00 apple

SoftBank’s Marcelo Claure is coming to Disrupt next week
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 16:23:54 +0000
SoftBank has been on a tear in Latin America. The Japanese investment conglomerate just announced it has launched its second Latin America-focused fund with a $3 billion capital commitment from the company that may grow as the fund explores “options to raise additional capital,” according to SoftBank. The vehicle follows hot on the heels of […]
Match ID: 25 Score: 30.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 5.00 startup

1 change that can fix the VC funding crisis for women founders
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 13:30:38 +0000
We need to increase the number of women investing partners who can write large seed checks.
Match ID: 26 Score: 30.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 5.00 startup

What we can learn from edtech startups’ expansion efforts in Europe
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 04:33:37 +0000
Unlike their neighbors in fintech, it’s assumed that edtech companies need to expand to a number of big markets in order to reach a scale that makes them attractive to VCs.
Match ID: 27 Score: 30.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 5.00 startup

Tips for managing growth across iOS updates
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 04:00:37 +0000
“I’ve seen startups spend thousands of dollars inefficiently as a result of not having optimal signal in their paid acquisition campaigns. I’ve also spent millions at companies such as Postmates refining our signal to the best possible state,” says growth marketer Jonathan Martinez in a guest column for Extra Crunch this week. “I’d like every […]
Match ID: 28 Score: 30.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google, 5.00 startup

4 Ways to Sell or Trade In Your Old iPhone
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 11:00:00 +0000
If you plan to upgrade to Apple's new models, don't forget to cash in on your old one.
Match ID: 29 Score: 30.00 source: www.wired.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 21.43 trade, 8.57 apple

Mineradora novata já explorou 32 vezes mais ouro do que o previsto em área protegida da Amazônia
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 09:00:57 +0000

Gana Gold tem licença para operação de pequeno porte, mas possui maquinário pesado e faturou R$ 1,1 bilhão desde 2020. PF investiga a empresa.

The post Mineradora novata já explorou 32 vezes mais ouro do que o previsto em área protegida da Amazônia appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 30 Score: 25.71 source: theintercept.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 8.57 whatsapp, 8.57 development, 8.57 amazon

Always Red by Len McCluskey review – bluster of a righteous brother
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 12:00:36 GMT

Candour and insight play second fiddle to a romanticised history of the left in the former Unite leader’s memoir

Len McCluskey is a chess enthusiast. During his 11-year tenure as the general secretary of the 1.4 million-member “super union” Unite, he kept several sets of pieces in his office, and once sat for a portrait behind a chessboard, camply holding up a king in the manner of a Bond villain. The pose reflected not just his status as a big player in the Labour party, but something too often missed: the delicate negotiations with employers that he reckons took up 90% of his working time, and his reputation as a very capable deal-maker.

Most company CEOs, he writes in this 300-page memoir, are “charming and professional”. In a fascinating section left until the book’s final pages, he explains some of the nitty-gritty of representing a huge range of workers, and tactics he terms “leverage” (“working out where an employer is weak and applying pressure using unconventional methods”). In doing so, he shines light on why and how he rose from early union activism on Liverpool’s docks in the late 1960s – and, indeed, why some of the invective hurled at him has always symbolised how a huge chunk of the British establishment simply loathes trade unions, not least when they deliver for their members.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 31 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trade

Cocaine, the yuppie drug? Not now, say experts – its lure is crossing all classes
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 07:15:29 GMT

Once a potent symbol of 1980s excess, the class A narcotic has become commonplace. So how do we curb its soaring use?

Police had more than a passing interest in the Kahu when they pinpointed the former navy patrol boat floating off south Devon 10 days ago.

Related: British gangs and international rivals join forces to increase cocaine sales

Continue reading...
Match ID: 32 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trade

British gangs and international rivals join forces to increase cocaine sales
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 07:15:30 GMT

Analysis by National Crime Agency finds more than 1,700 UK criminal groups involved in drug supply

British organised crime groups are collaborating closely with former international rivals like the Italian mafia to import increasingly bigger cocaine shipments into Europe, a senior investigator has revealed.

Related: Cocaine, the yuppie drug? Not now, say experts – its lure is crossing all classes

Continue reading...
Match ID: 33 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trade

Cameo launches Cameo Calls, a service for fans to video chat with celebs
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 20:44:48 +0000
If you really want to video chat tonight with William Hung of retro American Idol fame… got twenty bucks to spare? Yesterday, Cameo launched its Cameo Calls products, which lets fans video chat for up to 15 minutes one-on-one with their favorite influencers and celebrities. The talent sets the duration, time, and price of their […]
Match ID: 34 Score: 25.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google

Zoom looks beyond video conferencing as triple-digit 2020 growth begins to slow
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 20:37:22 +0000
The company has been undertaking plans over last couple of years to move beyond its core video conferencing market — here's how industry experts see this plan working.
Match ID: 35 Score: 25.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google

Android 6 and up will start stripping unused apps’ permissions
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 18:03:21 +0000
Google Play Services update will soon strip unused apps of their permissions.
Match ID: 36 Score: 25.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 google

Baker Hughes data show a second weekly climb in U.S. oil-drilling rigs
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 17:10:57 GMT

Baker Hughes on Friday reported that the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil climbed by 10 to 411 this week. That followed an increase of seven oil rigs last week as a recovery in Gulf of Mexico energy operations continues in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The total active U.S. rig count, which includes those drilling for natural gas, also climbed by nine to stand at 512, according to Baker Hughes. October West Texas Intermediate crude continued to trade lower, with the contract down 80 cents, or 1.1%, to $71.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 37 Score: 25.00 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trade

InMode shares jump 2% premarket after company announces 2-for-1 stock split
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:07:15 GMT

Shares of Israeli medical technology company InMode Ltd. jumped 2% premarket after the company announced plans for a 2-for-1 stock split. The split will take place on Sept. 30 and the stock will trade on a post-split basis on Oct. 1. The stock closed Thursday at $140.63 and has gained 196% in the year to date, while the S&P 500 has gained 19%.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 38 Score: 25.00 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trade

The Tell: Here’s why the U.S. dollar could end up going almost nowhere through the end of 2022
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 21:17:00 GMT

Marvin Recinos/Agence France-Presse/Getty ImagesThe U.S. dollar may struggle to rise past its current levels through the end of 2022, given the likelihood of an almost two-year gap between when the Federal Reserve may start tapering its bond purchases and its first interest rate increase. That’s the view of analysts at TD Securities, who see the U.S. Dollar Index DXY consolidating through the end of 2022 to 89.0, versus 92.9 on Thursday. They see the U.S. central bank looking past the recent inflation shock and erring on the side of continuing to support economic growth, which would limit how much the greenback can rally. TD’s forecast for the dollar index is a bit below the consensus estimate of 91.80.The almost $7 trillion-a-day global currency market, which operates around the clock, is currently grappling with the conflict between slowing worldwide economic growth and a greater intention by central banks to withdraw monetary stimulus, albeit at varying speeds, as the recovery from the pandemic proceeds. The dollar is caught in that tug-of-war between those competing narratives, trading within relatively narrow ranges since June, ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting next week. Read: Global currency market seen as the premiere way to trade central banks’ pandemic-era policy divergence “Monetary policy is going to remain fairly static at the Fed, with the central bank sidelined from a hiking perspective into 2022,” Mazen Issa, a senior currency strategist at TD Securities in New York, said via phone Thursday. “The important feature to note about tapering is that it kicks off the debate about liftoff. That will really animate the risks around the dollar going forward.” Meanwhile, policy makers worldwide are generally moving at “a glacial pace” with an intent to ultimately unwind the stimulus provided during the pandemic, he said. “But if everyone is moving in the same direction in incremental steps, that should mitigate significant directional impact on the dollar. “The greenback began this year by defying widespread bets that it would drop in 2021 on a broad vaccination-led global recovery and stimulus-fueled expansion of the U.S. deficit. In a turnabout of thinking by analysts and traders, the U.S.’s massive fiscal and monetary stimulus relative to the rest of the world, and the notion of “American exceptionalism”, were instead seen as likely to burnish the dollar’s appeal. Ordinarily, the dollar trends higher when U.S. interest rates go up or policy makers hint that they will. In June, for example, the greenback got a lift after an unexpected shift in the Fed’s outlook that suggested policy makers were taking the prospects of higher inflation more seriously than many had thought. But since then, for the past three months, the U.S. currency has traded in a confined range. One big reason is the emergence of the stagflation theme in markets, and another is that much of what happens to the dollar depends heavily on what else is going on in the rest of the world. For now, Europe “has started to gain an edge versus North America” when it comes to the change in growth expectations, and the dollar has moved to the bottom of the Group-of-10 currencies along with the Canadian loonie, CADUSD according to a note earlier this week by Issa and TD Securities strategists Mark McCormick and Ray Ng.They recommended buying the euro on dips and waiting for some form of “reflation-lite” trend to return this fall before buying the loonie. Any shift toward a “reflation-lite” scenario would also offer dip-buying opportunities in the U.S. dollar-yen pair USDJPY, they said.Much of the price action across currencies in the months to come will be driven not just by the economic backdrop, but by the lack of uniform responses to higher inflation from global central banks. In a separate note on Wednesday, James Rossiter, TD’s head of global macro strategy, said he sees room for error on multiple fronts by central banks.Among some of the risks, he says, are that: central banks like those of Australia, Canada and England tighten monetary policy despite slowing growth; or that the Fed, European Central Bank and Sweden’s Riksbank delay tightening despite high inflation.“Going forward, there’s going to be more variation in monetary policy,” TD’s Issa said. “So far, we’ve seen clusters of central banks moving around the same time. But into 2022, we’re going to start seeing how tolerant central banks are on the inflation front, and that could lead to more variation in policy.”

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 39 Score: 25.00 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trade

Dow, S&P 500 close lower as Nasdaq Composite ekes out back-to-back gains in volatile Thursday action
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 20:06:10 GMT

U.S. equity markets on Thursday finished well off session lows, with the Nasdaq Composite booking consecutive gains but the S&P 500 and the Dow notching slight losses, as investors parsed economic reports ahead of a key gathering of policy makers next week. The turbulence in the session, similar to what the market has exhibited over the past week, came even as August retail sales produced an unexpected rise and a measure of activity in the Philadelphia Federal Reserve district that was stronger than expected. The Nasdaq Composite Index closed 0.1% higher at 15,182, on a preliminary basis, enough for its second straight gain; the S&P 500 index finished down 0.2% at around 4,474; while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2% to about 34,751. Data showed August retail sales rose 0.7%, defying forecasts for a 0.7% fall. Excluding autos, sales jumped 1.8%, compared with expectations for a rise of 0.2%. Separately, the Philadelphia Fed's activity index jumped to 30.7 in September from 19.4 a month earlier. At the same time, data showed first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected in the week ending Sept. 11, though continuing claims fell. In corporate news, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. announced in August it would accept bitcoin for online ticket and concession purchases before the end of the year. Thursday's trade was informed by a big pullback in China stocks, with the Shanghai Composite ending down 1.3%. Investors are looking ahead to the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting that kicks off on Sept. 21.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 40 Score: 25.00 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 25.00 trade

Competing Visions Underpin China’s Quantum Computer Race
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 14:20:39 +0000


China and the US are in a race to conquer quantum computing, which promises to unleash the potential of artificial intelligence and give the owner all-seeing, code-breaking powers.

But there is a race within China itself among companies trying to dominate the space, led by tech giants Alibaba and Baidu.

Like their competitors IBM, Google, Honeywell, and D-Wave, both Chinese companies profess to be developing "full stack" quantum businesses, offering access to quantum computing through the cloud coupled with their own suite of algorithms, software, and consulting services.

Alibaba is building solutions for specific kinds of hardware, as IBM, Google, and Honeywell are doing. (IBM's software stack will also support trapped ion hardware, but the company's focus is on supporting its superconducting quantum computers. Honeywell's software partner, Cambridge Quantum, is hardware agnostic, but the two companies' cooperation is focused on Honeywell's trapped ion computer.)

Baidu is different in that it is building a hardware-agnostic software stack that can plug into any quantum hardware, whether that hardware uses a superconducting substrate, nuclear magnetic resonance, or ion traps to control its qubits.

"Currently we don't do hardware directly, but develop the hardware interface," Runyao Duan, Baidu's head of quantum computing, told the 24th Annual Conference on Quantum Information Processing earlier this year. "This is a very flexible strategy and ensures that we will be open for all hardware providers."

Quantum computers calculate using the probability that an array of entangled quantum particles is in a particular state at any point in time. Maintaining and manipulating the fragile particles is itself a difficult problem that has yet to be solved at scale. Quantum computers today consist of fewer than 100 qubits, though hardware leader IBM has a goal of reaching 1,000 qubits by 2023.

But an equally thorny problem is how to use those qubits once they exist. "We can build a qubit. We can manipulate a qubit and we can read a qubit," said Mattia Fiorentini, head of machine learning and quantum algorithms at Cambridge Quantum in London. "The question is, how do you build software that can really benefit from all that information processing power?"

Scientists around the world are working on ways to program quantum computers that are useful and generalized and that engineers can use pretty much straight out of the box.

Of course, real large-scale quantum computing remains a relatively distant dream—currently quantum cloud services are primarily used for simulations of quantum computing using classical computers, although some are using small quantum systems—and so it's too early to say whether Baidu's strategy will pay off.

“We can build a qubit. We can read a qubit. But how do you build software that can really benefit from all that information processing power?"

In the past, Alibaba worked with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, the capital of central China's Anhui province, which currently has the world's most advanced quantum computer, dubbed the Zuchongzhi 2.1, after China's famous fifth century astronomer who first calculated pi to six decimal places. The company is also building quantum computing hardware of its own.

China's most important quantum scientist, Pan Janwei, also worked for Alibaba as scientific advisor. Earlier this year, Pan's team set a new milestone in quantum computation with the 66-qubit Zuchongzhi 2.1. Pan and his team ran a calculation on the device in about an hour and a half, which would take the world's fastest supercomputer an estimated eight years to complete.

Baidu, meanwhile, has been releasing a series of platforms and tools that it hopes will put it ahead when quantum computers eventually become large enough and stable enough to be practical.

Last year, it announced a new cloud-based quantum computing platform called Quantum Leaf, which it bills as the first cloud-native quantum computing platform in China—a bit of semantics apparently intended to put it ahead of Alibaba's cloud division, which began offering a cloud-based quantum platform with the Chinese Academy of Sciences several years ago.

Unlike Alibaba's platform, Quantum Leaf's cloud programming environment provides quantum-infrastructure-as-a-service.

Baidu's cloud-native quantum computing platform Quantum Leaf provides access to the superconducting quantum processing unit from the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Baidu also released Paddle Quantum, a device-independent platform for building and training quantum neural network models for advanced quantum computing applications. It combines AI and quantum computing using the company's deep learning framework called PaddlePaddle—Paddle means PArallel, Distributed, Deep Learning—which has 3.6 million developers and can support hyperscale training models with trillions of parameters.

Paddle Quantum, in turn, can be used to develop quantum neural network models for software solutions. Users can then deploy those models on both quantum processing units or simulators through Quantum Leaf.

Baidu's quantum activities are largely focused on quantum artificial intelligence, an extension of Baidu's current artificial intelligence activities.

Baidu also offers a "cloud-based quantum pulse computing service" called Quanlse, intended to bridge the gap between hardware and software through sequences of pulses that can control quantum hardware and reduce quantum error, one of the biggest challenges in quantum computing.

"We see an increasing number of demands from universities and companies to use our quantum platform and collaborat[e] on quantum solutions, [which] is an essential part of our quantum ecology," a Baidu spokesperson said.

Baidu's quantum activities are largely focused on quantum artificial intelligence, an extension of Baidu's current artificial intelligence activities. Quantum computing is expected to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence both by making models faster but also by allowing compute-intensive models not currently possible on classical computers.

The company established a quantum computing institute in 2018 whose research includes classification of quantum data, which opens the door to quantum machine learning. To classify chemical compounds as toxic or non-toxic, for example, data scientists currently use classical means. But because the underlying data—the molecules and their configurations—is quantum data, it would be faster and more accurate to classify that quantum data directly with a quantum computer.

Quantum information is encoded in the probability distribution of qubit states. That probability distribution is reconstructed by collecting samples with classical means, but the number of samples needed grows exponentially as you add qubits.

"The more you add qubits to your quantum system, the more powerful the system, but the more samples you need to take to extract all useful information," says Cambridge Quantum's Fiorentini.

Existing methods for quantum classification are impractical because hardware and infrastructure limitations restrict the complexity of the datasets that can be applied.

Baidu researchers' new hybrid quantum-classical framework for supervised quantum learning uses what they call the “shadows" of quantum data as a subroutine to extract significant features—where “shadows" here refers to a method for approximating classical descriptions of a quantum state using relatively few measurements of the state.

"If we can get all the key information out of the quantum computer with a very small number of samples without sacrificing information, that's significant," says Fiorentini.

Baidu's hybrid quantum-classical framework, meanwhile, sharply reduces the number of parameters, making quantum machine learning models training easier and less compute intensive.

In the near term, the company says, Baidu is pursuing more efficient and more powerful classical computing resources that can accelerate its AI applications, from training large-scale models to inferencing on the cloud or edge. In 2018, it developed a cross-architecture AI chip called Kunlun, named or the mountain range on the Tibetan plateau that is the mythological origin of Chinese civilization.

Baidu has produced more than 20,000 14-nm Kunlun chips for use in its search engine, Baidu AI cloud and other applications. It recently announced the mass production of Kunlun II, which offers 2-3 times better performance than the previous generation, using the world's leading 7nm process and built on Baidu's own second-generation cross-platform architecture. Kunlun II has a lower peak power consumption while offering significantly better performance in AI training and inferencing. The chip can be applied in multiple scenarios, including in the cloud, on terminal, and at the edge, powering high-performance computer clusters used in biocomputing and autonomous driving.


Match ID: 41 Score: 25.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 17.86 google, 7.14 development

‘Stab in the back’: France accuses US of sinking Australia submarine deal – video
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 12:50:46 GMT

France has expressed fury over Australia’s surprise decision to scrap a huge submarine deal in favour of nuclear-powered subs from the US, describing it as a 'stab in the back' from Canberra and a strain on its friendly relationship with Washington. 'We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed,' said the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian

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Match ID: 42 Score: 21.43 source: www.theguardian.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 21.43 trade

Tomi Lahren’s vanishing voter-fraud claim
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 14:09:13 EDT
Fox Nation host said that California Gov. Gavin Newsom could prevail only via voter fraud. Well?
Match ID: 43 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 california, 10.00 amazon

Think all politics are local? The California recall says most politics are now national.
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 12:28:56 EDT
But what worked for Gov. Gavin Newsom in that election won’t all necessarily translate for Democrats in 2022.
Match ID: 44 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 10.00 california, 10.00 amazon

Judges strike down North Carolina voter ID law, citing its ‘discriminatory purpose’ against African Americans
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 16:46:00 EDT
The ruling is the latest development in a state battle over voting rights that has drawn national attention.
Match ID: 45 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 10.00 development, 10.00 amazon

Our favorite recipes for late summer and early fall
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 10:00:19 EDT
Our favorite recipes right now include apple cake, simple pastas, saucy roasted squash and BLTs.
Match ID: 46 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 10.00 apple, 10.00 amazon

Child abuse: Apple urged to roll out image-scanning tool swiftly
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 14:00:10 GMT

Exclusive: privacy concerns ‘must not delay use of neuralMatch algorithm to protect victims of abuse’

Child protection experts from across the world have called on Apple to implement new scanning technologies urgently to detect images of child abuse.

In August, Apple announced plans to use a tool called neuralMatch to scan photos being uploaded to iCloud online storage and compare them to a database of known images of child abuse.

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Match ID: 47 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 10.00 development, 10.00 apple

Whip Count: The Democrats Who Support the Progressive Reconciliation Strategy
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 11:00:08 +0000

A running tally of the lawmakers who have — and have not — committed to withhold their votes on the bipartisan infrastructure bill in favor of robust budget reconciliation.

The post Whip Count: The Democrats Who Support the Progressive Reconciliation Strategy appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 48 Score: 17.86 source: theintercept.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 17.86 google

Google Is Getting Caught in the Global Antitrust Net
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 11:00:00 +0000
As more governments force US tech companies to change how they do business, one case in Turkey cuts to the heart of the search giant’s power.
Match ID: 49 Score: 17.86 source: www.wired.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 17.86 google

Ricardo Barros morou 14 anos em apartamento do pai de dono de farmacêutica investigada pela CPI da Covid
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 04:34:20 +0000

Líder do governo Bolsonaro, deputado é íntimo de sócio da Belcher, investigada pela CPI da Pandemia por intermediar venda de vacina ao Ministério da Saúde.

The post Ricardo Barros morou 14 anos em apartamento do pai de dono de farmacêutica investigada pela CPI da Covid appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 50 Score: 17.86 source: theintercept.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 17.86 google

Q&A With Co-Creator of the 6502 Processor
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 18:00:00 +0000


Few people have seen their handiwork influence the world more than Bill Mensch. He helped create the legendary 8-bit 6502 microprocessor, launched in 1975, which was the heart of groundbreaking systems including the Atari 2600, Apple II, and Commodore 64. Mensch also created the VIA 65C22 input/output chip—noted for its rich features and which was crucial to the 6502's overall popularity—and the second-generation 65C816, a 16-bit processor that powered machines such as the Apple IIGS, and the Super Nintendo console.

Many of the 65x series of chips are still in production. The processors and their variants are used as microcontrollers in commercial products, and they remain popular among hobbyists who build home-brewed computers. The surge of interest in retrocomputing has led to folks once again swapping tips on how to write polished games using the 6502 assembly code, with new titles being released for the Atari, BBC Micro, and other machines.

Mensch, an IEEE senior life member, splits his time between Arizona and Colorado, but folks in the Northeast of the United States will have the opportunity to see him as a keynote speaker at the Vintage Computer Festival in Wall, N.J., on the weekend of 8 October. In advance of Mensch's appearance, The Institute caught up with him via Zoom to talk about his career.

This interview had been condensed and edited for clarity.

The Institute: What drew you into engineering?

Bill Mensch: I went to Temple University [in Philadelphia] on the recommendation of a guidance counselor. When I got there I found they only had an associate degree in engineering technology. But I didn't know what I was doing, so I thought: Let's finish up that associate degree. Then I got a job [in 1967] as a technician at [Pennsylvania TV maker] Philco-Ford and noticed that the engineers were making about twice as much money. I also noticed I was helping the engineers figure out what Motorola was doing in high-voltage circuits—which meant that Motorola was the leader and Philco was the follower. So I went to the University of Arizona, close to where Motorola was, got my engineering degree [in 1971] and went to work for Motorola.

TI: How did you end up developing the 6502?

BM: Chuck Peddle approached me. He arrived at Motorola two years after I started. Now, this has not been written up anywhere that I'm aware of, but I think his intention was to raid Motorola for engineers. He worked with me on the peripheral interface chip (PIA) and got to see me in action. He decided I was a young, egotistical engineer who was just the right kind to go with his ego. So Chuck and I formed a partnership of sorts. He was the system engineer, and I was the semiconductor engineer. We tried to start our own company [with some other Motorola engineers] and when that didn't happen, we joined an existing [semiconductor design] company, called MOS Technology, in Pennsylvania in 1974. That's where we created the 6501 and 6502 [in 1975], and I designed the input/output chips that went with it. The intention was to [develop a US $20 microprocessor to] compete with the Intel 4040 microcontroller chipset, which sold for about $29 at the time. We weren't trying to compete with the 6800 or the 8080 [chips designed for more complex microcomputer systems].

TI: The 6502 did become the basis of a lot of microcomputer systems, and if you look at contemporary programmer books, they often talk about the quirks of the 6502's architecture and instruction set compared with other processors. What drove those design decisions?

BM: Rod Orgill and I had completed the designs of a few microprocessors before the 6501/6502. In other words, Rod and I already knew what was successful in an instruction set. And lower cost was key. So we looked at what instructions we really needed. And we figured out how to have addressable registers by using zero page [the first 256 bytes in RAM]. So you can have one byte for the op code and one byte for the address, and [the code is compact and fast]. There are limitations, but compared to other processors, zero page was a big deal.

There is a love for this little processor that's undeniable.

TI: A lot of pages in those programming books are devoted to explaining how to use the versatile interface adapter (VIA) chip and its two I/O ports, on-board timers, a serial shift register, and so on. Why so many features?

BM: I had worked on the earlier PIA chip at Motorola. That meant I understood the needs of real systems in real-world implementations. [While working at MOS] Chuck, Wil Mathis, our applications guy, and I were eating at an Arby's one day, and we talked about doing something beyond the PIA. And they were saying, "We'd like to put a couple of timers on it. We'd like a serial port," and I said, "Okay, we're going to need more register select lines." And our notes are on an Arby's napkin. And I went off and designed it. Then I had to redesign it to make it more compatible with the PIA. I also made a few changes at Apple's request. What's interesting about the VIA is that it's the most popular chip we sell today. I'm finding out more and more about how it was used in different applications.

TI: After MOS Technology, in 1978 you founded The Western Design Center, where you created the 65C816 CPU. The creators of the ARM processor credit a visit to WDC as giving them the confidence to design their own chip. Do you remember that visit?

BM: Vividly! Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber visited me and talked to me about developing a 32-bit chip. They wanted to leapfrog what Apple was rumored to be up to. But I was just finishing up the '816, and I didn't want to change horses. So when they [had success with the ARM] I was cheering them on because it wasn't something I wanted to do. But I did leave them with the idea of, "Look, if I can do it here … there are two of you; there's one of me."

TI: The 6502 and '816 are often found today in other forms, either as the physical core of a system-on-a-chip, or running on an FPGA. What are some of the latest developments?

BM: I'm excited about what's going on right now. It's more exciting than ever. I was just given these flexible 6502s printed with thin films by PragmatIC! Our chips are in IoT devices, and we have new educational boards coming out.

TI: Why do you think the original 65x series is still popular, especially among people building their own personal computers?

BM: There is a love for this little processor that's undeniable. And the reason is we packed it with love while we were designing it. We knew what we were doing. Rod and I knew from our previous experience with the Olivetti CPU and other chips. And from my work with I/O chips, I knew [how computers were used] in the real world. People want to work with the 65x chips because they are accessible. You can trust the technology.


Match ID: 51 Score: 17.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 3 days
qualifiers: 8.57 development, 8.57 apple

Elon Musk welcomes SpaceX crew home with $50m donation to charity
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 13:19:47 GMT

Four-person crew asked for the public’s help in reaching fundraising target of $200m for the children’s charity St Jude

Elon Musk surprised his first all-private crew of space tourists with a welcome home gift after their trailblazing trip to orbit ended on Saturday night: a $50m donation to the children’s charity St Jude.

Related: ‘The point is ambition’: are we ready to follow Netflix into space?

Continue reading...
Match ID: 52 Score: 15.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 15.00 musk

SpaceX’s Starlink will come out of beta next month, Elon Musk says
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 20:39:47 +0000
With 600,000 orders, SpaceX boosting dish production to (hopefully) meet demand.
Match ID: 53 Score: 15.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 15.00 musk

Rule of the Robots: Warning Signs
Tue, 14 Sep 2021 18:00:15 +0000


A few years ago, Martin Ford published a book called Architects of Intelligence, in which he interviewed 23 of the most experienced AI and robotics researchers in the world. Those interviews are just as fascinating to read now as they were in 2018, but Ford's since had some extra time to chew on them, in the context of a several years of somewhat disconcertingly rapid AI progress (and hype), coupled with the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic.

In his new book, Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Everything, Ford takes a markedly well-informed but still generally optimistic look at where AI is taking us as a society. It's not all good, and there are still a lot of unknowns, but Ford has a perspective that's both balanced and nuanced, and I can promise you that the book is well worth a read.

The following excerpt is a section entitled "Warning Signs," from the chapter "Deep Learning and the Future of Artificial Intelligence."

—Evan Ackerman


The 2010s were arguably the most exciting and consequential decade in the history of artificial intelligence. Though there have certainly been conceptual improvements in the algorithms used in AI, the primary driver of all this progress has simply been deploying more expansive deep neural networks on ever faster computer hardware where they can hoover up greater and greater quantities of training data. This "scaling" strategy has been explicit since the 2012 ImageNet competition that set off the deep learning revolution. In November of that year, a front-page New York Times article was instrumental in bringing awareness of deep learning technology to the broader public sphere. The article, written by reporter John Markoff, ends with a quote from Geoff Hinton: "The point about this approach is that it scales beautifully. Basically you just need to keep making it bigger and faster, and it will get better. There's no looking back now."

There is increasing evidence, however, that this primary engine of progress is beginning to sputter out. According to one analysis by the research organization OpenAI, the computational resources required for cutting-edge AI projects is "increasing exponentially" and doubling about every 3.4 months.

In a December 2019 Wired magazine interview, Jerome Pesenti, Facebook's Vice President of AI, suggested that even for a company with pockets as deep as Facebook's, this would be financially unsustainable:

When you scale deep learning, it tends to behave better and to be able to solve a broader task in a better way. So, there's an advantage to scaling. But clearly the rate of progress is not sustainable. If you look at top experiments, each year the cost [is] going up 10-fold. Right now, an experiment might be in seven figures, but it's not going to go to nine or ten figures, it's not possible, nobody can afford that.

Pesenti goes on to offer a stark warning about the potential for scaling to continue to be the primary driver of progress: "At some point we're going to hit the wall. In many ways we already have." Beyond the financial limits of scaling to ever larger neural networks, there are also important environmental considerations. A 2019 analysis by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found that training a very large deep learning system could potentially emit as much carbon dioxide as five cars over their full operational lifetimes.

Even if the financial and environmental impact challenges can be overcome—perhaps through the development of vastly more efficient hardware or software—scaling as a strategy simply may not be sufficient to produce sustained progress. Ever-increasing investments in computation have produced systems with extraordinary proficiency in narrow domains, but it is becoming increasingly clear that deep neural networks are subject to reliability limitations that may make the technology unsuitable for many mission critical applications unless important conceptual breakthroughs are made. One of the most notable demonstrations of the technology's weaknesses came when a group of researchers at Vicarious, small company focused on building dexterous robots, performed an analysis of the neural network used in Deep-Mind's DQN, the system that had learned to dominate Atari video games. One test was performed on Breakout, a game in which the player has to manipulate a paddle to intercept a fast-moving ball. When the paddle was shifted just a few pixels higher on the screen—a change that might not even be noticed by a human player—the system's previously superhuman performance immediately took a nose dive. DeepMind's software had no ability to adapt to even this small alteration. The only way to get back to top-level performance would have been to start from scratch and completely retrain the system with data based on the new screen configuration.

What this tells us is that while DeepMind's powerful neural networks do instantiate a representation of the Breakout screen, this representation remains firmly anchored to raw pixels even at the higher levels of abstraction deep in the network. There is clearly no emergent understanding of the paddle as an actual object that can be moved. In other words, there is nothing close to a human-like comprehension of the material objects that the pixels on the screen represent or the physics that govern their movement. It's just pixels all the way down. While some AI researchers may continue to believe that a more comprehensive understanding might eventually emerge if only there were more layers of artificial neurons, running on faster hardware and consuming still more data, I think this is very unlikely. More fundamental innovations will be required before we begin to see machines with a more human-like conception of the world.

This general type of problem, in which an AI system is inflexible and unable to adapt to even small unexpected changes in its input data, is referred to, among researchers, as "brittleness." A brittle AI application may not be a huge problem if it results in a warehouse robot occasionally packing the wrong item into a box. In other applications, however, the same technical shortfall can be catastrophic. This explains, for example, why progress toward fully autonomous self-driving cars has not lived up to some of the more exuberant early predictions.

As these limitations came into focus toward the end of the decade, there was a gnawing fear that the field had once again gotten over its skis and that the hype cycle had driven expectations to unrealistic levels. In the tech media and on social media, one of the most terrifying phrases in the field of artificial intelligence—"AI winter"—was making a reappearance. In a January 2020 interview with the BBC, Yoshua Bengio said that "AI's abilities were somewhat overhyped . . . by certain companies with an interest in doing so."

My own view is that if another AI winter indeed looms, it's likely to be a mild one. Though the concerns about slowing progress are well founded, it remains true that over the past few years AI has been deeply integrated into the infrastructure and business models of the largest technology companies. These companies have seen significant returns on their massive investments in computing resources and AI talent, and they now view artificial intelligence as absolutely critical to their ability to compete in the marketplace. Likewise, nearly every technology startup is now, to some degree, investing in AI, and companies large and small in other industries are beginning to deploy the technology. This successful integration into the commercial sphere is vastly more significant than anything that existed in prior AI winters, and as a result the field benefits from an army of advocates throughout the corporate world and has a general momentum that will act to moderate any downturn.

There's also a sense in which the fall of scalability as the primary driver of progress may have a bright side. When there is a widespread belief that simply throwing more computing resources at a problem will produce important advances, there is significantly less incentive to invest in the much more difficult work of true innovation. This was arguably the case, for example, with Moore's Law. When there was near absolute confidence that computer speeds would double roughly every two years, the semiconductor industry tended to focus on cranking out ever faster versions of the same microprocessor designs from companies like Intel and Motorola. In recent years, the acceleration in raw computer speeds has become less reliable, and our traditional definition of Moore's Law is approaching its end game as the dimensions of the circuits imprinted on chips shrink to nearly atomic size. This has forced engineers to engage in more "out of the box" thinking, resulting in innovations such as software designed for massively parallel computing and entirely new chip architectures—many of which are optimized for the complex calculations required by deep neural networks. I think we can expect the same sort of idea explosion to happen in deep learning, and artificial intelligence more broadly, as the crutch of simply scaling to larger neural networks becomes a less viable path to progress.

Excerpted from "Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence will Transform Everything." Copyright 2021 Basic Books. Available from Basic Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.


Match ID: 54 Score: 14.29 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 7.14 development, 3.57 uber, 3.57 startup

IEEE Power & Energy Society President Dies at 69
Tue, 14 Sep 2021 18:00:00 +0000


Frank Lambert

IEEE Power & Energy Society president

Life senior member, 69; died 27 July

Lambert was the IEEE Power & Energy Society's 2020–2021 president. An active member of the society since 1982, he held several positions on its governing board, including region representative and vice president of chapters. He also served on its switch gear committee.

He worked at Georgia Power in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and he was a principal research engineer at the National Electric Energy Testing Research and Applications Center at Georgia Tech for more than 25 years, becoming NEETRAC's associate director.

Lambert was a longtime supporter of the IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Initiative. He also championed IEEE Smart Village, a program that brings electricity—as well as educational and employment opportunities—to remote communities.

He had earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech.

Mason Lamar Williams III

Codeveloper of the Williams-Comstock formula

Life Fellow, 78; died 28 June

Williams joined IBM in San Jose, Calif., in 1970 and spent his entire 32-year career there. He helped develop the Williams-Comstock formula, a critical design tool for magnetic recording systems. When Williams first joined IBM, he worked with Richard "Larry" Comstock, an IBM engineering manager, to characterize and test experimental magnetite film media. Together they developed the formula, which identifies factors that limit hard-disk storage capacity.

He also guided the development of thin-film disk drives, according to his biography on the Engineering and Tech History Wiki. He managed several magnetic recording projects during his career.

Williams was granted 27 U.S. patents during his time at IBM.

He was an active member of the IEEE Magnetics Society and received its 2007 Johnson Storage Device Technology Award.

In 2006 he became a distinguished lecturer and spoke about his work in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

After retiring from IBM in 2002, Williams volunteered at the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, Calif. While there, he restored the world's first hard drive—the IBM RAMAC—which is on display at the museum.

He earned his bachelor's degree in engineering at Caltech and obtained a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.

Jan Abraham "Braham" Ferreira

Past president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society

Fellow, 62; died 16 May

Ferreira was the 2015–2016 president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society.

An expert in power electronic converters, electrical machines, and novel grid components, he spent almost his entire career in academia, conducting research in power electronics.

Ferreira's first job, in 1981, was at the Institute of Power Electronics and Electric Drives at Aachen University, in Germany. He worked there for a year before joining ESD Australia, in Cloverdale, as a systems engineer.

He left in 1985 to join the Rand Afrikaans University, now part of the University of Johannesburg. In 1998 he immigrated to the Netherlands to serve as chair of the power electronics laboratory at the Delft University of Technology. In 2006 he was promoted to head of the department. Eleven years later, he became director of the Delft-Beijing Institute of Intelligent Science and Technology.

In 2019 he joined the University of Twente, in Enschede, Netherlands, as a professor of electrical engineering. He established the Shenzen-Twente power electronics research program there. Its goal is to address key challenges of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, including battery storage integration, improving power quality, universal energy access, and increasing efficiency and reliability.

Ferreira authored or coauthored 130 journal and transactions articles and more than 400 conference papers. He was granted 15 patents.

He founded the IEEE Empower a Billion Lives global competition in 2018 to crowdsource ideas that could improve energy access in underserved communities.

Ferreira served as 2020 chair of the IEEE PELS International Technology Roadmap on Wide Bandgap Power Semiconductors.

He received several recognitions including this year's IEEE PELS Owen Distinguished Service Award, the 2017 IEEE Industry Applications Society's Outstanding Achievement Award, and that society's 2014 Kliman Innovator Award.

He earned his bachelor's degree, master's degree, and doctorate in electrical engineering from Rand Afrikaans in 1981, 1983, and 1988.

Jack Minker

Database and programming pioneer

Life Fellow, 94; died 9 April

Minker was a pioneer in deductive databases, a data analysis system, and in disjunctive logic programming, a set of logic rules and constraints that can be used when creating a database. He developed the generalized closed-world assumption, a theoretical basis for computer systems and programming languages.

After a career in industry working for Auerbach Engineering, Bell Aircraft, and RCA, he joined the University of Maryland in College Park in 1967 as a computer science professor. He became the first chair of the computer science department four years later and was named professor emeritus in 1998.

From 1973 until his death, he served as vice chairman of the Committee of Concerned Scientists. From 1980 to 1989, he was vice chairman of the Association for Computing Machinery's Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights.

Minker earned a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College, in New York City, in 1949; a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1950; and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, in 1959.


Match ID: 55 Score: 11.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 5.71 development, 5.71 california

Faster Microfiber Actuators Mimic Human Muscle
Tue, 14 Sep 2021 15:22:36 +0000


Robotics, prosthetics, and other engineering applications routinely use actuators that imitate the contraction of animal muscles. However, the speed and efficiency of natural muscle fibers is a demanding benchmark. Despite new developments in actuation technologies, for the most past artificial muscles are either too large, too slow, or too weak.

Recently, a team of engineers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have described a new artificial microfiber made from liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) that replicates the tensile strength, quick responsiveness, and high power density of human muscles. "[The LCE] polymer is a soft material and very stretchable," says Qiguang He, the first author of their research paper. "If we apply external stimuli such as light or heat, this material will contract along one direction."

Though LCE-based soft actuators are common and can generate excellent actuation strain—between 50 and 80 percent—their response time, says He, is typically "very, very slow." The simplest way to make the fibers both responsive and fast was to reduce their diameter. To do so, the UCSD researchers used a technique called electrospinning, which involves the ejection of a polymer solution through a syringe or spinneret under high voltage to produce ultra-fine fibers. Electrospinning is used for the fabrication of small-scale materials, to produce microfibers with diameters between 10 and 100 micrometers. It is favored for its ability to create fibers with different morphological structures, and is routinely used in various research and commercial contexts.

The microfibers fabricated by the UCSD researchers were between 40 and 50 micrometers, about the width of human hair, and much smaller than existing LCE fibers, some of which can be more than 0.3 millimeters thick. "We are not the first to use this technique to fabricate LCE fibers, but we are the first…to push this fiber further," He says. "We demonstrate how to control the actuation of the [fibers and measure their] actuation performance."

Animation: A long white vertical oblong attached to a horizontal white oblong which holds a barbel shape, which is being flexed up and down. Affixed to the vertical and horizontal parts are two copper colored squares, connected by thin black fibers. University of California, San Diego/Science Robotics

As proof-of-concept, the researchers constructed three different microrobotic devices using their electrospun LCE fibers. Their LSE actuators can be controlled thermo-electrically or using a near-infrared laser. When the LCE material is at room temperature, it is in a nematic phase: He explains that in this state, "the liquid crystals are randomly [located] with all their long axes pointing in essentially the same direction." When the temperature is increased, the material transitions into what is called an isotropic phase, in which its properties are uniform in all directions, resulting in a contraction of the fiber.

The results showed an actuation strain of up to 60 percent—which means, a 10-centimeter-long fiber will contract to 4 centimeters—with a response speed of less than 0.2 seconds, and a power density of 400 watts per kilogram. This is comparable to human muscle fibers.

An electrically controlled soft actuator, the researchers note, allows easy integrations with low-cost electronic devices, which is a plus for microrobotic systems and devices. Electrospinning is a very efficient fabrication technique as well: "You can get 10,000 fibers in 15 minutes," He says.

That said, there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed still. "The one limitation of this work is…[when we] apply heat or light to the LCE microfiber, the energy efficiency is very small—it's less than 1 percent," says He. "So, in future work, we may think about how to trigger the actuation in a more energy-efficient way."

Another constraint is that the nematic–isotropic phase transition in the electrospun LCE material takes place at a very high temperature, over 90 C. "So, we cannot directly put the fiber into the human body [which] is at 35 degrees." One way to address this issue might be to use a different kind of liquid crystal: "Right now we use RM 257 as a liquid crystal [but] we can change [it] to another type [to reduce] the phase transition temperature."

He, though, is optimistic about the possibilities to expand this research in electrospun LCE microfiber actuators. "We have also demonstrated [that] we can arrange multiple LCE fibers in parallel…and trigger them simultaneously [to increase force output]… This is a future work [in which] we will try to see if it's possible for us to integrate these muscle fiber bundles into biomedical tissue."


Match ID: 56 Score: 11.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 5.71 development, 5.71 california

Could Sucking Up the Seafloor Solve Battery Shortage?
Mon, 13 Sep 2021 16:00:01 +0000


Reeling from a crushing shortage of semiconductor chips for vehicles, carmakers also face another looming crisis: producing enough batteries to drive the global pivot towards electric vehicles.

The supply of metals like cobalt, copper, lithium, and nickel needed for batteries is already shaky, and soaring demand for the hundreds of millions of batteries in the coming decades is likely to trigger shortage and high prices.

Some companies want to harvest metallic treasures from the sea. Strewn across large swaths of ocean plains some 5,000 meters deep are potato-like lumps called polymetallic nodules rich in metals and rare-earth elements critical for batteries and electronics. Nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), which stretches between Mexico and Hawaii, are estimated to contain more cobalt and nickel than there are in deposits on land.

The Metals Company (previously DeepGreen Metals) in Vancouver expects to be the first to commercially produce metals from these nodules by 2024. And CEO Gerard Barron is confident they can do this without harming critical subsea ecosystems.

The nodules sit on top of the seafloor, so there is no drilling or digging needed. The company's robotic collector will inch along the seafloor, shooting out jets of seawater at the nodules, gently dislodging and suctioning them up. "It's like picking up golf balls on a driving range," says CFO Craig Shesky.

A ship will take the nodules to an onshore processing plant, where they will be smelted to get nickel sulfate, cobalt sulfate, copper and manganese. Texas is top of The Metals Company's list for the processing plant given the state's ports and access to cheap renewables. "We are committed to turning those rocks into metal using renewable power and with zero solid waste," Shesky says.

Raw materials nodule Raw materials noduleThe Metals Company

Agencies from seventeen nations have exploration contracts in the CCZ from the International Seabed Authority. The Metals Company has teamed up with three of those, from the tiny Pacific island nations of Kiribati, Nauru and Tonga, to access 150,000 square kilometers that, Shesky says, "have sufficient copper, nickel and cobalt to electrify the world's vehicle fleet several times over."

Land-based mining is already fraught with environmental destruction, emissions, human rights abuses, and mountains of waste, as well as precarious global supply chains. The Democratic Republic of Congo produces 70 percent of the world's cobalt, and most of the world's nickel sits under Indonesian rainforests. China processes about 80 percent of battery raw materials, creating a chokehold on global supplies. And with much of the world's high-grade resources already spent, companies have turned to low-grade mining resources that produce more waste and emissions.

"There will be a nickel deficit of 40 percent by the end of decade, even higher than copper," Shesky says. "We don't want to have happen with EVs what happened with the semiconductor shortage this year. The question is where should you go to get that metal? Let's go to the desert of the sea, the deep-sea abyssal plains, the parts of the world with least life as opposed to most life like the rainforest. There is 1500 times less life per square meter in these areas than in rainforests."

But while they might have low biomass, they also have astounding biodiversity. Craig Smith, an oceanography professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who has led seven research expeditions to the CCZ. Deep-sea plains are sensitive, pristine ecosystems untouched by humans and their value is hard to assess. "Most of the species we bring up during these studies are new to science. We actually think it's a biodiversity hotspot."

So ocean mining could hurt, maybe annihilate, species we don't even know about yet, Smith says. Sediment plumes that the mining zones create could affect creatures living hundreds of kilometers away. And the nodules themselves are habitat to thousands of microorganisms. "It's not possible to mine polymetallic nodules from the seafloor on a commercial scale without causing substantial ecological damage over tens of thousands of kilometers," he says.

Shesky points out though, that 70 percent of the life in these regions is bacteria, as opposed to the diversity found in the rainforest. A recent study by mechanical engineers at MIT has shown that the detrimental impacts of sediment plumes generated by collector vehicles and by the water-sediment mixture returned into the sea from ships after separating the nodules might be exaggerated. The sediments settle down or dilute back to background levels quickly. Another study has shown that producing metals from nodules would create a tenth of the carbon dioxide emissions as that from land ores.

Even so, there's a lot of opposition to mining the deep-sea floor for resources. BMW, Google, Samsung, and Volvo have all said they will not buy metals mined from such sources until the environmental impacts are better understood. The companies have all signed a World Wildlife Fund moratorium to that effect.

As an extra precaution to ensure oversight and minimal disruption to these deep-ocean residents, The Metals Company will use drones and subsea sensors to monitor nodule-collection in real-time and beam it to stakeholders and regulators. "If there is impact to creature that we didn't anticipate, we can change our plan," he says.

The company last September awarded University of Hawaii at Manoa marine biologist Jeff Drazen US $2.9 million to assess the impacts of deep-sea mining in the CCZ.
Match ID: 57 Score: 10.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 6 days
qualifiers: 10.71 google

The New Supersonic Boom
Mon, 16 Aug 2021 15:00:00 +0000


On 9 April 1945, less than a month before the end of hostilities in Europe, a young Luftwaffe pilot named Hans Guido Mutke put his jet-propelled Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter-bomber into a steep dive, intending to come to the aid of a fellow airman below. As the Messerschmitt accelerated downward, the plane began to shake violently, and the controls became unresponsive. Mutke managed to regain control and lived to describe the incident, in which he later laid claim to having exceeded the speed of sound, a controversial but plausible assertion.

This and similar episodes during and after World War II led some to believe that aircraft would have great difficulty ever "breaking the sound barrier"—a phrase that led to a popular misconception that there is some kind of brick wall in the sky that a plane must pierce to fly at supersonic speeds.


Image of Chuck Yeager piloting the Bell X-1 rocket plane in 1947. Piloting the bullet-shaped Bell X-1 rocket plane in 1947, Chuck Yeager became the first person to exceed the speed of sound while in horizontal flight.Everett Collection/Alamy

The aircraft that unquestionably tore down that metaphorical wall was the Bell X-1, a bullet-shaped experimental rocket-plane. In October of 1947, test pilot Chuck Yeager coaxed his bright orange X-1 to a speed that slightly exceeded that of sound while the plane was in horizontal flight, although the U.S. Air Force didn't officially announce the feat until the following year.

Since then, jets have been regularly exceeding Mach 1—shorthand for the speed of sound in the surrounding air. Even the Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainer, introduced in 1959, could do so. And some military jets can fly much faster. The SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft, which first flew in the 1960s, can travel at better than Mach 3.

Although military aircraft were breaking the sound barrier daily during the 1950s and '60s, commercial passenger flights during this time remained limited to subsonic speeds. That situation didn't change until early in 1976, with the first scheduled flights of the French-British Concorde supersonic airliner, which could reach Mach 2. The Soviet Union's Tupolev TU-144, which could fly just as fast and had been used to transport mail and freight the previous year, began carrying passengers in 1977.

It would have been reasonable to project that we'd all be zooming around the globe at supersonic speeds by now. But, of course, we're not.

At the time, it would have been reasonable to project that we'd all be zooming around the globe at supersonic speeds by now. But, of course, we're not. The Concorde last flew nearly two decades ago. Today's airliners travel no faster than their counterparts of 60 years ago—indeed, they tend to fly somewhat slower to reduce fuel costs.

Now, several aircraft manufacturers and NASA are intent on ushering in a new era of supersonic commercial aviation. They're preparing prototypes for flight and they've got designs for full-blown airliners capable of carrying scores of passengers. And this time, their biggest challenge probably won't be the sonic booms, which backers insist they can adequately address. The main obstacles will be regulatory and, especially, environmental: Supersonic airliners could be hugely more polluting than their subsonic counterparts.

Are we nevertheless on the cusp of a new, golden age of high-speed commercial aviation? Will people soon be jetting across the Pacific in three hours? To answer those questions requires a deeper understanding of what went on, and what went wrong, during that first push to develop supersonic airliners more than a half century ago.

Image of the Concorder airliner, taking flight during a test flight in 1970. The Concorde, shown here at the start of a test flight in 1970, was particularly noisy, both during takeoff and when exceeding the speed of sound, which subjected people below to the loud double bang of its sonic boom.AP

In 1956, nine years after Yeager's history-making flight, the U.K. government established a Supersonic Transport Advisory Committee, which began discussions with international partners about building a supersonic airliner. And in 1962 the French and British governments forged an agreement to cooperate in the development of what soon became known as the Concorde. The sleek delta-winged airliner made its first supersonic test flight in 1969.

Although the United States chose not to participate in the development of the Concorde, in 1963 President John F. Kennedy announced plans to develop a U.S. supersonic airliner. Shortly afterward, the federal government issued a contract to Boeing, which had prevailed over Lockheed and others in a design competition, to develop such a plane.

Meanwhile, environmentalists were voicing concern—about how noisy such aircraft are taking off, about the possibility that their high-altitude emissions would erode the ozone layer, and about how disruptive the sonic booms would be. The last of these issues was perhaps the most vexing, prompting the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to mount various exercises to gauge how the public would react to sonic booms.

The most extensive such experiment took place over Oklahoma City in 1964. For months, supersonic aircraft flew over the city, eight times a day, seven days a week, at unpredictable times but always during daylight hours. Dominic Maglieri, an expert on sonic booms whose career began in the early 1950s, recalls the results of those months-long tests.

"It looked as though people were kind of acclimating to it," says Maglieri. "But as it went on that changed—considerably: Pretty soon they were getting thousands of calls and complaints." Some of that negative feedback included demands for compensation, says Maglieri, including one from the owner of a palatial home who claimed that a sonic boom had cracked his marble floors.

A table of data showing the boom dates for sonic room damage. The 1964 Oklahoma City tests involved more than 1,000 flights, which sparked more than 15,000 complaints, as documented in a 1971 report prepared by the National Bureau of Standards.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Clearly, nobody would accept stone-fracturing sonic booms. Those objections added to the concerns environmentalists were raising about the ozone layer—a scenario seemingly justified a few years later by MIT researchers, who concluded that a future fleet of 500 supersonic airliners would deplete the ozone layer by 16 percent.

Despite strong support from the FAA, the airline industry, and aerospace companies, the U.S. Senate ceased funding the development of a supersonic airliner in 1971. Two years later, the FAA banned supersonic flight over land, a prohibition that remains to this day.

The Concorde went on to serve various destinations, including some in the United States, flying at supersonic speeds only over water. That continued until 2003, when British Airways and Air France retired their fleets, together amounting to just 12 aircraft. (Fourteen production aircraft were manufactured, but one was scrapped in 1994 and another crashed in 2000.)

While the Concorde successfully overcame the technical hurdles standing in the way of supersonic passenger service, it succumbed to economics: The cost of fuel and maintenance was especially high for these planes. A new generation of aeronautical engineers and entrepreneurs are, however, keen to once again take on the technical, environmental, and economic challenges.

It's perhaps unsurprising that the 21st-century push for supersonic travel is being led by newcomers rather than established manufacturers. The best-funded of this group is Denver-based Boom Technology (which also goes by the trade name Boom Supersonic).

Rendering of Boom Technology's Overture airliner in the sky. This artist's rendering shows Boom Technology's future Overture airliner, which will be able to carry as many as 88 people.Boom Supersonic

In 2016, while it was still in Y Combinator's startup incubation program, Boom got a big shot in the arm from the Virgin Group, which offered engineering support and optioned the first 10 of Boom's airliners. (More recently, Virgin Galactic has been designing a supersonic airliner of its own.) Virgin's interest in this sphere shouldn't be surprising: 13 years earlier, the group's founder Sir Richard Branson attempted, unsuccessfully, to purchase the seven Concorde airliners British Airways was retiring, for use by Virgin Atlantic.

Boom went on to garner more than US $150 million from various venture funds and Japan Airlines. It has used that money to build a one-third scale prototype, called the XB-1, of an airliner that will be able to carry as many as 88 passengers. The company expects commercial flights of the larger plane, which it calls Overture, to begin in 2029.

What these aircraft manufacturers are contending is that their eventual customers are going to be willing to pay to prevent net carbon emissions.

Boom is emphasizing its plans to mitigate the environmental impacts that inevitably arise with supersonic flight. Testifying to a House subcommittee on aviation this past April, Boom's CEO, Blake Scholl, noted that, "sustainable aviation fuels, or SAF, are key to Overture sustainability, and we are designing Overture from the ground up to run on 100 percent SAF, enabling net-zero-carbon flight." In preparation, Boom has investigated the use of biofuels in the engines of its XB-1 demonstrator, and it has partnered with Prometheus Fuels, which will provide the XB-1 with jet fuel synthesized using carbon extracted from the atmosphere using renewable energy.

Boom has stated that its plane will go supersonic only over water. Even so, the company is " shaping the aircraft optimally for sonic-boom reduction," according to its website. In a similar vein, another startup, Boston-based Spike Aerospace, is stressing that its planned S-512 supersonic business jet is "aerodynamically designed to offer proprietary Quiet Supersonic Flight Technology. This will enable it to operate at its full cruising speed of Mach 1.6 (1,100 miles per hour) without producing a loud, disturbing sonic boom on the ground." Ditto for California-based Exosonic, which claims that the supersonic airliner it has on the drawing board "will create a softer thump on the ground that will be quieter than typical traffic."

Rendering of NASA's X-59 aircraft flying in the sky. This artist's rendering depicts NASA's X-59 low-noise demonstrator aircraft, now being constructed by Lockheed Martin.Lockheed Martin

This is exactly the strategy that NASA is exploring with an experimental aircraft called the X-59 QueSST, that name being a contraction of sorts of "quiet supersonic technology." Lockheed-Martin Corp. is right now constructing the X-59 at its famed Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, Calif.

"I used to joke that the airplane looked like an F 16 on steroids," says David Richwine, NASA's deputy project manager for technology on the X-59. "It's a long airplane—I think it's around 97 feet long." Richwine explains that adding length is one of the ways to "manage the sonic-boom signature," which is an engineer's way of saying to make the sound less jarring.

How successful NASA is in doing so will be tested as soon as 2024, when the X-59 is flown over a small set of U.S. cities to gauge the public's reactions to what Richwine expects to be a "sonic thump." Assuming this campaign takes place on schedule, it'll be 60 years after the FAA's Oklahoma City tests. Get your marble floors ready.

Interestingly, the company that was working the hardest to reduce the sonic-boom effects from a supersonic jet it was developing, Aerion Corp., now appears to be going out of business. The company, based in Reno, Nev., was founded by billionaire Robert Bass in 2003.

Aerion's initial foray into commercial supersonic commercial aircraft was to be a 12-passenger business jet, the AS2, designed to have a top speed of Mach 1.4. The company was exploring the possibility of flying the AS2 in a fashion that would allow it to travel at supersonic speeds over land without subjecting the people below to a sonic boom. "Boomless Cruise" was Aerion's name for the technology.

Although we won't get to see it in action with Aerion's AS2, another supersonic hopeful might yet pursue this intriguing strategy, which merits a brief description.

Illustration of hot and cold air for slow and fast supersonic flight during Mach Cutoff. The phenomenon of Mach cutoff requires that the air near the ground be warmer and that the plane fly not too much faster than the speed of sound. Its sonic boom would then travel downward at a shallow angle and be refracted sufficiently to stay away from the ground [left]. A plane moving faster would create a sonic boom that travels downward at an angle that is too steep to be refracted away from the ground [right].David Schneider

The key concept is a phenomenon known as Mach cutoff, the physics of which is straightforward. When a plane flies at supersonic speeds, it outpaces the sound waves it creates. Those sounds pile up, causing a shock wave to form. That boom-inducing shock wave travels away at an angle that depends on how fast the plane is moving relative to the speed of sound. For a jet traveling at many times the speed of sound, the boom propagates at a steep angle from the flight path. For one traveling just barely faster than the speed of sound, the boom propagates at a shallow angle.

That second situation is important here because of another bit of relevant physics: The speed of sound in air depends on temperature. At altitude, where the air is colder, sound travels more slowly than it does in the warmer air near the ground. This phenomenon causes sound waves to refract (bend) as they travel downward, just as light waves refract when moving between water and air or glass and air.

Because of such refraction, sounds traveling downward at a sufficiently shallow angle can be bent upward enough never to impinge on the ground. Similar physics accounts for the mirages you might see when shallowly inclined rays of light are bent upward by the air just above hot asphalt, which gives them the appearance of having reflected off a puddle.

So if an aircraft is flown not too much faster than the speed of sound, in air that is sufficiently warmer near the surface, the sonic boom it creates, loud as it might be, will never reach the ground. You can have supersonic flight without the boom.

Society will have to weigh the environmental consequences of supersonic transport against the time-savings it would offer a relatively select few travelers.

The compromise is that the plane can't travel much faster than the speed of sound—Mach 1.1 or 1.2, tops. That isn't a big improvement over something like the Cessna's Citation X business jet, which can travel at Mach 0.94. Exploiting the Mach cutoff phenomenon commercially would also require the FAA to relax its prohibition on supersonic flight over land, which it may never do.

The companies working hard now to bring commercial supersonic flight back understand that they have to address sonic-boom noise, one way or another. And the farthest along, Boom Technology, is also taking pains to explain how its planes can be flown with fuels that won't add to the enormous amounts of carbon that commercial aviation is already spewing into the air.

"There are a couple of problems with that logic," says Dan Rutherford, who is aviation and shipping program director for the International Council on Clean Transportation. "First of all, once the plane is out the door, there's very little control that a manufacturer has over what fuel is used." What these aircraft manufacturers are contending is that their eventual customers are going to be willing to pay to prevent net carbon emissions. "The planes themselves are not going to be fuel efficient," says Rutherford. He and two colleagues estimated in 2018 that a commercial supersonic airliner like the one Boom is designing would likely use five to seven times as much fuel per passenger-kilometer as a comparable subsonic aircraft.

Rutherford further notes that biomass-derived jet fuels are at least three or four times as expensive as conventional jet fuel and that synthetic jet fuel made from carbon extracted from the atmosphere will be more expensive still. Combine those higher fuel costs with the higher fuel consumption and "you start to have such high operating costs for those planes that it is very difficult to see them succeed in the market," he says.

Rendering of NASA's X-59 aircraft flying in the sky. This past June, United Airlines announced its intention to purchase 15 Overture airliners from Boom Technology. They will presumably resemble this artist's rendering after they go into service.Boom Supersonic

But Michael Leskinen, vice president of corporate development for United Airlines, which in early June announced plans to purchase 15 of Boom's Overture airliners, explained to IEEE Spectrum, "We'll be working to introduce and supply the market with more and more sustainable aviation fuel, and our hope is that with more supply, we'll be able to drive that cost of fuel down as well." Still, it's easy to imagine that the economic pressures would be such that, even if United sticks to using sustainable fuels, other operators would end up flying the aircraft with conventional jet fuel, boosting carbon emissions from air travel by five or more times per passenger-kilometer flown.

But it gets worse, according to Rutherford. "If you look at the other emissions from supersonics that also warm the planet—these are the nitrogen oxides, the particulate matter, and the water vapor for supersonics operating in the stratosphere—those could be even worse for the climate, on the order of 20 times or more just because the pollution stays up in the atmosphere so much longer."

Rutherford admits that the science of these noncarbon effects is less certain than it is for CO 2. But as was true for concerns about the ozone layer back in the 1960s, proponents of supersonic commercial aviation need to consider the deleterious effects of all the pollutants these planes create and their extended residence times at the altitudes these planes fly. Will they actually do that?

"We're committed to being 100 percent green," Leskinen says. "That's across the spectrum of impacts that our aircraft have. And that will be no different for Overture than it is for any other aircraft we choose to operate." It's a grand promise, but even if United can keep to it, it's a promise that the company is making for 2050, not for 2029 when the Overture will be introduced.

Larger society will have to weigh the likely environmental consequences of supersonic transport against the time savings this futuristic mode of transportation would offer a select few travelers. There are, of course, many ways this could play out over the coming decades, perhaps with different nations adopting different policies. What seems certain, however, is that Adam Smith's invisible hand will exert considerable influence, just as it did for earlier supersonic wonders: the Concorde and the space shuttle. In the end, both proved technological dead ends simply because they cost more to operate than their services were worth.


Match ID: 58 Score: 10.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 34 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade, 3.57 google, 1.43 development, 1.43 california, 0.71 startup

Jair Bolsonaro, defiantly unvaccinated, will test U.N. General Assembly’s covid ‘honor system’
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 13:44:22 EDT
It’s an open question whether the coronavirus mandate will be enforced.
Match ID: 59 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 amazon

The Cost of California’s Recall Election
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 17:42:08 +0000
Disaster was averted, not cheaply for taxpayers. What comes next?
Match ID: 60 Score: 10.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 california

Roland Mouret and Rejina Pyo defy convention at London fashion week
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 16:51:35 GMT

With diving models and female-directed Greek odysseys, this years event felt anything but ordinary

London fashion week is back, but not back to normal.

Roland Mouret, whose regular pre-pandemic fashion week turn was a catwalk show at the National Theatre, commissioned a film in which actors wore his new collection as costume while their characters ate dinner, danced and rode motorbikes.

Meanwhile, Rejina Pyo’s show opened with Team GB athletes plunging from the diving board at the London Aquatic Centre, rather than with a model walking a runway.

“I’m not going to pretend that the world is as it was before,” Mouret said before the screening. “A shock on this scale [the pandemic] is like divorce, or grief. It will take five years at least for society to recover, for politics to recover – and the same goes for fashion.”

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Match ID: 61 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 amazon

Haitian migrants intend to remain at Texas border despite plan to expel them
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 16:07:13 GMT

Thousands seeking to escape poverty and hunger in their own country remain encamped under and near a bridge in Del Rio

Haitian migrants seeking to escape poverty, hunger and hopelessness in their home country said they would not be deterred by US plans to swiftly send them back, as thousands remained encamped on the Texas border.

Related: How thousands of Haitian migrants ended up at the Texas border

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Match ID: 62 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 development

Syrian detention camp rocked by dozens of killings blamed on Islamic State women
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 12:00:59 EDT
More than 70 slain at Syria's al-Hol camp this year as fanatics enforce strictures, settle scores
Match ID: 63 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 amazon

Russia’s opposition complains of stolen parliamentary elections as reports of ballot stuffing and tampering flood in
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 11:57:10 EDT
Putin’s United Russia party is expected to be declared the winner, but many question the legitimacy of that likely outcome.
Match ID: 64 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 amazon

Afghan women stage protest in Kabul after Taliban crack down on women's rights – video report
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 14:58:10 GMT

More than a dozen women staged a protest in Kabul on Sunday, holding up signs calling for the participation of women in public life. The protest came as female government employees in Kabul were told to stay home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men. The order was given by the interim mayor of Kabul, detailing the latest restrictions on women by the new Taliban rulers.

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Match ID: 65 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 development

Tesla scraps its referral programs for everything but solar roof
2021-09-19T13:48:51+00:00
Tesla scraps its referral programs for everything but solar roof submitted by /u/thebelsnickle1991
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Match ID: 66 Score: 10.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 tesla

Boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao announces run for Philippines president
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 09:22:47 EDT
The fighter-turned-senator began taking jabs at President Duterte this summer.
Match ID: 67 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 amazon

Solution to Evan Birnholz’s Sept. 19 Post Magazine crossword, “Team Pursuit”
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 09:00:54 EDT
A sporting chance.
Match ID: 68 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 amazon

10 codenames that Amazon used to describe highly secretive projects, from 'Project D' to 'Vesta'
2021-09-19T12:52:37+00:00
10 codenames that Amazon used to describe highly secretive projects, from 'Project D' to 'Vesta' submitted by /u/DonaldWillKillUsAll
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Match ID: 69 Score: 10.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 amazon

Texas doctor protests abortion law by admitting he carried out procedure
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 12:13:49 GMT

Protesting a Texas law which outlaws abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and empowers citizens to sue providers and anyone who helps them, a San Antonio doctor said he had provided an abortion beyond the new legal limit.

Related: Cecile Richards marks a year since RBG death with abortion rights battle cry

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Match ID: 70 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 development

Faroe Islands to review annual dolphin hunt following global outcry
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 08:06:42 EDT
The local tradition saw almost 1,500 dolphins slaughtered last weekend.
Match ID: 71 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 10.00 amazon

Apple facing class action lawsuits over MacBook M1 screen cracks
2021-09-19T12:04:57+00:00
Apple facing class action lawsuits over MacBook M1 screen cracks submitted by /u/KingSash
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Match ID: 72 Score: 10.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
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Australia says France knew it had ‘deep and grave concerns’ about its submarines before U.S. deal
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 07:55:44 EDT
Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison said France knew its concerns before the country tore up a deal to buy the submarines.
Match ID: 73 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
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Public Pensions Are Financing Refresco’s Anti-Union Campaign in New Jersey
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 11:00:17 +0000

Refresco is a subsidiary of PAI Partners, a private equity firm that counts several public pension funds among its investors.

The post Public Pensions Are Financing Refresco’s Anti-Union Campaign in New Jersey appeared first on The Intercept.


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Fire weather is getting worse in the American West
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 11:00:54 +0000
Climate change is driving more days that are hot, dry, and windy
Match ID: 75 Score: 10.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 0 days
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In the cradle of the Syrian revolution, renewed violence shows reconciliation is still elusive
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 06:00:00 EDT
A months-long siege and bombardment forced tens of thousands from their homes in the restive city of Daraa.
Match ID: 76 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
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UK workers on the end of furlough: ‘Will it be Amazon, care homes or driving a van?’
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 09:30:32 GMT

The support scheme has proved positive for some, but others will have no jobs to return to. We hear their stories

Since March 2020, 11.6 million UK workers have been furloughed by their employees as a result of the Covid pandemic, with the government paying up to 80% of their wages in order to keep jobs open.

At the scheme’s peak in May 2020, 8.9 million workers – almost a third of the UK workforce – were being paid to stay at home; by the end of July this year, that number had dropped to 1.6 million.

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Last two escaped Palestinian prisoners recaptured after Israeli manhunt that threatened fresh violence
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 04:55:22 EDT
The remaining two of the six fugitives, who had tunneled their way out of a maximum security Israeli prison, were apprehended in their hometown of Jenin.
Match ID: 78 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
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California recall vote shows Trump’s big lie is now Republican playbook
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 06:00:29 GMT

Pre-emptively branding as rigged an election you are likely to lose risks turning off GOP voters and undermining democracy

It was a pre-emptive strike against truth by some of the biggest names on the American right wing.

Former president Donald Trump warned that the ballot would be “rigged”. The Republican candidate Larry Elder predicted “shenanigans”. The conservative media star Tomi Lahren suggested that “voter fraud” was inevitable.

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Volcano erupts on Atlantic island; lava threatens some homes
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 01:55:55 EDT
A volcano on Spain’s Atlantic Ocean island of La Palma has erupted after a weeklong buildup of seismic activity, prompting authorities to speed up evacuations for some 1,000 people
Match ID: 80 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
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The world’s tallest populace is shrinking, and scientists want to know why
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 01:25:05 EDT
The Dutch are still the world’s tallest population, but the growth that has seen the country top global height charts for decades appears to have ground to a halt. Scientists have offered a number of potential explanations.
Match ID: 81 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
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Carolyn Hax: It’s been 25 years. Can he finally tell the kids why he divorced their mom?
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 00:00:37 EDT
Their parents divorced 25 years ago, and they're still asking their dad why. Can he tell them their mom was cheating on him?
Match ID: 82 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
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Ask Amy: Lies about alcohol abuse, dating apps cause breakup. Remorse follows.
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 00:00:00 EDT
Partner suggests couples counseling, but reader doesn’t trust his motivations.
Match ID: 83 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
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GOP Rep. Zeldin announces leukemia diagnosis, remission
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:26:34 EDT
Zeldin, a four-term congressman and vocal supporter of former president Donald Trump, is also running for governor of New York.
Match ID: 84 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
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Why the French are so furious at the Biden administration over a derailed submarine deal
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 12:36:58 EDT
The French diplomatic response has been unusual in its public bluntness.
Match ID: 85 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Aerial footage shows scale of makeshift migrant camp under Texas bridge – video
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 16:09:39 GMT

On Saturday the US government worked on plans to send many of the thousands of Haitian immigrants who have gathered in a Texas border city back to their Caribbean homeland. Aerial video from local media showed Haitians crossing the Rio Grande freely and in a steady stream on Friday, going back and forth between the US and Mexico through knee-deep water, with some parents carrying small children on their shoulders. People pitched tents and built shelters from giant reeds. Many bathed and washed clothing in the river

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Object lesson: Michael Craig-Martin’s paintings of ​Covid era items – in pictures
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 16:00:12 GMT

Lockdown was a productive time for Michael Craig-Martin: most of the works in his new show at Amsterdam’s Reflex gallery were created in its grip. He continued his longstanding project of painting everyday objects in minimal style, their clean lines and smooth surfaces reflecting the blandness at the heart of consumer culture. This time, among the Apple Watches, wheelie suitcases and noise-cancelling headphones, we find the true symbol of the Covid era: a face mask. “When we try to understand past civilisations – the stone age, ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Aztecs – we do so by examining the objects they created and used,” says Craig-Martin. “My work is like an archaeology of the present.”

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Rahm Emanuel, a target of the left, may be rescued by Republicans
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 11:29:27 EDT
Emanuel, Biden’s nominee for ambassador to Japan, has earned the hostility of many liberals during his long career. But some Senate Republicans say they will support his confirmation.
Match ID: 88 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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8 great crepe recipes, including butter, buckwheat and sizzling rice
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 10:00:56 EDT
Many cuisines feature sweet and savory crepes or thin pancakes similar to them, which can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Match ID: 89 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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The computer chip industry has a dirty climate secret
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 12:00:06 GMT

As demand for chips surges, the semicondutor industry is trying to grapple with its huge carbon foot print

The semiconductor industry has a problem. Demand is booming for silicon chips, which are embedded in everything from smartphones and televisions to wind turbines, but it comes at a big cost: a huge carbon footprint.

The industry presents a paradox. Meeting global climate goals will, in part, rely on semiconductors. They’re integral to electric vehicles, solar arrays and wind turbines. But chip manufacturing also contributes to the climate crisis. It requires huge amounts of energy and water – a chip fabrication plant, or fab, can use millions of gallons of water a day – and creates hazardous waste.

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Match ID: 90 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
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Three big questions on Mark Milley
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 07:00:12 EDT
Milley has been tight-lipped in response to a new report on his assurances to China, while pointing to his upcoming Sept. 28 testimony. Here's what that testimony should focus upon.
Match ID: 91 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Pakistan calls for engagement with Taliban as West highlights concerns of abuse
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 07:00:00 EDT
Pakistani officials fear cross-border chaos if Afghanistan collapses.
Match ID: 92 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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How thousands of Haitian migrants ended up at the Texas border
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 10:30:05 GMT

Gang violence, bloody protests, food and fuel shortages plus natural disasters have spurred many to leave the west’s poorest nation

Every night Guy would fall asleep to the sound of gunfire: warring gangs in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, were fighting pitched battles in the city centre.

By day, the country was roiled by bloody protests against food and fuel shortages. Roadblocks with burning tyres were commonplace, and the police responded with tear gas and billy clubs.

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Match ID: 93 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
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For one Capitol reporter, Jan. 6 was the final straw — but he had watched a crisis brew for years
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 06:00:00 EDT
Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press left his beat of 30 years, both traumatized and frustrated by journalism’s failure to cope with today’s dire politics.
Match ID: 94 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Boring? That may not be a bad thing in the race to succeed Germany’s Angela Merkel.
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 06:00:00 EDT
Olaf Scholz of the left-leaning Social Democrats is channeling Merkel’s style before Sept. 26 elections.
Match ID: 95 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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In Japan's anime universe, ‘Belle’ seeks to rewrite script on female power
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 05:00:00 EDT
“Belle,” which will be part of the New York Film Festival, has become a hit for challenging stereotypes.
Match ID: 96 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Afghan family ravaged by U.S. drone strike mistake wants headstones for the dead — and possible new life in America
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 04:43:00 EDT
The U.S. apology was welcomed. But they want someone held accountable for the attack that claimed 10 lives.
Match ID: 97 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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As France escalated its submarine dispute, it decided to go a bit lighter on Britain. Here’s why.
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 04:05:53 EDT
France may see Britain as a something of a junior partner in the deal.
Match ID: 98 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Amazon says it’s permanently banned 600 Chinese brands for review fraud
2021-09-18T07:29:26+00:00
Amazon says it’s permanently banned 600 Chinese brands for review fraud submitted by /u/Sorin61
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Match ID: 99 Score: 10.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 1 day
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Texas anti-abortion law shows ‘terrifying’ fragility of women’s rights, say activists
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 07:00:01 GMT

Campaigners fear ban emboldens anti-choice governments as more aggressive opposition, better organised and funded, spreads from US

The new anti-abortion law in Texas is a “terrifying” reminder of the fragility of hard-won rights, pro-choice activists have said, as they warn of a “more aggressive, much better organised [and] better funded” global opposition movement.

Pro-choice campaigners have seen several victories in recent years, including in Ireland, Argentina and, most recently, Mexico, where the supreme court ruled last week that criminalising abortion was unconstitutional. Another is hoped for later this month when the tiny enclave of San Marino, landlocked within Italy, holds a highly charged referendum.

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Match ID: 100 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
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How an intelligence officer’s disappearance in Somalia has ripped the government apart
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 01:38:13 EDT
The political battles risk turning into a security one and could strengthen the hand of al-Shabab militants.
Match ID: 101 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Miss Manners: Party chauffeur gets raw deal
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 00:00:00 EDT
Host suggests lunch out after the party but pays only for her food.
Match ID: 102 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Carolyn Hax: How to motivate yourself to do something you dread?
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 00:00:37 EDT
A broken shoulder means painful physiotherapy and little will to follow through.
Match ID: 103 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Ask Amy: Offers to help overwhelm caregiving spouse
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 00:00:00 EDT
Husband enjoys hearing from family and friends, but responding has become a burden.
Match ID: 104 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Tim Cook Faces Surprising Employee Unrest at Apple. Hundreds of current and former Apple workers are complaining about their work environment, a rarity for the once tight-lipped company.
2021-09-18T03:54:09+00:00
Tim Cook Faces Surprising Employee Unrest at Apple. Hundreds of current and former Apple workers are complaining about their work environment, a rarity for the once tight-lipped company. submitted by /u/LisaMck041
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Match ID: 105 Score: 10.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 1 day
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Republican leaders remain silent as Trump casts perpetrators of Jan. 6 attack as political prisoners
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 19:54:14 EDT
The state of the party was put into focus with the sudden retirement announcement of Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), a onetime rising GOP star who cited “the toxic dynamics inside our own party” for his decision.
Match ID: 106 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Court hearings, guilty pleas belie right-wing recasting of Jan. 6 defendants as persecuted patriots
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 19:33:17 EDT
About 73 pleas, roughly 600 charged and dozens still jailed. Ahead of the Justice for J6 rally, a look at where the defendants stand.
Match ID: 107 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Federal workers can be fired for refusing vaccination, but must show up to work until their cases are determined, new guidance says
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 19:16:53 EDT
The guidance follows a mandate for federal workers announced by President Biden last week as part of a series of measures to blunt the growth of the delta variant.
Match ID: 108 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Capitol Police chief dropped request for armed National Guard members to be on standby for Saturday’s rally after Pentagon discussions
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 18:41:00 EDT
A top Senate security official said the original request did not follow proper protocol. Chief J. Thomas Manger instead asked for troops who would be unarmed, other than batons, which was approved by the Department of Defense.
Match ID: 109 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Kasha varnishkes turns humble buckwheat, pasta and onions into something extra special
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 18:30:02 EDT
Made with buckwheat, pasta, onions and sometimes mushrooms, this delicious Eastern European Jewish dish belies its humble roots.
Match ID: 110 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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It is entirely fitting that the Alfa Bank rumor will be the final bookend of the Russia probe
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 17:52:51 EDT
An incredibly dubious story that hobbled along for years in left-wing conspiracy theorizing is at the heart of this week's Russia-related indictment.
Match ID: 111 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Can you get a covid booster and a flu shot together? Here’s what you need to know.
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 17:33:10 EDT
It is safe to get a coronavirus vaccine and a flu shot at the same time, according to experts and the CDC.
Match ID: 112 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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The iPhone 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max are available to order today
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 19:30:15 +0000
Ship dates for some configurations are already slipping to late October, though.
Match ID: 113 Score: 10.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
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This is how embarrassing Trump’s ‘fraud’ claims have gotten
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 15:03:05 EDT
Now he wants to overturn the election based on an unproven technicality.
Match ID: 114 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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The irony of Elise Stefanik and Texas’s lieutenant governor amplifying white replacement theory
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:43:23 EDT
Not to mention the toxicity and shortsightedness.
Match ID: 115 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis marries longtime partner Marlon Reis
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:30:51 EDT
Polis, the first openly gay man elected governor, married his longtime partner, Marlon Reis, Wednesday.
Match ID: 116 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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How to Preorder the iPhone 13—and Which One You Should Get
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 16:18:00 +0000
Get those Apple Wallets ready. From the Mini to the Pro Max, we break down all your options.
Match ID: 117 Score: 10.00 source: www.wired.com age: 2 days
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The role of physical threats in Trump’s domination of the GOP
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:13:56 EDT
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), who is retiring, is the latest to cite a deluge of death threats after running afoul of Trump. And it's worth asking how much of a role such literal intimidation plays in Trump's stranglehold on the party.
Match ID: 118 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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This $15 red from Turkey tastes like a young Bordeaux without the price tag
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:00:00 EDT
RECOMMENDED | Plus, a Turkish white, Spanish verdejo and two French wines to round out the week’s picks.
Match ID: 119 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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For a Maryland winery, modern updates for the future hold the keys to preserving its past
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:00:01 EDT
A Holocaust survivor started a winery and meadery to preserve family legacy. Now, his granddaughter is working to ensure its future.
Match ID: 120 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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Pelosi says capitalism has not served the U.S. economy ‘as well as it should,’ needs to be improved
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 11:24:43 EDT
"What we want to do is not depart from that, but to improve it and to make sure that it serves us,” the U.S. House speaker said in a speech to a London think tank.
Match ID: 121 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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The potential trouble with Jan. 6 defendant prosecutions
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 11:21:48 EDT
As far-right groups prepare to come back to the Capitol on Saturday, prosecutors may have hit a speed bump with some of the more serious charges against Jan. 6 defendants.
Match ID: 122 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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China’s Mars Helicopter to Support Future Rover Exploration
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 15:17:19 +0000


The first ever powered flight by an aircraft on another planetary took place in April when NASA's Ingenuity helicopter, delivered to the Red Planet along with Perseverance rover, but the idea has already taken off elsewhere.

Earlier this month a prototype "Mars surface cruise drone system" developed by a team led by Bian Chunjiang at China's National Space Science Center (NSSC) in Beijing gained approval for further development.

Like Ingenuity, which was intended purely as a technology demonstration, it uses two sets of blades on a single rotor mast to provide lift for vertical take-offs and landings in the very thin Martian atmosphere, which is around 1% the density of Earth's.

The team did consider a fixed wing approach, which other space-related research institutes in China have been developing, but found the constraints related to size, mass, power and lift best met by the single rotor mast approach.

Solar panels charge Ingenuity's batteries enough to allow one 90-second flight per Martian day. The NSSC team is however considering adopting wireless charging through the rover, or a combination of both power systems.

The total mass is 2.1 kilograms, slightly heavier than the 1.8-kg Ingenuity. It would fly at an altitude of 5-10 meters, reaching speeds of around 300 meters per minute, with a possible duration of 3 minutes per flight. Limitations include energy consumption and temperature control.

According to an article published by China Science Daily, Bian proposed development of a helicopter to help guide a rover in March 2019, which was then accepted in June that year. The idea is that by imaging areas ahead the rover could then better select routes which avoid the otherwise unseen areas that restrict and pose challenges to driving.

The small craft's miniature multispectral imaging system may also detect scientifically valuable targets, such as evidence of notable compounds, that would otherwise be missed, deliver preliminary data and direct the rover for more detailed observations.

The next steps, Bian said, will be developing the craft so as to be able to operate in the very low atmospheric pressure and frigid temperatures of Mars as well as the dust environment and other complex environmental variables.

Bian also notes that to properly support science and exploration goals the helicopter design life must be at least a few months or even beyond a year on Mars.

To properly test the vehicle, these conditions will have to be simulated here on Earth. Bian says China does not currently have facilities that can meet all of the parameters. Faced with similar challenges for Ingenuity, Caltech graduate students built a custom wind tunnel for testing, and the NSSC team may likewise need to take a bespoke approach.

"The next 5 to 6 years are a window for research." Bian said. "We hope to overcome these technical problems and allow the next Mars exploration mission to carry a drone on Mars."

When the Mars aircraft could be deployed on Mars is unknown. China's first Mars rover landed in May, but there is no backup vehicle, unlike its predecessor lunar rover missions. The country's next interplanetary mission is expected to be a complex and unprecedented Mars sample-return launching around 2028-2030.

Ingenuity's first flight was declared by NASA to be a "Wright Brothers moment." Six years after the 1903 Wright Flyer, Chinese-born Feng Ru successfully flew his own biplane. Likewise, in the coming years, China will be looking to carry out its own powered flight on another planet.


Match ID: 123 Score: 10.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 2 days
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Biden administration to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti, aiming to deter mass migration into Texas
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 11:11:17 EDT
More than 13,000 migrants have arrived at a crude border camp under a highway bridge in Del Rio, Tex.
Match ID: 124 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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A scary court victory for Devin Nunes
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 10:16:41 EDT
A federal appeals court handed down a ruling that should concern tweeting journalists.
Match ID: 125 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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The non-Trump GOP erodes a little further
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 10:06:53 EDT
There is some space for a counterweight to Trump — if anyone wanted to fill it.
Match ID: 126 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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The Best iPad to Buy (and the Ones to Avoid)
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 14:00:00 +0000
With several new iPads on the market, choosing the right one is more complicated than ever. We’re here to help.
Match ID: 127 Score: 10.00 source: www.wired.com age: 2 days
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So you want to drive to Canada?
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 10:00:00 EDT
A covid-cautious destination reopens its land border — and offers plenty to do and eat outdoors.
Match ID: 128 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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Dell XPS 15 9510 review: Come for the screen, stay for everything else
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 14:00:39 +0000
Limited ports and a midrange GPU don't detract much from an excellent laptop.
Match ID: 129 Score: 10.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 2 days
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Tracking the political appointees Biden is nominating to fill the top roles in his administration
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 09:49:51 EDT
Follow the president-elect’s progress filling nearly 800 positions, among the 1,200 that require Senate confirmation, in this tracker from The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service.
Match ID: 130 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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Instagram is even worse than we thought for kids. What do we do about it?
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 09:32:34 EDT
Facebook, which owns Instagram, found it's detrimental to kids' mental health. Here's what parents can do, once their teens are using it.
Match ID: 131 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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‘A forgotten disaster’: earthquake-hit Haitians left to fend for themselves
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 13:00:46 GMT

With rural areas of the country left to suffer, aid workers fear funds are drying up as global compassion fatigue sets in

David Nazaire, a 45-year-old coffee farmer from Beaumont, a small village in rural southern Haiti, was getting ready to harvest when an earthquake struck his home and livelihood. Much of the farming infrastructure – as well as nearby homes, schools and churches – was damaged or completely destroyed. A month later, he and thousands of rural Haitians – those most severely affected by the tremor – are still waiting for relief, and are not expecting it to arrive soon.

“The earthquake didn’t destroy our crops, but it did take everything else,” Nazaire says, outside a neighbour’s house, now a pile of rubble beneath plastic roof tiles supported by the remnants of concrete walls. “We were just getting ready to harvest, but that’s lost now.”

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Match ID: 132 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
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Antony Hewish, astronomer who won Nobel Prize for the discovery of pulsars, dies at 97
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 08:49:47 EDT
The discovery was a scientific breakthrough, although his Nobel was controversial. Some said at least a share of the prize should have gone to one of his graduate students.
Match ID: 133 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s former surveillance-state strongman, dies at 84
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 08:17:33 EDT
Maneuvering through coups, conflicts and political intrigue, he helped end a civil war and was the longest-ruling leader of Africa’s largest country.
Match ID: 134 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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California fires: General Sherman and other sequoias given blankets
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:12:33 GMT
Fire-resistant blankets protect General Sherman and other sequoias as a California blaze closes in.
Match ID: 135 Score: 10.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 2 days
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What's Apple's iPhone Camera Strategy, Anyway?
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:00:00 +0000
This week, we go deep on the photographic and cinematic capabilities of the iPhone 13.
Match ID: 136 Score: 10.00 source: www.wired.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 10.00 apple

How to Set Healthy Boundaries With Your Fitness Tracker
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:00:00 +0000
A smart wearable can be useful and fun—until it starts to fuel an obsession with numbers.
Match ID: 137 Score: 10.00 source: www.wired.com age: 2 days
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At Fat Nomads supper club, some of D.C.’s best Thai food is right at home
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 08:00:00 EDT
Chefs Prapavadee Limvatana and Satang Ruangsangwatana serve up vibrant, homegrown dishes.
Match ID: 138 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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A do-it-yourself fishing adventure on Alaska’s Kanektok River
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 08:00:00 EDT
Exploring Alaska’s true wilderness by raft on an eight-day unguided fishing excursion.
Match ID: 139 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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How Epic Games Made a Dent in Apple’s App Store Domination
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 11:50:10 +0000
In a calculated bit of legal trolling, the video-game company has landed a victory with major implications for users and developers alike.
Match ID: 140 Score: 10.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 10.00 apple

Zero-Click iMessage Exploit
2021-09-17T11:09:27Z

Citizen Lab released a report on a zero-click iMessage exploit that is used in NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

Apple patched the vulnerability; everyone needs to update their OS immediately.

News articles on the exploit.


Match ID: 141 Score: 10.00 source: www.schneier.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 10.00 apple

Oil Company Official Overseeing Crackdown on Pipeline Resistance Cut Teeth at Amazon and Exxon
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 10:00:20 +0000

In the small world of corporate security, officials like Enbridge’s Troy Kirby take counterinsurgency practices from one megacompany to another.

The post Oil Company Official Overseeing Crackdown on Pipeline Resistance Cut Teeth at Amazon and Exxon appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 142 Score: 10.00 source: theintercept.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 10.00 amazon

Taliban reopens high school for boys, but makes no mention of female students
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 04:55:39 EDT
“All middle and high schools and madrassas should begin teaching from tomorrow, Saturday,” the announcement read. “All male students and male teachers must be present at their schools.”
Match ID: 143 Score: 10.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 10.00 amazon

Wildfires in California threaten world's biggest tree – video
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 08:52:42 GMT

Firefighters have wrapped the base of the world’s largest tree in a fire-resistant blanket as they tried to save a famous grove of gigantic old-growth sequoias from wildfires burning in California. The colossal General Sherman tree in Sequoia national park’s giant forest is among the trees to be wrapped in aluminium as wildfires close in on the Giant Forest

Continue reading...
Match ID: 144 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 10.00 california

‘It helped me get away from crime’: Cape Town’s College of Magic – a photo essay
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 06:00:38 GMT

Photographer Tommy Trenchard documents students whose stories of transformation at the Hogwarts of South Africa are more than just fairytales

To fans of JK Rowling’s books, the story may sound somewhat familiar: a young boy living in difficult circumstances is enrolled in a mysterious school far from home, where his life is changed for ever by the transformative power of magic.

Anele Dyasi’s story is no fairytale, though, and the school in question is not Hogwarts, but the College of Magic in Cape Town, a unique institution that has been training some of the continent’s most skilled illusionists since the 1980s.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 145 Score: 10.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 10.00 development

Trick Out Your iPhone 12 With These Cases and Accessories
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 13:00:00 +0000
Last year’s flagship phone is still a great pick. If you’ve got a 2020 model, here are the cases, chargers, and other extras you’ll want to snag.
Match ID: 146 Score: 8.57 source: www.wired.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 8.57 apple

Which Apple Watch Is Best Right Now?
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 12:00:00 +0000
Apple now offers multiple versions of its popular fitness smartwatch. Here's our guide to them all.
Match ID: 147 Score: 8.57 source: www.wired.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 8.57 apple

The Meaning of California’s Bill Against Nonconsensual Condom Removal
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 10:00:00 +0000
The civil-rights attorney Alexandra Brodsky discusses how legislation banning so-called stealthing could expand understandings of sexual assault.
Match ID: 148 Score: 8.57 source: www.newyorker.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 8.57 california

The 2021 National Book Awards Longlist: Translated Literature
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 19:00:00 +0000
Many of this year’s contenders grapple with the slippery nature of truth and memory.
Match ID: 149 Score: 8.57 source: www.newyorker.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 8.57 apple

Buffalo’s Developer Class Backing Last-Ditch Attempt Against Socialist India Walton
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 19:00:32 +0000

A federal judge who wants Buffalo’s incumbent mayor back on the ballot is being scrutinized for his real estate ties.

The post Buffalo’s Developer Class Backing Last-Ditch Attempt Against Socialist India Walton appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 150 Score: 8.57 source: theintercept.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 8.57 development

No Antenna Could Survive Europa’s Brutal, Radioactive Environment—Until Now
Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:30:00 +0000


Europa, one of Jupiter's Galilean moons, has twice as much liquid water as Earth's oceans, if not more. An ocean estimated to be anywhere from 40 to 100 miles (60 to 150 kilometers) deep spans the entire moon, locked beneath an icy surface over a dozen kilometers thick. The only direct evidence for this ocean is the plumes of water that occasionally erupt through cracks in the ice, jetting as high as 200 km above the surface.

The endless, sunless, roiling ocean of Europa might sound astoundingly bleak. Yet it's one of the most promising candidates for finding extraterrestrial life. Designing a robotic lander that can survive such harsh conditions will require rethinking all of its systems to some extent, including arguably its most important: communications. After all, even if the rest of the lander works flawlessly, if the radio or antenna breaks, the lander is lost forever.

Ultimately, when NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where I am a senior antenna engineer, began to seriously consider a Europa lander mission, we realized that the antenna was the limiting factor. The antenna needs to maintain a direct-to-Earth link across more than 550 million miles (900 million km) when Earth and Jupiter are at their point of greatest separation. The antenna must be radiation-hardened enough to survive an onslaught of ionizing particles from Jupiter, and it cannot be so heavy or so large that it would imperil the lander during takeoff and landing. One colleague, when we laid out the challenge in front of us, called it impossible. We built such an antenna anyway—and although it was designed for Europa, it is a revolutionary enough design that we're already successfully implementing it in future missions for other destinations in the solar system.

Currently, the only planned mission to Europa is the Clipper orbiter, a NASA mission that will study the moon's chemistry and geology and will likely launch in 2024. Clipper will also conduct reconnaissance for a potential later mission to put a lander on Europa. At this time, any such lander is conceptual. NASA has still funded a Europa lander concept, however, because there are crucial new technologies that we need to develop for any successful mission on the icy world. Europa is unlike anywhere else we've attempted to land before.

People standing in front of an antenna.  The antenna team, including the author (right), examine one of the antenna's subarrays. Each golden square is a unit cell in the antenna. JPL-Caltech/NASA

For context, so far the only lander to explore the outer solar system is the European Space Agency's Huygens lander. It successfully descended to Saturn's moon Titan in 2005 after being carried by the Cassini orbiter. Much of our frame of reference for designing landers—and their antennas—comes from Mars landers.

Traditionally, landers (and rovers) designed for Mars missions rely on relay orbiters with high data rates to get scientific data back to Earth in a timely manner. These orbiters, such as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey, have large, parabolic antennas that use large amounts of power, on the order of 100 watts, to communicate with Earth. While the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers also have direct-to-Earth antennas, they are small, use less power (about 25 W), and are not very efficient. These antennas are mostly used for transmitting the rover's status and other low-data updates. These existing direct-to-Earth antennas simply aren't up to the task of communicating all the way from Europa.

Additionally, Europa, unlike Mars, has virtually no atmosphere, so landers can't use parachutes or air resistance to slow down. Instead, the lander will depend entirely on rockets to brake and land safely. This necessity limits how big it can be—too heavy and it will require far too much fuel to both launch and land. A modestly sized 400-kilogram lander, for example, requires a rocket and fuel that combined weigh between 10 to 15 tonnes. The lander then needs to survive six or seven years of deep space travel before finally landing and operating within the intense radiation produced by Jupiter's powerful magnetic field.

We also can't assume a Europa lander would have an orbiter overhead to relay signals, because adding an orbiter could very easily make the mission too expensive. Even if Clipper is miraculously still functional by the time a lander arrives, we won't assume that will be the case, as the lander would arrive well after Clipper's official end-of-mission date.

JPL engineers pose with a mock-up of a Europa lander concept JPL engineers, including the author (bottom row on left), pose with a mock-up of a Europa lander concept. The model includes several necessary technological developments, including the antenna on top and legs that can handle uneven terrain. JPL-Caltech/NASA

I've mentioned previously that the antenna will need to transmit signals up to 900 million km. As a general rule, less efficient antennas need a larger surface area to transmit farther. But as the lander won't have an orbiter overhead with a large relay antenna, and it won't be big enough itself for a large antenna, it needs a small antenna with a transmission efficiency of 80 percent or higher—much more efficient than most space-bound antennas.

So, to reiterate the challenge: The antenna cannot be large, because then the lander will be too heavy. It cannot be inefficient for the same reason, because requiring more power would necessitate bulky power systems instead. And it needs to survive exposure to a brutal amount of radiation from Jupiter. This last point requires that the antenna must be mostly, if not entirely, made out of metal, because metals are more resistant to ionizing radiation.

The antenna we ultimately developed depends on a key innovation: The antenna is made up of circularly polarized, aluminum-only unit cells—more on this in a moment—that can each send and receive on X-band frequencies (specifically, 7.145 to 7.19 gigahertz for the uplink and 8.4 to 8.45 GHz for the downlink). The entire antenna is an array of these unit cells, 32 on a side or 1,024 in total. The antenna is 32.5 by 32.5 inches (82.5 by 82.5 centimeters), allowing it to fit on top of a modestly sized lander, and it can achieve a downlink rate to Earth of 33 kilobits per second at 80 percent efficiency.

Let's take a closer look at the unit cells I mentioned, to better understand how this antenna does what it does. Circular polarization is commonly used for space communications. You might be more familiar with linear polarization, which is often used for terrestrial wireless signals; you can imagine such a signal propagating across a distance as a 2D sine wave that's oriented, say, vertically or horizontally relative to the ground. Circular polarization instead propagates as a 3D helix. This helix pattern makes circular polarization useful for deep space communications because the helix's larger “cross section" doesn't require that the transmitter and receiver be as precisely aligned. As you can imagine, a superprecise alignment across almost 750 million km is all but impossible. Circular polarization has the added benefit of being less sensitive to Earth's weather when it arrives. Rain, for example, causes linearly polarized signals to attenuate more quickly than circularly polarized ones.

This exploded view of an 8-by-8 subarray of the antenna This exploded view of an 8-by-8 subarray of the antenna shows the unit cells (top layer) that work together to create steerable signal beams, and the three layers of the power divider sandwiched between the antenna's casing. JPL-Caltech/NASA

Each unit cell, as mentioned, is entirely made of aluminum. Earlier antenna arrays that similarly use smaller component cells include dielectric materials like ceramic or glass to act as insulators. Unfortunately, dielectric materials are also vulnerable to Jupiter's ionizing radiation. The radiation builds up a charge on the materials over time, and precisely because they're insulators there's nowhere for that charge to go—until it's ultimately released in a hardware-damaging electrostatic discharge. So we can't use them.

As mentioned before, metals are more resilient to ionizing radiation. The problem is they're not insulators, and so an antenna constructed entirely out of metal is ­­still at risk of an electrostatic discharge damaging its components. We worked around this problem by designing each unit cell to be fed at a single point. The “feed" is the connection between an antenna and the radio's transmitter and receiver. Typically, circularly polarized antennas require two perpendicular feeds to control the signal generation. But with a bit of careful engineering and the use of a type of automated optimization called a genetic algorithm, we developed a precisely shaped single feed that could get the job done. Meanwhile, a comparatively large metal post acts as a ground to protect each feed from electrostatic discharges.

The unit cells are placed in small 8-by-8 subarrays, 16 subarrays in total. Each of these subarrays is fed with something we call a suspended air stripline, in which the transmission line is suspended between two ground planes, turning the gap in between into a dielectric insulator. We can then safely transmit power through the stripline while still protecting the line from electric discharges that would build up on a dielectric like ceramic or glass. Additionally, suspended air striplines are low loss, which is perfect for the highly efficient antenna design we wanted.

Put together, the new antenna design accomplishes three things: It's highly efficient, it can handle a large amount of power, and it's not very sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Removing traditional dielectric materials in favor of air striplines and an aluminum-only design gives us high efficiency. It's also a phased array, which means it uses a cluster of smaller antennas to create steerable, tightly focused signals. The nature of such an array is that each individual cell needs to handle only a fraction of the total transmission power. So while each individual cell can handle only a few watts, each subarray can handle more than 100 watts. And finally, because the antenna is made of metal, it expands and contracts uniformly as the temperature changes. In fact, one of the reasons we picked aluminum is because the metal does not expand or contract much as temperatures change.

The power divider for an 8-by-8 subarray The power divider for an 8-by-8 subarray splits the signal power into a fraction that each unit cell can tolerate without being damaged. JPL-Caltech/NASA

When I originally proposed this antenna concept to the Europa lander project, I was met with skepticism. Space exploration is typically a very risk-averse endeavor, for good reason—the missions are expensive, and a single mistake can end one prematurely. For this reason, new technologies may be dismissed in favor of tried-and-true methods. But this situation was different because without a new antenna design, there would never be a Europa mission. The rest of my team and I were given the green light to prove the antenna could work.

Designing, fabricating, and testing the antenna took only 6 months. To put that in context, the typical development cycle for a new space technology is measured in years. The results were outstanding. Our antenna achieved the 80 percent efficiency threshold on both the send and receive frequency bands, despite being smaller and lighter than other antennas.

In order to prove how successful our antenna could be, we subjected it to a battery of extreme environmental tests, including a handful of tests specific to Europa's atypical environment.

One test is what we call thermal cycling. For this test, we place the antenna in a room called a thermal chamber and adjust the temperature over a large range—as low as –170 ℃ and as high as 150 ℃. We put the antenna through multiple temperature cycles, measuring its transmitting capabilities before, during, and after each cycle. The antenna passed this test without any issues.

Photo of unit cells Each unit cell is pure aluminum. Collectively, they create a steerable signal by canceling out one another's signals in unwanted directions and reinforcing the signal in the desired direction. JPL-Caltech/NASA

The antenna also needed to demonstrate, like any piece of hardware that goes into space, resilience against vibrations. Rockets—and everything they're carrying into space—shake intensely during launch, which means we need to be sure that anything that goes up doesn't come apart on the trip. For the vibration test, we loaded the entire antenna onto a vibrating table. We used accelerometers at different locations on the antenna to determine if it was holding up or breaking apart under the vibrations. Over the course of the test, we ramped up the vibrations to the point where they approximate a launch.

Thermal cycling and vibration tests are standard tests for the hardware on any spacecraft, but as I mentioned, Europa's challenging environment required a few additional nonstandard tests. We typically do some tests in anechoic chambers for antennas. You may recognize anechoic chambers as those rooms with wedge-covered surfaces to absorb any signal reflections. An anechoic chamber makes it possible for us to determine the antenna's signal propagation over extremely long distances by eliminating interference from local reflections. One way to think about it is that the anechoic chamber simulates a wide open space, so we can measure the signal's propagation and extrapolate how it will look over a longer distance.

What made this particular anechoic chamber test interesting is that it was also conducted at ultralow temperatures. We couldn't make the entire chamber that cold, so we instead placed the antenna in a sealed foam box. The foam is transparent to the antenna's radio transmissions, so from the point of view of the actual test, it wasn't there. But by connecting the foam box to a heat exchange plate filled with liquid nitrogen, we could lower the temperature inside it to –170 ℃. To our delight, we found that the antenna had robust long-range signal propagation even at that frigid temperature.

The last unusual test for this antenna was to bombard it with electrons in order to simulate Jupiter's intense radiation. We used JPL's Dynamitron electron accelerator to subject the antenna to the entire ionizing radiation dose the antenna would see during its lifetime in a shortened time frame. In other words, in the span of two days in the accelerator, the antenna was exposed to the same amount of radiation as it would be during the six- or seven-year trip to Europa, plus up to 40 days on the surface. Like the anechoic chamber testing, we also conducted this test at cryogenic temperatures that were as close to those of Europa's surface conditions as possible.

Photo of antenna in an anechoic chamber with the antenna in a white foam box. The antenna had to pass signal tests at cryogenic temperatures (–170 °C) to confirm that it would work as expected on Europa's frigid surface. Because it wasn't possible to bring the temperature of the entire anechoic chamber to cryogenic levels, the antenna was sealed in a white foam box. JPL-Caltech/NASA

The reason for the electron bombardment test was our concern that Jupiter's ionizing radiation would cause a dangerous electrostatic discharge at the antenna's port, where it connects to the rest of the lander's communications hardware. Theoretically, the danger of such a discharge grows as the antenna spends more time exposed to ionizing radiation. If a discharge happens, it could damage not just the antenna but also hardware deeper in the communications system and possibly elsewhere in the lander. Thankfully, we didn't measure any discharges during our test, which confirms that the antenna can survive both the trip to and work on Europa.

We designed and tested this antenna for Europa, but we believe it can be used for missions elsewhere in the solar system. We're already tweaking the design for the joint JPL/ESA Mars Sample Return mission that—as the name implies—will bring Martian rocks, soil, and atmospheric samples back to Earth. The mission is currently slated to launch in 2026. We see no reason why our antenna design couldn't be used on every future Mars lander or rover as a more robust alternative—one that could also increase data rates 4 to 16 times those of current antenna designs. We also could use it on future moon missions to provide high data rates.

Although there isn't an approved Europa lander mission yet, we at JPL will be ready if and when it happens. Other engineers have pursued different projects that are also necessary for such a mission. For example, some have developed a new, multilegged landing system to touch down safely on uncertain or unstable surfaces. Others have created a “belly pan" that will protect vulnerable hardware from Europa's cold. Still others have worked on an intelligent landing system, radiation-tolerant batteries, and more. But the antenna remains perhaps the most vital system, because without it there will be no way for the lander to communicate how well any of these other systems are working. Without a working antenna, the lander will never be able to tell us whether we could have living neighbors on Europa.

This article appears in the August 2021 print issue as “An Antenna Made for an Icy, Radioactive Hell."

During the editorial process some errors were introduced to this article and have been corrected on 27 July 2021. We originally misstated the amount of power used by Mars orbiters and the Europa antenna design, as well as the number of unit cells in each subarray. We also incorrectly suggested that the Europa antenna design would not require a gimbal or need to reorient itself in order to stay in contact with Earth.


Match ID: 151 Score: 8.57 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 59 days
qualifiers: 7.14 genetic, 1.43 development

California Republicans Flee to Florida and Texas in Search of Dumber Governors
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 17:15:29 +0000
They chose to leave rather than put up with a governor who oppressively follows science.
Match ID: 152 Score: 7.14 source: www.newyorker.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 7.14 california

Will iPhone 13 Trigger Headaches and Nausea?
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 14:25:02 +0000


Tim Cook is "so excited for iPhone 13." I'm not, because yet again, Apple's latest and greatest tech sits behind an OLED display. And OLEDs, for some of us, cause nausea, headaches, or worse. I explain why Apple's OLED displays, that dim by flickering on and off rather than by voltage adjustments, trigger health issues here.

The iPhone 13 series, launched Tuesday, has cool video features, like automatically changing focus on the fly. The phones have longer battery lives. They have better processors.

But it doesn't come with an LCD option, the second generation that's OLED only.

Watching the livestream of the iPhone 13 intro event this week, I had a moment of hope, albeit one that could be a little hard on the budget. The OLED screens on the iPhone 13 Pro models (starting at $999 for the Pro, $1099 for the Pro Max) sport a refresh rate of 120 Hz, instead of 60 Hz of other models. The rate of the flicker—the pulse width modulation (PWM) is typically four times the refresh rate, and the slower the flicker the worse the effects on the sensitive, so a higher refresh rate could potentially translate to higher frequency PWM, and trigger problems in fewer people.

However, these new screens aren't designed to always run at 120 Hz. They will adjust their refresh rate depending on the content, Apple's executives explained, with movies and games running at the highest speed and more static things like photos and email at far slower rates, as low as 10 Hz. (Reducing the refresh rate extends battery life.) So it's hard to say whether this new display is better or worse for the motion sensitive. It's possible that Apple will offer a user option to lock the refresh rate at 120 Hz in spite of the hit on battery life, no word yet from Apple on that, and I won't really know if that will help unless I try it.

Will my motion sensitivity force me to fall further and further behind as Apple's phone technology advances? Apple's September announcements did suggest a possible path. Perhaps my next phone shouldn't be a phone, but rather an iPad Mini. I'd have to back off on a few things I consider essential in a phone—that I could hold it in one hand comfortably and fit it in my back jeans pocket; at 5.3 by 7.69 inches the Mini is a little big for that. But Apple's new mini packs in much of the same technologies as its top-of-the-line iPhone 13s—the A15 Bionic chip, Center Stage software to automatically keep the subjects in the screen during video calls, and 5G communications, all behind an LCD, not an OLED, display.

And oooh, that wisteria purple!
Match ID: 153 Score: 7.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 7.14 apple

Electric Motor Enables Chain-Free Bike-by-Wire
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 13:59:44 +0000


An increasingly-seen sight in Berlin and other German cities is the oversized electric cargo delivery bike, hissing along (and sometimes in bike lanes) like parcel-laden sailboats on appointed Amazon rounds. German manufacturer Schaeffler sees an opportunity: it is introducing a new generator at the heart of a smart drivetrain concept that some observers are calling bike-by-wire.

It's a bike with no chain.

Schaeffler's e-motor assembly was among the more out-of-the-ordinary items on display at the recent IAA Mobility show in Munich, which used to be the Frankfurt Motor Show, and more accustomed to roaring supercars and sleek news Benzes (and a thronging public, in pre-Covid times). But in some ways Schaeffler's pedal-cranked generator looked familiar; it's the world around it that's changing. That just might include reimagining the 130-year-old chain-driven bicycle.

Schaeffler is working with German electric drive maker and systems integrator Heinzmann to develop a complete bike-by-wire drivetrain. The partners had a prototype on display in Munich (and the previous week at Eurobike) with a robust cargo three-wheel e-bike made by Bayk. Production models could come out as soon as first-quarter 2022, says Marc Hector, an engineer in Schaeffler's actuator systems unit and one of the developers on the pedal generator project.

It's a hard thing to beat pedal-turns-sprocket. But maybe conditions are changing.

Bike by wire physically de-links two kinetic systems: the turning pedals and the powering wheel on a bike. They are instead linked by a controller, an electronic brain, which directs power to either battery or hub motor. It also sends a resistance signal to the pedal, so the rider feels that he or she is pushing against something. Instead of producing motion, pedaling is producing current. Taking the chain out of the mix—if done successfully—would fly open the cramped world of cycle design to new shapes and configurations. Remove the electronic brain, however, and you're left with a stationary exercise bike bolted to a wheeled frame powered by rear electric motors.

No wonder industrial designers and engineers have toiled for years on the concept: it's a hard thing to beat pedal-turns-sprocket. But maybe conditions are changing.

Schaeffler\u2019s pedal-powered generator, chainless e-bike design Schaeffler's pedal-powered generator enables new, chainless e-bike designsSchaeffler

Schaeffler is an auto parts and industrial manufacturer which made its name as a ball-bearing and clutch maker. It's developed electro-mobility products for 20 years, but has been on a buying spree: snapping up an engineering specialist firm in e-drives and another in the winding technologies used, among other things, to superefficiently wrap copper wire inside electric motors. It launched a new e-mobility business division that, reports Automotive News Europe, includes 48-volt auto powertrains as well as subsystems for plug-ins and full-electric vehicles.

Here it's a different scale of electrics: Schaeffler's pedal generator is a self-contained four-kilo crank-driven e-machine in a cylindrical housing the shape of an oversized soup can placed in the bottom bracket of a cargo bike. The pedals turn the crank running through a standard brushless DC machine inside: fixed coil copper windings around an iron core are arranged within the cylinder as the generator stator. Magnets in the turning rotor create the current. Temperature sensors and a controller are housed along with the generator.

The bike-by-wire controllers direct that current where needed: to the onboard battery for charging, to the interface display, to the rear hub traction motors that propel the bike, and back to the rider's feet in the form of counter-torque, giving the feeling of resistance when pedaling. The trick will be by synching it all up via Controller Area Network (CAN) bus, a 500 kbits/sec messaging standard which simplifies the amount of cabling needed. It should move the bike on one hand, and independently send the "chain feeling" back to the rider. Move pedal, move bike.

“Pedal by wire has huge potential. Micromobility is coming."

"The feeling should be the same as when there is a chain there," says Thorsten Weyer, a Schaeffler system architect. "But there is no chain."

Propelling the bike will be the two Heinzmann hub motors, which the controller can get rolling set at European Union specs at 125 watts of power each, 250 total (500 watts in mountainous Switzerland, 600 in Austria). Each hub can each generate 113 newton-meters of torque on the axle, powering it ahead. "With the hub motor you have power where you need it," says Heinzmann electric drives managing director Peter Mérimèche. The controller's programmed with nine gear settings: the countercurrent controlling torque on the axle is reduced or increased automatically based on the grade the bike is traveling on.

Designers have dreamed of chainless bikes for more than a century—in analogue form—and at least 25 years for e-bikes, as Andreas Fuchs, a Swiss physicist and engineer, developed his first chainless working models in the mid-90s. Challenges remain. Han Goes, a Dutch consultant and bicycle designer, worked with a Korean auto supplier a decade ago on a personal portable chainless folding bike. Pedaling parameters proved a struggle. "The man and the machine, the cyclist and the generator, the motor: nothing should feel disruptive," he says. If so, the rider feels out of step. "It is like you are pedaling somewhere into empty space."

Goes is still at it, working with design partners on a new chainless cargo bike. Our parcels keep needing delivery, and the city is changing. "Pedal by wire has huge potential. Micromobility is coming," he says. Dutch and Danish and other developers are at it, too. "It offers design and engineering freedom. Simplicity. Less parts and maintenance. Traditional chain drives can never offer that."


Match ID: 154 Score: 7.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 7.14 amazon

You Can Now Ditch the Password on Your Microsoft Account
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 13:00:00 +0000
You no longer need a long string of characters to access Windows and Office 365.
Match ID: 155 Score: 7.14 source: www.wired.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 7.14 microsoft

How to Back Up Your iPhone
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 12:00:00 +0000
Save your memories before you grab the latest version of iOS.
Match ID: 156 Score: 7.14 source: www.wired.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 7.14 apple

Growing Uncertainty in the Central Valley
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 11:33:03 +0000
California produces much of America’s food—and now a drought and a pandemic have put the system on edge.
Match ID: 157 Score: 7.14 source: www.newyorker.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 7.14 california

Larry Elder Claims Widespread Evidence of Him Losing
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 11:20:08 +0000
Detailing his accusations, the G.O.P. candidate alleged a “vast conspiracy” involving millions of Californians, designed to deny him a victory.
Match ID: 158 Score: 7.14 source: www.newyorker.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 7.14 california

Who’s paying for the government’s plan to fix social care?
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 02:00:34 GMT

The government’s plan to fix the ailing social care system passed into law this week. But who will benefit most and who will pick up the bill?

Last week Boris Johnson outlined what Downing Street is billing as a once-in-a-generation shake-up of adult social care and how it is funded. It is an attempt to tackle one of the thorniest issues in modern politics – how to meet the spiralling costs of an ageing population who are living longer with complex conditions and to do it in a way that people feel is fair.

Rachel Humphreys met one woman, Lesley, who knows only too well the complexity and expense of England’s social care system. She has helped her 90-year-old mother to sell her home to pay for her continuing residential care. It’s a story that will be familiar to families across the country who have had to grapple with a labyrinthine system that can quickly burn through a lifetime’s savings.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 159 Score: 7.14 source: www.theguardian.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 7.14 apple

What Is Zero Trust? It Depends What You Want to Hear
Sun, 12 Sep 2021 14:59:29 +0000
The cybersecurity world’s favorite catchphrase isn’t any one product or system, but a holistic approach to minimizing damage.
Match ID: 160 Score: 7.14 source: www.wired.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 7.14 google

Pfizer’s Edge in the COVID-19 Vaccine Race: Data Science
Wed, 08 Sep 2021 13:03:59 +0000


Pfizer dominated news headlines and family dinner conversations last December when it became the first company to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. market. The pharma giant accomplished the feat in record time: less than a year after the disease was first identified.

Integral to that effort was the work of Pfizer's informatics and digital technology team for its vaccine R&D business. Led by Frank DePierro, this group of researchers crunched and chronicled all of the clinical trial data that led to a green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and a safeguard for millions of people. What did it take to make that happen? IEEE Spectrum spoke with DePierro last week via video call to find out. The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.

Frank DePierro Frank DePierro, Pfizer

IEEE Spectrum: What's it like to have the eyes of the world on your work?

Frank DePierro: It's been wild knowing how close my team and I are to the success of this vaccine. I would read articles with people speculating about the data or science, watch news clips with talking heads or experts, or overhear people discussing rumors while out and about, and the whole time I would be biting my tongue thinking about how wrong or right something was that was being said. Being so close to the process but also having to hold so much back, even from close family and friends, made it a tense year.

Spectrum: That must have been exasperating.

DePierro: The spring and summer of 2020 was the most difficult time of my life. I was at home working remotely, under intense pressure to deliver and run the team, had to balance working the longest hours of my career while helping a third grader with school and keeping a three-year-old entertained because my wife was busy on the front lines as a healthcare worker. I think people forget—especially in the news cycles—that we are human too, juggling all the same things while also trying to advance science.

“Being so close to the process but also having to hold so much back, even from close family and friends, made it a tense year."

Spectrum: What does your team do for Pfizer?

DePierro: My team supports clinical trial data. When blood and other kinds of samples are brought to the lab, each sample has to be received, tracked, divided up, and analyzed with complex robotics and instruments, and then statistical analysis is performed and final data generated. So the tools that track all of those samples and generate the data—that's my team. Then we report it out to the FDA.

Spectrum: How many samples from COVID-19 vaccine trials have you processed?

DePierro: The short answer is: a lot! In the last year and a half we logged more clinical samples for COVID than all other vaccine programs combined since 2014.

Spectrum: What kinds of assays or tests are conducted on the samples?

DePierro: It depends on what kind of clinical trial we're running. One test we run is where we introduce a live virus to a blood sample to see how the blood reacts. If the virus is neutralized in the blood, that tells us that the person had built up immunity. We also do PCR, which is the same technology used ubiquitously now in COVID diagnostics.

Spectrum: What are some of the informatics tools that you use?

DePierro: The main behemoth behind all of what we do is called LIMS, which is a Laboratory Information Management System. This is the broad system that enables us to track samples coming in, collect the data, and aggregate it. These are off-the-shelf, but highly customizable, and a lot of venders offer them. The one we happen to use for our vaccine trials is by a company called LabWare. There are certain aspects where we just check boxes to configure, but there are other aspects where we're going in and writing complex subroutines and code using a proprietary language called LIMS Basic, which is very similar to a Java or BASIC.

Then we have other tools that enable us to connect the instruments, robotics and statistical modeling. We're heavy users of SAS. That's the bread and butter of many of the algorithms we write that statistically analyze the clinical data to generate final results. We also use R for statistical analysis. And we have many complex instruments and robotics that have their own proprietary applications that need to be configured and have to communicate effectively with our LIMS or other applications.

“From a workforce perspective, it was all-hands-on-deck. There was no weekend, there was no evening. It was all work, and everyone understood that."

Spectrum: How did your job change when COVID hit?

DePierro: We were really compressed on time. When we're going to run a new assay or sample test, we have to program it into our systems and make sure the robotics and instruments are properly configured, and for a PCR assay, for example, this typically takes 6 to 12 months. For COVID, we did it in about two weeks with a team that dropped everything else. A neutralization assay normally takes 24 months because there are complex algorithms to program to match the scientific requirements. We did it in about two months.

We also became a lot better at summarizing the data. This involves cleaning it up and packaging it for the company's leadership and the FDA to look at. For a normal study, we would prepare this maybe two or three times during the course of a long study. With COVID, we had to come up with a way to report data every day for the company's leadership. As we got closer to having something to submit to the FDA, we started reporting it up to four times a day—often overnight.

Spectrum: How were you able to speed up your timeline by so much?

DePierro: It was serendipitous because maybe a year before the pandemic, we had put into place a lot of new informatics infrastructure for one of our Prevnar 20 vaccine trials against pneumonia. In preparing for that we put a tremendous amount of time, energy, money, and resources into improving our LIMS and putting in more servers and optimizing our background processes and robotics so that everything was more efficient.

Once COVID hit, we capitalized on those improvements. And from a workforce perspective, it was all-hands-on-deck. There was no weekend, there was no evening. It was all work, and everyone understood that. My whole team got pulled into COVID straight away, and we grew by probably by 30-40% over the last year. We did as much as we could with the same regulatory compliance and without cutting corners.

“If a new study or update to an existing study is needed to look at variants, theoretically it requires work, but hopefully most of it will leverage what has already been built."

Spectrum: Pfizer was the first company to get authorization from the FDA for its COVID-19 vaccine. How much do you think your team's work contributed to that?

DePierro: We were a huge part of that. The improvements we had made to our infrastructure in the couple of years leading up to the pandemic played a big role. For example, our LIMS is configured to allow for a certain amount of pseudo-parallel processing. So we spent months retooling algorithms in the system, adding additional load balanced servers, retooling the database, splitting processes into backgrounds, and improving general parameters for many of our configured assays, which is an incredible amount of work to do under the strict validation standards we follow. The result was noteworthy. In 2017 we were averaging about 20 concurrent users at peak processing and only several dozen batches of samples a week. By the end of 2019 we had upwards of 150 concurrent users, and the number of batches processed per week exceeded 300. This helped to set us up for success in 2020 and 2021.

Spectrum: When new variants emerge, how does that affect your work?

DePierro: If a new study or update to an existing study is needed to look at variants, theoretically it requires work, but hopefully most of it will leverage what has already been built. Some of the biggest challenges come whenever we add novel assays to an existing study or new study. That then requires that we understand the science of the requirements and how that study depends on new instruments or robotics. We will also continue to have pressures on us to package and report out data at quicker intervals than in the past.

Spectrum: What's next for your team as the pandemic plays out?

DePierro: It's a matter of making things more robust and even more efficient. We've become really good at summarizing data. And people have an expectation now of seeing summarized data often and quickly on novel dashboards. So it's still a lot of weekends and nights, and the problem is how do we dial that back when we're still in a pandemic?


Match ID: 161 Score: 7.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 7.14 genetic

ISS Daily Summary Report – 9/06/2021
Mon, 06 Sep 2021 16:00:22 +0000
Payloads Genes in Space-8:  The crew performed the setup of the Fluorescence Viewer and mini-PCR and performed Freeze and Fly Ops #3 to demonstrate the heating and fluorescent visualization functions of the Genes in Space experiment.  Some pharmaceuticals used to maintain astronaut health do not work as well in space, which may be linked to …
Match ID: 162 Score: 7.14 source: blogs.nasa.gov age: 13 days
qualifiers: 7.14 genes

Stocks to Watch: Google, Barnes & Noble are stocks to watch Wednesday
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 15:17:02 GMT
Among the companies whose shares are expected to see active trade in Wednesday’s session are Google Inc., and Barnes and Noble Inc.

Match ID: 163 Score: 7.14 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2643 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade, 3.57 google

California’s recall election, in photos
Tue, 14 Sep 2021 03:30:02 EST
A look at Republicans’ longshot effort to oust Democrat Gavin Newsom.
Match ID: 164 Score: 5.71 source: www.politico.com age: 5 days
qualifiers: 5.71 california

The big picture: standing out from the crowd in New Delhi, 1984
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 06:00:29 GMT

A lifelong passion for India and its people is evident in Mitch Epstein’s colourful new collection

The photographer Mitch Epstein fell in love with the idea of India long before he went there. As a young man from small-town New England, he watched Ravi Shankar play the sitar at the Woodstock festival and paid $35 to be initiated into transcendental meditation, inspired by clips of the Beatles at the maharishi’s ashram. It wasn’t until he was in his late 20s, having studied photography under the great American street photographer Garry Winogrand in New York, that he properly explored the subcontinent with his first wife, the Indian film-maker Mira Nair, and found the images to match his imagination.

Between 1978 and 1989, Epstein made eight extended trips to India and took tens of thousands of pictures, while collaborating on three of Nair’s films (So Far from India, India Cabaret and Salaam Bombay!). This picture was taken at the annual Republic Day parade through New Delhi in 1984, the year of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and is included in a new retrospective book of Epstein’s India work. The intimacy of his crowd scene is made by two relationships: the first is between his camera and the man with the exuberantly patterned shawl to match the balloons behind. The second is that loose embrace between the two young men on the left of the group, who appear to have wandered into this scene from a different film set.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 165 Score: 5.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 5.00 uber

UK court rules under-16s can get puberty blocking drugs
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 01:21:46 EDT
Britain’s Court of Appeal has ruled that doctors can prescribe puberty-blocking drugs to children under 16
Match ID: 166 Score: 5.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 5.00 uber

Here’s How We Could Brighten Clouds to Cool the Earth
Tue, 07 Sep 2021 18:47:52 +0000


As we confront the enormous challenge of climate change, we should take inspiration from even the most unlikely sources. Take, for example, the tens of thousands of fossil-fueled ships that chug across the ocean, spewing plumes of pollutants that contribute to acid rain, ozone depletion, respiratory ailments, and global warming.

The particles produced by these ship emissions can also create brighter clouds, which in turn can produce a cooling effect via processes that occur naturally in our atmosphere. What if we could achieve this cooling effect without simultaneously releasing the greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants that ships emit? That's the question the Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB) Project intends to answer.

Scientists have known for decades that the particulate emissions from ships can have a dramatic effect on low-lying stratocumulus clouds above the ocean. In satellite images, parts of the Earth's oceans are streaked with bright white strips of clouds that correspond to shipping lanes. These artificially brightened clouds are a result of the tiny particles produced by the ships, and they reflect more sunlight back to space than unperturbed clouds do, and much more than the dark blue ocean underneath. Since these "ship tracks" block some of the sun's energy from reaching Earth's surface, they prevent some of the warming that would otherwise occur.

The formation of ship tracks is governed by the same basic principles behind all cloud formation. Clouds naturally appear when the relative humidity exceeds 100 percent, initiating condensation in the atmosphere. Individual cloud droplets form around microscopic particles called cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Generally speaking, an increase in CCN increases the number of cloud droplets while reducing their size. Through a phenomenon known as the Twomey effect, this high concentration of droplets boosts the clouds' reflectivity (also called albedo). Sources of CCN include aerosols like dust, pollen, soot, and even bacteria, along with man-made pollution from factories and ships. Over remote parts of the ocean, most CCN are of natural origin and include sea salt from crashing ocean waves.

Satellite imagery. To the left is white clouds with tracks forming within. To the left is green and brown land mass. Satellite imagery shows "ship tracks" over the ocean: bright clouds that form because of particles spewed out by ships.Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Rapid Response Team/GSFC/NASA

The aim of the MCB Project is to consider whether deliberately adding more sea salt CCN to low marine clouds would cool the planet. The CCN would be generated by spraying seawater from ships. We expect that the sprayed seawater would instantly dry in the air and form tiny particles of salt, which would rise to the cloud layer via convection and act as seeds for cloud droplets. These generated particles would be much smaller than the particles from crashing waves, so there would be only a small relative increase in sea salt mass in the atmosphere. The goal would be to produce clouds that are slightly brighter (by 5 to 10 percent) and possibly longer lasting than typical clouds, resulting in more sunlight being reflected back to space.

"Solar climate intervention" is the umbrella term for projects such as ours that involve reflecting sunlight to reduce global warming and its most dangerous impacts. Other proposals include sprinkling reflective silicate beads over polar ice sheets and injecting materials with reflective properties, such as sulfates or calcium carbonate, into the stratosphere. None of the approaches in this young field are well understood, and they all carry potentially large unknown risks.

Solar climate intervention is not a replacement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which is imperative. But such reductions won't address warming from existing greenhouse gases that are already in the atmosphere. As the effects of climate change intensify and tipping points are reached, we may need options to prevent the most catastrophic consequences to ecosystems and human life. And we'll need a clear understanding of both the efficacy and risks of solar climate intervention technologies so people can make informed decisions about whether to implement them.

Our team, based at the University of Washington, the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, comprises experts in climate modeling, aerosol-cloud interactions, fluid dynamics, and spray systems. We see several key advantages to marine cloud brightening over other proposed forms of solar climate intervention. Using seawater to generate the particles gives us a free, abundant source of environmentally benign material, most of which would be returned to the ocean through deposition. Also, MCB could be done from sea level and wouldn't rely on aircraft, so costs and associated emissions would be relatively low.

The effects of particles on clouds are temporary and localized, so experiments on MCB could be carried out over small areas and brief time periods (maybe spraying for a few hours per day over several weeks or months) without seriously perturbing the environment or global climate. These small studies would still yield significant information on the impacts of brightening. What's more, we can quickly halt the use of MCB, with very rapid cessation of its effects.

Solar climate intervention is the umbrella term for projects that involve reflecting sunlight to reduce global warming and its most dangerous impacts.

Our project encompasses three critical areas of research. First, we need to find out if we can reliably and predictably increase reflectivity. To this end, we'll need to quantify how the addition of generated sea salt particles changes the number of droplets in these clouds, and study how clouds behave when they have more droplets. Depending on atmospheric conditions, MCB could affect things like cloud droplet evaporation rate, the likelihood of precipitation, and cloud lifetime. Quantifying such effects will require both simulations and field experiments.

Second, we need more modeling to understand how MCB would affect weather and climate both locally and globally. It will be crucial to study any negative unintended consequences using accurate simulations before anyone considers implementation. Our team is initially focusing on modeling how clouds respond to additional CCN. At some point we'll have to check our work with small-scale field studies, which will in turn improve the regional and global simulations we'll run to understand the potential impacts of MCB under different climate change scenarios.

The third critical area of research is the development of a spray system that can produce the size and concentration of particles needed for the first small-scale field experiments. We'll explain below how we're tackling that challenge.

One of the first steps in our project was to identify the clouds most amenable to brightening. Through modeling and observational studies, we determined that the best target is stratocumulus clouds, which are low altitude (around 1 to 2 km) and shallow; we're particularly interested in "clean" stratocumulus, which have low numbers of CCN. The increase in cloud albedo with the addition of CCN is generally strong in these clouds, whereas in deeper and more highly convective clouds other processes determine their brightness. Clouds over the ocean tend to be clean stratocumulus clouds, which is fortunate, because brightening clouds over dark surfaces, such as the ocean, will yield the highest albedo change. They're also conveniently close to the liquid we want to spray.

Two part diagram. Top is labelled Twomey Effect. Two cloud shapes with droplets, and the left says "lower albedo" "fewer larger drops". The right says "higher albedo" "more smaller drops". Between says "macrophysically identical clouds. The bottom is labelled "Cloud Adjustments". Three more clouds with droplets include left "more smaller drops", two arrows next to "Macrophysical cloud responses" and the top arrow points to "higher albedo" "suppressed precipitation" and the bottom arrow to "lower albedo" "enhanced entrainment" In the phenomenon called the Twomey effect, clouds with higher concentrations of small particles have a higher albedo, meaning they're more reflective. Such clouds might be less likely to produce rain, and the retained cloud water would keep albedo high. On the other hand, if dry air from above the cloud mixes in (entrainment), the cloud may produce rain and have a lower albedo. The full impact of MCB will be the combination of the Twomey effect and these cloud adjustments. Rob Wood

Based on our cloud type, we can estimate the number of particles to generate to see a measurable change in albedo. Our calculation involves the typical aerosol concentrations in clean marine stratocumulus clouds and the increase in CCN concentration needed to optimize the cloud brightening effect, which we estimate at 300 to 400 per cubic centimeter. We also take into account the dynamics of this part of the atmosphere, called the marine boundary layer, considering both the layer's depth and the roughly three-day lifespan of particles within it. Given all those factors, we estimate that a single spray system would need to continuously deliver approximately 3x10 15 particles per second to a cloud layer that covers about 2,000 square kilometers. Since it's likely that not every particle will reach the clouds, we should aim for an order or two greater.

We can also determine the ideal particle size based on initial cloud modeling studies and efficiency considerations. These studies indicate that the spray system needs to generate seawater droplets that will dry to salt crystals of just 30–100 nanometers in diameter. Any smaller than that and the particles will not act as CCN. Particles larger than a couple hundred nanometers are still effective, but their larger mass means that energy is wasted in creating them. And particles that are significantly larger than several hundred nanometers can have a negative effect, since they can trigger rainfall that results in cloud loss.

We need a clear understanding of both the efficacy and risks of solar climate intervention technologies so people can make informed decisions about whether to implement them.

Creating dry salt crystals of the optimal size requires spraying seawater droplets of 120–400 nm in diameter, which is surprisingly difficult to do in an energy-efficient way. Conventional spray nozzles, where water is forced through a narrow orifice, produce mists with diameters from tens of micrometers to several millimeters. To decrease the droplet size by a factor of ten, the pressure through the nozzle must increase more than 2,000 times. Other atomizers, like the ultrasonic nebulizers found in home humidifiers, similarly cannot produce small enough droplets without extremely high frequencies and power requirements.

Solving this problem required both out-of-the-box thinking and expertise in the production of small particles. That's where Armand Neukermans came in.

black and white photo of a woman with dark hair and a striped shirt Kate Murphy leads the engineering effort for the MCB project at PARC, the Xerox research lab in Silicon Valley. Christopher Michel

black and white photo of an older man with white hair wearing glasses and a striped shirt Armand Neukermans brought his expertise in ink jet printers to bear on the quest to make nozzles that could efficiently and reliably spray tiny droplets of seawater. Christopher Michel

After a distinguished career at HP and Xerox focused on production of toner particles and ink jet printers, in 2009 Neukermans was approached by several eminent climate scientists, who asked him to turn his expertise toward making seawater droplets. He quickly assembled a cadre of volunteers—mostly retired engineers and scientists. and over the next decade, these self-designated "Old Salts" tackled the challenge. They worked in a borrowed Silicon Valley laboratory, using equipment scrounged from their garages or purchased out of their own pockets. They explored several ways of producing the desired particle size distributions with various tradeoffs between particle size, energy efficiency, technical complexity, reliability, and cost. In 2019 they moved into a lab space at PARC, where they have access to equipment, materials, facilities, and more scientists with expertise in aerosols, fluid dynamics, microfabrication, and electronics.

The three most promising techniques identified by the team were effervescent spray nozzles, spraying salt water under supercritical conditions, and electrospraying to form Taylor cones (which we'll explain later). The first option was deemed the easiest to scale up quickly, so the team moved forward with it. In an effervescent nozzle, pressurized air and salt water are pumped into a single channel, where the air flows through the center and the water swirls around the sides. When the mixture exits the nozzle, it produces droplets with sizes ranging from tens of nanometers to a few micrometers, with the overwhelming number of particles in our desired size range. Effervescent nozzles are used in a range of applications, including engines, gas turbines, and spray coatings.

The key to this technology lies in the compressibility of air. As a gas flows through a constricted space, its velocity increases as the ratio of the upstream to downstream pressures increases. This relationship holds until the gas velocity reaches the speed of sound. As the compressed air leaves the nozzle at sonic speeds and enters the environment, which is at much lower pressure, the air undergoes a rapid radial expansion that explodes the surrounding ring of water into tiny droplets.

A man and a woman wearing masks stand at a table in a white tent. In the foreground is silver and blue equipment including a nozzle from which white spray is emitting. Coauthor Gary Cooper and intern Jessica Medrado test the effervescent nozzle inside the tent. Kate Murphy

Neukermans and company found that the effervescent nozzle works well enough for small-scale testing, but the efficiency—the energy required per correctly sized droplet—still needs to be improved. The two biggest sources of waste in our system are the large amounts of compressed air needed and the large fraction of droplets that are too big. Our latest efforts have focused on redesigning the flow paths in the nozzle to require smaller volumes of air. We're also working to filter out the large droplets that could trigger rainfall. And to improve the distribution of droplet size, we're considering ways to add charge to the droplets; the repulsion between charged droplets would inhibit coalescence, decreasing the number of oversized droplets.

Though we're making progress with the effervescent nozzle, it never hurts to have a backup plan. And so we're also exploring electrospray technology, which could yield a spray in which almost 100 percent of the droplets are within the desired size range. In this technique, seawater is fed through an emitter—a narrow orifice or capillary—while an extractor creates a large electric field. If the electrical force is of similar magnitude to the surface tension of the water, the liquid deforms into a cone, typically referred to as a Taylor cone. Over some threshold voltage, the cone tip emits a jet that quickly breaks up into highly charged droplets. The droplets divide until they reach their Rayleigh limit, the point where charge repulsion balances the surface tension. Fortuitously, surface seawater's typical conductivity (4 Siemens per meter) and surface tension (73 millinewtons per meter) yield droplets in our desired size range. The final droplet size can even be tuned via the electric field down to tens of nanometers, with a tighter size distribution than we get from mechanical nozzles.

Electrospray diagram with a row of black rectagular shapes, then blue cones over small dots, a blue line and gray boxes, labelled Extractor, Taylor cone, capillary array (ground), filter, housing and on the bottom, salt water This diagram (not to scale) depicts the electrospray system, which uses an electric field to create cones of water that break up into tiny droplets. Kate Murphy

Electrospray is relatively simple to demonstrate with a single emitter-extractor pair, but one emitter only produces 10 7–109 droplets per second, whereas we need 1016–1017 per second. Producing that amount requires an array of up to 100,000 by 100,000 capillaries. Building such an array is no small feat. We're relying on techniques more commonly associated with cloud computing than actual clouds. Using the same lithography, etch, and deposition techniques used to make integrated circuits, we can fabricate large arrays of tiny capillaries with aligned extractors and precisely placed electrodes.

Two micrograph images. Left shows rows of circular nozzles with darker circular centers. Right is a close-up. Images taken by a scanning electron microscope show the capillary emitters used in the electrospray system. Kate Murphy

Testing our technologies presents yet another set of challenges. Ideally, we would like to know the initial size distribution of the saltwater droplets. In practice, that's nearly impossible to measure. Most of our droplets are smaller than the wavelength of light, precluding non-contact measurements based on light scattering. Instead, we must measure particle sizes downstream, after the plume has evolved. Our primary tool, called a scanning electrical mobility spectrometer, measures the mobility of charged dry particles in an electrical field to determine their diameter. But that method is sensitive to factors like the room's size and air currents and whether the particles collide with objects in the room.

To address these problems, we built a sealed 425 cubic meter tent, equipped with dehumidifiers, fans, filters, and an array of connected sensors. Working in the tent allows us to spray for longer periods of time and with multiple nozzles, without the particle concentration or humidity becoming higher than what we would see in the field. We can also study how the spray plumes from multiple nozzles interact and evolve over time. What's more, we can more precisely mimic conditions over the ocean and tune parameters such as air speed and humidity.

4 people in a large white text looking at equipment on a table Part of the team inside the test tent; from left, "Old Salts" Lee Galbraith and Gary Cooper, Kate Murphy of PARC, and intern Jessica Medrado. Kate Murphy

We'll eventually outgrow the tent and have to move to a large indoor space to continue our testing. The next step will be outdoor testing to study plume behavior in real conditions, though not at a high enough rate that we would measurably perturb the clouds. We'd like to measure particle size and concentrations far downstream of our sprayer, from hundreds of meters to several kilometers, to determine if the particles lift or sink and how far they spread. Such experiments will help us optimize our technology, answering such questions as whether we need to add heat to our system to encourage the particles to rise to the cloud layer.

The data obtained in these preliminary tests will also inform our models. And if the results of the model studies are promising, we can proceed to field experiments in which clouds are brightened sufficiently to study key processes. As discussed above, such experiments would be performed over a small and short time so that any effects on climate wouldn't be significant. These experiments would provide a critical check of our simulations, and therefore of our ability to accurately predict the impacts of MCB.

It's still unclear whether MCB could help society avoid the worst impacts of climate change, or whether it's too risky, or not effective enough to be useful. At this point, we don't know enough to advocate for its implementation, and we're definitely not suggesting it as an alternative to reducing emissions. The intent of our research is to provide policymakers and society with the data needed to assess MCB as one approach to slow warming, providing information on both its potential and risks. To this end, we've submitted our experimental plans for review by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and for open publication as part of a U.S. National Academy of Sciences study of research in the field of solar climate intervention. We hope that we can shed light on the feasibility of MCB as a tool to make the planet safer.


Match ID: 167 Score: 5.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade, 1.43 development

Unusual Progressive-Centrist Alliance Wins Universal Child Care Subsidy
Mon, 13 Sep 2021 17:46:15 +0000

The “major flex” by progressives and moderate Democrats eliminates means-testing for a child care credit in the party’s reconciliation package.

The post Unusual Progressive-Centrist Alliance Wins Universal Child Care Subsidy appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 168 Score: 4.29 source: theintercept.com age: 6 days
qualifiers: 4.29 california

Video: This woman plans to retire by age 42 and live virtually tax-free
Mon, 13 Sep 2021 09:07:08 -0500
Seattle attorney Sylvia Hall worked off six figures in student debt on her path to financial independence. Now, she plans to use real estate to pay almost no taxes in her early retirement.

Match ID: 169 Score: 4.29 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 6 days
qualifiers: 4.29 seattle

Opinion | Gavin Newsom and the Revenge of California’s ‘Anger’ Lobby
Mon, 13 Sep 2021 03:30:08 EST
The strange story of how progressive reforms put power in the hands of the state’s most aggrieved voters.
Match ID: 170 Score: 4.29 source: www.politico.com age: 6 days
qualifiers: 4.29 california

Unmanned submarine earmarked for Irish Sea freight crossings
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 10:44:11 GMT
A start-up company has been given £380,000 to develop the hydrogen-powered concept.
Match ID: 171 Score: 3.57 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 4 days
qualifiers: 3.57 start-up

Brain-Inspired AI Will Enable Future Medical Implants
Fri, 10 Sep 2021 13:00:01 +0000


Artificial intelligence can identify subtle patterns in data, which is particularly useful in medicine. So far, these have been offline processes—doctors perform a medical test, and data from the test is run through a software program after. A real-time process could allow doctors to identify and treat a medical problem much more quickly. One way to detect these patterns in real time would be with an AI system implanted in the body.

In a new study led by researchers from TU Dresden, researchers created a system made from networks of tiny polymer fibers that, when submerged in a solution meant to replicate the inside of the human body, function as organic transistors. These networks can detect and classify abnormal electrical signals in the body. To test their system, the researchers used it to identify patterns in types of irregular heartbeats. Technology like this could be used to detect medical concerns like irregular heartbeats and others, such as high blood sugar.

"What we have demonstrated is a general concept," said Matteo Cucchi, PhD student at TU Dresden and the study's lead author. "It's a general approach that then can be specialized for one particular application."

Neuron-like transistors

To create biocompatible hardware, Cucchi and his colleagues used networks of polymer fibers made out of a carbon-based material called PEDOT. The tiny networks of branching fibers are visible with a microscope. Cucchi and fellow researchers led by Karl Leo, senior author of the study and director of the Dresden Integrated Center for Applied Physics and Photonic Material, where this research took place, were struck by how similar they looked to neurons.

When immersed in an electrolyte (a salt solution) that mimics conditions inside the human body, the networks of fibers become organic electrochemical transistors (OECTs), which, like silicon-based transistors in traditional computers, act as switches for electrical current, though using a different mechanism.

In a traditional silicon transistor, a metal contact controls whether the transistor is on or off. An OECT "works very differently because you contact the channel with the electrolyte, and you change the potential of the electrolyte," said Leo. "In this way, you can control the number of ions which are in the polymer [fibers] or the electrolyte. And that is changing the conductivity." These organic transistors transform electrical inputs into nonlinear signals, like the binary code that computers use, making it usable for computation.

The researchers used an approach to machine learning called reservoir computing for their system. Unlike the highly-structured organization of other machine learning systems, the components are configured randomly to form a reservoir. In the study, the OECTs were random because of the way they were made. The researchers used a method called AC electropolymerization, which involves running alternating current between electrodes across a liquid precursor to PEDOT. Material starts to condense on one electrode and a fiber eventually grows to the other. The process produces fibers with varying resistances and response times, which help transform the electrical inputs into nonlinear outputs.

The researchers input data in the form of electrical signals, replicating the type of ionic information that the system would receive if it were inside the body. The system worked best when the data was encoded into electrical frequencies. The signals are changed and transformed by the "black box" of the reservoir. Then, the researchers could train a smart system to interpret the results as one of several electrical patterns. In this way, the reservoir is trained to recognize and classify patterns of electrochemical information.

Testing the system

One of the datasets the researchers tested their system on was data that represented four types of heartbeats—one normal and three irregular. The AI could correctly distinguish between the four types of heartbeats 88% of the time. Importantly, the heartbeat data was part of an already existing dataset and was not collected from any people as part of the study.

In the future, implantable devices using more specialized versions of this technology might be able to detect unusual electrical signals and medical concerns from within a person's body. The researchers write that this could be particularly useful after surgery. Leo imagines a device with a simple light display that would stay green if a heartbeat were normal and turn red if it became irregular. Cucchi said that such a device could enable doctors to "act immediately on the signal without losing time and money on analysis and invasive procedures."

For now, the researchers said, the technology is nowhere near being used inside a person. The study only examined how a system like this could work. Use of it as a medical implant would require extensive preclinical and clinical testing. The hardware in the study also used outside power and had no internal power source, as an implant would.

The technology also raises questions about the implications of implanting an AI device in a person's body. The authors suggest that this system could be used online, or in real-time, which would raise questions about how that data is presented and collected. Leo says these are important questions to consider alongside future research.

"There is an ongoing discussion about AI and how you apply it, and its potential for misuse," said Leo. "It's definitely an issue here."


Match ID: 172 Score: 3.57 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 9 days
qualifiers: 3.57 google

UK 'cut climate pledges' to clinch Australia trade deal
Wed, 08 Sep 2021 23:06:17 GMT
Government ministers agreed to cut climate commitments to clinch the deal it has emerged.
Match ID: 173 Score: 3.57 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 10 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade

MOXIE Might Be the Most Exciting Thing Perseverance Has Brought to Mars
Fri, 28 May 2021 18:42:00 +0000


Look, I know that the Perseverance rover has brought some flashy stuff to Mars. It’s got lasers, it’s got a big robot arm, it’s got a little robot arm, and it even launched a helicopter. That’s all great, but tucked up inside of Perseverance is another instrument about the size of a car battery that doesn’t move even a little bit and in fact spends most of its time not functioning at all. It’s the appallingly bacronymed Mars Oxygen ISRU (In-Situ Resource Utilization) Experiment, or MOXIE, and I’m going to try to convince you that it’s the most exciting thing happening on Mars right now.

MOXIE’s job on Mars is to demonstrate that it’s possible to break the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into carbon monoxide and oxygen through solid oxide electrolysis. The carbon monoxide is returned to the atmosphere, while the oxygen is stored and can be used in a variety of ways. MOXIE has already run successfully a couple of times, producing 5.4 grams of 98% pure oxygen over the course of an hour on April 20. 5.4 grams isn’t much, only enough to provide an astronaut with about 10 minutes of breathable air, but it proved that the system worked.

It’s a little bit strange to have MOXIE on Perseverance at all; MOXIE would be perfectly happy to remain completely stationary and derives no benefit from being hauled all around Jezero crater. The fact that it ended up on a rover (potentially taking the place of a science instrument that could have taken advantage of Perseverance’s mobility) seems to have been the result of shifting priorities at NASA with a history that goes back to the 1970s. After the successful Apollo missions, some folks at NASA (including Wernher von Braun, chief architect of the Saturn V) advocated for the development of a crewed mission to Mars. NASA decided to focus instead on low Earth orbit, starting work on the Space Shuttle, followed by the International Space Station. There simply weren’t all that many resources left over for any other major initiatives.

However, in the late 1990s, there was a small window where NASA felt like the Shuttle and the ISS were stable programs, and the agency was willing to start thinking about Mars exploration again. The window closed as the ISS rapidly got much more expensive, but one Mars mission squeaked through, sort of—Mars Surveyor 2001. What was unique about this mission was it wasn’t really about Mars science in the sense that it wasn’t doing investigative geology or chemistry the way that missions before and since have. Instead, Mars Surveyor 2001 was intended to run experiments on the Martian surface in the context of future crewed missions. Its payloads included experimental solar cells, dust characterization and mitigation, and perhaps most importantly, the OGS, or Oxygen Generator Subsystem, NASA’s attempt at in-situ propellant production (ISPP), now more generally known as ISRU (in-situ resource utilization).

Well before Mars Surveyor 2001, NASA understood that getting astronauts to Mars and back is all about mass. Really, getting anything into space period is all about mass. For example, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy can put 16,800 kg into Mars transfer orbit, but doing so requires over 1.4 million kg of launch vehicle and fuel, meaning that the payload makes up just over 1% of the mass of the rocket. These single-digit payload fractions are the norm for sending things into space, which is why there’s such an intense focus on finding ways of reducing the amount of stuff that you have to haul out of a gravity well like Earth. This is the reason why NASA wanted to put the Oxygen Generator Subsystem on Mars Surveyor 2001: if we could make our own oxygen on the Martian surface, we’d have to send way, way, waaay less stuff to Mars in the first place. It would be easier, it would be cheaper, and it would be safer. 

Unfortunately, after both the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander were lost in 1998 (the latter because sensor errors led to engine shutdown 40m above the Martian surface and the former because of an embarrassing miscommunication involving metric units), NASA cancelled the Mars Surveyor 2001 mission and the lander was later repurposed for the successful Phoenix mission in 2008, with a different and much more sciency payload that didn’t include ISPP.

NASA’s focus throughout the early 2000s continued to be the Shuttle and the ISS, but by the mid-2010s with the Shuttles winding down and the ISS mostly put together, NASA again found itself with another small budgetary window that could be leveraged towards human exploration of Mars. That window would shut again when the agency decided to refocus on the Moon, but it was open long enough for MOXIE to sneak through. “The Mars community recognized that the single most important thing we didn’t get done [after Mars Surveyor] was ISPP,” says Michael Hecht, MOXIE’s principal investigator at the MIT Haystack Observatory. According to Hecht, it took three different NASA directorates, including Science, Space Technology, and Human Exploration to get MOXIE onto the Mars Perseverance rover: “They all got together, which doesn't happen every day, and came up with this plan to say let's just go nail this one, let’s hit it out of the park.” And they did: MOXIE is on Mars.

MOXIE How MOXIE generates O 2 from CO 2 Image: Michael Hecht

MOXIE is, fundamentally, a fuel cell. Here on Earth, we use fuel cells to generate energy by combining a gas like hydrogen with ambient oxygen in the air to produce electricity along with water as a byproduct. If you run that same fuel cell backward (in what’s called regenerative mode), you instead consume electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This is what MOXIE does on Mars: it pulls in CO2 from the Martian atmosphere (which is 96% CO2), filters it, compresses it, and then uses solid oxide electrolysis to break off some of those Os and store them, while returning the leftover carbon monoxide to the atmosphere. It takes a significant amount of power to do this—by the time MOXIE heats itself up to operating temperature (800 degrees Celsius) and compresses the Martian atmosphere and runs for an hour, MOXIE has sucked down about 1,000 watt-hours of energy, which it takes Perseverance’s radioisotope thermal generator about 10 hours to produce. So when MOXIE runs, it takes up all of the power available for all of the rover’s payloads for that day. In exchange, MOXIE produces about as much oxygen as a smallish tree, between six and 10g of O2 per hour, less than half what it would take to keep a human alive.

But keeping humans alive is not really what MOXIE is about. A mission to Mars with four crew members that spends a year on the surface will only need about a ton of oxygen for breathing. Getting back to Earth, though, will require at least 25 tons of oxygen, along with seven tons of methane or another kind of rocket fuel. The astronauts will probably have to bring the methane or whatever with them to Mars, but if they can produce all of the oxygen they need, that’ll be an enormous amount of mass that they won’t have to worry about. This is why MOXIE is so important: it’ll generate the bulk of the resources that astronauts will need to get back home. 

This is why MOXIE is so important: It’ll generate the bulk of the resources that astronauts will need to get back home. 

One important question to ask is why we’re even bothering with MOXIE at all—we know there’s water ice at the poles, and we may be able to find it underneath the surface as well. And while water is very appealing because you can split it into both oxygen and hydrogen, it’s also a lot more complicated than what MOXIE is doing. First, you’ve got to find the ice. If it’s underground, that’s a problem, and even if it’s not underground, then you’ve got to somehow harvest it, with robots or something like that, plus it’s almost certainly going to be full of dust. It’s totally doable, but when you compare all of that complexity to just plopping a bunch of MOXIEs on the surface and letting them sit there, MOXIE seems like a much more straightforward solution. 

The other problem with ice, Michael Hecht says, is that the places where we know we can get at it are, for lack of a better word, boring. “Most Mars scientists are geology-driven. They don’t want to have anything to do with those icy areas, because once you have ice, you have erosion, while if you stay near the lower latitudes you're looking at four and a half billion years of history.” And if we’re going to go all the way to Mars, we may as well make it worthwhile, right?

“In spaceflight, we have to take everything with us that we need. If we could instead utilize resources we find at the destination, that would make our exploration efforts more efficient. MOXIE is actually the first ever ISRU experiment on another planet.” 
Jeff Sheehy, Chief Engineer, NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate

Producing the 25 tons of oxygen required to get humans off of the Martian surface isn’t something that MOXIE itself is capable of, but the fundamental technology is scalable. Essentially, you’d just send the equivalent of 200 MOXIEs to Mars, in the form of something about the size of a small chest freezer weighing around 1000 kg. It would be able to produce 3 kg of O2 per hour, but you’d send it far in advance of any astronauts, the idea being that MOXIE could chug away on its own for a year or two, slowly but steadily harvesting oxygen from the Martian atmosphere such that by the time NASA was ready to send a crewed mission, the oxygen would be already all taken care of and waiting for them on the surface.

As you might expect, scaling MOXIE up is slightly more complicated than just stapling 200 of them together. For example, MOXIE has to be very careful about how it splits up the CO2, because otherwise the reaction will produce wayward carbon atoms that gum everything up in the form of soot. And each of MOXIE’s components need to be scaled up as well, including the compressor, control system, oxygen storage system, and the filtration system. That last one was of particular concern, but it turns out that thanks to favorable dust particle size and very low atmospheric pressure, filters work much better on Mars that they do on Earth. “When I think of what we have learned,” says Hecht, “that to me is probably one of the most valuable lessons.”

Beyond just making MOXIE bigger, it also has to run reliably, because if it doesn't do what it needs to do, then there won’t be a human mission to Mars. And when you need to spend years on Mars with no maintenance, reliability alone is not enough, explains Hecht. “If you're sending a system to Mars to run for a year and create the return oxygen for a human mission, it’s not going to fail. It can’t fail. So you want some redundancy.” Redundancy means several (probably four or five) independent MOXIE-like systems, each of which will produce about a kilogram of O2 per hour for about 10,000 hours. 

The fundamental pieces of these scaled-up MOXIE-like systems are already complete, and there’s a NASA-funded company called OxEon Energy that’s developing commercial versions of the fuel cell technology. It seems like we have the technology to do this, it’s just a question of when, and how much of a difference MOXIE’s success on Mars will mean for the potential for human exploration—is MOXIE a big step forward, or will Mars remain 15 years away, just like it was 15 years ago? Michael Hecht is optimistic:

I think this is different because of the scale of the investment. When NASA puts this much money and resources on the line and takes up a valuable space on a high profile flagship mission to do this, I think they’re serious. And while priorities change and governments change, the fact that three different countries went to Mars this time around tells you that it’s no longer NASA going on its own. And there’s Elon Musk, of course, with SpaceX. This is becoming a broad-based enterprise, and someone’s going to do it. So there’s a real reason for optimism that we are taking the first step in a way that we haven’t in the past.

With that in mind, we asked Jeff Sheehy, Chief Engineer at NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, to describe what a MOXIE-based oxygen generation system might look like on Mars:

What people envision generally is that you’d land several tons of MOXIE-based oxygen production capability—a little oxygen production plant with an integrated oxygen storage facility. The oxygen production capability would be set up a few years before the astronauts ever got there. You’d land a fission power plant, and some sort of robotic rover that would attach cables from the power system to the oxygen plant. And ultimately you’d have a Mars ascent vehicle, and some sort of plumbing that goes from the oxygen storage system to the vehicle’s oxidizer tank. 

The plan is to test some of these components on the Moon. Not MOXIE, obviously, but a fission power plant and the robots that you’d need to get everything set up and plugged in. “We’re establishing a sustained presence on the Moon by setting up all that capability and designing it in a way that it can be used on Mars,” says Sheehy. “So that the Moon really does become a stepping stone where we will have demonstrated the technologies and capabilities we need on Mars to provide for the first human expeditions.”

As for MOXIE, the plan is to run it up to ten times over the course of the Perseverance mission, characterizing how the system responds to different inputs. All it has left to prove now is that it can survive over the long term, giving us confidence that we can send this technology to Mars and rely on it to get us home.


Match ID: 174 Score: 3.57 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 113 days
qualifiers: 2.14 musk, 1.43 development

Coming Home: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Mission to Begin Return from Deep Space
Fri, 07 May 2021 14:37:00 +0000


It’s a good thing robotic spacecraft are not sentient, because if they were, they would probably hate us. Their reward for a job well done has usually been abandonment. We build them, send them far into space, record the data they send back, and then, because there’s usually no realistic way to recover them, we leave them to the abyss.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid-sampling probe is one of the rare exceptions. On May 10, if everything works, it will start on its way home. No, NASA hasn’t had a change of philosophy, and OSIRIS-REx itself will never land on Earth. But sealed inside a re-entry capsule on its instrument deck is a tiny sample of rock and dirt from the surface of the asteroid 101955 Bennu, and scientists are waiting for it. It is a precious cache: Bennu is believed to be made of carbon-rich debris from the early ages of the solar system. 

“Bennu is a time capsule,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA. “It’s been out there for four and a half billion years waiting for us.” 

bennu Asteroid 101955 Bennu as seen from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at a distance of 7 km. Bennu is 4.5 billion years old, probably carbon-rich debris from the formation of the solar system. Image: NASA

OSIRIS-REx, launched in 2016, has been orbiting and mapping Bennu since 2018, and in October it descended to the asteroid’s surface to grab some of its soil. Today, six months later, the ship is virtually on the opposite side of the sun from Earth—an optimal time for it to fire its main engines for a trip that should allow it to drop its sample capsule in the Utah desert, 80 km west of Salt Lake City, on September 24, 2023. 

That’s in more than two years, even though Bennu’s orbit is relatively close to Earth’s. There are many reasons for taking it slow. Fuel must be conserved, the ship’s cargo is priceless, and the laws of orbital mechanics are unforgiving. 

“I would call it a moderate risk maneuver,” says Peter Antreasian, the navigation team chief. “It’s high-consequence—mission failure if the maneuver doesn’t go off. But we’ve been doing, oh, gosh, 120 maneuvers so far and we haven’t had a problem yet.”

OSIRIS-REx has been a success so far—but Bennu, a ball of rubble less than 500 meters across, has thrown one surprise after another at mission managers. They never tried to land on the asteroid for the soil sampling; “landing” on a body whose gravity is only 8 one-millionths of Earth’s would never work. Instead, the ship descended to one of the few relatively smooth spots it could find on the surface and jabbed it gently with a drum-shaped collection chamber at the end of a 3-meter arm. To their surprise, the probe seemed to break through the rock. They had hoped for at least 60 grams of soil (a sample that would easily fit in the palm of your hand), but realized the collector was so full that pieces of asteroid debris were escaping from it. They hurried to seal the collector in the return capsule for the ride home. They don’t know what they have – they decided to skip a planned measurement – but one guess is that the capsule is carrying 300 grams.

The return plan, says Antreasian, begins with a seven-minute engine burn that should increase the spacecraft velocity, relative to the sun, by about 950 kilometers per hour. Right now Bennu is 89 percent as far from the sun as Earth is, but to rendezvous with Earth, the spacecraft will have to follow an ellipse that takes it 40 percent farther out—almost as far from the sun as Mars is. Confirmation of the engine burn should come at about 4:16 p.m. EDT Monday, but if it doesn’t happen, there are several more opportunities through June. 

bennu color map A false-color 3D image of asteroid Bennu, showing variations in elevation. The colors represent the distance from the center of Bennu: dark blue areas lie approximately 197 feet (60 meters) lower than peaks indicated in red. Image: NASA

Orbital maneuvering is paradoxical: A spacecraft accelerates to reach a higher orbit, but actually takes longer to complete that orbit. It is almost as if OSIRIS-REx were being shot out in a big arc so that Earth can move into place beneath it.

For safety’s sake, the ship’s planned trajectory would miss the Earth by 10,000 km; a midcourse burn in September 2022 should reduce that to 2,500 km, with later maneuvers to close the gap even more. The sample return capsule—a blunt cone like other re-entry spacecraft dating back to the Apollo Command Module—would detach and go tearing into the atmosphere at 12.2 km/sec, slowed by the thickening air around it and then by parachute. 

Recovery teams will be at the ready to track the capsule down after it lands, and then take it to the Johnson Space Center in Texas to be opened in a sealed, specialized laboratory. Small as the soil sample is likely to be, there should be enough to share with other countries, and some would be stored for decades so that future scientists with better instruments and greater knowledge can study it. 

And as for the main OSIRIS-REx spacecraft? After it releases the re-entry capsule, it will fire its engines again—just enough to go whipping around the Earth, headed toward the inner solar system. If technology and funding allow, it may actually have another mission after Bennu, a reconnaissance of another target in space.

After that, there is no getting around it. Its fuel stores depleted, its electronics degraded by cosmic radiation and extreme temperatures, OSIRIS-REx will probably end up like its brethren: left by its makers to wander the solar system, perhaps forever.

UPDATE, May 10, 2021: NASA confirms that its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully fired its engines to begin the two-year trip from asteroid 101955 Bennu to Earth. The seven-minute engine burn was completed at 4:23 p.m. EDT. Expected arrival date: September 24, 2023.


Match ID: 175 Score: 3.57 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 135 days
qualifiers: 3.57 google

Stocks to Watch: DuPont, Nike, KB Home are stocks to watch
Fri, 27 Jun 2014 09:48:27 GMT
Among the companies whose shares are expected to see active trade in Friday’s session are DuPont, Nike, and KB Home.

Match ID: 176 Score: 3.57 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2641 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade

Stocks to Watch: Bed Bath & Beyond, GoPro, Nike are stocks to watch
Thu, 26 Jun 2014 09:30:24 GMT
Among the companies whose shares are expected to see active trade in Thursday’s session are Bed Bath & Beyond, GoPro, and Nike.

Match ID: 177 Score: 3.57 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2642 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade

Stocks to Watch: Stocks to watch: Oracle, Smith & Wesson, Family Dollar
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 10:42:33 GMT
Among the companies whose shares are expected to see active trade in Friday’s session are Oracle, Smith & Wesson, and Family Dollar.

Match ID: 178 Score: 3.57 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2648 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade

Stocks to Watch: BlackBerry, Oracle, Kroger are stocks to watch
Thu, 19 Jun 2014 10:01:11 GMT
Among the companies whose shares are expected to see active trade in Thursday’s session are BlackBerry, Oracle, and Kroger.

Match ID: 179 Score: 3.57 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2649 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade

Stocks to Watch: FedEx, Jabil, Red Hat are stocks to watch
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 09:30:21 GMT
Among the companies whose shares are expected to see active trade in Wednesday’s session are FedEx, Jabil Circuit, and Red Hat.

Match ID: 180 Score: 3.57 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2650 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade

Stocks to Watch: Covidien, Medtronic, are stocks to watch
Mon, 16 Jun 2014 12:05:28 GMT
Among the companies whose shares are expected to see active trade in Monday’s session are Covidien, Medtronic and Layne Christensen and Korn/Ferry International.

Match ID: 181 Score: 3.57 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2652 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade

Stocks to Watch: Lululemon, Finisar, Target are stocks to watch
Thu, 12 Jun 2014 10:24:41 GMT
Among the companies whose shares are expected to see active trade in Thursday’s session are Lululemon Athletica, Finisar, and Target.

Match ID: 182 Score: 3.57 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2656 days
qualifiers: 3.57 trade

How to Find the Hidden Files on Your Phone or Computer
Sun, 12 Sep 2021 12:00:00 +0000
You shouldn't mess with some of them—but there are others you should be aware of.
Match ID: 183 Score: 2.86 source: www.wired.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 2.86 microsoft

An FBI Informant's Unlikely Role in Upcoming Supreme Court Case on Surveillance of Muslims
Sun, 12 Sep 2021 10:00:54 +0000

Craig Monteilh's affidavit is central to one of the most significant legal challenges to the FBI’s post-9/11 surveillance of Muslims.

The post An FBI Informant’s Unlikely Role in Upcoming Supreme Court Case on Surveillance of Muslims appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 184 Score: 2.86 source: theintercept.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 2.86 california

From Engineering Intern to Chairman of Tata
Fri, 10 Sep 2021 18:00:01 +0000


Photo of Natarajan Chandrasekaran Tata Sons

There was a time when managing the family farm in India would have been Natarajan "Chandra" Chandrasekaran's path, but his love of computer programming derailed that plan. After returning home from the Coimbatore Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in applied sciences, Chandra (as he likes to be called) tried his hand at farming but quickly realized it was not for him. His father—who had given up his own career as a lawyer to run the farm after his father died—encouraged Chandra to continue to pursue his passion for computers.

Today the IEEE senior member is chairman of Tata Sons, in Mumbai, India, the holding company for the Tata Group, which encompasses more than 30 businesses. They include chemical plants and consultancy services as well as hotels and steel mills. Chandra chairs the boards of several of the companies including Tata Motors, Tata Power, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and Tata Steel. The group employs more than 750,000 people around the world.

The Tata Group trading company was launched in 1868 by Jamsetji Tata. Regarded as the "father of Indian industry," Tata had a vision: to create a responsible company that serves the community. Chandra continues to support that mission by helping to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in India and finding ways to use technology to solve societal problems such as access to health care and education.

Chandra says the ability for his company to make a difference is the single most important thing to him.

"We make an impact on our employees, society, businesses, and—with our huge ecosystem—on the markets in which we operate," he says.

He adds that he enjoys working with smart people and "thinking about the future, whether it is about creating our businesses or making contributions to a sustainable world."

FROM ENGINEERING INTERN TO MANAGER

After graduating in 1986 from Coimbatore, in the state of Tamil Nadu, Chandra returned to run his family's farm in Mohanur, located in the state's Namakkal District. After breaking the news to his father that he would rather be a computer programmer than a farmer, Chandra entered a three-year postgraduate degree program to study computer science and its applications at the state's Regional Engineering College in Tiruchirappalli (now the National Institute of Technology).

An internship was required during the last semester. Chandra applied for an opening at TCS, an IT services company, which in 1986 was an up-and-coming firm with about 500 employees. Two months into the internship, the company offered him a job as an engineer after he graduated. He started working for TCS in 1987 and has never left the Tata Group.

During his nearly 35 years there, he rose through the ranks, switching from engineering to management in the 1990s. Since 1997 he has held senior-level positions in marketing and sales. From 1998 to 2007 he helped TCS grow its business around the world, including in China, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. In 2009 he was promoted to chief executive. He held that position until 2017, when he was appointed chairman of Tata Sons.

"The company gave me a lot of different roles, and as you do better then you get lucky," he says, laughing. "Most of the knowledge I picked up was on the job and by taking on different projects."

I believe very strongly that digital-physical integration is the way to solve societal problems

He learned management skills from coworkers as well as clients, he says.

"TCS not only has the smartest people working for it, but we also work with some of the best companies as clients," he says. "When you work with smart people, you learn. And when you work with demanding clients, you learn. Things rub off on you. My passion has always been to understand deeply what makes a difference to a customer."

He says he has always been willing to take on new duties but also never hesitated to ask for help.

"TCS has a very supportive culture," he says, "so whenever you have major issues with clients or businesses, you derive support."

GIVING BACK

With India's under-resourced health care system, Chandra says, he knew 2019's novel coronavirus could have a devastating effect on the country. Since April 2020 the Tata Group, including its philanthropic trusts, has committed more than US $200 million for COVID-related activities. That money has been used in a variety of ways, including building hospitals and increasing the capacity of existing ones by setting up COVID-19 wards and intensive-care units.

The oxygen that Tata Steel's mills use to convert iron and scrap metal into steel was diverted for medical use. At one point during the pandemic, Chandra says, the Tata Group provided 10 percent of the medical oxygen required in the country.

Once COVID-19 vaccines became available, the group started a massive campaign to inoculate its employees and their families.

"Helping is in our DNA," Chandra says of the affiliate companies in the group. "All of our CEOs have a culture of doing good for society."

Chandra says he often is asked when business will return to normal after the pandemic. He says it won't.

"We are not going back; we are going forward," he says. "While many things about COVID have been negative, there are many positives. COVID has moved the world forward in multiple dimensions. Number one is digital adoption. Number two: Everyone now recognizes the importance of sustainability, because we experienced how much we can dramatically change things, like air quality, in a relatively short period of time—especially in India.

"The pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of addressing key global existential risks that we may have treated more theoretically in the past.

"Also, the global supply chain cannot be concentrated in any one country. It must be designed for resilience."

TECH SOLUTIONS

Chandra says artificial intelligence and related technologies can help mankind tackle societal issues such as universal access to health care and a quality education. He outlined his ideas in Bridgital Nation: Solving Technology's People Problem, a 2019 book he coauthored with Roopa Purushothaman.

"I believe very strongly that digital-physical integration is the way to solve problems," he says. "Take a country like India—we have a shortage of everything. We have a shortage of doctors, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. We neither have the time nor the money to be able to build all the capacity we need."

For example, about two-thirds of India's citizens live in rural areas, he notes, but most of the doctors are in cities.

He says the solution is to use AI, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing to create a network of services that can be delivered where they are needed most. That would include telehealth and remote learning for people in rural areas.

Poverty could be reduced dramatically, he says, by using AI to increase the capabilities of low-skilled workers so they could perform higher-level jobs. He estimates more than 30 million jobs could be created by 2025. To help make that possible, in 2019 the Tata Group unveiled the Indian Institute of Skills, a joint initiative with the Ministry of Skills Development and the Indian government that provides vocational training.

The Tata Group also offers programs that encourage students to pursue STEM careers around the world, and it has launched worldwide adult literacy programs. There are also programs focused on encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs and enter the tech field.

Chandra says he is concerned about his employees' well-being. An avid runner, he was the inspiration behind the company's Fit4Life program. It encourages employees to be physically active and give back to their community.

"One is for the body, the other one is for the soul," he says.

CAREER ADVICE

Now is the most exciting time to be an engineer, he says.

"There are so many opportunities," he says, "because the pace of change is huge and technology development is huge."

He encourages those starting out to "go after what you're passionate about and what excites you. People will live longer, so careers are not going to be over at the age of 60." What's more, he says, "people will probably have two, three, or four careers in their lifetime, so it's a long game. If you're going to work 30, 40, 50 years or even longer, you should enjoy the process."

The top skill he says everyone should have is the ability to continue to learn. That's why he renews his IEEE membership, he says.

Chandra became a member in 1987 because TCS required its professional employees to join a society. His colleagues recommended IEEE because, they said, he would become more knowledgeable about engineering and cutting-edge technology by reading its publications.

"Even reading just one article could go a long way," they told him.

He remains a member, he says with a laugh, "because I still have to learn."

"It's not about just learning what skills I need," he says. "It is about opening up my mind."


Match ID: 185 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 9 days
qualifiers: 1.43 development, 1.43 amazon

Fed's Beige Book says economic growth dropped to 'a moderate pace'
Wed, 08 Sep 2021 14:07:23 -0500
Economic growth slowed to a moderate pace in early July through August, according to the latest edition of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book that was released Wednesday. The central bank noted that safety concerns tied to the delta variant of COVID-19 prompted a pullback in dining out and travel, which weigh on the greater economy. Supply shortages, including limited inventories of automobiles and homes for sales, also contributed to the economy's retreat from its stronger pace of growth earlier this year. At the same time, businesses reported to the Fed that they were finding it easier to pass cost increases along to consumers via higher prices. The central bank noted that inflation was "steady at an elevated pace."

Match ID: 186 Score: 2.86 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 10 days
qualifiers: 2.86 feds

The Birthplace of the AC Grid
Wed, 08 Sep 2021 18:00:01 +0000


Back in the 1800s, electricity distribution was a short-range business, driven by nearby DC generators. That changed in 1895. On 13 July of that year, the Folsom Powerhouse, in California, became the first facility to send high-voltage alternating current over long-distance transmission lines. It brought electricity to Sacramento over a 35-kilometer-long distribution line using newly invented AC generators and hydroelectric power. The facility generated three-phase 60 Hz AC electricity—the standard in the United States today—and powered Sacramento businesses such as Buffalo Brewing, as well as the California State Capitol building and the city's streetcars.

On the 126th anniversary of the achievement, 13 July, the Folsom Powerhouse was commemorated with an IEEE Milestone. The IEEE Sacramento Valley Section sponsored the nomination. You can watch the dedication ceremony on the facility's Facebook page.

Administered by the IEEE History Center and supported by donors, the Milestone program recognizes outstanding technical developments around the world.

STEPPING INTO INDUSTRY

Horatio Gates Livermore moved from Maine to California in 1850 during the Gold Rush in pursuit of riches, according to a walking tour of Folsom and the facility, which is now a state historic park. After 12 years of mining gold, however, Livermore became more interested in building a logging business and sawmill. He sought to use water wheels powered by the 48-km-long American River to operate sawmills and other industrial plants in the Folsom area. The river runs from the Sierra Nevada mountains to downtown Sacramento, where it connects to the Sacramento River.

In 1862, he and his sons, Horatio Putnam and Charles Edward, bought Natoma Water and Mining, in Sacramento, to turn the dream into reality. The company owned a network of dams, ditches, and reservoirs that supplied water to the numerous gold mines located around the American River, according to the facility's website.

In the mid-1860s, the company started construction on a dam in the town of Folsom to provide a pond that would store the logs cut in the higher foothills before they were sent down the river to the sawmill.

The company faced several challenges, however, including finding affordable labor—which delayed construction for many years. After Livermore died in 1892, his sons were able to complete the project by hiring inmates at the San Quentin prison.

The brothers saw a business opportunity larger than just generating power for the sawmills. Instead, they set their sights on providing power to Sacramento with the help of a new technology: hydroelectric power. Folsom is 37 km from Sacramento.

LET THERE BE ELECTRICITY

Although the two brothers didn't build the first electric power plant in the world, it was the largest one at the time and the first to use AC generators.

Photo of a blue electric generator The 750-kilowatt, 2.6 meters tall AC generators that were used at Folsom Powerhouse were manufactured by General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y.Everett Collection Historical/Alamy

The Folsom Powerhouse's main building contained four 750-kilowatt generators that were each 2.6 meters tall and weighed more than 25 metric tons. The generators—manufactured by General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y.—were the "largest three-phase dynamos yet constructed," according to an 1895 report in The Electrical Journal. A 2,896-meter-long canal parallel to the American River, completed in 1893, provided water power to the generators through four dual turbines invented by John B. McCormick. Each pair of generators produced 1,260 horsepower. The turbines were powered by river water that flowed through four 2.4-meter penstocks—channels to regulate the flow that had gates that could be closed to turn off the water.

The generators' voltage output was increased from 800 volts to 11,000 by recently invented Stanley transformers. The high voltage allowed the electricity to be sent on a system developed by Louis Bell, chief engineer of the power transmission department at GE. If the AC generators failed, the facility had two small DC generators as backups.

Horatio, Charles, and Albert Gallatin, a partner in Huntington, Hopkins Hardware, formed the Folsom Water Power Co. It supplied water to Sacramento Electric Power and Light, which the three men founded in 1892.

On 13 July 1895, with two generators in operation, electricity was successfully transmitted over 35 km of uninsulated copper wire to Sacramento.

The facility was acquired in 1902 by California Gas and Electric, headquartered in San Francisco, and three years later became part of Pacific Gas and Electric.

The Folsom Powerhouse provided electricity to Sacramento for nearly five decades. In 1952 PG&E donated the powerhouse to California, according to an article about the facility on PG&E's blog. The original Folsom dam was removed to make way for a larger dam, and the facility was designated a state historic park.

The Milestone plaque is to be displayed at the Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park. The plaque reads:

Folsom was one of the earliest electrical plants to generate three-phase alternating current, and the first using three-phase 60 hertz. On 13 July 1895, General Electric generators began transmitting electricity 22 miles to Sacramento at 11,000 volts, powering businesses, streetcars, and California's capitol. The plant demonstrated advantages of three-phase, 60 hertz long-distance transmission, which became standard, and promoted nationwide development of affordable hydropower.


Match ID: 187 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 1.43 development, 1.43 california

Lasers Could Clear Space Junk From Orbit
Fri, 14 May 2021 19:25:00 +0000


Ever since humans started launching rockets into space, the amount of junk flying around Earth has been growing, to the point where debris has damaged satellites or forced the space station to shift its orbit. Now researchers in Australia want to use lasers to track the wayward particles, and even shove them out of the way before they cause problems.

“If we leave all this debris in space, eventually they are going to collide with each other and there's going to be a snowballing effect where more debris is created,” says Celine D’Orgeville, a professor at Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Canberra. “And at some point it would be so much debris at certain altitudes that we won't be able to use those altitudes anymore for human endeavors.”

She’s talking about the Kessler syndrome, shown to dramatic—and exaggerated—effect in the 2013 movie Gravity. Though it’s unlikely to produce a dramatic cascade of orbital crashes that shreds the International Space Station and leaves Sandra Bullock wearing a spacesuit in a lake, the space junk can cause problems. NASA says there are more than half a million pieces of debris, from disused satellites to flecks of paint, speeding around the earth at up to 17,500 mph.

D’Orgeville and her colleagues propose applying adaptive optics, a technique widely used in astronomy, to the problem of tracking the smaller pieces of debris, between 1 and 10 cm in size, which can be hard to see. Adaptive optics lets astronomers overcome the atmospheric turbulence caused by changes in pressure and temperature that makes the stars twinkle.

To do that, astronomers create a laser guide star by firing a yellow laser beam through a telescope. The beam strikes a layer of sodium particles high in the atmosphere, above the turbulence, and bounces back. Photodetectors measure distortions in the reflected beam to calculate the amount of turbulence, then instruct a series of actuators on a deformable mirror to push and pull on different parts of the mirror to compensate for the distortion. That causes a dramatic improvement in focus.

ANU instrument scientist Celine d'Orgeville stands in front of the EOS 1.8 meter telescope at Mount Stromlo Observatory. ANU instrument scientist Celine d'Orgeville stands in front of the EOS 1.8 meter telescope at Mount Stromlo Observatory. Photo: ANU

Using the system, D’Orgeville and her colleagues can fire a series of infrared laser pulses at the orbiting flotsam to measure where they are and where they’re headed. Without adaptive optics, they wouldn’t be able to focus the infrared laser well enough to find small objects. Knowing the path of the debris, they can warn, say, a communications satellite to alter its orbit slightly to avoid getting hit.

But the team wants to go further than that, and use yet another laser to actually push some of the debris out of the way. If they discover that two tiny pieces of space junk were headed for a crash—which might result in more, harder-to-track debris—they could fire a 20-kilowatt infrared laser at one of the pieces. The light pressure from the laser would be enough, after a few shots, to gently nudge the junk onto a different trajectory. “It's not going to destroy the debris or anything, but at least you can move it out of its way,” she says. “So the idea is to delay the Kessler effect.”

If they wanted to actually destroy the space junk, they could push it into a lower orbit, until it fell into the atmosphere and burned up like a meteor. But barring the development any sort of “tractor beam”-like pulling force, the laser would probably have to be based in space, where it could more easily push debris toward the planet.

The idea was developed at ANU’s Space Environment Research Centre, whose government funding recently dried up, so D’Orgeville is looking for a new funding source to help her demonstrate the proposal. All of the laser and adaptive optics equipment is available at the university’s Mt. Stromlo Observatory outside Canberra.

And she wants to reassure anyone who worries she may be shooting airplanes out of the sky or destroying expensive government satellites. There are regulations in place to avoid interfering with sky and orbital traffic, and the laser doesn’t pack that kind of punch.  “We're nowhere near the power that would be required to damage anything,” she says. “We're just using pressure to change the orbit by a few centimeters at a time.”


Match ID: 188 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 127 days
qualifiers: 1.43 development, 1.43 amazon

Stratospheric Balloons Take Monitoring and Surveillance to New Heights
Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:00:00 +0000


Alphabet's enthusiasm for ­balloons deflated earlier this year, when it announced that its high-altitude Internet company, Loon, could not become commercially viable.

But while the stratosphere might not be a great place to put a cellphone tower, it could be the sweet spot for cameras, argue a host of high-tech startups.

The market for Earth-observation services from satellites is expected to top US $4 billion by 2025, as orbiting cameras, radars, and other devices monitor crops, assess infrastructure, and detect greenhouse gas emissions. Low­-altitude observations from drones could be worth.

Neither platform is perfect. Satellites can cover huge swaths of the planet but remain expensive to develop, launch, and operate. Their cameras are also hundreds of kilometers from the things they are trying to see, and often moving at tens of thousands of kilometers per hour.

Drones, on the other hand, can take supersharp images, but only over a relatively small area. They also need careful human piloting to coexist with planes and helicopters.

Image of the United States Map displaying different altitudes. Click here to see larger. StoryTK

Balloons in the stratosphere, 20 kilometers above Earth (and 10 km above most jets), split the difference. They are high enough not to bother other aircraft and yet low enough to observe broad areas in plenty of detail. For a fraction of the price of a satellite, an operator can launch a balloon that lasts for weeks (even months), carrying large, capable sensors.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the U.S. military has funded development in stratospheric balloon tests across six Midwest states to “provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats."

But the Pentagon is far from the only organization flying high. An IEEE Spectrum analysis of applications filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission reveals at least six companies conducting observation experiments in the stratosphere. Some are testing the communications, navigation, and flight infrastructure required for such balloons. Others are running trials for commercial, government, and military customers.

The illustration above depicts experimental test permits granted by the FCC from January 2020 to June 2021, together covering much of the continental United States. Some tests were for only a matter of hours; others spanned days or more.


Match ID: 189 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 59 days
qualifiers: 1.43 development, 0.71 startup

Why the FCC Keeps Shooting Down Requests From Companies That Want to Shoot Down Drones
Thu, 15 Apr 2021 17:14:00 +0000


When Hawthorne, Calif.–based startup Epirus decided to test a new electronic weapon last winter, it filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It wanted to test its high-power microwave device in the California desert east of Palm Springs, Calif., about three miles from a small airport and the busy I-10 interstate.

The unnamed prototype would be operated intermittently with an effective radiated power of 270 megawatts—thousands of times higher than the strongest FM radio stations, and in the same ballpark as controversial experiments that produce artificial aurorae—and have a range of 300 meters.

Microwave energy induces a current on the surface of metal objects. Any electronic device in range of powerful microwaves will experience heat and arcing on its circuits, rapidly (and likely permanently) disabling it.

Pesky drones around sensitive areas like airports, prisons, borders, and sporting events have created an instant market for antidrone and microwave weapons, once the preserve of the military.

Microwave weapons that target humans have also been developed, with a recent National Academies report blaming microwave weapons for mysterious illnesses in U.S. embassies around the world.

Epirus is named after a magical bow with infinite arrows wielded by the Greek hero Theseus. (Coincidentally, it is also the name of the Greek island family home of ex–Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, whose son John cofounded the company.)

The solid-state phased array device, wrote Epirus, would be a "critical component of several solutions Epirus plans to provide for existing and future government customers, including vehicle/vessel stop, counter-electronics, and counter-communications solutions."

Prototype of a Leonidas Pod microwave weapon mounted on a drone Prototype of a Leonidas Pod microwave weapon mounted on a drone.Epirus

Epirus offers a trailer-size weapon called Leonidas that could be the device in question. It also has a smaller Pod weapon, light and compact enough to mount on a drone that can "disable a wide range of electronic threats." The company claims it has developed "artificial intelligence–enabled gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors" to produce "extreme" levels of power density.

"A ray gun that can fry a drone's electronics at hundreds of meters sounds like something Tony Stark would invent," says Todd Humphreys, director of the Radionavigation Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Humphreys is also concerned that the system, as described in the FCC application, could produce interference at frequencies used by GPS and Galileo navigation services.

Epirus told IEEE Spectrum that this would not be the case, and Dr. Edl Schamiloglu, an expert in high-power microwaves at the University of New Mexico, agreed that any disruption to distant aircraft would likely only be momentary.

"Generally speaking, these systems are also relatively harmless to humans because there's hardly any thermal energy," said Schamiloglu. "But the Epirus system does seem very viable for a localized defense of a commercial facility, like Yankee Stadium."

The FCC, however, did not let the experiment proceed. "You are advised that the Commission is unable to grant your application for the facilities requested," it wrote back to Epirus's CTO in October. "The FCC is not authorized to approve systems that cause interference or jamming. These systems may only be approved by NTIA for military or other law enforcement type systems."

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is the regulator that oversees military and federal spectrum experiments and allocations.

Epirus is far from the only company eager to test electronic weapons. Anduril Industries, another California mil-tech startup, sought permission from the FCC to test an antidrone system in January, again in Southern California. Its technology is a scalpel to Epirus's hammer, generating signals to interrupt a drone's remote control rather than blast it out of the sky with microwaves. Anduril claimed its system could down drones up to 2 kilometers away in any direction.

Andruril Industries Anvil sUAS Andruril Industries Anvil sUAS.Andruril

"The test device is designed to disrupt…an intrusive drone…by transmitting in the same way as the FCC-authorized device, adding noise in a very targeted fashion with effects limited to the target device and causing the target device to land or return to a predetermined location," wrote an Anduril electrical engineer to the FCC.

The FCC denied the request with a virtually identical response: "The FCC is not authorized to approve testing and operation of this type of system that will disrupt the control channel of a UAV. These systems can only be authorized by NTIA for military or federal agency users."

That didn't stop Anduril from filing similar requests again in mid-February and early April, nor dissuade Alion Science and Technology and DroneShieldfrom seeking permission for their own interference-based antidrone tests. Three of these applications were for demonstrations at the U.S. Navy's Trident Spectre event at a military base in Virginia later this month.

Trident Spectre is an annual exercise organized by the Navy to showcase new technologies for its intelligence and special operations units.

DroneShield wanted to demonstrate the DroneGun MKIII, a "pistol-style" counterdrone disruptor, while Alion admitted to the FCC that it would be "demonstrating a variety of electronic attacks." All three applications were swiftly denied. A 2011 document written for the Joint Chiefs of Staff states that electronic attack testing is not permitted outside of dedicated Department of Defense electronic warfare ranges.

None of the four companies responded to questions about their testing, nor told Spectrum whether the NTIA had subsequently approved their operations within those limits. Because the NTIA does not make details of tests public, it is impossible to know their frequency or scale.

However, it is possible that these—and many other—electronic-weapons experiments are now proceeding quietly, in collaboration with the NTIA and the U.S. military. Anduril has publicly linked its antidrone tests to the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Unit, while Epirus's weapon was developed with Navy funding. All four companies have received government contracts.

Nor is the military the only intended customer for such systems. Judging from the company's website, Epirus is marketing its microwave weapons to sports stadiums and concert venues—and it envisages police forces deploying Epirus technology to bring down hostile drones.

As such systems mature, there is the potential for microwave and other electronic weapons to be tested and even deployed with little advance notice to the general public. And the next time your drone or car or phone suddenly stops working, perhaps microwaves will get the blame.


Match ID: 190 Score: 2.14 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 157 days
qualifiers: 1.43 california, 0.71 startup

Graphene Jolts Sodium-Ion Battery Capacity
Sat, 11 Sep 2021 14:00:01 +0000


After years of anticipation, sodium-ion batteries are starting to deliver on their promise for energy storage. But so far, their commercialization is limited to large-scale uses such as storing energy on the grid. Sodium-ion batteries just don't have the oomph needed for EVs and laptops. At about 285 Wh/kg, lithium-ion batteries have twice the energy density of sodium, making them more suitable for those portable applications.

Researchers now report a new type of graphene electrode that could boost the storage capacity of sodium batteries to rival lithium's. The material can pack nearly as many sodium ions by volume as a conventional graphite electrode does lithium. It opens up a path to making low-cost, compact sodium batteries practical.

Abundant and cheap, and with similar chemical properties as lithium, sodium is a promising replacement for lithium in next-generation batteries. The stability and safety of sodium batteries makes them especially promising for electronics and cars, where overheated lithium-ion batteries have sometimes proven hazardous.

"But currently the major problem with sodium-ion batteries is that we don't have a suitable anode material," says Jinhua Sun, a researcher in the department of industrial and materials science at Chalmers University of Technology.

For the battery to charge quickly and store a lot of energy, ions need to easily slip in and out of the anode material. Sodium-ion batteries use cathodes made of sodium metal oxides, while their anodes are typically carbon-based anodes just like their lithium cousins; although Santa Clara, California-based Natron Energy is making both its anodes and cathodes out of Prussian Blue pigment used in dyes and paints.

Some sodium battery developers are using activated carbon for the anode, which holds sodium ions in its pores. "But you need to use high-grade activated carbon, which is very expensive and not easy to produce," Sun says.

Graphite, which is the anode material in lithium-ion batteries, is a lower cost option. However, sodium ions do not move efficiently between the stack of graphene sheets that make up graphite. Researchers used to think this was because sodium ions are bigger than lithium ions, but turns out even-bigger potassium ions can move in and out easily in graphite, Sun says. "Now we think it's the surface chemistry of graphene layers and the electronic structure that cannot accommodate sodium ions."

He and his colleagues have come up with a new graphite-like material that overcomes these issues. To make it, they grow a single sheet of graphene on copper foil and attach a single layer of benzene molecules to its top surface. They grow many such graphene sheets and stack them to make a layer cake of graphene held apart by benzene molecules.

The benzene layer increases the spacing between the layers to allow sodium ions to enter and exit easily. They also create defects on the graphene surface that as as active reaction sites to adsorb the ions. Plus, benzene has chemical groups that bind strongly with sodium ions.

This seemingly simple strategy boosts the material's sodium ion-storing capacity drastically. The researchers' calculations show that the capacity matches that of graphite's capacity for lithium. Graphite's capacity for sodium ions is typically about 35 milliAmpere-hours per gram, but the new material can hold over 330 mAh/g, about the same as graphite's lithium-storing capacity.


Match ID: 191 Score: 1.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 8 days
qualifiers: 1.43 california

Newsom's rebound papers over broader trouble for Democrats
Fri, 10 Sep 2021 18:05:54 EST
The California governor has improved his position ahead of Tuesday’s recall election even as President Joe Biden has slipped.
Match ID: 192 Score: 1.43 source: www.politico.com age: 8 days
qualifiers: 1.43 california

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for GOES-U Mission
Fri, 10 Sep 2021 15:56 EDT
NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-U (GOES-U) mission.
Match ID: 193 Score: 1.43 source: www.nasa.gov age: 8 days
qualifiers: 1.43 california

WhatsApp Fixes Its Biggest Encryption Loophole
Fri, 10 Sep 2021 15:05:15 +0000
The ubiquitous messaging service will add end-to-end encryption to backups, keeping your chats safe no matter whose cloud they're stored in.
Match ID: 194 Score: 1.43 source: www.wired.com age: 9 days
qualifiers: 1.43 whatsapp

Trump endorsement quickly consolidates primary field facing Cheney
Thu, 09 Sep 2021 20:12:05 EST
The former president's pick of Harriet Hageman pushed candidates and hopefuls out of the race, as anti-Cheney forces seek a one-on-one battle.
Match ID: 195 Score: 1.43 source: www.politico.com age: 9 days
qualifiers: 1.43 apple

With New Roomba j7, iRobot Wants to Understand Our Homes
Thu, 09 Sep 2021 14:23:53 +0000


The power that computer vision has gained over the last decade or so has been astonishing. Thanks to machine learning techniques applied to large datasets of images and video, it's now much easier for robots to recognize (if not exactly understand) the world around them, and take intelligent (or at least significantly less unintelligent) actions based on what they see. This has empowered sophisticated autonomy in cars, but we haven't yet seen it applied to home robots, mostly because there aren't a lot of home robots around. Except, of course, robot vacuums.

Today, iRobot is announcing the j7, which the company calls its "most thoughtful robot vacuum." The reason they call it that is because in a first for Roombas, the j7 has a front-facing visible light camera along with the hardware and software necessary to identify common floor-level obstacles and react to them in an intelligent way. This enables some useful new capabilities for the j7 in the short term, but it's the long-term potential for a camera-equipped in-home machine-learning platform that we find really intriguing. If, that is, iRobot can manage to make their robots smarter while keeping our data private at the same time.


Here's the new iRobot j7. Note that the j7+ is the version with the automatic dirt dock, but that when we're talking about the robot itself, it's just j7.

Roomba® j7 Robot Vacuum Product Overview www.youtube.com

Obviously, the big news here on the hardware side is the camera, and we're definitely going to talk about that, especially since it enables software features that are unique to the j7. But iRobot is also releasing a major (and free) software update for all Roombas, called Genius 3.0. A year ago, we spoke with iRobot about their shift from autonomy to human-robot collaboration when it comes to home robot interaction, and and Genius 3.0 adds some useful features based on this philosophy, including:

  • Clean While I'm Away: with your permission, the iRobot app will use your phone's location services to start cleaning when you leave the house, and pause cleaning when you return.
  • Cleaning Time Estimates: Roombas with mapping capability will now estimate how long a job will take them.
  • Quiet Drive: If you ask a Roomba to clean a specific area not adjacent to its dock, it will turn off its vacuum motor on the way there and the way back so as not to bother you more than it has to. For what it's worth, this has been the default behavior for Neato robots for years.

Broadly, this is part of iRobot's push to get people away from using the physical "Clean" button to just tackle every room at once, and to instead have a robot clean more frequently and in more targeted ways, like by vacuuming specific rooms at specific times that make sense within your schedule. This is a complicated thing to try to do, because every human is different, and that means that every home operates differently, leading to the kind of uncertainty that robots tend not to be great at.

"The operating system for the home already exists," iRobot CEO Colin Angle tells us. "It's completely organic, and humans live it every day." Angle is talking about the spoken and unspoken rules that you have in your home. Some of them might be obvious, like whether you wear shoes indoors. Some might be a little less obvious, like which doors tend to stay open and which ones are usually closed, or which lights are on or off and when. Some rules we're acutely aware of, and some are more like established habits that we don't want to change. "Robots, and technology in general, didn't have enough context to follow rules in the home," Angle says. "But that's no longer true, because we know where rooms are, we know what kind of day it is, and we know a lot about what's going on in the home. So, we should take this on, and start building technology that follows house rules."

The reason why it's important for home robots to learn and follow rules this is because they're annoying, and iRobot has data to back this up: "The most lethal thing to a Roomba is a human being annoyed by its noise," Angle tells us. In other words, the most common reason Roombas don't complete jobs is because a human cancels it partway through. iRobot, obviously, would prefer that its robots did not annoy you, and Genius 3.0 is trying to make that happen by finding ways for cleaning to happen in a rule-respecting manner.

"Alignment of expectation is incredibly important—if the robot doesn't do what you expect, you're going to be upset, the robot's going to take the abuse, and we really want to protect the mental well-being of our robots." -Colin Angle

Of course, very few people want to actually program all of these fiddly little human-centric schedules into their Roombas, which is too bad, because that would be the easiest way to solve a very challenging problem: understanding what a human would like a robot to do at any given time. Thanks to mapping and app connectivity, Roombas may have a much better idea of what's going on in the home than they used to, but humans are complicated and our homes and lives are complicated, too. iRobot is expanding ways in which it uses smart home data to influence the operation of its robots. Geofencing to know when you're home or not is one example of this, but it's easy to imagine other ways in which this could work. For instance, if your Roomba is vacuuming, and you get a phone call, it would be nice if the robot was clever enough to pause what it was doing until your call was done, right?

"It's absolutely all about these possibilities," Angle says. "It's about understanding more and more elements. How does your robot know if you're on the phone? What about if someone else is on the phone? Or if the kids are playing on the floor, maybe you don't want your robot to vacuum, but if they're playing but not on the floor, it's okay. Understanding the context of all of that and how it goes together is really where I think the differentiating features will be. But we're starting with what's most important and what will make the biggest change for users, and then we can customize from there."

"Having this idea of house rules, and starting to capture high level preferences as to what your smart home is, how it's supposed to behave, and enabling that with a continuously updating and transferable set of knowledge—we think this is a big, big deal." -Colin Angle

Unfortunately, the possibilities for customization rapidly start to get tricky from a privacy perspective. We'll get to the potential privacy issues with j7's front-facing camera in a little bit, but as we think about ways in which robots could better understand us, it's all about data. The more data that you give a home robot, the better it'll be able to fit into your life, but that might involve some privacy compromises, like sharing your location data, or giving a company access to information about your home, including, with the j7, floor level imagery of wherever you want vacuumed.

Photo of an iRobot Roomba j7 detecting a cord on the ground.

The j7 is not iRobot's first Roomba with a camera. It's also not iRobot's first Roomba with a front-facing sensor. It is iRobot's first Roomba with a front-facing visible light camera, though, which means a lot of things, most of them good.

The flagship feature with the j7 is that it can use its front-facing camera to recognize and react to specific objects in the home. This includes basic stuff like making maps and understanding what kind of room it's in based on what furniture it sees. It also more complicated things. For one, the j7 can identify and avoid headphones and power cords. It can also recognize shoes and socks (things that are most commonly found on floors), plus its own dock. And it can spot pet waste, because there's nothing more unpleasant than a Roomba shoving poo all over a floor that you were hoping to have cleaned.

Getting these object detection algorithms involved a huge amount of training, and iRobot has internally collected and labeled more than a million images from more than a thousand homes around the world. Including, of course, images of poo.

"This is one of those stupid, glorious things. I don't know how many hundreds of models of poo we created out of Play-Doh and paint, and everyone [at iRobot] with a dog was instructed to take pictures whenever their dog pooed. And we actually made synthetic models of poo to try to further grow our database." -Colin Angle

Angle says that iRobot plans to keep adding more and more things that the j7 can recognize; they actually have more than 170 objects that they're working on right now, but just these four (shoes, socks, cords, and poo) are at a point where iRobot is confident enough to deploy the detectors on consumer robots. Cords in particular are impressive, especially when you start to consider how difficult it is to detect a pair of white Apple headphones on a white carpet, or a black power cord running across a carpet with a pattern of black squiggly lines all across it. This, incidentally, is why the j7 has a front LED on it: improving cord detection.

Photo of Roomba j7 detecting a cord and asking a user whether to always avoid that spot.

So far, all of this stuff is done entirely on-robot—the robot is doing object detection internally, as opposed to sending images to the cloud to be identified. But for more advanced behaviors, images do have to leave the robot, which is going to be a (hopefully small) privacy compromise. One advanced behavior is for the robot to send you a picture of an obstacle on the ground and ask you if you'd like to create a keep-out zone around that obstacle. If it's something temporary, like a piece of clothing that you're going to pick up, you'd tell the robot to avoid it this time but vacuum there next time. If it's a power strip, you'd tell the robot to avoid it permanently. iRobot doesn't get to see the pictures that the robot sends you as part of this process, but it does have to travel from the robot through a server and onto your phone, and while it's end-to-end encrypted, that does add a bit of potential risk that Roombas didn't have before.

One way that iRobot is trying to mitigate this privacy risk is to run a separate on-robot human detector. The job of the human detector is to identify images with humans in them, and make sure they get immediately deleted without going anywhere. I asked whether this is simply a face detector, or whether it could also detect (say) someone's butt after they'd just stepped out of the shower, and I was assured that it could recognize and delete human forms as well.

If you're less concerned about privacy and want to help iRobot make your Roomba (and every other Roomba) smarter, these obstacle queries that the robot sends you will also include the option to anonymously share the image with iRobot. This is explicitly opt-in, but iRobot is hoping that people will be willing to participate.

The camera and software is obviously what's most interesting here, but I suppose we can spare a few sentences for the j7's design. A beveled edge around the robot makes it a little better at not getting stuck under things, and the auto-emptying clean base has been rearranged (rotated 90 degrees, in fact) to make it easier to fit under things.

Interestingly, the j7 is not a new flagship Roomba for iRobot—that honor still belongs to the s9, which has a bigger motor and a structured light 3D sensor at the front rather than a visible light camera. Apparently when the s9 was designed, iRobot didn't feel like cameras were quite good enough for what they wanted to do, especially with the s9's D-shape making precision navigation more difficult. But at this point, Angle says that the j7 is smarter, and will do better than the s9 in more complex home environments. I asked him to elaborate a bit:

I believe that the primary sensor for a robot should be a vision system. That doesn't mean that stereo vision isn't cool too, and there might be some things where some 3D range sensing can be helpful as a crutch. But I would tell you that in the autonomous car industry, turn the dial forward enough and you won't have scanning lasers. You'll just have vision. I think [lidar] is going to be necessary for a while, just because the stakes of screwing up with an autonomous driving car are just so high. But I'm saying that the end state of an autonomous driving car is going to be all about vision. And based on the world that Roombas live in, I think the end state of a Roomba is going to be a hundred percent vision sooner than autonomous cars. There's a question of can you extract depth from monocular vision well enough, or do we need to use stereo or something else while we're figuring that out, because ultimately, we want to pick stuff up. We want to manipulate the environment. And having rich 3D models of the world is going to be really important.

IEEE Spectrum: Can you tell me more about picking stuff up and manipulating the environment?

Colin Angle: Nope! I would just say, it's really exciting to watch us get closer to the day where manipulation will make sense in the home, because we're starting to know where stuff is, which is kind of the precursor for manipulation to start making any sense. In my prognostication or prediction mode, I would say that we're certainly within 10 years of seeing the first consumer robots with some kind of manipulation.

IEEE Spectrum: Do you feel like home cleaning robots have already transitioned from being primarily differentiated by better hardware to being primarily differentiated by better software?

Colin Angle: I'm gonna say that we're there, but I don't know whether the consumer realizes that we're there. And so we're in this moment where it's becoming true, and yet it's not generally understood to be true. Software is rapidly growing in its importance and ultimately will become the primary decision point in what kind of robots consumers want.

Finally, I asked Angle about what the capability for collecting camera data in users' homes means long-term. The context here has parallels with autonomous cars: One of the things that enabled the success of autonomous cars was the collection and analysis of massive amounts of data, but we simply don't have ways of collecting in-home data at that scale. Arguably, the j7 is the first camera-equipped mobile robot that's likely to see distribution into homes on any kind of appreciable scale, which could potentially provide an enormous amount of value to a company like iRobot. But can we trust iRobot to handle that data responsibly? Here is what Angle has to say:

The word 'responsibly' is a super important word. A big difference between outside and inside is that the inside of a home is a very private place, it's your sanctuary. A good way for us to really screw this up is to overreach, so we're airing on the side of full disclosure and caution. We've pledged that we'll never sell your data, and we try to retain only the data that are useful and valuable to doing the job that we're doing.

We believe that as we unlock new things that we could do, if we only had the data, we can then generate that data with user permission fairly quickly, because we have one of the largest installed fleets of machine learning capable devices in the world—we're getting close to double digit millions a year of Roombas sold, and that's pretty cool. So I think that there's a way to do this where we are trust-first, and if we can get permission to use data by offering a benefit, we could pretty rapidly grow our data set.

Hero image of iRobot Roomba j7+ with automatic dirt dock.

The iRobot j7 will be available in Europe and the United States within the next week or so for $650. The j7+, which includes the newly redesigned automatic dirt dock, will run you $850. And the Genius 3.0 software should now be available to all Roombas via an app update today.


Match ID: 196 Score: 1.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 10 days
qualifiers: 1.43 apple

What Apple Can Do Next to Fight Child Sexual Abuse
Wed, 08 Sep 2021 16:46:24 +0000
The fallout from the company's recent proposal has created a new opportunity to fix how it roots out abusive material across its devices.
Match ID: 197 Score: 1.43 source: www.wired.com age: 11 days
qualifiers: 1.43 apple

Security Risks of Relying on a Single Smartphone
2021-09-08T11:02:31Z

Isracard used a single cell phone to communicate with credit card clients, and receive documents via WhatsApp. An employee stole the phone. He reformatted the phone and replaced the SIM card, which was oddly the best possible outcome, given the circumstances. Using the data to steal money would have been much worse.

Here’s a link to an archived version.


Match ID: 198 Score: 1.43 source: www.schneier.com age: 11 days
qualifiers: 1.43 whatsapp

Betting On Horses with No-Code AI
Tue, 07 Sep 2021 18:30:00 +0000


Artificial Intelligence is altering online gambling, shifting the odds away from handicappers and card counters and point spread calculators in favor of data scientists who can code. But that has left the non-coders of the world out of the money.

So, when the founders of the no-code AI platform Akkio offered to let a curious novice use their automated machine-learning system to bet on the races, it seemed like a chance to even the score.

Getting rich from AI-aided online gambling has been a dream of many software engineers ever since IBM's Deep Blue beat the world champion chess player Gary Kasparov in 1997. Since then game after game, from lofty Go to gritty Texas Hold'em poker have been mastered by almighty AI. As a result, the Internet is full of tipsters selling AI-generated betting strategies while online gambling companies play a daily game of whack-a-mole to keep so-called botters off their sites.

But using AI to gamble is not easy. It requires programming skills for data analysis and for scraping data from websites. It requires setting up servers, preparing dashboards and working with databases. However, the advent of no-code platforms, which allow users to manipulate a code base with graphical interfaces, are suddenly making AI available to non-coders. Akkio is one.

"All new technology needs to follow a progression from scientist to engineer to subject matter expert as the user," says Akkio co-founder Jon Reilly. Of course, Akkio wasn't built for gambling. It was made for businesses that want to use AI but can't afford expensive data scientists—or data scientists who don't want to waste time building models. Sales teams use it to rank leads according to how likely they are to result in a sale, for example. But Jon agreed that the exercise would be useful to validate Akkio's AutoML (automated machine learning) platform.

"Horse race betting is an example of how a platform like Akkio can turn around a custom ML model and produce prediction outputs in 10 minutes," he said. "The applications in businesses are practically endless."

"I'm sort of like the plumber that comes in and makes sure all the data is flowing"

All Akkio needed was data to run through its prediction engine. Enter Chris Rossi. He's the horse betting expert who helped build a thoroughbred data system, TimeformUS, that was eventually bought by the horse racing information conglomerate, DRF—otherwise known as the Daily Racing Form. He now acts as a consultant to people in the horse-racing world, including what he described as teams of quantitative analysts who use machine learning to game the races.

His role is mostly data cleaning. "I'm sort of like the plumber that comes in and makes sure all the data is flowing," he said.

Rossi knows a lot about horse racing, and about the shadowy teams that bet billions a year on the races, reaping huge rewards—some of it from volume rebates on losing bets by the tracks who encourage the practice. You see the more people bet, the more tracks earn. "Horse racing gambling is basically the suckers against the quants," said Chris. "And the quants are kicking the [crap] out of the suckers."

Rossi agreed that the track is a good testing ground for AI models. "Horse racing is great for something like this," he said. "It's cut and dry; the money doesn't lie." He also believes that there is a vast and growing market for no-code AutoML. "This is what people want," he said. "They don't want to sit in the weeds and try to learn Python."

Rossi sent Akkio's Reilly 700 rows of training data consisting of the history of horses scheduled to run 10 races a few days later at Saratoga Race Course. The data consisted of:

  • The horse's ID
  • The dates of the horse's previous races
  • The track where those races took place
  • The distance of each race
  • Whether the race was run on a turf or dirt surface
  • The horse's finishing position in each race
  • The purse, or money that the horses were racing for
  • The implied probability, a proxy for the betting odds given on the horse at the start of the race
  • The trainer's ID
  • The jockeys ID
  • The number of the times the horse has raced
  • The age of the horse

Reilly added a "race ID" column to help the model learn how different horses do against each other and added a column for the probability that each horse would finish first, based on past performance. The goal was to run that data through Akkio to predict the implied probability for each horse and its finishing position.

"If you're identifying post time favorites at a good rate, the wins will come"

Rossi said he expected the data to yield 2 winners out of 10 races. "You can get value out of a surprisingly small amount of data," he said. Once the data was loaded using Akkio's drag and drop web interface, Akkio did some feature engineering, automatically deciding which columns in the data are going to be predictive. Next, it searches for the best algorithm to solve the problem, builds a model and trains the model on the data. You can choose the length of time that you want the model to train, from 10 seconds to 30 minutes. Of course, the longer you train the model, the more accurate its predictions will be. Once Akkio built the model, it createsd a URL for the model for sharing or embedding in a webpage.

Then race day arrived. Akkio's predicted implied probability successfully mirrored the race time odds, itself an impressive feat. "If you're identifying post time favorites at a good rate, the wins will come," Rossi said. The predicted finishing position turned out to be not very useful overall. But going by the highest probability of finishing first, Akkio successfully identified the winner in six of the 10 races. Because in one race the horse with the highest probability didn't run, the success rate was really six out of nine.

No bets were placed on these races, but had bets to win been placed on the horses that Akkio gave the highest probability of finishing first, the return on investment would have been 140 percent, more than doubling any money wagered.

The exercise was repeated a week later, this time with money on the line. Chris sent Jon a similar spreadsheet for 8 upcoming races at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in California. Using the online betting service, TVG, bets were placed, putting $10 to win on each horse that Akkio gave the highest probability of finishing first.

The first pick, the favorite to win, stumbled out of the gate, rallied strong but finished second. In the second race, Akkio's pick led the pack but fell behind in the home stretch to finish 5th. In the third race, Akkio's horse finished fourth. The pick in the fourth race was scratched. Finally, in the fifth race, Akkio's horse won, but that was the sole win for the predictions that day.

Still, Akkio's implied probability again closely mirrored the actual post time odds of the horses, and the horses it gave the highest probability of finishing first were in the lead for most of the time in each race, twice losing by a nose. And, the one winner paid $27.20 for every $2 bet, so the $10 wager returned $136, nearly double the $70 wagered overall (the track refunded the $10 bet on the horse that was scratched). "Like Louis Armstrong said about music, 'there's only two kinds, good music or bad music," Chris said. "This is good music." He suggests increasing the model's parameters. "Every column that you add from here forward will just make it better and better," he said.

Of course, picking seven winners out of 16 races may not be statistically significant—that would require achieving positive returns over hundreds of bets above chance level—but a 43.75 percent success rate is about ten points better than the betting public. And the horse-betting experiment will continue to see how Akkio does over an extended period of time.


Match ID: 199 Score: 1.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 1.43 california

New Resource for University Educators
Tue, 07 Sep 2021 18:00:00 +0000


Engineering education has evolved during the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and universities to close classrooms and shift to remote learning, prompting instructors to adapt their curricula and teaching style. As schools reopen this year using in-person, hybrid, and remote learning models, it has become crucial for teachers to adjust.

To help them, in May IEEE launched its Teaching Excellence Hub, a resource for university-level educators who are teaching engineering, computer science, and technology courses online or in person. The website offers tools they can use to improve their curriculum, manage student teams, and more. The hub is a collaboration between the IEEE Education Society and the IEEE Educational Activities Board.

'"IEEE quickly observed that university faculty did not have the resources or support they needed during the COVID-19 pandemic as they transitioned to remote learning," says Burton Dicht, director of student and academic programs for IEEE Educational Activities. "The IEEE Teaching Excellence Hub is meant to help all university staff access resources and tools they can use in the ever-adapting world of education."

Here is an overview of what the hub offers.

ON-DEMAND EVENTS

Best practices. The IEEE Education Society and the IEEE Educational Activities Board co-sponsored the Engineering Education 2.0 interactive four-part virtual-event series to equip engineering educators with best practices. IEEE Senior Member Arnold Pears, an engineering education expert and current vice president of publications for the IEEE Education Society, is the featured speaker.

Distance learning series. The four webinars in this series cover technologies to facilitate student-teacher communication.

IEEE accreditation series. This series presents behind-the-scenes experiences from IEEE/ABET program evaluators and global accreditation experts. The first event, How an IEEE Program Evaluator Prepares for a University Visit, is available on demand.

Teaching remotely. The Effective Remote Instruction virtual conference, held in April, brought together faculty members from across the globe to share real-world examples and best practices. Five webcasts from the conference are available, offering continuing-education units and professional development hour credits.

  • Ditching the Traditional College Lecture in Remote Instruction.
  • Making Labs Effective With Remote Learning.
  • Managing Remote Student Teams.
  • Student Assessments for Remote Delivery.
  • Student and Data Privacy When Offering Remote Instruction.

Registration is free for all the events. Attendees can earn a digital certificate of participation.

ARTICLES OF INTEREST

The hub offers reading material on the following topics.

Academic integrity. The ethical behavior expected in an educational setting.

Assessment techniques. Ways to measure formative and summative levels of student learning.

Career development. Activities for personal and professional improvement through continuing education, skill acquisition, experience, and curated mentorship.

Cooperative learning. Peer-to-peer learning and support where students work together to solve a problem or complete a task.

Educational research. The systematic study of how people learn and teach, and how people experience education.

Equality, diversity, and inclusion. Ensuring equal access to engineering, computing, and technology education and careers, as well as the inclusion of viewpoints that reflect the diversity of the community.

Flipped classroom learning. A technique that requires students to study material before class and then apply their knowledge through problem-solving exercises in class.

Learning technologies. Technology-based tools that enable information delivery and assessment of students, including networks, applications, learning management systems, and computer-aided learning software.

Remote instruction. How students learn through online content and interaction.

The hub's content is reviewed by an editorial board, which includes members from all 10 IEEE regions, reflecting the global nature of the organization.

Vist the hub to find more resources.

Johanna Perez is a digital marketing specialist for IEEE Educational Activities.


Match ID: 200 Score: 1.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 12 days
qualifiers: 1.43 development

Lightning Cable with Embedded Eavesdropping
2021-09-07T11:14:08Z

Normal-looking cables (USB-C, Lightning, and so on) that exfiltrate data over a wireless network.

I blogged about a previous prototype here.


Match ID: 201 Score: 1.43 source: www.schneier.com age: 12 days
qualifiers: 1.43 apple

BrakTooth Flaws Affect Billions of Bluetooth Devices
Sat, 04 Sep 2021 14:03:25 +0000
Plus: A spyware ban, a big WhatsApp fine, and more of the week's top security news.
Match ID: 202 Score: 1.43 source: www.wired.com age: 15 days
qualifiers: 1.43 whatsapp

Apple Backs Down on Its Controversial Photo-Scanning Plans
Fri, 03 Sep 2021 16:58:34 +0000
A sustained backlash against a new system to look for child sexual abuse materials on user devices has led the company to hit pause.
Match ID: 203 Score: 1.43 source: www.wired.com age: 16 days
qualifiers: 1.43 apple

Solar Power from Space? Caltech’s $100 Million Gambit
Wed, 11 Aug 2021 15:01:13 +0000


In 1941 Isaac Asimov, the science fiction writer, published a short story called "Reason." It was a cautionary tale about robotics and artificial intelligence, but it's also remembered now for its fanciful setting: A space station that gathered solar energy to send to the planets via microwave. Ever since, space-based solar power has been an out-there idea—something with potential to change the world, if we can ever master the technology, and muster the funds, to do it.

Donald Bren has done his share of reading about solar power, and since he is one of America's wealthiest real estate developers, he's in a position to help muster the funds. The California Institute of Technology has just announced that, since 2013, Bren and his wife Brigitte have given the school more than US $100 million to help make photovoltaic power from orbit a reality.

That's a lot of money, and, importantly, the work has been spread out over a decade. A team at Caltech is aiming for the first launch of a test array in late 2022 or 2023.

"This is something that's pretty daring," says Ali Hajimiri, a professor of electrical engineering and a co-director of Caltech's Space Solar Power Project. The long timeline, he says, "allows you take chances, and take risks. Sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don't, but when you do that, in an educated, controlled fashion, you end up with things that you never expected."

Bren, 89, made most of his fortune—estimated between $15.3 billion and $16.1 billion—building offices and homes in Orange County, California. He is majority owner of New York City's iconic MetLife Building. He's also donated land and money for environmental conservation. He gives few interviews (he declined to speak for this story), and while Caltech's Space Solar Power Project has been public, Bren's support of it was a secret until now.

High Earth orbit is a great place for a solar farm—the sun never sets and clouds never form. But to generate a meaningful amount of electricity, most past designs were unrealistically, and unaffordably, massive. Engineers depicted giant truss structures, usually measured in kilometers or miles, to which photovoltaic panels or mirrors were attached, absorbing or concentrating sunlight to convert to direct current, then transmit it to the ground via laser or microwave beams. Hundreds of rocket launches might be needed to build a single installation. It was technology too big to succeed.

"What was really required to make this compelling was to have a paradigm shift in the technology," says Harry Atwater, the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at Caltech and a leader of the project. "Instead of weighing a kilogram per square meter, we're talking about systems we can make today in the range of 100 to 200 grams per square meter, and we have a roadmap for getting down to the range of 10 to 20 grams per square meter."

How? Through no single step, but perhaps the biggest change in thinking has been to make solar arrays that are modular. Lightweight gallium-arsenide photovoltaic cells would be attached to "tiles"—the fundamental unit of the Caltech design, each of which might be as small as 100 square centimeters, the size of a dessert plate.

Each tile—and this is key—would be its own miniature solar station, complete with photovoltaics, tiny electronic components, and a microwave transmitter. Tiles would be linked together to form larger "modules" of, say, 60 square meters, and thousands of modules would form a hexagonal power station, perhaps 3 km long on a side. But the modules would not even be physically connected. No heavy support beams, no bundled cables, much less mass.

"You can think of this as like a school of fish," says Atwater. "It's a bunch of identical independent elements flying in formation."

Transmission to receivers on the ground would be by phased array—microwave signals from the tiles synchronized so that they can be aimed with no moving parts. Atwater says it would be inherently safe: microwave energy is not ionizing radiation, and the energy density would be "equal to the power density in sunlight."

Space solar power is probably still years away. Analysts at the Aerospace Corporation's Center for Space Policy and Strategy caution that it "will not be a quick, easy, or comprehensive solution." But there is ferment around the world. JAXA, Japan's space agency, is hard at work, as is China's. Launch costs are coming down and new spacecraft are going up, from internet satellites to NASA's moon-to-Mars effort. The Aerospace Corp. analysts say terrestrial power grids may not be the first users of solar power satellites. Instead, they say, think of…other space vehicles, for which a microwave beam from an orbiting solar farm may be more practical than having their own solar panels.

"Is there a need for a lot of additional work? Yes," says Hajimiri. But "some of the ingredients that were major showstoppers before, we are moving in the direction of addressing them."

All of this has the Caltech engineers excited. "It's important for us to be willing to take chances," Hajimiri continues, "and move forward with challenging problems that, if successful, would work toward the betterment of our lives."


Match ID: 204 Score: 1.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 39 days
qualifiers: 1.43 california

Apple’s Privacy Mythology Doesn’t Match Reality
Wed, 11 Aug 2021 13:00:00 +0000
The company’s claims cloak threats to millions of users’ iCloud, iMessage, and facial verification data.
Match ID: 205 Score: 1.43 source: www.wired.com age: 39 days
qualifiers: 1.43 apple

Space Station Incident Demands Independent Investigation
Fri, 06 Aug 2021 19:20:30 +0000


This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

In an International Space Station major milestone more than fifteen years in the making, a long-delayed Russian science laboratory named Nauka automatically docked to the station on 29 July, prompting sighs of relief in the Mission Control Centers in Houston and Moscow. But within a few hours, it became shockingly obvious the celebrations were premature, and the ISS was coming closer to disaster than at anytime in its nearly 25 years in orbit.

While the proximate cause of the incident is still being unravelled, there are worrisome signs that NASA may be repeating some of the lapses that lead to the loss of the Challenger and Columbia space shuttles and their crews. And because political pressures seem to be driving much of the problem, only an independent investigation with serious political heft can reverse any erosion in safety culture.

Let's step back and look at what we know happened: In a cyber-logical process still not entirely clear, while passing northwest to southeast over Indonesia, the Nauka module's autopilot apparently decided it was supposed to fly away from the station. Although actually attached, and with the latches on the station side closed, the module began trying to line itself up in preparation to fire its main engines using an attitude adjustment thruster. As the thruster fired, the entire station was slowly dragged askew as well.

Since the ISS was well beyond the coverage of Russian ground stations, and since the world-wide Soviet-era fleet of tracking ships and world-circling network of "Luch" relay comsats had long since been scrapped, and replacements were slow in coming, nobody even knew Nauka was firing its thruster, until a slight but growing shift in the ISS's orientation was finally detected by NASA.

Russia's Nauka approaches the space station, preparing to dock on 29 July 2021. NASA

Within minutes, the Flight Director in Houston declared a "spacecraft emergency"—the first in the station's lifetime—and his team tried to figure out what could be done to avoid the ISS spinning up so fast that structural damage could result. The football-field-sized array of pressurized modules, support girders, solar arrays, radiator panels, robotic arms, and other mechanisms was designed to operate in a weightless environment. But it was also built to handle stresses both from directional thrusting (used to boost the altitude periodically) and rotational torques (usually to maintain a horizon-level orientation, or to turn to a specific different orientation to facilitate arrival or departure of visiting vehicles). The juncture latches that held the ISS's module together had been sized to accommodate these forces with a comfortable safety margin, but a maneuver of this scale had never been expected.

Meanwhile, the station's automated attitude control system had also noted the deviation and began firing other thrusters to countermand it. These too were on the Russian half of the station. The only US orientation-control system is a set of spinning flywheels that gently turn the structure without the need for thruster propellant, but which would have been unable to cope with the unrelenting push of Nauka's thruster. Later mass-media scenarios depicted teams of specialists manually directing on-board systems into action, but the exact actions taken in response still remain unclear—and probably were mostly if not entirely automatic. The drama continued as the station crossed the Pacific, then South America and the mid-Atlantic, finally entering Russian radio contact over central Europe an hour after the crisis had begun. By then the thrusting had stopped, probably when the guilty thruster exhausted its fuel supply. The sane half of the Russian segment then restored the desired station orientation.

Initial private attempts to use telemetry data to visually represent the station's tumble that were posted online looked bizarre, with enormous rapid gyrations in different directions. Mercifully, the truth of the situation is that the ISS went through a simple long-axis spin of one and a half full turns, and then a half turn back to the starting alignment. The jumps and zig-zags were computational artifacts of the representational schemes used by NASA, which relate to the concept of "gimbal lock" in gyroscopes.

How close the station had come to disaster is an open question, and the flight director humorously alluded to it in a later tweet that he'd never been so happy as when he saw on external TV cameras that the solar arrays and radiators were still standing straight in place. And any excessive bending stress along docking interfaces between the Russian and American segments would have demanded quick leak checks. But even if the rotation was "simple," the undeniably dramatic event has both short term and long-term significance for the future of the space station. And it has antecedents dating back to the very birth of the ISS in 1997.

How close the ISS had come to disaster is still an open question.

At this point, unfortunately, is when the human misjudgments began to surface. To calm things down, official NASA spokesmen provided very preliminary underestimates in how big and how fast the station's spin had been. These were presented without any caveat that the numbers were unverified—and the real figures turned out to be much worse. The Russian side, for its part, dismissed the attitude deviation as a routine bump in a normal process of automatic docking and proclaimed there would be no formal incident investigation, especially any that would involve their American partners. Indeed, both sides seemed to agree that the sooner the incident was forgotten, the better. As of now, the US side is deep into analysis of induced stresses on critical ISS structures, with the most important ones, such as the solar arrays, first. Another standard procedure after this kind of event is to assess potential indicators of stress-induced damage, especially in terms of air leaks, and where best to monitor cabin pressure and other parameters to detect any such leaks.

The bureaucratic instinct to minimize the described potential severity of the event needs cold-blooded assessment. Sadly, from past experience, this mindset of complacency and hoping for the best is the result of natural human mental drift that comes when there are long periods of apparent normalcy. Even if there is a slowly emerging problem, as long as everything looks okay in the day to day, the tendency is ignore warning signals as minor perturbations. The safety of the system is assumed rather than verified—and consequently managers are led into missing clues, or making careless choices, that lead to disaster. So these recent indications of this mental attitude about the station's attitude are worrisome. The NASA team has experienced that same slow cultural rot of assuming safety several times over the past decades, with hideous consequences. Team members in the year leading up to the 1986 Challenger disaster (and I was deep within the Mission Control operations then) had noticed and begun voicing concerns over growing carelessness and even humorous reactions to occasional "stupid mistakes," without effect. Then, after imprudent management decisions, seven people died.

The same drift was noticed in the late 1990s, especially in the joint US/Russian operations on Mir and on early ISS flights. It led to the forced departure of a number of top NASA officials, who had objected to the trend that was being imposed by the White House's post-Cold War diplomatic goals, implemented by NASA Administrator Dan Goldin. Safety took a decidedly secondary priority to international diplomatic value. Legendary Mission Control leader Gene Kranz described the decisions that were made in the mid-1990s over his own objections, objections that led to his sudden departure from NASA. "Russia was subsequently assigned partnership responsibilities for critical in-line tasks with minimal concern for the political and technical difficulties as well as the cost and schedule risks," he wrote in 1999. "This was the first time in the history of US manned space flight that NASA assigned critical path, in-line tasks with little or no backup." By 2001-'02, the results were as Kranz and his colleagues had warned. "Today's problems with the space station are the product of a program driven by an overriding political objective and developed by an ad hoc committee, which bypassed NASA's proven management and engineering teams," he concluded.

To reverse the apparent new cultural drift, NASA headquarters or some even higher office is going to have to intervene.

By then the warped NASA management culture that soon enabled the Columbia disaster in 2003 was fully in place. Some of the wording in current management proclamations regarding the Nauka docking have an eerie ring of familiarity. "Space cooperation continues to be a hallmark of U.S.-Russian relations and I have no doubt that our joint work reinforces the ties that have bound our collaborative efforts over the many years" wrote NASA Director Bill Nelson to Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency, on July 31. There was no mention of the ISS's first declared spacecraft emergency, nor any dissatisfaction with Russian contribution to it.

To reverse the apparent new cultural drift, and thus potentially forestall the same kind of dismal results as before, NASA headquarters or some even higher office is going to have to intervene. The causes of the Nauka-induced "space sumo match" of massive cross-pushing bodies need to be determined and verified. And somebody needs to expose the decision process that allowed NASA to approve the ISS docking of a powerful thruster-equipped module without the on-site real-time capability to quickly disarm that system in an emergency. Because the apparent sloppiness of NASA's safety oversight on visiting vehicles looks to be directly associated with maintaining good relations with Moscow, the driving factor seems to be White House diplomatic goals—and that's the level where a corrective impetus must originate. With a long-time U.S. Senate colleague, Nelson, recently named head of NASA, President Biden is well connected to issue such guidance for a thorough investigation by an independent commission, followed by implementation of needed reforms. The buck stops with him.

As far as Nauka's role in this process of safety-culture repair, it turns out that quite by bizarre coincidence, a similar pattern was played out by the very first Russian launch that inaugurated the ISS program, the 'Zarya' module [called the 'FGB'] in late 1997. Nauka turns out to be the repeatedly rebuilt and upgraded backup module for that very launch, and the parallels are remarkable. The day the FGB was launched, on 20 November 1998, the mission faced disaster when it refused to accept ground commands to raise its original atmosphere-skimming parking orbit. As it crossed over Russian ground sites, controllers in Moscow sent commands, and the spacecraft didn't answer. Meanwhile, NASA guests at a nearby facility were celebrating with Russian colleagues as nobody told them of the crisis. Finally, on the last available in-range pass, controllers tried a new command format that the onboard computer did recognize and acknowledge. The mission—and the entire ISS project—was saved, and the American side never knew. Only years later did the story appear in Russian newspapers.

Still, for all its messy difficulties and frustrating disappointments, the U.S./Russian partnership turned out to be a remarkably robust "mutual co-dependence" arrangement, when managed with "tough love." Neither side really had practical alternatives if it wanted a permanent human presence in space, and they still don't—so both teams were devoted to making it work. And it could still work—if NASA keeps faith with its traditional safety culture and with the lives of those astronauts who died in the past because NASA had failed them.

Postscript: As this story was going to press, a NASA spokesperson responded to queries about the incident saying:

As shared by NASA's Kathy Lueders and Joel Montalbano in the media telecon following the event, Roscosmos regularly updated NASA and the rest of the international partners on MLM's progress during the approach to station. We continue to have confidence in our partnership with Roscosmos to operate the International Space Station. When the unexpected thruster firings occurred, flight control teams were able to enact contingency procedures and return the station to normal operations within an hour. We would point you to Roscosmos for any specifics on Russian systems/performance/procedures.

Match ID: 206 Score: 1.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 43 days
qualifiers: 1.43 amazon

This Body: Black America, hope, trust and Covid vaccine trials – video
Thu, 29 Jul 2021 11:00:29 GMT

This Body explores the relationship between Black Americans and the medical industry. Sydney Hall, a participant in a coronavirus vaccine trial, grapples with questions of trust and the hope of saving lives while her community grapples with the historical fallout of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and contemporary abuses that continue to this day

This Body is a part of HINDSIGHT, a collection of six films by and from diverse communities across the American South and Puerto Rico supported by Firelight Media, Reel South, CAAM and the WORLD Channel.

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Match ID: 207 Score: 1.43 source: www.theguardian.com age: 52 days
qualifiers: 1.43 apple

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Europa Clipper Mission
Fri, 23 Jul 2021 14:18 EDT
NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for Earth’s first mission to conduct detailed investigations of Jupiter's moon Europa.
Match ID: 208 Score: 1.43 source: www.nasa.gov age: 57 days
qualifiers: 1.43 california

Unmanned Aircraft Destroyed During Research Test Flight
Fri, 09 Jul 2021 18:00 EDT
Today shortly after 7:30 a.m., the X-56B remotely piloted experimental aircraft experienced an anomaly after takeoff from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.
Match ID: 209 Score: 1.43 source: www.nasa.gov age: 71 days
qualifiers: 1.43 california

2022 U.S. Budget Funds New ICBMs—A Reckless Diversion?
Fri, 02 Jul 2021 14:30:00 +0000


With the Biden administration’s 2022 defense budget coming in at US $753 billion, it’s easy to get diverted by the megaton-sized sum that the United States plans to spend on modernizing its nuclear forces over the coming decades. But a bigger question about the future of nuclear deterrence arguably looms—namely, how might intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) affect national security in an era of emerging tech threats? Some of those tech threats are not even typically associated with warfare: social media, deepfakes, cyber weapons, machine learning, commercial satellites, and autonomous systems, to name a few.

To the surprise of many, President Biden decided in May 2021 to push ahead with a strategic-weapons modernization proposed by past administrations. The centerpiece is a planned replacement for the aging Minuteman III ICBMs called the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), for which a whopping $2.6 billion has been pledged to begin development. Given Biden’s promise to take a closer look at reducing the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal during his campaign, many arms control advocates were stunned by the administration’s full endorsement of the GBSD in the budget. The new land-based missiles are scheduled to replace the 400 Minuteman III missiles deployed under the New Start Treaty in the states of Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming over the next sixteen years; they will be in active service until sometime in the 2080s, at least.

Conspicuously missing from the debate over new ICBMs is the destabilizing implications of emerging technologies—including cyber weapons and autonomous systems. 

In the lead up to the budget request, experts on both sides of the issue engaged in a spirited debate about the necessity, or lack thereof, for maintaining all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad—nuclear-armed bombers, land-based ICBMs, and submarine-launched missiles. A recurring theme in these arguments revolves around the role that ICBMs might play in the deterrence equation in the 21st century. And yet, conspicuously missing from the discussion was sufficient consideration of the dangerous, destabilizing implications for ICBMs and other strategic weapons created by the categories of emerging technologies indicated above: cyber weapons, autonomous systems, and so on.

Proponents view ICBMs as a key component of a sound U.S. nuclear deterrent in the future, raising the threshold for nuclear war—and thereby reducing any likelihood of a nuclear attack by an adversary. In an interview, Dr. Brad Roberts, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, suggests two scenarios, one without any ICBMs and the other with the current stockpile: “In one, the adversary has the means to eliminate most of the U.S. nuclear force with preemptive attacks on a few submarine and bomber bases, reserving the bulk of its nuclear force for punishment of the U.S. if it retaliates. In the other, the adversary must launch hundreds of nuclear weapons into the American heartland, depleting its arsenal while killing millions. In which scenario can U.S. leaders be expected by enemy leaders to have the political will to retaliate? The latter. The ICBM force helps adversaries to understand that the U.S. will defend its interests if attacked—and thereby to avoid a serious miscalculation.”

Other experts vehemently disagree. Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry has argued that ICBMs in particular are highly unstable, increasing the risk of miscalculation, accidental launch, and thus nuclear war. As such, an enormous program to make new ICBMs is a dangerous enterprise. In Perry’s view it’s also an unnecessary expense, especially when the lifetime of existing Minutemen III can be extended until 2030, allowing for these missiles to be phased out in the course of future arms treaties or other weapons-reduction initiatives. However, it still remains unclear whether such life extension would result in any cost savings. Meanwhile, the total costs for the new land-based missiles could reach more than $264 billion over the course of their development and eventual deployment. 

Given their perceived instability, ICBMs would likely face more risks from emerging technologies that distort the information landscape (including deep fakes) or that compress decision-making timeframes (including autonomous systems). Roberts is sanguine about risks, suggesting that “new technologies such as social media, deepfakes, and cyber weapons make a complex situation even more complex. But this is an old problem in new form,” he says. “Nuclear decision-makers have faced the challenges of information overload, the risk of unreliable information, and the pressure to act for decades, and they will continue to adapt their practices to a changing technology environment.”

Oddly, the debate surrounding ICBMs has mostly failed to take emerging technologies into account. But Marina Favaro, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) at the University of Hamburg, warns in a new report that in a nuclear crisis, several of the new technologies have the potential to distort the information landscape and force leaders to make hasty, badly informed decisions. “When you consider the strategic environment today, we see a number of emerging technologies that may contract decision-making windows or disrupt information flows,” Favaro said in an interview. That, she added, “could lead to uncertainty, miscalculation, and escalation in a nuclear crisis.”

Biden’s budget decision appears to reflect a deep bipartisan consensus among a majority of experts within the defense community about the need for a nuclear triad—a notion that has been deeply embedded in American strategic thinking for many decades. The U.S. and Russia have maintained a strong nuclear triad since the height of the Cold War in the 1960s, and were recently joined by both China and India. The Nuclear Posture Reviews of both the Obama and Trump administrations strongly support the triad as a means of providing options for reducing incentives for nuclear war and for hedging against possible changes in nuclear threats. 

The desire to hedge against the future makes the absence of a thorough debate about the relative impact of emerging technologies on the different legs of nuclear triad more striking. The Biden administration plans to begin deliberations on its Nuclear Posture Review in the coming months. Early indications suggest that the President will seek to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security. Perhaps, the administration will also take another look at plans for ICBM modernization and examine the new risks posed by emerging technologies.

Dr. Natasha Bajema is the Director of the Converging Risks Lab at the Council on Strategic Risks and an IEEE Spectrum contributor. She has held long-term assignments at the National Defense University, in the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, and at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.


Match ID: 210 Score: 1.43 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 79 days
qualifiers: 1.43 development

Maskless Aligner-Technology and the MLA 300 Drive Efficient Development and Production In Microstructures
Thu, 17 Jun 2021 14:54:53 +0000


Maskless Aligners and their direct-write approach to photolithography are gaining ground in the development and medium-volume production of microstructures. The MLA300 system by Heidelberg Instruments features the latest in optical technology and automation, providing tangible benefits for industrial applications. Find out how your business can profit from the MLA300' flexibility and throughput!


Match ID: 211 Score: 1.43 source: engineeringresources.spectrum.ieee.org age: 94 days
qualifiers: 1.43 development

Active Multi-Beam Antennas - Testing The Drivers For Advanced Satellite Concepts
Tue, 06 Apr 2021 16:51:04 +0000


How do you test drivers for advanced satellite concepts?
This webinar examines the fundamentals of PAA, upcoming test challenges and how key antenna test parameters for active antennas need to be revised. In the second part, the webinar investigates how the test solutions by Rohde & Schwarz answer these challenges and how they guide and support you through the different development stages up to antennas in the field as part of terminals.

You will learn about:

- Current topics: HTS and mega-constellations
- Phased array antennas
- Key antenna test parameters
- Different production stages and upcoming test challenges
- Antenna test solutions by Rohde & Schwarz


Match ID: 212 Score: 1.43 source: engineeringresources.spectrum.ieee.org age: 166 days
qualifiers: 1.43 development

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for SPHEREx Astrophysics Mission
Thu, 04 Feb 2021 16:21 EST
NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission.
Match ID: 213 Score: 1.43 source: www.nasa.gov age: 226 days
qualifiers: 1.43 california

NASA Awards SETI Institute Contract for Planetary Protection Support
Fri, 10 Jul 2020 12:04 EDT
NASA has awarded the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, a contract to support all phases of current and future planetary protection missions to ensure compliance with planetary protection standards.
Match ID: 214 Score: 1.43 source: www.nasa.gov age: 436 days
qualifiers: 1.43 california

Why Did Pet Concierge Startup Baroo Fail?
2021-08-24T00:00:00EDT

Match ID: 215 Score: 0.71 source: hbswk.hbs.edu age: 26 days
qualifiers: 0.71 startup

Filter efficiency 73.034 (216 matches/801 results)


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Spanish Canary Island volcano erupts after weeks of earthquakes
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 15:18:53 GMT

About 40 people were evacuated from near the volcano on La Palma Island before the eruption

A volcano erupted on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma on Sunday after a week of building seismic activity.

A huge column of smoke rose up after the eruption at 3.15pm local time in the Cumbre Vieja national park in the south of the island, according to the Canary Islands government.

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Match ID: 0 Score: 85.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 30.00 spain, 20.00 eu

What we can learn from edtech startups’ expansion efforts in Europe
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 04:33:37 +0000
Unlike their neighbors in fintech, it’s assumed that edtech companies need to expand to a number of big markets in order to reach a scale that makes them attractive to VCs.
Match ID: 1 Score: 85.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 30.00 spain, 20.00 eu

The Guardian view on Angela Merkel: farewell to a bulwark of stability | Editorial
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 16:42:23 GMT

Though sometimes overly cautious, the German chancellor has been a standard bearer for a consensual way of doing politics

One of the most emblematic political photographs of recent times was taken during a G7 summit in Canada in 2018. Leaning forward across a narrow table with hands outstretched, a grim-faced Angela Merkel confronts Donald Trump, who sits with his arms folded, refusing to meet her eye. Emmanuel Macron and the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, flank the German chancellor as she glowers down at the American president.

As Ms Merkel prepares to stand down as chancellor following next Sunday’s German election, after 16 years, the image sums up her recent role as a bulwark of liberal values in turbulent times. Amid resurgent nationalism and deep political polarisation across the west, the longest-serving and most influential European leader of the 21st century has been a vital standard bearer for a consensual, rules-based way of doing politics on the world stage. The political virtues she has embodied during her long reign – patience, tolerance, a lack of stridency and an aversion to showmanship – have come into their own, as culture wars proliferate on all sides. Her famous decision to keep Germany’s borders open to Syrian refugees in 2015 demonstrated a generosity of spirit and compassion to which all western democracies should aspire.

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Match ID: 2 Score: 80.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 25.00 germany, 20.00 eu

Climate top of the agenda as knife-edge race to lead Germany enters final stage
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 09:30:32 GMT

Cheers and jeers greet political rivals trying to succeed Merkel, as they chase green votes in the former DDR

As Annalena Baerbock steps on to the stage, the downpour that minutes before had soaked those gathered on Chemnitz’s Theater Platz ceases. The Green party candidate is quick to use the opportunity to stress that everything is still possible. “Minutes ago it was raining, now the sun has come out – it can happen,” she says with a huge grin, hinting that the change in the weather is a good omen for her party’s fortunes.

There are both chuckles and jeers from those gathered. With a week to go before one of the most open and tension-filled German elections in years, Baerbock is in the last stages of a campaign that weeks ago saw her heading for the top job, as successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, but in which she is now fighting for second or third place.

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Match ID: 3 Score: 80.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 25.00 germany, 20.00 eu

My grandmother’s Nazi killer evaded justice. Modern war criminals must not
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 07:15:30 GMT

As the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials approaches, Ilse Cohn’s grandson calls for international law to ensure those committing atrocities today face retribution

The man who ordered the murder of my grandmother never stood trial for the crime. Nor did he stand trial for any of the other 137,000 murders he ordered during five short months in 1941.

I know who he was. His name was Karl Jäger, and he was the commander of a Nazi execution squad in Lithuania, where my 44-year-old grandmother had been deported from her home town in Germany. He is just one of several hundred thousand men and women who were never brought to justice for the part they played in the Nazi holocaust. It’s estimated that up to a million people were directly or indirectly involved in holocaust atrocities, yet only a tiny fraction – perhaps no more than 1% – were ever prosecuted.

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Match ID: 4 Score: 80.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 25.00 germany, 20.00 eu

This Week in Apps: Apple’s iPhone event, App Annie hit with securities fraud, OpenSea goes mobile
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:30:12 +0000
Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy. The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices […]
Match ID: 5 Score: 80.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 25.00 germany, 20.00 eu

Boring? That may not be a bad thing in the race to succeed Germany’s Angela Merkel.
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 06:00:00 EDT
Olaf Scholz of the left-leaning Social Democrats is channeling Merkel’s style before Sept. 26 elections.
Match ID: 6 Score: 80.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 25.00 germany, 20.00 eu

Westminster Tories are driving support for the SNP in Scotland | Letters
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 16:22:41 GMT

Dougie Mitchell and Judith Reeves set out why many Scots, even unionists, prefer Sturgeon’s progressive party to the alternative, while Dr Hugh Young says anti-Brexit sentiment is not confined to the SNP

Your editorial (The Guardian view on the SNP: deliver on public services, not just a referendum, 13 September) makes some salient points about the track record of the SNP in Scotland, but you also throw in a few red herrings. I am not a fervent nationalist but have voted SNP for around 10 years for three reasons. First, it is a left-of-centre governing party; second, because it is pro-Europe and would try to rejoin the EU should Scotland become independent; and third, despite a few stains on its record which you highlight, it has governed Scotland responsibly and, although not always successful, has had the country’s best interests at heart.

It’s always been clear that Scotland is a more left-leaning country than England and the idea of the SNP providing a buffer to Boris Johnson’s shambolic rightwing agenda is of some comfort to me and many others.

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Match ID: 7 Score: 75.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu, 20.00 brexit

Driving Ms Margolyes – A hilarious road trip through Europe in lockdown
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 09:34:40 GMT

At the height of Europe’s spring Covid wave in 2021, the filmmaker Lucy Darwin offered to drive the actor and national treasure Miriam Margolyes from her home in Italy to London so that she could film the latest series of Call The Midwife. Along the way, Miriam regaled Lucy with hilarious stories from her career and her opinions on Brexit and the royal family, as she approached her 80th birthday and the release of her autobiography

  • Contains strong language 
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Match ID: 8 Score: 75.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu, 20.00 brexit

Volcano on Canary Island La Palma erupts, spewing ash and lava into national park
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 17:44:08 GMT
Video shows the volcano, on La Palma, spewing ash and lava in its first major eruption since 1971.
Match ID: 9 Score: 55.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Russia’s opposition complains of stolen parliamentary elections as reports of ballot stuffing and tampering flood in
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 11:57:10 EDT
Putin’s United Russia party is expected to be declared the winner, but many question the legitimacy of that likely outcome.
Match ID: 10 Score: 55.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Nino Castelnuovo obituary
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 15:34:57 GMT
Actor best known for playing Guy Foucher in the French musical film classic The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

The actor Nino Castelnuovo, who has died aged 84, starred in one of the indisputable masterpieces of 1960s French cinema: Jacques Demy’s heartbreaking and visually ravishing musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964).

Castelnuovo was tender and compelling as Guy, the handsome mechanic in love with Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve), who works in her mother’s umbrella shop. Their romance is interrupted when Guy is summoned to do his military service in the Algerian war. Immediately after he breaks this news to Geneviève, the tearful couple, filmed from the waist up, are borne smoothly along the street as if on a conveyor belt. The scene suggests their trance-like state of shock while hinting at forces beyond their control.

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Match ID: 11 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Submarine pact delivers France some hard truths
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 15:22:00 GMT
The BBC's Hugh Schofield assesses the harsh realities for France after Australia's US-UK deal.
Match ID: 12 Score: 55.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Aukus pact delivers France some hard truths
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 15:22:00 GMT
The BBC's Hugh Schofield assesses the harsh realities for France after Australia's US-UK deal.
Match ID: 13 Score: 55.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Russia election: Opposition complaints on final day of voting
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 12:11:46 GMT
Political opponents complain of being silenced amid reports of fraud in the parliamentary vote.
Match ID: 14 Score: 55.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Zinedine becomes Antoine as satirical site fixes ‘un-French’ names
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 12:07:32 GMT

Site ridicules far-right suggestion that people should be made to have ‘more French’ names

When a far-right political journalist and possible presidential contender began talking about people having “un-French” names, there really was only one response: satire.

The humorous website Vite Mon Prénom (My Name, Quick) was set up to offer a one-click test to find out if your name is French enough, based on a repealed 1803 law, and suggest alternatives if it is considered unacceptably foreign.

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Match ID: 15 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

French highline walker makes 600-metre Seine crossing from Eiffel Tower
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 11:17:34 GMT

‘It was beautiful,’ says Nathan Paulin after traversing slackline over Paris river to mark country’s Heritage Day

A French highline walker has crossed the River Seine in Paris at a height of 70 metres, in a breathtaking feat watched by cheering crowds on the Eiffel Tower and along the banks.

Attached by a strap to a safety lanyard, 27-year-old Nathan Paulin slowly progressed barefoot on a line stretched across the river between the Eiffel Tower and the Chaillot theatre. He stopped for a few breaks, sitting or lying on the rope.

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Match ID: 16 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Rick Steves Says Hold On to Your Travel Dreams
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 10:00:00 +0000
The guidebook guru discusses a year and a half without seeing Europe, the next chapter in post-pandemic travel, and why you should order whatever beverage the locals are having.
Match ID: 17 Score: 55.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Slow but steady has seen the EU win out in the vaccine race
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 07:45:30 GMT

Ursula von der Leyen says the union’s vaccination programme is now a success after its stumbling start

We did it,” said Ursula von der Leyen in her annual state of the union address last week. With more than 70% of its adult population now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Europe is, “against all critics, among the world leaders”.

Moreover, the Commission president said, the EU had exported half its vaccines: “We delivered more than 700 million doses to the European people, and we delivered more than 700 million doses to the rest of the world. We are the only region to achieve that.”

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Match ID: 18 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

British gangs and international rivals join forces to increase cocaine sales
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 07:15:30 GMT

Analysis by National Crime Agency finds more than 1,700 UK criminal groups involved in drug supply

British organised crime groups are collaborating closely with former international rivals like the Italian mafia to import increasingly bigger cocaine shipments into Europe, a senior investigator has revealed.

Related: Cocaine, the yuppie drug? Not now, say experts – its lure is crossing all classes

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Match ID: 19 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Ian Poulter: ‘I have played in six Ryder Cups and won five, I’ve added a lot’
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 07:00:29 GMT

On the eve of another wildcard appearance, the Englishman has a robust response to complaints about the number of chances he has had in the tournament that means more to him than any other

It is no surprise that Ian Poulter gives a robust response when asked about the sniping aimed at his fifth career Ryder Cup wildcard pick. Poulter did not become the beating heart of Europe’s team by playing the role of shrinking violet.

“Have I delivered enough points?” Poulter asks. “I can name players who have not delivered points who have been automatically in the team. I think the only thing you can do as a pick is deliver by way of points. I feel I have done my job, 68% of points to matches. How many guys have delivered a higher points ratio?

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Match ID: 20 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Why Greece’s expensive new migrant camps are outraging NGOs
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 04:00:25 GMT

The €38m asylum seeker centre on Samos – the first of five – has restaurants and air-conditioning but it’s like a prison, say critics

It has eight restaurants, seven basketball courts, three playgrounds, a football pitch, special rooms for vulnerable people, and is purportedly eco-friendly.

But Greece’s new “closed” migrant camp for 3,000 asylum seekers on Samos is also surrounded by military-grade fencing, watched over by police and located in a remote valley, and has been likened by critics to a jail or a dystopian nightmare. Its message is clear: if Europe-bound asylum seekers reach the country, they are going to be strictly controlled.

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Match ID: 21 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Get an Eiffel of this performer walking the line in Paris
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 23:18:06 GMT
Nathan Paulin walks along a 70m (230ft) high slackline attached to an iconic French landmark.
Match ID: 22 Score: 55.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Aukus pact could allow New Zealand to deepen relations with Europe and Pacific | Pete McKenzie
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 22:00:18 GMT

As country’s traditional allies take a more confrontational approach to China, it could offset Anglosphere divide with new partnerships

During the announcement that America, the United Kingdom and Australia had formed a new Aukus defence pact – inaugurated with the sale of American nuclear-powered submarines to Australia – Australian prime minister Scott Morrison lauded it as a “forever partnership for a new time between the oldest and most trusted of friends”.

That phrasing was notable given that the deal excluded New Zealand, which has historically been so close with Australia that the Australian constitution contemplates complete integration of the two countries. Remarkably, New Zealand’s government apparently only learned about the Aukus deal when it began to be reported in the media on Wednesday.

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Match ID: 23 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Executive coaching for employees is complicated and emotional
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 18:05:02 +0000
BetterUp, a reskilling and coaching platform for employees before and beyond the C-suite, is getting in touch with its emotions. This week, the richly funded unicorn startup announced a pair of acquisitions in the emotional artificial intelligence and people management space: Motive and Impraise. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Match ID: 24 Score: 55.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

The GoPro-ification of the iPhone
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:58:20 +0000
Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review! Last week, we talked about some sunglasses from a company that many people do not like very much. This week, we’re talking about Apple and the company 1,600 times smaller than it that’s facing similar product problems. If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you […]
Match ID: 25 Score: 55.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

French recall of ambassadors shows extent of anger over Aukus rift
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 12:14:37 GMT

Analysis: ties between Paris and Washington in worse state than at time of Iraq war after Australia’s cancellation of submarine deal

The recall of the French ambassadors to Australia and the US – without precedent in two centuries of diplomacy between Paris and Washington – has plunged relations to depths unknown for decades.

Rifts over the Iraq war or Nato pale into insignificance. True, the French recalled their ambassador to Rome a couple of years ago, irked by the insults sent their way by the upstart Five Star leader Luigi di Maio, but that was a little warning to populists to stop encouraging the disruption of the yellow vest protests.

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Match ID: 26 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Google is getting caught in the antitrust net
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 10:00:34 +0000
One case in Turkey cuts to the heart of the search giant’s power.
Match ID: 27 Score: 55.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Afghan family ravaged by U.S. drone strike mistake wants headstones for the dead — and possible new life in America
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 04:43:00 EDT
The U.S. apology was welcomed. But they want someone held accountable for the attack that claimed 10 lives.
Match ID: 28 Score: 55.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Texas anti-abortion law shows ‘terrifying’ fragility of women’s rights, say activists
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 07:00:01 GMT

Campaigners fear ban emboldens anti-choice governments as more aggressive opposition, better organised and funded, spreads from US

The new anti-abortion law in Texas is a “terrifying” reminder of the fragility of hard-won rights, pro-choice activists have said, as they warn of a “more aggressive, much better organised [and] better funded” global opposition movement.

Pro-choice campaigners have seen several victories in recent years, including in Ireland, Argentina and, most recently, Mexico, where the supreme court ruled last week that criminalising abortion was unconstitutional. Another is hoped for later this month when the tiny enclave of San Marino, landlocked within Italy, holds a highly charged referendum.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 29 Score: 55.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

German elections: How Angela Merkel changed her country
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 00:52:24 GMT
Young people have never known another leader, and many worry for the future as old certainties shift.
Match ID: 30 Score: 55.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Kasha varnishkes turns humble buckwheat, pasta and onions into something extra special
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 18:30:02 EDT
Made with buckwheat, pasta, onions and sometimes mushrooms, this delicious Eastern European Jewish dish belies its humble roots.
Match ID: 31 Score: 55.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

RIP Sir Clive Sinclair, creator of UK’s famed ZX Spectrum gaming computer
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 18:27:40 +0000
Began his career as a mail-order radio salesman; failed to launch 1980s electric cars.
Match ID: 32 Score: 55.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Video Friday: Preparing for the SubT Final
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 15:23:28 +0000


Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!):

DARPA SubT Finals – September 21-23, 2021 – Louisville, KY, USA
WeRobot 2021 – September 23-25, 2021 – [Online Event]
IROS 2021 – September 27-1, 2021 – [Online Event]
Robo Boston – October 1-2, 2021 – Boston, MA, USA
WearRAcon Europe 2021 – October 5-7, 2021 – [Online Event]
ROSCon 2021 – October 20-21, 2021 – [Online Event]
Silicon Valley Robot Block Party – October 23, 2021 – Oakland, CA, USA

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.


Team Explorer, the SubT Challenge entry from CMU and Oregon State University, is in the last stage of preparation for the competition this month inside the Mega Caverns cave complex in Louisville, Kentucky.

[ Explorer ]

Team CERBERUS is looking good for the SubT Final next week, too.

Autonomous subterranean exploration with the ANYmal C Robot inside the Hagerbach underground mine

[ ARL ]

I'm still as skeptical as I ever was about a big and almost certainly expensive two-armed robot that can do whatever you can program it to do (have fun with that) and seems to rely on an app store for functionality.

[ Unlimited Robotics ]

Project Mineral is using breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, sensors, and robotics to find ways to grow more food, more sustainably.

[ Mineral ]

Not having a torso or anything presumably makes this easier.

Next up, Digit limbo!

[ Hybrid Robotics ]

Paric completed layout of a 500 unit apartment complex utilizing the Dusty FieldPrinter solution. Autonomous layout on the plywood deck saved weeks worth of schedule, allowing the panelized walls to be placed sooner.

[ Dusty Robotics ]

Spot performs inspection in the Kidd Creek Mine, enabling operators to keep their distance from hazards.

[ Boston Dynamics ]

Digit's engineered to be a multipurpose machine. Meaning, it needs to be able to perform a collection of tasks in practically any environment. We do this by first ensuring the robot's physically capable. Then we help the robot perceive its surroundings, understand its surroundings, then reason a best course of action to navigate its environment and accomplish its task. This is where software comes into play. This is early AI in action.

[ Agility Robotics ]

This work proposes a compact robotic limb, AugLimb, that can augment our body functions and support the daily activities. The proposed device can be mounted on the user's upper arm, and transform into compact state without obstruction to wearers.

[ AugLimb ]

Ahold Delhaize and AIRLab need the help of academics who have knowledge of human-robot interactions, mobility, manipulation, programming, and sensors to accelerate the introduction of robotics in retail. In the AIRLab Stacking challenge, teams will work on algorithms that focus on smart retail applications, for example, automated product stacking.

[ PAL Robotics ]

Leica, not at all well known for making robots, is getting into the robotic reality capture business with a payload for Spot and a new drone.

Introducing BLK2FLY: Autonomous Flying Laser Scanner

[ Leica BLK ]

As much as I like Soft Robotics, I'm maybe not quite as optimistic as they are about the potential for robots to take over quite this much from humans in the near term.

[ Soft Robotics ]

Over the course of this video, the robot gets longer and longer and longer.

[ Transcend Robotics ]

This is a good challenge: attach a spool of electrical tape to your drone, which can unpredictably unspool itself and make sure it doesn't totally screw you up.

[ UZH ]

Two interesting short seminars from NCCR Robotics, including one on autonomous racing drones and "neophobic" mobile robots.

Dario Mantegazza: Neophobic Mobile Robots Avoid Potential Hazards

[ NCCR ]

This panel on Synergies between Automation and Robotics comes from ICRA 2021, and once you see the participant list, I bet you'll agree that it's worth a watch.

[ ICRA 2021 ]

CMU RI Seminars are back! This week we hear from Andrew E. Johnson, a Principal Robotics Systems Engineer in the Guidance and Control Section of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, on "The Search for Ancient Life on Mars Began with a Safe Landing."

Prior mars rover missions have all landed in flat and smooth regions, but for the Mars 2020 mission, which is seeking signs of ancient life, this was no longer acceptable. Terrain relief that is ideal for the science obviously poses significant risks for landing, so a new landing capability called Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) was added to the mission. This talk will describe the scientific goals of the mission, the Terrain Relative Navigation system design and the successful results from landing on February 18th, 2021.

[ CMU RI Seminar ]


Match ID: 33 Score: 55.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 2 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

Coronavirus tally: Global cases of COVID-19 top 227 million as FDA advisory committee meets on boosters
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 10:34:09 GMT

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 227 million on Friday, while the death toll rose to 4.67 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 41.8 million cases and 670,009 deaths. Almost 2,000 deaths are being recorded daily, according to a New York Times tracker, the most since Winter, and are almost entirely unvaccinated people. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee will convene later Friday to review data and take a vote on whether booster vaccine doses are needed, but many experts say they are not and that the vaccines are still effective in preventing severe illness and death. New cases and hospitalizations have started to fall in some places recently, but the number of Americans that are fully vaccinated has stalled at 54.2%, according to a CDC tracker. India is second by cases after the U.S. at 33.4 million and has suffered 444,248 deaths. Brazil has second highest death toll at 589,246 and 21 million cases. In Europe, Russia has most fatalities at 193,111, followed by the U.K. at 135,134.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 34 Score: 55.00 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

The Tell: Here’s why the U.S. dollar could end up going almost nowhere through the end of 2022
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 21:17:00 GMT

Marvin Recinos/Agence France-Presse/Getty ImagesThe U.S. dollar may struggle to rise past its current levels through the end of 2022, given the likelihood of an almost two-year gap between when the Federal Reserve may start tapering its bond purchases and its first interest rate increase. That’s the view of analysts at TD Securities, who see the U.S. Dollar Index DXY consolidating through the end of 2022 to 89.0, versus 92.9 on Thursday. They see the U.S. central bank looking past the recent inflation shock and erring on the side of continuing to support economic growth, which would limit how much the greenback can rally. TD’s forecast for the dollar index is a bit below the consensus estimate of 91.80.The almost $7 trillion-a-day global currency market, which operates around the clock, is currently grappling with the conflict between slowing worldwide economic growth and a greater intention by central banks to withdraw monetary stimulus, albeit at varying speeds, as the recovery from the pandemic proceeds. The dollar is caught in that tug-of-war between those competing narratives, trading within relatively narrow ranges since June, ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting next week. Read: Global currency market seen as the premiere way to trade central banks’ pandemic-era policy divergence “Monetary policy is going to remain fairly static at the Fed, with the central bank sidelined from a hiking perspective into 2022,” Mazen Issa, a senior currency strategist at TD Securities in New York, said via phone Thursday. “The important feature to note about tapering is that it kicks off the debate about liftoff. That will really animate the risks around the dollar going forward.” Meanwhile, policy makers worldwide are generally moving at “a glacial pace” with an intent to ultimately unwind the stimulus provided during the pandemic, he said. “But if everyone is moving in the same direction in incremental steps, that should mitigate significant directional impact on the dollar. “The greenback began this year by defying widespread bets that it would drop in 2021 on a broad vaccination-led global recovery and stimulus-fueled expansion of the U.S. deficit. In a turnabout of thinking by analysts and traders, the U.S.’s massive fiscal and monetary stimulus relative to the rest of the world, and the notion of “American exceptionalism”, were instead seen as likely to burnish the dollar’s appeal. Ordinarily, the dollar trends higher when U.S. interest rates go up or policy makers hint that they will. In June, for example, the greenback got a lift after an unexpected shift in the Fed’s outlook that suggested policy makers were taking the prospects of higher inflation more seriously than many had thought. But since then, for the past three months, the U.S. currency has traded in a confined range. One big reason is the emergence of the stagflation theme in markets, and another is that much of what happens to the dollar depends heavily on what else is going on in the rest of the world. For now, Europe “has started to gain an edge versus North America” when it comes to the change in growth expectations, and the dollar has moved to the bottom of the Group-of-10 currencies along with the Canadian loonie, CADUSD according to a note earlier this week by Issa and TD Securities strategists Mark McCormick and Ray Ng.They recommended buying the euro on dips and waiting for some form of “reflation-lite” trend to return this fall before buying the loonie. Any shift toward a “reflation-lite” scenario would also offer dip-buying opportunities in the U.S. dollar-yen pair USDJPY, they said.Much of the price action across currencies in the months to come will be driven not just by the economic backdrop, but by the lack of uniform responses to higher inflation from global central banks. In a separate note on Wednesday, James Rossiter, TD’s head of global macro strategy, said he sees room for error on multiple fronts by central banks.Among some of the risks, he says, are that: central banks like those of Australia, Canada and England tighten monetary policy despite slowing growth; or that the Fed, European Central Bank and Sweden’s Riksbank delay tightening despite high inflation.“Going forward, there’s going to be more variation in monetary policy,” TD’s Issa said. “So far, we’ve seen clusters of central banks moving around the same time. But into 2022, we’re going to start seeing how tolerant central banks are on the inflation front, and that could lead to more variation in policy.”

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 35 Score: 55.00 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 35.00 europe, 20.00 eu

‘Stab in the back’: France accuses US of sinking Australia submarine deal – video
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 12:50:46 GMT

France has expressed fury over Australia’s surprise decision to scrap a huge submarine deal in favour of nuclear-powered subs from the US, describing it as a 'stab in the back' from Canberra and a strain on its friendly relationship with Washington. 'We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed,' said the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian

Continue reading...
Match ID: 36 Score: 47.14 source: www.theguardian.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 30.00 europe, 17.14 eu

Intelligence Contract Funneled to Pro-War Think Tank Establishment
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 19:31:33 +0000

The Center for Strategic and International Studies received a hefty sum from Alion Science as part of a military-related contract.

The post Intelligence Contract Funneled to Pro-War Think Tank Establishment appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 37 Score: 47.14 source: theintercept.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 30.00 europe, 17.14 eu

IEEE Power & Energy Society President Dies at 69
Tue, 14 Sep 2021 18:00:00 +0000


Frank Lambert

IEEE Power & Energy Society president

Life senior member, 69; died 27 July

Lambert was the IEEE Power & Energy Society's 2020–2021 president. An active member of the society since 1982, he held several positions on its governing board, including region representative and vice president of chapters. He also served on its switch gear committee.

He worked at Georgia Power in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and he was a principal research engineer at the National Electric Energy Testing Research and Applications Center at Georgia Tech for more than 25 years, becoming NEETRAC's associate director.

Lambert was a longtime supporter of the IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Initiative. He also championed IEEE Smart Village, a program that brings electricity—as well as educational and employment opportunities—to remote communities.

He had earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech.

Mason Lamar Williams III

Codeveloper of the Williams-Comstock formula

Life Fellow, 78; died 28 June

Williams joined IBM in San Jose, Calif., in 1970 and spent his entire 32-year career there. He helped develop the Williams-Comstock formula, a critical design tool for magnetic recording systems. When Williams first joined IBM, he worked with Richard "Larry" Comstock, an IBM engineering manager, to characterize and test experimental magnetite film media. Together they developed the formula, which identifies factors that limit hard-disk storage capacity.

He also guided the development of thin-film disk drives, according to his biography on the Engineering and Tech History Wiki. He managed several magnetic recording projects during his career.

Williams was granted 27 U.S. patents during his time at IBM.

He was an active member of the IEEE Magnetics Society and received its 2007 Johnson Storage Device Technology Award.

In 2006 he became a distinguished lecturer and spoke about his work in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

After retiring from IBM in 2002, Williams volunteered at the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, Calif. While there, he restored the world's first hard drive—the IBM RAMAC—which is on display at the museum.

He earned his bachelor's degree in engineering at Caltech and obtained a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.

Jan Abraham "Braham" Ferreira

Past president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society

Fellow, 62; died 16 May

Ferreira was the 2015–2016 president of the IEEE Power Electronics Society.

An expert in power electronic converters, electrical machines, and novel grid components, he spent almost his entire career in academia, conducting research in power electronics.

Ferreira's first job, in 1981, was at the Institute of Power Electronics and Electric Drives at Aachen University, in Germany. He worked there for a year before joining ESD Australia, in Cloverdale, as a systems engineer.

He left in 1985 to join the Rand Afrikaans University, now part of the University of Johannesburg. In 1998 he immigrated to the Netherlands to serve as chair of the power electronics laboratory at the Delft University of Technology. In 2006 he was promoted to head of the department. Eleven years later, he became director of the Delft-Beijing Institute of Intelligent Science and Technology.

In 2019 he joined the University of Twente, in Enschede, Netherlands, as a professor of electrical engineering. He established the Shenzen-Twente power electronics research program there. Its goal is to address key challenges of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, including battery storage integration, improving power quality, universal energy access, and increasing efficiency and reliability.

Ferreira authored or coauthored 130 journal and transactions articles and more than 400 conference papers. He was granted 15 patents.

He founded the IEEE Empower a Billion Lives global competition in 2018 to crowdsource ideas that could improve energy access in underserved communities.

Ferreira served as 2020 chair of the IEEE PELS International Technology Roadmap on Wide Bandgap Power Semiconductors.

He received several recognitions including this year's IEEE PELS Owen Distinguished Service Award, the 2017 IEEE Industry Applications Society's Outstanding Achievement Award, and that society's 2014 Kliman Innovator Award.

He earned his bachelor's degree, master's degree, and doctorate in electrical engineering from Rand Afrikaans in 1981, 1983, and 1988.

Jack Minker

Database and programming pioneer

Life Fellow, 94; died 9 April

Minker was a pioneer in deductive databases, a data analysis system, and in disjunctive logic programming, a set of logic rules and constraints that can be used when creating a database. He developed the generalized closed-world assumption, a theoretical basis for computer systems and programming languages.

After a career in industry working for Auerbach Engineering, Bell Aircraft, and RCA, he joined the University of Maryland in College Park in 1967 as a computer science professor. He became the first chair of the computer science department four years later and was named professor emeritus in 1998.

From 1973 until his death, he served as vice chairman of the Committee of Concerned Scientists. From 1980 to 1989, he was vice chairman of the Association for Computing Machinery's Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights.

Minker earned a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College, in New York City, in 1949; a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1950; and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, in 1959.


Match ID: 38 Score: 45.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 5 days
qualifiers: 20.00 europe, 14.29 germany, 11.43 eu

Biden administration to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti, aiming to deter mass migration into Texas
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 11:11:17 EDT
More than 13,000 migrants have arrived at a crude border camp under a highway bridge in Del Rio, Tex.
Match ID: 39 Score: 45.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 25.00 migrants, 20.00 eu

Electric Motor Enables Chain-Free Bike-by-Wire
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 13:59:44 +0000


An increasingly-seen sight in Berlin and other German cities is the oversized electric cargo delivery bike, hissing along (and sometimes in bike lanes) like parcel-laden sailboats on appointed Amazon rounds. German manufacturer Schaeffler sees an opportunity: it is introducing a new generator at the heart of a smart drivetrain concept that some observers are calling bike-by-wire.

It's a bike with no chain.

Schaeffler's e-motor assembly was among the more out-of-the-ordinary items on display at the recent IAA Mobility show in Munich, which used to be the Frankfurt Motor Show, and more accustomed to roaring supercars and sleek news Benzes (and a thronging public, in pre-Covid times). But in some ways Schaeffler's pedal-cranked generator looked familiar; it's the world around it that's changing. That just might include reimagining the 130-year-old chain-driven bicycle.

Schaeffler is working with German electric drive maker and systems integrator Heinzmann to develop a complete bike-by-wire drivetrain. The partners had a prototype on display in Munich (and the previous week at Eurobike) with a robust cargo three-wheel e-bike made by Bayk. Production models could come out as soon as first-quarter 2022, says Marc Hector, an engineer in Schaeffler's actuator systems unit and one of the developers on the pedal generator project.

It's a hard thing to beat pedal-turns-sprocket. But maybe conditions are changing.

Bike by wire physically de-links two kinetic systems: the turning pedals and the powering wheel on a bike. They are instead linked by a controller, an electronic brain, which directs power to either battery or hub motor. It also sends a resistance signal to the pedal, so the rider feels that he or she is pushing against something. Instead of producing motion, pedaling is producing current. Taking the chain out of the mix—if done successfully—would fly open the cramped world of cycle design to new shapes and configurations. Remove the electronic brain, however, and you're left with a stationary exercise bike bolted to a wheeled frame powered by rear electric motors.

No wonder industrial designers and engineers have toiled for years on the concept: it's a hard thing to beat pedal-turns-sprocket. But maybe conditions are changing.

Schaeffler\u2019s pedal-powered generator, chainless e-bike design Schaeffler's pedal-powered generator enables new, chainless e-bike designsSchaeffler

Schaeffler is an auto parts and industrial manufacturer which made its name as a ball-bearing and clutch maker. It's developed electro-mobility products for 20 years, but has been on a buying spree: snapping up an engineering specialist firm in e-drives and another in the winding technologies used, among other things, to superefficiently wrap copper wire inside electric motors. It launched a new e-mobility business division that, reports Automotive News Europe, includes 48-volt auto powertrains as well as subsystems for plug-ins and full-electric vehicles.

Here it's a different scale of electrics: Schaeffler's pedal generator is a self-contained four-kilo crank-driven e-machine in a cylindrical housing the shape of an oversized soup can placed in the bottom bracket of a cargo bike. The pedals turn the crank running through a standard brushless DC machine inside: fixed coil copper windings around an iron core are arranged within the cylinder as the generator stator. Magnets in the turning rotor create the current. Temperature sensors and a controller are housed along with the generator.

The bike-by-wire controllers direct that current where needed: to the onboard battery for charging, to the interface display, to the rear hub traction motors that propel the bike, and back to the rider's feet in the form of counter-torque, giving the feeling of resistance when pedaling. The trick will be by synching it all up via Controller Area Network (CAN) bus, a 500 kbits/sec messaging standard which simplifies the amount of cabling needed. It should move the bike on one hand, and independently send the "chain feeling" back to the rider. Move pedal, move bike.

“Pedal by wire has huge potential. Micromobility is coming."

"The feeling should be the same as when there is a chain there," says Thorsten Weyer, a Schaeffler system architect. "But there is no chain."

Propelling the bike will be the two Heinzmann hub motors, which the controller can get rolling set at European Union specs at 125 watts of power each, 250 total (500 watts in mountainous Switzerland, 600 in Austria). Each hub can each generate 113 newton-meters of torque on the axle, powering it ahead. "With the hub motor you have power where you need it," says Heinzmann electric drives managing director Peter Mérimèche. The controller's programmed with nine gear settings: the countercurrent controlling torque on the axle is reduced or increased automatically based on the grade the bike is traveling on.

Designers have dreamed of chainless bikes for more than a century—in analogue form—and at least 25 years for e-bikes, as Andreas Fuchs, a Swiss physicist and engineer, developed his first chainless working models in the mid-90s. Challenges remain. Han Goes, a Dutch consultant and bicycle designer, worked with a Korean auto supplier a decade ago on a personal portable chainless folding bike. Pedaling parameters proved a struggle. "The man and the machine, the cyclist and the generator, the motor: nothing should feel disruptive," he says. If so, the rider feels out of step. "It is like you are pedaling somewhere into empty space."

Goes is still at it, working with design partners on a new chainless cargo bike. Our parcels keep needing delivery, and the city is changing. "Pedal by wire has huge potential. Micromobility is coming," he says. Dutch and Danish and other developers are at it, too. "It offers design and engineering freedom. Simplicity. Less parts and maintenance. Traditional chain drives can never offer that."


Match ID: 40 Score: 39.29 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 25.00 europe, 14.29 eu

ICYMI: Surfing dogs and Spain's 'ugliest tomato' contest
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 15:18:54 GMT
Dogs are making a splash in our round-up of the stories you may have missed this week.
Match ID: 41 Score: 30.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 30.00 spain

Volcano erupts on Atlantic island; lava threatens some homes
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 01:55:55 EDT
A volcano on Spain’s Atlantic Ocean island of La Palma has erupted after a weeklong buildup of seismic activity, prompting authorities to speed up evacuations for some 1,000 people
Match ID: 42 Score: 30.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 30.00 spain

What are the travel rules for Spain, Portugal, Malta and other holiday hotspots?
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 17:17:50 GMT
What you need to know about going to Portugal, Spain, Greece, France, Malta, Italy and Turkey.
Match ID: 43 Score: 30.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 2 days
qualifiers: 30.00 spain

Haitian migrants intend to remain at Texas border despite plan to expel them
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 16:07:13 GMT

Thousands seeking to escape poverty and hunger in their own country remain encamped under and near a bridge in Del Rio

Haitian migrants seeking to escape poverty, hunger and hopelessness in their home country said they would not be deterred by US plans to swiftly send them back, as thousands remained encamped on the Texas border.

Related: How thousands of Haitian migrants ended up at the Texas border

Continue reading...
Match ID: 44 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 migrants

Public Pensions Are Financing Refresco’s Anti-Union Campaign in New Jersey
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 11:00:17 +0000

Refresco is a subsidiary of PAI Partners, a private equity firm that counts several public pension funds among its investors.

The post Public Pensions Are Financing Refresco’s Anti-Union Campaign in New Jersey appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 45 Score: 25.00 source: theintercept.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 migrants

Migrants in Texas: Thousands moved to processing centres
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 06:20:40 GMT
More than 10,000 people have gathered under a bridge in Del Rio, a Texas border town.
Match ID: 46 Score: 25.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 migrants

The kaiser and the paperweight: how Cecil Rhodes helped inspire the first world war
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 05:00:27 GMT

The German monarch’s imperial ambitions were fuelled by the British colonialist – as the story behind a recently discovered relic reveals

It was discovered, dusty and damaged, on a warehouse shelf.

Recorded simply as a “paperweight” in the depot inventory, it was just one small piece among 30,000 personal items salvaged from Kaiser Wilhelm II’s palaces more than a century ago, and sent on to him in a convoy of 64 railway coaches as he abdicated and fled to the Netherlands after Germany’s defeat in the first world war.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 47 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 25.00 germany

Aerial footage shows scale of makeshift migrant camp under Texas bridge – video
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 16:09:39 GMT

On Saturday the US government worked on plans to send many of the thousands of Haitian immigrants who have gathered in a Texas border city back to their Caribbean homeland. Aerial video from local media showed Haitians crossing the Rio Grande freely and in a steady stream on Friday, going back and forth between the US and Mexico through knee-deep water, with some parents carrying small children on their shoulders. People pitched tents and built shelters from giant reeds. Many bathed and washed clothing in the river

Continue reading...
Match ID: 48 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 migrants

How thousands of Haitian migrants ended up at the Texas border
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 10:30:05 GMT

Gang violence, bloody protests, food and fuel shortages plus natural disasters have spurred many to leave the west’s poorest nation

Every night Guy would fall asleep to the sound of gunfire: warring gangs in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, were fighting pitched battles in the city centre.

By day, the country was roiled by bloody protests against food and fuel shortages. Roadblocks with burning tyres were commonplace, and the police responded with tear gas and billy clubs.

Continue reading...
Match ID: 49 Score: 25.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 migrants

Apple and Google cave to Putin’s censors, block Navalny app as election begins
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 18:40:13 +0000
Navalny app designed to boost opposition candidates deemed "illegal in Russia."
Match ID: 50 Score: 25.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
qualifiers: 25.00 germany

New Fuel Cell Tech Points Toward Zero-Emission Trains
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 13:00:01 +0000


This article is part of our exclusive IEEE Journal Watch series in partnership with IEEE Xplore.

Diesel and steam-powered trains have been transporting passengers and cargo around the world for more than 200 years—all the while releasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. In the hopes of a greener future, many countries and companies are eyeing more renewable sources of locomotion. The Pittsburgh-based company Wabtec recently unveiled a battery-electric hybrid train that they say can reduce emissions "by double digits per train." More ambitiously, some are developing hydrogen-powered trains, which rather than emitting greenhouse gases, only produce water vapor and droplets.

The technology has the potential to help countries meet greenhouse gas reduction targets and slow the progression of climate change. But, producing electricity from hydrogen comes with its own challenges. For example, the fuel cells require additional heavy converters to manage their wide voltage range. The weight of these bulky converters ultimately reduces the range of the train.

In a recent advancement, researchers in the UK have designed a new converter that is substantially lighter and more compact than state-of-the art hydrogen cell converters. They describe the new design in study published August 25 in IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics.

Pietro Tricoli, a professor at the University of Birmingham, was involved in the study. He notes that lighter converters are needed to help maximize the range that hydrogen powered trains can travel. Therefore his team developed the newer, lighter converter, which they describe in their paper as "ground-breaking."

It uses semiconductor devices to draw energy in a controlled way from the fuel cells and deliver it to the train's motors. "Our converter directly manages any voltage variations in the fuel cells, without affecting the motor currents. A conventional system would require two separate converters to achieve this," explains Tricoli. With the power converted to AC, the motors of a train can benefit from regenerative braking, whereby energy is harvested and recycled when the train is decelerating.

The researchers first tested their design through simulations, and then developed validated it through a small-scale laboratory prototype representing the traction system of a train. The results confirm that the new converter can facilitate desirable speeds and accelerations, as well as achieve regenerative braking.

Two photos. The left shows a large red metal frame filled with silver electronics and wires. The right shows a green circuit board with blue and black components. Left: A prototype of the new hydrogen cell converter. Right: A module used at the heart of the converter.Ivan Krastev

"The main strength of the converter is the reduction of volume and weight comparted to the state of the art [converters for hydrogen fuel cells]," explains Tricoli. The main drawback, he says, is that the new converter design requires more semiconductor devices, as well as more complex circuitry and monitoring systems.

Tricoli says there's still plenty of work ahead optimizing the system, ultimately, toward a full-scale prototype. "The current plan is to engage with train manufacturers and manufacturers of traction equipment to build a second [prototype] for a hydrogen train," he says.

This past spring marked an exciting milestone when, upon the completion of a 538-day trial period, two hydrogen-powered trains successfully transported passengers across 180,000 kilometers in Germany—while emitting zero vehicle emissions.

As more advancements in hydrogen technology such as the above are made, more increasingly efficient hydrogen-powered trains become possible. All aboard!


Match ID: 51 Score: 25.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 2 days
qualifiers: 25.00 germany

Coronavirus live news: 1.5million people in England to receive booster jab invite
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 17:54:54 GMT

Texts and letters will be sent to eligible people who had their second vaccine at least six months ago

Ireland’s chief medical officer has praised the country’s “exceptionally” high level of vaccine uptake, describing it as the envy of the world.

The vaccine programme hit a milestone at the weekend, with more than 90% of people over the age of 16 now fully vaccinated, the PA reports.

While vaccination remains our best means of protection against COVID-19, there are additional things that you can do to prevent transmission of the disease. pic.twitter.com/MVyC9xCsEp

The UK government said a further 56 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of today, bringing the UK total to 135,203.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 159,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the PA reports.

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Match ID: 52 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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The Guardian view on vaccines for all: share them now | Editorial
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 16:40:41 GMT

While the UK and others give booster shots, poorer nations are struggling to protect even the most vulnerable

For the west and other rich nations, the problem is demand: how to give more vaccines, including by persuading the hesitant. Britain and other countries are already delivering booster shots. Older children in the UK will also be vaccinated soon. There are undoubted benefits, even given the very low risk of death to most recipients; Covid can still be very unpleasant and cause long-term damage to health.

But for the rest of the world, the problem is supply. Healthcare workers and highly vulnerable people go entirely unprotected as the pandemic rages, with thousands of deaths recorded globally each day. The director general of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had urged a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of the year to allow each country to protect 40% of its population. In wealthier nations, 80% of the population have had at least one dose; in poorer ones, just 20%. Across Africa, the figure is less than 3.5%. It could take many lower-income countries another two years to reach most citizens. The disparity may by now be familiar. But it remains shocking.

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Match ID: 53 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

Syrian detention camp rocked by dozens of killings blamed on Islamic State women
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 12:00:59 EDT
More than 70 slain at Syria's al-Hol camp this year as fanatics enforce strictures, settle scores
Match ID: 54 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
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First pilot plant to convert high ash coal to methanol developed - ET EnergyWorld
2021-09-19T16:00:37+00:00
First pilot plant to convert high ash coal to methanol developed - ET EnergyWorld submitted by /u/Good_Karm
[link] [comments]

Match ID: 55 Score: 20.00 source: www.reddit.com age: 0 days
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Scottish Covid vaccine trialists ‘treated like second-class citizens’
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 15:54:55 GMT

Novavax volunteers fear start of vaccine passports next month could put them at further disadvantage

Scottish vaccine volunteers are being treated like “second-class citizens” while waiting for the Novavax jab to be approved, an MSP has said, as they continue a months-long fightto have their vaccines recognised on the standard NHS Scotland database.

The trialists are worried that the introduction of vaccine passports north of the border next month could put them at a further disadvantage as they cannot access the standard electronic version – instead possessing only a piece of paper.

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Match ID: 56 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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In the elections no one wanted, Canada is tilting towards the status quo | David Moscrop
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 14:48:38 GMT

From the climate crisis to housing, the main parties’ policies adhere strictly to the liberal, free-market script

On 20 September, Canada’s general election will end. Throughout the campaign, the governing Liberals, led by Justin Trudeau, and the opposition Conservatives, led by Erin O’Toole, have been neck and neck, trading the lead within the margin of error. The next closest party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), trails 10 points behind. A close seat count and a handful of tight races could mean days before the final results are known.

From the first day of the campaign, the country faced an important yet unnecessary election: important because the issues at stake are monumental – climate policy, pandemic management and recovery, childcare, healthcare, housing, the overdose crisis, Indigenous reconciliation, and much more; unnecessary because the government could have kept governing. But the Liberals had a minority government and they wanted a majority. Trudeau claimed parliament was toxic. It wasn’t. And if the governing side had trouble passing legislation, it was due more to their poor management of the House of Commons than opposition intransigence, even given a handful of holdups. So off to the races the country went.

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Match ID: 57 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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Lindsey Buckingham: Lindsey Buckingham review – the sunniest pop and its flipside
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 14:00:38 GMT

(Reprise)
Exiled from Fleetwood Mac, the singer-guitarist’s sparkling latest album foreshadows his recent troubles

Lindsey Buckingham’s seventh solo album was originally slated for a 2018 release, but three years of personal tumult saw it repeatedly pushed back. Given that that period has seen him falling out with ex-partner Stevie Nicks (a feud that re-erupted this month, being sacked from Fleetwood Mac, and undergoing open-heart surgery and the collapse of his marriage, it’s perhaps a wonder it’s here at all. And yet despite the turbulent backstory, at first listen these songs sound effortlessly sunny: On the Wrong Side resembles Go Your Own Way shot through with the momentum of the War on Drugs; the sparkling I Don’t Mind wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Tango in the Night. The gorgeous Santa Rosa, meanwhile, is gossamer-light pop, and Blue Light’s chorus is unashamedly pretty.

But although his recent troubles came after these songs were written, they are foreshadowed in the lyrics, the sugar-coated melodies not completely concealing darker sentiments. There’s an undercurrent of dissatisfaction in Swan Song (“Is it right to keep me waiting?”), distrust in Blind Love (“If you can lie to me, I’ve got to know”). The closer Dancing strips away the pop smarts completely, leaving just Buckingham’s voice atop minimal backing and revealing a real vulnerability beneath the gloss.

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Match ID: 58 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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Oxbridge student groups to be exempt from ‘unfair’ free speech law
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 13:48:45 GMT

Labour MPs accuse government of ‘ridiculous’ double standards and warn of two-tier university system

Oxbridge student groups are to be exempt from the legal restrictions imposed by the government’s new free speech legislation, leading to accusations of “ridiculous” double standards by ministers from opposition MPs.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, told MPs in a debate on the higher education (freedom of speech) bill that imposing the duties on Oxford and Cambridge student common rooms would be “unnecessary and overly bureaucratic”. Labour MPs protested that special treatment for Oxbridge was unjustified and created a two-tier system across universities.

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Match ID: 59 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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Autumn budget must show financial firepower behind ‘levelling up’ | Richard Partington
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 13:29:37 GMT

As the UK economy enters a rough patch, government needs to give substance to its flagship soundbite

Britain’s economic recovery from lockdown is stalling and inflation is on the rise. With the approach of autumn, prophecies made earlier this year for a surge in consumer spending appear to have fallen flat, washed out by the wettest summer in a decade.

It was all supposed to have been so easy for the chancellor, Rishi Sunak. Lockdown had helped households save more than £200bn and left consumers champing at the bit for the reopening of pubs, bars, restaurants and shops.

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Match ID: 60 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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Elon Musk welcomes SpaceX crew home with $50m donation to charity
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 13:19:47 GMT

Four-person crew asked for the public’s help in reaching fundraising target of $200m for the children’s charity St Jude

Elon Musk surprised his first all-private crew of space tourists with a welcome home gift after their trailblazing trip to orbit ended on Saturday night: a $50m donation to the children’s charity St Jude.

Related: ‘The point is ambition’: are we ready to follow Netflix into space?

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Match ID: 61 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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Want to ‘level up’ the UK? Just give places the power and money they need | John Harris
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 12:13:35 GMT

The government pits regions against one another in a battle for handouts. Meanwhile, it keeps cutting local authority funding

For a term that has been in circulation for more than two years, “levelling up” has not been the catchiest of political concepts. Journalists and politicians now tend to treat it as a self-explanatory part of the national vocabulary, but in my experience few people in the real world have any idea what it means. Neither, if they were to be honest, do large numbers of Conservative politicians.

But it will not go away. Boris Johnson’s reshuffle was sold as the formation of a new team that would “focus on uniting and levelling up the whole country”. Michael Gove’s arrival at the newly renamed Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, we were told, represented a ramping-up of the effort applied to this challenge. “I don’t think people appreciate quite how seriously Boris takes levelling up,” one Conservative source told The Times. If you appoint Nadine Dorries as the culture secretary and then float the idea of a return to imperial weights and measures, many people may have trouble believing you are serious about anything, but there we are: amid the culture wars pantomime, the prime minister’s allies insist that levelling-up efforts are under way and will now only gather momentum.

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Match ID: 62 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 brexit

Firms urged to protect workers from abuse in ‘wild west’ UK gig economy
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 10:58:38 GMT

Union says couriers reported being harassed at least once a week while doing their work

Gig economy firms are facing calls to better protect their workers, as an MP and a trade union warn of a wave of harassment and physical and emotional abuse facing couriers and taxi drivers.

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said it had received at least 90 reports from couriers who had faced some form of harassment at work in recent months, with more than 40 complaining that such incidents occurred at least once a week.

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Match ID: 63 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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The Cryptic Crossword: Sunday, September 19, 2021
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 10:00:00 +0000
Zany game includes bit of lavender glitter (5).
Match ID: 64 Score: 20.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 0 days
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Temer é o retrato do desespero das elites pela terceira via
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 10:00:25 +0000

A terceira via só existe nos sonhos do mesmo grupo de empresários e políticos que ajudaram a eleger Bolsonaro e agora zombam dele.

The post Temer é o retrato do desespero das elites pela terceira via appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 65 Score: 20.00 source: theintercept.com age: 0 days
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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe campaign urges sanctions against 10 Iranians
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 09:01:28 GMT

Campaign to mark British-Iranian’s 2,000th day in detention with demand to Foreign Office

The campaign to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will mark her 2,000th day in detention in Iran this week by demanding that the British Foreign Office urgently impose sanctions on 10 Iranians most directly involved in Iranian state hostage-taking since 1979.

It is the first time the campaign has asked for individual Iranians to be sanctioned by imposing asset freezes and travel bans. The new foreign secretary, Liz Truss, is due to meet the Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, at the UN in New York this week, the first British-Iranian bilateral meeting at this level since 2018.

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Match ID: 66 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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Tories repelled by Johnson can help the Lib Dems knock down the blue wall | Andrew Rawnsley
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 08:00:30 GMT
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem’s leader, has decided to stake his party’s chips on trying to take seats off the Conservatives

The world is hanging on every word from the virtual conference of Britain’s Liberal Democrats this weekend, as no one ever said. The Lib Dems are accustomed to being mocked when they are not simply ignored, but they have needed all the resilience they can muster since their coalition with the Tories ended with a devastating cull of their parliamentary representation at the 2015 election.

They have endured two more bad general elections since. They tried a relatively fresh face as leader, Tim Farron, and flopped in 2017. Then they fielded a highly familiar face as leader, Sir Vince Cable, but he was eased into retirement before fighting an election. In 2019, Jo Swinson vaingloriously declared that she could become prime minister and cancel Brexit only to be evicted from her parliamentary seat. Under her successor, whose name is on the tip of your tongue, the party’s poll rating bobbles along at around 8%, about a third of what they had before their support was cannibalised by the coalition experience.

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Match ID: 67 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
qualifiers: 20.00 brexit

Mary Beard: ‘If we want to understand the pandemic, we need the arts’
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 08:00:31 GMT

The Cambridge classicist on owning her TV image, dealing with internet trolls, and why her new book on Roman emperors sheds light on our preoccupation with statues

In her new book, Twelve Caesars, Mary Beard touches enticingly on the life of Elagabalus, a man whose excesses seemingly outstripped even those of Caligula or Nero. Elagabalus, also known as Heliogabalus, was only briefly emperor of Rome – he was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard when he was still a teenager – but he has a special place in Beard’s head, if not her heart. Should a journalist casually inquire which emperor some modern-day politician might bring to mind, his is the name she often gives in reply. Beard likes to unsettle those in search of lazy analogies and hardly anyone, she says, has heard of this bloke. Even better, she can then send the baffled and the bemused to Roses of Heliogabalus, a painting of 1888 by Lawrence Alma-Tadema that depicts the emperor’s party trick, which was to smother his guests to death beneath piles of rose petals. “Once you know that story, you understand tyranny much better,” she says, with predictable relish. “There is no safe point. Even the generosity of emperors could be lethal.”

To be frank, I hadn’t heard of Elagabalus either, or not before I read her book, and the same, alas, goes for almost everyone else in it. But to my amazement, this hardly mattered. Twelve Caesars is fascinating and not only because its author writes so engagingly. Many years in the making, the world into which it will be born is not quite the same as the one in which it was conceived. Its preoccupations – essentially, it’s about the way that images of Roman emperors from Caesar to Domitian have influenced culture across the centuries – are suddenly and newly of the moment in a Britain that has become completely fixated with statues.

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Match ID: 68 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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Jonathan Mirsky: reporter who went from Mao fan to fierce Beijing critic
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 06:15:28 GMT

The career of the Observer’s former China correspondent who died last week, was marked by a willingness to review his convictions

Jonathan Mirsky, the Observer’s former China correspondent who has died aged 88, was acutely aware of the mounting danger from the bullets criss-crossing Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989 as units of the People’s Liberation Army were sent in to break up the protests. He was aware too that he desperately needed to get his copy to London.

Writing about the experience 30 years later, Mirsky admitted that few at first had any sense of the scale of the violence that was being unleashed either on the students in the square. All that, however, was to change quickly.

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Match ID: 69 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 0 days
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SpaceX: Inspiration4 amateur astronauts return to Earth after three days
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 02:50:44 GMT
The four amateur astronauts landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean after three days orbiting Earth.
Match ID: 70 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
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History-making space tourists splash down to Earth
Sun, 19 Sep 2021 02:50:44 GMT
The four amateur astronauts landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean after three days orbiting Earth.
Match ID: 71 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 0 days
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GOP Rep. Zeldin announces leukemia diagnosis, remission
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:26:34 EDT
Zeldin, a four-term congressman and vocal supporter of former president Donald Trump, is also running for governor of New York.
Match ID: 72 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 0 days
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User’s Guide to TechCrunch Disrupt 2021
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 20:16:28 +0000
TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 approaches in just three days. Here’s your how-to guide for everything you can expect at Disrupt. Although the main show kicks off on Tuesday the 21st, there’ll be some sneak peeks and extras going down on Monday. Make sure to log in to Hopin by noon on Monday to catch it all, […]
Match ID: 73 Score: 20.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 0 days
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The Promise of Carbon-Neutral Steel
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:57:52 +0000
A new manufacturing technique could drastically reduce the footprint of one of our dirtiest materials.
Match ID: 74 Score: 20.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 1 day
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SEC Regional Director Erin Schneider is joining us at Disrupt
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:26:59 +0000
If ever there was a time when working at the Securities and Exchange Commission was a dull affair, that’s no longer true. The federal agency that’s responsible for protecting investors and maintaining fair and orderly functioning of our securities markets is busier than ever, thanks to the rise of SPACs, cryptocurrencies and new rules around […]
Match ID: 75 Score: 20.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
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Mercado financeiro passou pano para experimentos mortais da Prevent Senior com hidroxicloroquina
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:25:42 +0000

Estudo irregular com falso tratamento precoce matou nove pessoas, mas impulsionou maior lucro da empresa nos últimos cinco anos.

The post Mercado financeiro passou pano para experimentos mortais da Prevent Senior com hidroxicloroquina appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 76 Score: 20.00 source: theintercept.com age: 1 day
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Divining the real value of my favorite fintech sub-niche
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 17:15:59 +0000
Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by what the weekday Exchange column digs into, but free, and made for your weekend reading.
Match ID: 77 Score: 20.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
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SoftBank’s Marcelo Claure is coming to Disrupt next week
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 16:23:54 +0000
SoftBank has been on a tear in Latin America. The Japanese investment conglomerate just announced it has launched its second Latin America-focused fund with a $3 billion capital commitment from the company that may grow as the fund explores “options to raise additional capital,” according to SoftBank. The vehicle follows hot on the heels of […]
Match ID: 78 Score: 20.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
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1 change that can fix the VC funding crisis for women founders
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 13:30:38 +0000
We need to increase the number of women investing partners who can write large seed checks.
Match ID: 79 Score: 20.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
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Tips for managing growth across iOS updates
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 04:00:37 +0000
“I’ve seen startups spend thousands of dollars inefficiently as a result of not having optimal signal in their paid acquisition campaigns. I’ve also spent millions at companies such as Postmates refining our signal to the best possible state,” says growth marketer Jonathan Martinez in a guest column for Extra Crunch this week. “I’d like every […]
Match ID: 80 Score: 20.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
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Miss Manners: Party chauffeur gets raw deal
Sat, 18 Sep 2021 00:00:00 EDT
Host suggests lunch out after the party but pays only for her food.
Match ID: 81 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Capitol Police chief dropped request for armed National Guard members to be on standby for Saturday’s rally after Pentagon discussions
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 18:41:00 EDT
A top Senate security official said the original request did not follow proper protocol. Chief J. Thomas Manger instead asked for troops who would be unarmed, other than batons, which was approved by the Department of Defense.
Match ID: 82 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 1 day
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Daily Crunch: Apple, Google bow to Russian pressure
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 22:15:37 +0000
Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Friday, September 17th! What a week, ya’ll. It is now just days before Disrupt, which means the TechCrunch hive is buzzing. I’ll leave it by noting that Reid Hoffman is coming, which is going to be a treat.
Match ID: 83 Score: 20.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
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FDA advisors green-light Pfizer boosters for people 65+ and at-risk groups
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 22:09:53 +0000
The committee roundly rejected approving boosters for everyone 16 and up.
Match ID: 84 Score: 20.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
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Politicians have evolved into political entrepreneurs
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 16:26:50 EST

Match ID: 85 Score: 20.00 source: www.politico.com age: 1 day
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Astronomers solve centuries-old mystery of supernova observed in 1181
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 20:25:46 +0000
"Parker's Star" is surrounded by the Pa30 nebula discovered in 2013.
Match ID: 86 Score: 20.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
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OpenSea released an app — but it’s for browsing, not buying and selling
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 19:44:55 +0000
It’s a big day for the Amazon of the decentralized internet — OpenSea now has an app for iOS and Android. For most companies, having a mobile app is a milestone you’d reach before hitting a $1.5 billion valuation. But like any store — whether you’re selling NFT art or not — there’s a hefty […]
Match ID: 87 Score: 20.00 source: feedproxy.google.com age: 1 day
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The iPhone 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max are available to order today
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 19:30:15 +0000
Ship dates for some configurations are already slipping to late October, though.
Match ID: 88 Score: 20.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
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Android 6 and up will start stripping unused apps’ permissions
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 18:03:21 +0000
Google Play Services update will soon strip unused apps of their permissions.
Match ID: 89 Score: 20.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 1 day
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The irony of Elise Stefanik and Texas’s lieutenant governor amplifying white replacement theory
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:43:23 EDT
Not to mention the toxicity and shortsightedness.
Match ID: 90 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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36,000 gigatons of carbon heralded history’s biggest mass extinction
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 16:38:57 +0000
New insights into the end-Permian mass extinction 252 million years ago.
Match ID: 91 Score: 20.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 2 days
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis marries longtime partner Marlon Reis
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:30:51 EDT
Polis, the first openly gay man elected governor, married his longtime partner, Marlon Reis, Wednesday.
Match ID: 92 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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This $15 red from Turkey tastes like a young Bordeaux without the price tag
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:00:00 EDT
RECOMMENDED | Plus, a Turkish white, Spanish verdejo and two French wines to round out the week’s picks.
Match ID: 93 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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Neuroscience Is Inspiring Some Amazing Sci-Fi
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 16:00:00 +0000
Daryl Gregory's stories explore the many complexities of the human brain.
Match ID: 94 Score: 20.00 source: www.wired.com age: 2 days
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The potential trouble with Jan. 6 defendant prosecutions
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 11:21:48 EDT
As far-right groups prepare to come back to the Capitol on Saturday, prosecutors may have hit a speed bump with some of the more serious charges against Jan. 6 defendants.
Match ID: 95 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
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Nancy Pelosi says US Capitol attack like 9/11 but an assault from within – video
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 14:53:19 GMT

Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker of the US Congress, has likened the 6 January attack to 9/11, saying one had been an assault on US democracy from within and the other from the outside. Speaking at a Chatham House seminar in London on Friday, she also claimed the Republicans had been hijacked by a cult that believed neither in science nor government, making it hard for the US to be governed

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Match ID: 96 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
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Daily Cartoon: Friday, September 17th
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 14:34:55 +0000
“I don’t think reusable straws are going to be enough.”
Match ID: 97 Score: 20.00 source: www.newyorker.com age: 2 days
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Cryptocurrency launchpad hit by $3 million supply chain attack
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 14:10:49 +0000
SushiSwap's MISO launchpad hacked via a malicious GitHub commit.
Match ID: 98 Score: 20.00 source: arstechnica.com age: 2 days
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Child abuse: Apple urged to roll out image-scanning tool swiftly
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 14:00:10 GMT

Exclusive: privacy concerns ‘must not delay use of neuralMatch algorithm to protect victims of abuse’

Child protection experts from across the world have called on Apple to implement new scanning technologies urgently to detect images of child abuse.

In August, Apple announced plans to use a tool called neuralMatch to scan photos being uploaded to iCloud online storage and compare them to a database of known images of child abuse.

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Match ID: 99 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
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Lincoln Financial stock rallies after $9.4 billion reinsurance agreement
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 13:14:03 GMT

Shares of Lincoln Financial Group rallied 4.0% in premarket trading Friday, after the insurer announced an agreement with Resolution Life subsidiary Security Life of Denver Insurance Co., to reinsure about $9.4 billion of executive benefit and universal life reserves. Lincoln said it expects proceeds of $1.2 billion from the deal, with $900 million of the proceeds earmarked for share repurchases to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2022. "We are pleased to announce this transaction, which we expect to be highly accretive to EPS, expand ROE and maintain our overall high-quality business mix," said Lincoln Chief Executive Dennis Glass. The stock has run up 32.3% year to date through Thursday, while the SPDR S&P Insurance ETF has gained 14.4% and the S&P 500 has advanced 19.1%.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 100 Score: 20.00 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2 days
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Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s former surveillance-state strongman, dies at 84
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 08:17:33 EDT
Maneuvering through coups, conflicts and political intrigue, he helped end a civil war and was the longest-ruling leader of Africa’s largest country.
Match ID: 101 Score: 20.00 source: www.washingtonpost.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

Help Build the Future of Assistive Technology
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:09:18 +0000


This article is sponsored by California State University, Northridge (CSUN).

Your smartphone is getting smarter. Your car is driving itself. And your watch tells you when to breathe. That, as strange as it might sound, is the world we live in. Just look around you. Almost every day, there's a better or more convenient version of the latest gadget, device, or software. And that's only on the commercial end. The medical and rehabilitative tech is equally impressive — and arguably far more important. Because for those with disabilities, assistive technologies mean more than convenience. They mean freedom.

So, what is an assistive technology (AT), and who designs it? The term might be new to you, but you're undoubtedly aware of many: hearing aids, prosthetics, speech-recognition software (Hey, Siri), even the touch screen you use each day on your cell phone. They're all assistive technologies. AT, in its most basic form, is anything that helps a person achieve enhanced performance, improved function, or accelerated access to information. A car lets you travel faster than walking; a computer lets you process data at an inhuman speed; and a search engine lets you easily find information.


CSUN Master of Science in Assistive Technology Engineering

The fully online M.S. in Assistive Technology Engineering program can be completed in less than two years and allows you to collaborate with other engineers and AT professionals. GRE is not required and financial aid is available. Request more information about the program here.

That's the concept – in a simplified form, of course. The applications, however, are vast and still expanding. In addition to mechanical products and devices, the field is deeply involved in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and neuroscience. Brain machine interfaces, for instance, allow users to control prosthetics with thought alone; and in some emergency rooms, self-service kiosks can take your blood pressure, pulse and weight, all without any human intervention.

These technologies, and others like them, will only grow more prevalent with time – as will the need for engineers to design them. Those interested in the field typically enter biomedical engineering programs. These programs, although robust in design, focus often on hardware, teaching students how to apply engineering principles to medicine and health care. What many lack, however, is a focus on the user. But that's changing. Some newer programs, many of them certificates, employ a more user-centric model.

One recent example is the Master of Science in Assistive Technology Engineering at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The degree, designed in collaboration with industry professionals, is a hybrid of sorts, focusing as much on user needs as on the development of new technologies.

CSUN, it should be noted, is no newcomer to the field. For more than three decades, the university has hosted the world's largest assistive technology conference. To give you an idea, this year's attendees included Google, Microsoft, Hulu, Amazon, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The university is also home to a sister degree, the Master of Science in Assistive Technology and Human Services, which prepares graduates to assist and train AT users. As you can imagine, companies are aggressively recruiting engineers with this cross-functional knowledge. Good UX design is universally desired, as it's needed for both optimal function and, often, ADA compliance.

In addition to mechanical devices, the field of Assistive Technology is deeply involved in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and neuroscience

The field has implications in war as well – both during and after. Coming as no surprise, the military is investing heavily in AT hardware and research. Why? On the most basic level, the military is interested in rehabilitating combat veterans. Assistive technologies, such as prosthetic limbs, enable those wounded in combat to pursue satisfying lives in the civilian world.

Beyond that, assistive technology is a core part of the military's long-term strategic plan. Wearable electronics, such as VR headsets and night vision goggles, both fit within the military's expanding technological horizon, as do heads-up displays, exoskeletons and drone technologies.

The Future of Assistive Technology

So, what does the future have in store for AT? We'll likely see more and better commercial technologies designed for entertainment. Think artificial realities with interactive elements in the real world (a whale floating by your actual window, not a simulated one). Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine refers to this layered reality as the "Mirrorworld." And according to him, it's going to spark the next tech platform. Imagine Facebook in the Matrix... Or, come to think of it, don't.

An increasing number of mobile apps, such as those able to detect Parkinson's disease, will also hit the market. As will new biomedical hardware, like brain and visual implants. Fortunately, commercial innovations often drive medical ones as well. And as we see an uptick in entertainment, we'll see an equal surge in medicine, with new technologies – things we haven't even considered yet – empowering those in need.

Help build the future of assistive technology! Visit CSUN's Master of Science in Assistive Technology Engineering site to learn more about the program or request more information here.







Match ID: 102 Score: 20.00 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

Wedbush upgrades Silicon Valley Bank to outperform
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 11:30:32 GMT

Wedbush Securities analyst David J. Chiaverini on Friday upgraded SVB Financial Group to outperform from neutral and raised the bank's 12-month price target to $700 a share from $600 a share. Chiaverini said the parent company of Silicon Valley Bank is positioned to benefit from its favorable business mix as well as interest rate hikes from the U.S. Federal Reserve. "SIVB has reported several consecutive blowout quarters, driven by its emphasis on banking the innovation economy, especially the tech and life sciences industries, which have thrived throughout the pandemic," he said. Wedbush Securities expects multiple rate hikes, which will potentially benefit the bank. It's also poised to gain from its acquisition of Boston Private as well as new hires in the technology banking space. Wedbush now expects three 25 basis point rate hikes each in late 2022 and 2023 from the Fed. Shares of SVB closed at $608.45 on Thursday, The stock has risen 57% so far this year, compared to an increase of 28% in the Financial Select SPDR Fund .

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.


Match ID: 103 Score: 20.00 source: feeds.marketwatch.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

Oil Company Official Overseeing Crackdown on Pipeline Resistance Cut Teeth at Amazon and Exxon
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 10:00:20 +0000

In the small world of corporate security, officials like Enbridge’s Troy Kirby take counterinsurgency practices from one megacompany to another.

The post Oil Company Official Overseeing Crackdown on Pipeline Resistance Cut Teeth at Amazon and Exxon appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 104 Score: 20.00 source: theintercept.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

Inspiration4: All-amateur space crew enjoy views of Earth
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 07:12:52 GMT
The first pictures have been released showing the Inspiration4 crew looking down on the planet.
Match ID: 105 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

EUA liberam documentos sobre a pesquisa com coronavírus no laboratório de Wuhan
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 06:00:05 +0000

O Intercept obteve mais de 900 páginas de documentação relacionada à pesquisa sobre coronavírus no laboratório chinês, financiada pelos Estados Unidos.

The post EUA liberam documentos sobre a pesquisa com coronavírus no laboratório de Wuhan appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 106 Score: 20.00 source: theintercept.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

Antony Blinken chuckles as Republican senator makes Joe Biden mute button claims – video
Fri, 17 Sep 2021 00:42:40 GMT

The Republican senator Jim Risch pressed the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, over rumours someone in the White House has the ability to cut off the president's microphone when he speaks. While Blinken chuckled throughout the questioning, Risch continued to press his claims after an earlier video from the White House featuring Biden cut off during a briefing. 'It’s been widely reported that somebody has the ability to push the button and cut off his sound and stop him from speaking,' Risch said. 

Blinken replied: 'Anyone who knows the president, including members of this committee, knows that he speaks very clearly and very deliberately for himself'

Continue reading...
Match ID: 107 Score: 20.00 source: www.theguardian.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes: Visionary, Criminal, or Both?
2021-09-17T00:00:00EDT
Eugene Soltes explains why the fraud case against the Theranos cofounder isn't as simple as it seems, and why a conviction probably wouldn't deter unethical behavior from others.
Match ID: 108 Score: 20.00 source: hbswk.hbs.edu age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

At Rikers Island, Inmates Locked in Showers Without Food and Defecating in Bags
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 20:20:41 +0000

Two years of fearmongering over criminal justice reform led to a humanitarian crisis at the notorious New York City jails.

The post At Rikers Island, Inmates Locked in Showers Without Food and Defecating in Bags appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 109 Score: 20.00 source: theintercept.com age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

Sir Clive Sinclair: Computing pioneer dies aged 81
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 20:19:12 GMT
The inventor, entrepreneur and ZX Spectrum creator died at his London home following a long illness.
Match ID: 110 Score: 20.00 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 2 days
qualifiers: 20.00 eu

No Accountability for War on Terror Atrocities
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 10:01:35 +0000

Journalists Rozina Ali and Murtaza Hussain discuss the domestic and foreign policy legacy of the last 20 years.

The post No Accountability for War on Terror Atrocities appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 111 Score: 17.86 source: theintercept.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 17.86 migrants

Mineradora novata já explorou 32 vezes mais ouro do que o previsto em área protegida da Amazônia
Thu, 16 Sep 2021 09:00:57 +0000

Gana Gold tem licença para operação de pequeno porte, mas possui maquinário pesado e faturou R$ 1,1 bilhão desde 2020. PF investiga a empresa.

The post Mineradora novata já explorou 32 vezes mais ouro do que o previsto em área protegida da Amazônia appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 112 Score: 17.14 source: theintercept.com age: 3 days
qualifiers: 17.14 eu

Moon rock class in session
Thu, 09 Sep 2021 12:43:00 +0200
Image:

School is also back in session for ESA astronaut Andrea Mogensen (right) and NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins. Together with European Astronaut Centre engineer Robin Eccleston (far left), the trio are taking part in this year’s Pangaea field training campaign to become better field scientists.

With all eyes set on the Moon, the three-week campaign has increasingly focussed on lunar geology. Now in its fourth edition, the course kicked off this week with background lessons by top planetary scientists on identifying rock samples of interest for exploration.

In this image Andreas and his fellow students use a microscope to analyse samples.  

Later, the class went on a field trip to the Bletterbach canyon in the Italian Dolomites. The eight-km long and 400-m deep gorge contains around 10 billion tonnes of rock transported to the valley since the end of the glacial age, around 18 000 years ago.

The gorge is the result of sedimentary processes quite similar to those found on Mars and is an ideal site to put classroom knowledge into practice.

In later sessions, the trainees will also visit the Ries Crater in Germany and the volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote, Spain, to unravel not only lunar but also martian features on Earth. They will use more sophisticated tools that will allow them to explore their geography from the microscopic to the macroscopic level.

The participants will wear a virtual reality headset to immerse themselves in a real martian landscape. Together with images and dozens of 3D maps, the trainees will see a combination of ground truth information and satellite images with the PLANetary MAPping project (PLANMAP) running behind the scenes.

Follow Pangaea on social media for live updates and on the blog for more in depth articles.


Match ID: 113 Score: 15.71 source: www.esa.int age: 10 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 4.29 spain, 3.57 germany, 2.86 eu

Competing Visions Underpin China’s Quantum Computer Race
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 14:20:39 +0000


China and the US are in a race to conquer quantum computing, which promises to unleash the potential of artificial intelligence and give the owner all-seeing, code-breaking powers.

But there is a race within China itself among companies trying to dominate the space, led by tech giants Alibaba and Baidu.

Like their competitors IBM, Google, Honeywell, and D-Wave, both Chinese companies profess to be developing "full stack" quantum businesses, offering access to quantum computing through the cloud coupled with their own suite of algorithms, software, and consulting services.

Alibaba is building solutions for specific kinds of hardware, as IBM, Google, and Honeywell are doing. (IBM's software stack will also support trapped ion hardware, but the company's focus is on supporting its superconducting quantum computers. Honeywell's software partner, Cambridge Quantum, is hardware agnostic, but the two companies' cooperation is focused on Honeywell's trapped ion computer.)

Baidu is different in that it is building a hardware-agnostic software stack that can plug into any quantum hardware, whether that hardware uses a superconducting substrate, nuclear magnetic resonance, or ion traps to control its qubits.

"Currently we don't do hardware directly, but develop the hardware interface," Runyao Duan, Baidu's head of quantum computing, told the 24th Annual Conference on Quantum Information Processing earlier this year. "This is a very flexible strategy and ensures that we will be open for all hardware providers."

Quantum computers calculate using the probability that an array of entangled quantum particles is in a particular state at any point in time. Maintaining and manipulating the fragile particles is itself a difficult problem that has yet to be solved at scale. Quantum computers today consist of fewer than 100 qubits, though hardware leader IBM has a goal of reaching 1,000 qubits by 2023.

But an equally thorny problem is how to use those qubits once they exist. "We can build a qubit. We can manipulate a qubit and we can read a qubit," said Mattia Fiorentini, head of machine learning and quantum algorithms at Cambridge Quantum in London. "The question is, how do you build software that can really benefit from all that information processing power?"

Scientists around the world are working on ways to program quantum computers that are useful and generalized and that engineers can use pretty much straight out of the box.

Of course, real large-scale quantum computing remains a relatively distant dream—currently quantum cloud services are primarily used for simulations of quantum computing using classical computers, although some are using small quantum systems—and so it's too early to say whether Baidu's strategy will pay off.

“We can build a qubit. We can read a qubit. But how do you build software that can really benefit from all that information processing power?"

In the past, Alibaba worked with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, the capital of central China's Anhui province, which currently has the world's most advanced quantum computer, dubbed the Zuchongzhi 2.1, after China's famous fifth century astronomer who first calculated pi to six decimal places. The company is also building quantum computing hardware of its own.

China's most important quantum scientist, Pan Janwei, also worked for Alibaba as scientific advisor. Earlier this year, Pan's team set a new milestone in quantum computation with the 66-qubit Zuchongzhi 2.1. Pan and his team ran a calculation on the device in about an hour and a half, which would take the world's fastest supercomputer an estimated eight years to complete.

Baidu, meanwhile, has been releasing a series of platforms and tools that it hopes will put it ahead when quantum computers eventually become large enough and stable enough to be practical.

Last year, it announced a new cloud-based quantum computing platform called Quantum Leaf, which it bills as the first cloud-native quantum computing platform in China—a bit of semantics apparently intended to put it ahead of Alibaba's cloud division, which began offering a cloud-based quantum platform with the Chinese Academy of Sciences several years ago.

Unlike Alibaba's platform, Quantum Leaf's cloud programming environment provides quantum-infrastructure-as-a-service.

Baidu's cloud-native quantum computing platform Quantum Leaf provides access to the superconducting quantum processing unit from the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Baidu also released Paddle Quantum, a device-independent platform for building and training quantum neural network models for advanced quantum computing applications. It combines AI and quantum computing using the company's deep learning framework called PaddlePaddle—Paddle means PArallel, Distributed, Deep Learning—which has 3.6 million developers and can support hyperscale training models with trillions of parameters.

Paddle Quantum, in turn, can be used to develop quantum neural network models for software solutions. Users can then deploy those models on both quantum processing units or simulators through Quantum Leaf.

Baidu's quantum activities are largely focused on quantum artificial intelligence, an extension of Baidu's current artificial intelligence activities.

Baidu also offers a "cloud-based quantum pulse computing service" called Quanlse, intended to bridge the gap between hardware and software through sequences of pulses that can control quantum hardware and reduce quantum error, one of the biggest challenges in quantum computing.

"We see an increasing number of demands from universities and companies to use our quantum platform and collaborat[e] on quantum solutions, [which] is an essential part of our quantum ecology," a Baidu spokesperson said.

Baidu's quantum activities are largely focused on quantum artificial intelligence, an extension of Baidu's current artificial intelligence activities. Quantum computing is expected to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence both by making models faster but also by allowing compute-intensive models not currently possible on classical computers.

The company established a quantum computing institute in 2018 whose research includes classification of quantum data, which opens the door to quantum machine learning. To classify chemical compounds as toxic or non-toxic, for example, data scientists currently use classical means. But because the underlying data—the molecules and their configurations—is quantum data, it would be faster and more accurate to classify that quantum data directly with a quantum computer.

Quantum information is encoded in the probability distribution of qubit states. That probability distribution is reconstructed by collecting samples with classical means, but the number of samples needed grows exponentially as you add qubits.

"The more you add qubits to your quantum system, the more powerful the system, but the more samples you need to take to extract all useful information," says Cambridge Quantum's Fiorentini.

Existing methods for quantum classification are impractical because hardware and infrastructure limitations restrict the complexity of the datasets that can be applied.

Baidu researchers' new hybrid quantum-classical framework for supervised quantum learning uses what they call the “shadows" of quantum data as a subroutine to extract significant features—where “shadows" here refers to a method for approximating classical descriptions of a quantum state using relatively few measurements of the state.

"If we can get all the key information out of the quantum computer with a very small number of samples without sacrificing information, that's significant," says Fiorentini.

Baidu's hybrid quantum-classical framework, meanwhile, sharply reduces the number of parameters, making quantum machine learning models training easier and less compute intensive.

In the near term, the company says, Baidu is pursuing more efficient and more powerful classical computing resources that can accelerate its AI applications, from training large-scale models to inferencing on the cloud or edge. In 2018, it developed a cross-architecture AI chip called Kunlun, named or the mountain range on the Tibetan plateau that is the mythological origin of Chinese civilization.

Baidu has produced more than 20,000 14-nm Kunlun chips for use in its search engine, Baidu AI cloud and other applications. It recently announced the mass production of Kunlun II, which offers 2-3 times better performance than the previous generation, using the world's leading 7nm process and built on Baidu's own second-generation cross-platform architecture. Kunlun II has a lower peak power consumption while offering significantly better performance in AI training and inferencing. The chip can be applied in multiple scenarios, including in the cloud, on terminal, and at the edge, powering high-performance computer clusters used in biocomputing and autonomous driving.


Match ID: 114 Score: 14.29 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 14.29 eu

Whip Count: The Democrats Who Support the Progressive Reconciliation Strategy
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 11:00:08 +0000

A running tally of the lawmakers who have — and have not — committed to withhold their votes on the bipartisan infrastructure bill in favor of robust budget reconciliation.

The post Whip Count: The Democrats Who Support the Progressive Reconciliation Strategy appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 115 Score: 14.29 source: theintercept.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 14.29 eu

Google Is Getting Caught in the Global Antitrust Net
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 11:00:00 +0000
As more governments force US tech companies to change how they do business, one case in Turkey cuts to the heart of the search giant’s power.
Match ID: 116 Score: 14.29 source: www.wired.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 14.29 eu

Ricardo Barros morou 14 anos em apartamento do pai de dono de farmacêutica investigada pela CPI da Covid
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 04:34:20 +0000

Líder do governo Bolsonaro, deputado é íntimo de sócio da Belcher, investigada pela CPI da Pandemia por intermediar venda de vacina ao Ministério da Saúde.

The post Ricardo Barros morou 14 anos em apartamento do pai de dono de farmacêutica investigada pela CPI da Covid appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 117 Score: 14.29 source: theintercept.com age: 4 days
qualifiers: 14.29 eu

Pakistan: How to cool Karachi as temperatures rise
Tue, 14 Sep 2021 23:00:29 GMT
In Karachi, Pakistan, one entrepreneur is on a mission to plant urban forests to cope with rising temperatures.
Match ID: 118 Score: 14.29 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 4 days
qualifiers: 14.29 eu

Rule of the Robots: Warning Signs
Tue, 14 Sep 2021 18:00:15 +0000


A few years ago, Martin Ford published a book called Architects of Intelligence, in which he interviewed 23 of the most experienced AI and robotics researchers in the world. Those interviews are just as fascinating to read now as they were in 2018, but Ford's since had some extra time to chew on them, in the context of a several years of somewhat disconcertingly rapid AI progress (and hype), coupled with the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic.

In his new book, Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Everything, Ford takes a markedly well-informed but still generally optimistic look at where AI is taking us as a society. It's not all good, and there are still a lot of unknowns, but Ford has a perspective that's both balanced and nuanced, and I can promise you that the book is well worth a read.

The following excerpt is a section entitled "Warning Signs," from the chapter "Deep Learning and the Future of Artificial Intelligence."

—Evan Ackerman


The 2010s were arguably the most exciting and consequential decade in the history of artificial intelligence. Though there have certainly been conceptual improvements in the algorithms used in AI, the primary driver of all this progress has simply been deploying more expansive deep neural networks on ever faster computer hardware where they can hoover up greater and greater quantities of training data. This "scaling" strategy has been explicit since the 2012 ImageNet competition that set off the deep learning revolution. In November of that year, a front-page New York Times article was instrumental in bringing awareness of deep learning technology to the broader public sphere. The article, written by reporter John Markoff, ends with a quote from Geoff Hinton: "The point about this approach is that it scales beautifully. Basically you just need to keep making it bigger and faster, and it will get better. There's no looking back now."

There is increasing evidence, however, that this primary engine of progress is beginning to sputter out. According to one analysis by the research organization OpenAI, the computational resources required for cutting-edge AI projects is "increasing exponentially" and doubling about every 3.4 months.

In a December 2019 Wired magazine interview, Jerome Pesenti, Facebook's Vice President of AI, suggested that even for a company with pockets as deep as Facebook's, this would be financially unsustainable:

When you scale deep learning, it tends to behave better and to be able to solve a broader task in a better way. So, there's an advantage to scaling. But clearly the rate of progress is not sustainable. If you look at top experiments, each year the cost [is] going up 10-fold. Right now, an experiment might be in seven figures, but it's not going to go to nine or ten figures, it's not possible, nobody can afford that.

Pesenti goes on to offer a stark warning about the potential for scaling to continue to be the primary driver of progress: "At some point we're going to hit the wall. In many ways we already have." Beyond the financial limits of scaling to ever larger neural networks, there are also important environmental considerations. A 2019 analysis by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found that training a very large deep learning system could potentially emit as much carbon dioxide as five cars over their full operational lifetimes.

Even if the financial and environmental impact challenges can be overcome—perhaps through the development of vastly more efficient hardware or software—scaling as a strategy simply may not be sufficient to produce sustained progress. Ever-increasing investments in computation have produced systems with extraordinary proficiency in narrow domains, but it is becoming increasingly clear that deep neural networks are subject to reliability limitations that may make the technology unsuitable for many mission critical applications unless important conceptual breakthroughs are made. One of the most notable demonstrations of the technology's weaknesses came when a group of researchers at Vicarious, small company focused on building dexterous robots, performed an analysis of the neural network used in Deep-Mind's DQN, the system that had learned to dominate Atari video games. One test was performed on Breakout, a game in which the player has to manipulate a paddle to intercept a fast-moving ball. When the paddle was shifted just a few pixels higher on the screen—a change that might not even be noticed by a human player—the system's previously superhuman performance immediately took a nose dive. DeepMind's software had no ability to adapt to even this small alteration. The only way to get back to top-level performance would have been to start from scratch and completely retrain the system with data based on the new screen configuration.

What this tells us is that while DeepMind's powerful neural networks do instantiate a representation of the Breakout screen, this representation remains firmly anchored to raw pixels even at the higher levels of abstraction deep in the network. There is clearly no emergent understanding of the paddle as an actual object that can be moved. In other words, there is nothing close to a human-like comprehension of the material objects that the pixels on the screen represent or the physics that govern their movement. It's just pixels all the way down. While some AI researchers may continue to believe that a more comprehensive understanding might eventually emerge if only there were more layers of artificial neurons, running on faster hardware and consuming still more data, I think this is very unlikely. More fundamental innovations will be required before we begin to see machines with a more human-like conception of the world.

This general type of problem, in which an AI system is inflexible and unable to adapt to even small unexpected changes in its input data, is referred to, among researchers, as "brittleness." A brittle AI application may not be a huge problem if it results in a warehouse robot occasionally packing the wrong item into a box. In other applications, however, the same technical shortfall can be catastrophic. This explains, for example, why progress toward fully autonomous self-driving cars has not lived up to some of the more exuberant early predictions.

As these limitations came into focus toward the end of the decade, there was a gnawing fear that the field had once again gotten over its skis and that the hype cycle had driven expectations to unrealistic levels. In the tech media and on social media, one of the most terrifying phrases in the field of artificial intelligence—"AI winter"—was making a reappearance. In a January 2020 interview with the BBC, Yoshua Bengio said that "AI's abilities were somewhat overhyped . . . by certain companies with an interest in doing so."

My own view is that if another AI winter indeed looms, it's likely to be a mild one. Though the concerns about slowing progress are well founded, it remains true that over the past few years AI has been deeply integrated into the infrastructure and business models of the largest technology companies. These companies have seen significant returns on their massive investments in computing resources and AI talent, and they now view artificial intelligence as absolutely critical to their ability to compete in the marketplace. Likewise, nearly every technology startup is now, to some degree, investing in AI, and companies large and small in other industries are beginning to deploy the technology. This successful integration into the commercial sphere is vastly more significant than anything that existed in prior AI winters, and as a result the field benefits from an army of advocates throughout the corporate world and has a general momentum that will act to moderate any downturn.

There's also a sense in which the fall of scalability as the primary driver of progress may have a bright side. When there is a widespread belief that simply throwing more computing resources at a problem will produce important advances, there is significantly less incentive to invest in the much more difficult work of true innovation. This was arguably the case, for example, with Moore's Law. When there was near absolute confidence that computer speeds would double roughly every two years, the semiconductor industry tended to focus on cranking out ever faster versions of the same microprocessor designs from companies like Intel and Motorola. In recent years, the acceleration in raw computer speeds has become less reliable, and our traditional definition of Moore's Law is approaching its end game as the dimensions of the circuits imprinted on chips shrink to nearly atomic size. This has forced engineers to engage in more "out of the box" thinking, resulting in innovations such as software designed for massively parallel computing and entirely new chip architectures—many of which are optimized for the complex calculations required by deep neural networks. I think we can expect the same sort of idea explosion to happen in deep learning, and artificial intelligence more broadly, as the crutch of simply scaling to larger neural networks becomes a less viable path to progress.

Excerpted from "Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence will Transform Everything." Copyright 2021 Basic Books. Available from Basic Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.


Match ID: 119 Score: 14.29 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 4 days
qualifiers: 14.29 eu

An FBI Informant's Unlikely Role in Upcoming Supreme Court Case on Surveillance of Muslims
Sun, 12 Sep 2021 10:00:54 +0000

Craig Monteilh's affidavit is central to one of the most significant legal challenges to the FBI’s post-9/11 surveillance of Muslims.

The post An FBI Informant’s Unlikely Role in Upcoming Supreme Court Case on Surveillance of Muslims appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 120 Score: 12.86 source: theintercept.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 7.14 migrants, 5.71 eu

Ten Months After Senate Election Loss, Sara Gideon Still Has $10 Million in Unused Campaign Funds
Tue, 14 Sep 2021 15:36:34 +0000

The Maine Democrat used her 2020 U.S. Senate campaign to enrich the political establishment, and now she’s reaping the benefits.

The post Ten Months After Senate Election Loss, Sara Gideon Still Has $10 Million in Unused Campaign Funds appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 121 Score: 11.43 source: theintercept.com age: 5 days
qualifiers: 11.43 eu

Psychologists Are Learning What Religion Has Known for Years
Tue, 14 Sep 2021 13:00:00 +0000
Social scientists are researching what humans can do to improve their quality of life. Their findings echo what religious practices perfected centuries ago.
Match ID: 122 Score: 11.43 source: www.wired.com age: 5 days
qualifiers: 11.43 eu

Replay: Cosmic Kiss news conference
Thu, 09 Sep 2021 15:00:00 +0200
Video: 01:23:15

Watch the full replay of ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer’s pre-launch news conference at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany.

Held in both English and German on 9 September 2021, the conference covers ESA’s vision for human and robotic exploration as well as the science and operations Matthias will support on the International Space Station during his six-month Cosmic Kiss mission.

Cosmic Kiss is Matthias’s first space mission. He will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA as a member of US Commercial Crew-3 alongside @NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron.

While in orbit, Matthias will support over 35 European experiments and many more international experiments. He will also be the first European to perform a Russian spacewalk since Thomas Reiter in the 1990s. Knowledge gained through the Cosmic Kiss mission will shape the future of space exploration and help enhance life on Earth.

Conference panellists are: ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker, ESA International Space Station Programme Manager and Head of EAC Frank De Winne, Director General of @DLR and Member of the DLR Executive Board Walther Pelzer, and ESA Astronaut Matthias Maurer. This conference was moderated by ESA Communication Programme Officer for Human and Robotic Exploration Marco Trovatello.

Follow Matthias


Match ID: 123 Score: 11.43 source: www.esa.int age: 10 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 3.57 germany, 2.86 eu

How the Covid pandemic has led to more Channel crossings – video explainer
Thu, 19 Aug 2021 07:28:19 GMT

A record number of people are expected to cross the Channel to the UK in small boats this year to claim asylum. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, more than 10,000 people have already made the dangerous and potentially fatal 21-mile journey across the busiest shipping lane in the world. On 4 August, 482 migrants crossed the Channel – a record for a single day. 

The Guardian journalist Diane Taylor explains what is driving people to take the enormous risk

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Match ID: 124 Score: 11.43 source: www.theguardian.com age: 31 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 3.57 migrants, 2.86 eu

From Engineering Intern to Chairman of Tata
Fri, 10 Sep 2021 18:00:01 +0000


Photo of Natarajan Chandrasekaran Tata Sons

There was a time when managing the family farm in India would have been Natarajan "Chandra" Chandrasekaran's path, but his love of computer programming derailed that plan. After returning home from the Coimbatore Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in applied sciences, Chandra (as he likes to be called) tried his hand at farming but quickly realized it was not for him. His father—who had given up his own career as a lawyer to run the farm after his father died—encouraged Chandra to continue to pursue his passion for computers.

Today the IEEE senior member is chairman of Tata Sons, in Mumbai, India, the holding company for the Tata Group, which encompasses more than 30 businesses. They include chemical plants and consultancy services as well as hotels and steel mills. Chandra chairs the boards of several of the companies including Tata Motors, Tata Power, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and Tata Steel. The group employs more than 750,000 people around the world.

The Tata Group trading company was launched in 1868 by Jamsetji Tata. Regarded as the "father of Indian industry," Tata had a vision: to create a responsible company that serves the community. Chandra continues to support that mission by helping to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in India and finding ways to use technology to solve societal problems such as access to health care and education.

Chandra says the ability for his company to make a difference is the single most important thing to him.

"We make an impact on our employees, society, businesses, and—with our huge ecosystem—on the markets in which we operate," he says.

He adds that he enjoys working with smart people and "thinking about the future, whether it is about creating our businesses or making contributions to a sustainable world."

FROM ENGINEERING INTERN TO MANAGER

After graduating in 1986 from Coimbatore, in the state of Tamil Nadu, Chandra returned to run his family's farm in Mohanur, located in the state's Namakkal District. After breaking the news to his father that he would rather be a computer programmer than a farmer, Chandra entered a three-year postgraduate degree program to study computer science and its applications at the state's Regional Engineering College in Tiruchirappalli (now the National Institute of Technology).

An internship was required during the last semester. Chandra applied for an opening at TCS, an IT services company, which in 1986 was an up-and-coming firm with about 500 employees. Two months into the internship, the company offered him a job as an engineer after he graduated. He started working for TCS in 1987 and has never left the Tata Group.

During his nearly 35 years there, he rose through the ranks, switching from engineering to management in the 1990s. Since 1997 he has held senior-level positions in marketing and sales. From 1998 to 2007 he helped TCS grow its business around the world, including in China, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. In 2009 he was promoted to chief executive. He held that position until 2017, when he was appointed chairman of Tata Sons.

"The company gave me a lot of different roles, and as you do better then you get lucky," he says, laughing. "Most of the knowledge I picked up was on the job and by taking on different projects."

I believe very strongly that digital-physical integration is the way to solve societal problems

He learned management skills from coworkers as well as clients, he says.

"TCS not only has the smartest people working for it, but we also work with some of the best companies as clients," he says. "When you work with smart people, you learn. And when you work with demanding clients, you learn. Things rub off on you. My passion has always been to understand deeply what makes a difference to a customer."

He says he has always been willing to take on new duties but also never hesitated to ask for help.

"TCS has a very supportive culture," he says, "so whenever you have major issues with clients or businesses, you derive support."

GIVING BACK

With India's under-resourced health care system, Chandra says, he knew 2019's novel coronavirus could have a devastating effect on the country. Since April 2020 the Tata Group, including its philanthropic trusts, has committed more than US $200 million for COVID-related activities. That money has been used in a variety of ways, including building hospitals and increasing the capacity of existing ones by setting up COVID-19 wards and intensive-care units.

The oxygen that Tata Steel's mills use to convert iron and scrap metal into steel was diverted for medical use. At one point during the pandemic, Chandra says, the Tata Group provided 10 percent of the medical oxygen required in the country.

Once COVID-19 vaccines became available, the group started a massive campaign to inoculate its employees and their families.

"Helping is in our DNA," Chandra says of the affiliate companies in the group. "All of our CEOs have a culture of doing good for society."

Chandra says he often is asked when business will return to normal after the pandemic. He says it won't.

"We are not going back; we are going forward," he says. "While many things about COVID have been negative, there are many positives. COVID has moved the world forward in multiple dimensions. Number one is digital adoption. Number two: Everyone now recognizes the importance of sustainability, because we experienced how much we can dramatically change things, like air quality, in a relatively short period of time—especially in India.

"The pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of addressing key global existential risks that we may have treated more theoretically in the past.

"Also, the global supply chain cannot be concentrated in any one country. It must be designed for resilience."

TECH SOLUTIONS

Chandra says artificial intelligence and related technologies can help mankind tackle societal issues such as universal access to health care and a quality education. He outlined his ideas in Bridgital Nation: Solving Technology's People Problem, a 2019 book he coauthored with Roopa Purushothaman.

"I believe very strongly that digital-physical integration is the way to solve problems," he says. "Take a country like India—we have a shortage of everything. We have a shortage of doctors, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. We neither have the time nor the money to be able to build all the capacity we need."

For example, about two-thirds of India's citizens live in rural areas, he notes, but most of the doctors are in cities.

He says the solution is to use AI, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing to create a network of services that can be delivered where they are needed most. That would include telehealth and remote learning for people in rural areas.

Poverty could be reduced dramatically, he says, by using AI to increase the capabilities of low-skilled workers so they could perform higher-level jobs. He estimates more than 30 million jobs could be created by 2025. To help make that possible, in 2019 the Tata Group unveiled the Indian Institute of Skills, a joint initiative with the Ministry of Skills Development and the Indian government that provides vocational training.

The Tata Group also offers programs that encourage students to pursue STEM careers around the world, and it has launched worldwide adult literacy programs. There are also programs focused on encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs and enter the tech field.

Chandra says he is concerned about his employees' well-being. An avid runner, he was the inspiration behind the company's Fit4Life program. It encourages employees to be physically active and give back to their community.

"One is for the body, the other one is for the soul," he says.

CAREER ADVICE

Now is the most exciting time to be an engineer, he says.

"There are so many opportunities," he says, "because the pace of change is huge and technology development is huge."

He encourages those starting out to "go after what you're passionate about and what excites you. People will live longer, so careers are not going to be over at the age of 60." What's more, he says, "people will probably have two, three, or four careers in their lifetime, so it's a long game. If you're going to work 30, 40, 50 years or even longer, you should enjoy the process."

The top skill he says everyone should have is the ability to continue to learn. That's why he renews his IEEE membership, he says.

Chandra became a member in 1987 because TCS required its professional employees to join a society. His colleagues recommended IEEE because, they said, he would become more knowledgeable about engineering and cutting-edge technology by reading its publications.

"Even reading just one article could go a long way," they told him.

He remains a member, he says with a laugh, "because I still have to learn."

"It's not about just learning what skills I need," he says. "It is about opening up my mind."


Match ID: 125 Score: 7.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 9 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

Selection begins | ESA’s next astronauts
Fri, 10 Sep 2021 12:00:00 +0200
Video: 00:03:30

Work is under way to sort and assess applications from more than 22 500 ESA astronaut hopefuls. The rigorous selection process will take around 18 months. Initial screening to ensure that basic criteria are met will be followed by medical and psychological tests, exercises and interviews.

ESA plans to recruit 4-6 new astronauts through this 2021-22 selection round to support the future of European space exploration. This is likely to include missions to the International Space Station as well as the Moon. As part of the selection process, ESA is also assessing the feasibility of flying an astronaut with a physical disability.

More information about the ESA Astronaut Selection is available online at https://esa.int/YourWayToSpace


Match ID: 126 Score: 7.86 source: www.esa.int age: 9 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

With New Roomba j7, iRobot Wants to Understand Our Homes
Thu, 09 Sep 2021 14:23:53 +0000


The power that computer vision has gained over the last decade or so has been astonishing. Thanks to machine learning techniques applied to large datasets of images and video, it's now much easier for robots to recognize (if not exactly understand) the world around them, and take intelligent (or at least significantly less unintelligent) actions based on what they see. This has empowered sophisticated autonomy in cars, but we haven't yet seen it applied to home robots, mostly because there aren't a lot of home robots around. Except, of course, robot vacuums.

Today, iRobot is announcing the j7, which the company calls its "most thoughtful robot vacuum." The reason they call it that is because in a first for Roombas, the j7 has a front-facing visible light camera along with the hardware and software necessary to identify common floor-level obstacles and react to them in an intelligent way. This enables some useful new capabilities for the j7 in the short term, but it's the long-term potential for a camera-equipped in-home machine-learning platform that we find really intriguing. If, that is, iRobot can manage to make their robots smarter while keeping our data private at the same time.


Here's the new iRobot j7. Note that the j7+ is the version with the automatic dirt dock, but that when we're talking about the robot itself, it's just j7.

Roomba® j7 Robot Vacuum Product Overview www.youtube.com

Obviously, the big news here on the hardware side is the camera, and we're definitely going to talk about that, especially since it enables software features that are unique to the j7. But iRobot is also releasing a major (and free) software update for all Roombas, called Genius 3.0. A year ago, we spoke with iRobot about their shift from autonomy to human-robot collaboration when it comes to home robot interaction, and and Genius 3.0 adds some useful features based on this philosophy, including:

  • Clean While I'm Away: with your permission, the iRobot app will use your phone's location services to start cleaning when you leave the house, and pause cleaning when you return.
  • Cleaning Time Estimates: Roombas with mapping capability will now estimate how long a job will take them.
  • Quiet Drive: If you ask a Roomba to clean a specific area not adjacent to its dock, it will turn off its vacuum motor on the way there and the way back so as not to bother you more than it has to. For what it's worth, this has been the default behavior for Neato robots for years.

Broadly, this is part of iRobot's push to get people away from using the physical "Clean" button to just tackle every room at once, and to instead have a robot clean more frequently and in more targeted ways, like by vacuuming specific rooms at specific times that make sense within your schedule. This is a complicated thing to try to do, because every human is different, and that means that every home operates differently, leading to the kind of uncertainty that robots tend not to be great at.

"The operating system for the home already exists," iRobot CEO Colin Angle tells us. "It's completely organic, and humans live it every day." Angle is talking about the spoken and unspoken rules that you have in your home. Some of them might be obvious, like whether you wear shoes indoors. Some might be a little less obvious, like which doors tend to stay open and which ones are usually closed, or which lights are on or off and when. Some rules we're acutely aware of, and some are more like established habits that we don't want to change. "Robots, and technology in general, didn't have enough context to follow rules in the home," Angle says. "But that's no longer true, because we know where rooms are, we know what kind of day it is, and we know a lot about what's going on in the home. So, we should take this on, and start building technology that follows house rules."

The reason why it's important for home robots to learn and follow rules this is because they're annoying, and iRobot has data to back this up: "The most lethal thing to a Roomba is a human being annoyed by its noise," Angle tells us. In other words, the most common reason Roombas don't complete jobs is because a human cancels it partway through. iRobot, obviously, would prefer that its robots did not annoy you, and Genius 3.0 is trying to make that happen by finding ways for cleaning to happen in a rule-respecting manner.

"Alignment of expectation is incredibly important—if the robot doesn't do what you expect, you're going to be upset, the robot's going to take the abuse, and we really want to protect the mental well-being of our robots." -Colin Angle

Of course, very few people want to actually program all of these fiddly little human-centric schedules into their Roombas, which is too bad, because that would be the easiest way to solve a very challenging problem: understanding what a human would like a robot to do at any given time. Thanks to mapping and app connectivity, Roombas may have a much better idea of what's going on in the home than they used to, but humans are complicated and our homes and lives are complicated, too. iRobot is expanding ways in which it uses smart home data to influence the operation of its robots. Geofencing to know when you're home or not is one example of this, but it's easy to imagine other ways in which this could work. For instance, if your Roomba is vacuuming, and you get a phone call, it would be nice if the robot was clever enough to pause what it was doing until your call was done, right?

"It's absolutely all about these possibilities," Angle says. "It's about understanding more and more elements. How does your robot know if you're on the phone? What about if someone else is on the phone? Or if the kids are playing on the floor, maybe you don't want your robot to vacuum, but if they're playing but not on the floor, it's okay. Understanding the context of all of that and how it goes together is really where I think the differentiating features will be. But we're starting with what's most important and what will make the biggest change for users, and then we can customize from there."

"Having this idea of house rules, and starting to capture high level preferences as to what your smart home is, how it's supposed to behave, and enabling that with a continuously updating and transferable set of knowledge—we think this is a big, big deal." -Colin Angle

Unfortunately, the possibilities for customization rapidly start to get tricky from a privacy perspective. We'll get to the potential privacy issues with j7's front-facing camera in a little bit, but as we think about ways in which robots could better understand us, it's all about data. The more data that you give a home robot, the better it'll be able to fit into your life, but that might involve some privacy compromises, like sharing your location data, or giving a company access to information about your home, including, with the j7, floor level imagery of wherever you want vacuumed.

Photo of an iRobot Roomba j7 detecting a cord on the ground.

The j7 is not iRobot's first Roomba with a camera. It's also not iRobot's first Roomba with a front-facing sensor. It is iRobot's first Roomba with a front-facing visible light camera, though, which means a lot of things, most of them good.

The flagship feature with the j7 is that it can use its front-facing camera to recognize and react to specific objects in the home. This includes basic stuff like making maps and understanding what kind of room it's in based on what furniture it sees. It also more complicated things. For one, the j7 can identify and avoid headphones and power cords. It can also recognize shoes and socks (things that are most commonly found on floors), plus its own dock. And it can spot pet waste, because there's nothing more unpleasant than a Roomba shoving poo all over a floor that you were hoping to have cleaned.

Getting these object detection algorithms involved a huge amount of training, and iRobot has internally collected and labeled more than a million images from more than a thousand homes around the world. Including, of course, images of poo.

"This is one of those stupid, glorious things. I don't know how many hundreds of models of poo we created out of Play-Doh and paint, and everyone [at iRobot] with a dog was instructed to take pictures whenever their dog pooed. And we actually made synthetic models of poo to try to further grow our database." -Colin Angle

Angle says that iRobot plans to keep adding more and more things that the j7 can recognize; they actually have more than 170 objects that they're working on right now, but just these four (shoes, socks, cords, and poo) are at a point where iRobot is confident enough to deploy the detectors on consumer robots. Cords in particular are impressive, especially when you start to consider how difficult it is to detect a pair of white Apple headphones on a white carpet, or a black power cord running across a carpet with a pattern of black squiggly lines all across it. This, incidentally, is why the j7 has a front LED on it: improving cord detection.

Photo of Roomba j7 detecting a cord and asking a user whether to always avoid that spot.

So far, all of this stuff is done entirely on-robot—the robot is doing object detection internally, as opposed to sending images to the cloud to be identified. But for more advanced behaviors, images do have to leave the robot, which is going to be a (hopefully small) privacy compromise. One advanced behavior is for the robot to send you a picture of an obstacle on the ground and ask you if you'd like to create a keep-out zone around that obstacle. If it's something temporary, like a piece of clothing that you're going to pick up, you'd tell the robot to avoid it this time but vacuum there next time. If it's a power strip, you'd tell the robot to avoid it permanently. iRobot doesn't get to see the pictures that the robot sends you as part of this process, but it does have to travel from the robot through a server and onto your phone, and while it's end-to-end encrypted, that does add a bit of potential risk that Roombas didn't have before.

One way that iRobot is trying to mitigate this privacy risk is to run a separate on-robot human detector. The job of the human detector is to identify images with humans in them, and make sure they get immediately deleted without going anywhere. I asked whether this is simply a face detector, or whether it could also detect (say) someone's butt after they'd just stepped out of the shower, and I was assured that it could recognize and delete human forms as well.

If you're less concerned about privacy and want to help iRobot make your Roomba (and every other Roomba) smarter, these obstacle queries that the robot sends you will also include the option to anonymously share the image with iRobot. This is explicitly opt-in, but iRobot is hoping that people will be willing to participate.

The camera and software is obviously what's most interesting here, but I suppose we can spare a few sentences for the j7's design. A beveled edge around the robot makes it a little better at not getting stuck under things, and the auto-emptying clean base has been rearranged (rotated 90 degrees, in fact) to make it easier to fit under things.

Interestingly, the j7 is not a new flagship Roomba for iRobot—that honor still belongs to the s9, which has a bigger motor and a structured light 3D sensor at the front rather than a visible light camera. Apparently when the s9 was designed, iRobot didn't feel like cameras were quite good enough for what they wanted to do, especially with the s9's D-shape making precision navigation more difficult. But at this point, Angle says that the j7 is smarter, and will do better than the s9 in more complex home environments. I asked him to elaborate a bit:

I believe that the primary sensor for a robot should be a vision system. That doesn't mean that stereo vision isn't cool too, and there might be some things where some 3D range sensing can be helpful as a crutch. But I would tell you that in the autonomous car industry, turn the dial forward enough and you won't have scanning lasers. You'll just have vision. I think [lidar] is going to be necessary for a while, just because the stakes of screwing up with an autonomous driving car are just so high. But I'm saying that the end state of an autonomous driving car is going to be all about vision. And based on the world that Roombas live in, I think the end state of a Roomba is going to be a hundred percent vision sooner than autonomous cars. There's a question of can you extract depth from monocular vision well enough, or do we need to use stereo or something else while we're figuring that out, because ultimately, we want to pick stuff up. We want to manipulate the environment. And having rich 3D models of the world is going to be really important.

IEEE Spectrum: Can you tell me more about picking stuff up and manipulating the environment?

Colin Angle: Nope! I would just say, it's really exciting to watch us get closer to the day where manipulation will make sense in the home, because we're starting to know where stuff is, which is kind of the precursor for manipulation to start making any sense. In my prognostication or prediction mode, I would say that we're certainly within 10 years of seeing the first consumer robots with some kind of manipulation.

IEEE Spectrum: Do you feel like home cleaning robots have already transitioned from being primarily differentiated by better hardware to being primarily differentiated by better software?

Colin Angle: I'm gonna say that we're there, but I don't know whether the consumer realizes that we're there. And so we're in this moment where it's becoming true, and yet it's not generally understood to be true. Software is rapidly growing in its importance and ultimately will become the primary decision point in what kind of robots consumers want.

Finally, I asked Angle about what the capability for collecting camera data in users' homes means long-term. The context here has parallels with autonomous cars: One of the things that enabled the success of autonomous cars was the collection and analysis of massive amounts of data, but we simply don't have ways of collecting in-home data at that scale. Arguably, the j7 is the first camera-equipped mobile robot that's likely to see distribution into homes on any kind of appreciable scale, which could potentially provide an enormous amount of value to a company like iRobot. But can we trust iRobot to handle that data responsibly? Here is what Angle has to say:

The word 'responsibly' is a super important word. A big difference between outside and inside is that the inside of a home is a very private place, it's your sanctuary. A good way for us to really screw this up is to overreach, so we're airing on the side of full disclosure and caution. We've pledged that we'll never sell your data, and we try to retain only the data that are useful and valuable to doing the job that we're doing.

We believe that as we unlock new things that we could do, if we only had the data, we can then generate that data with user permission fairly quickly, because we have one of the largest installed fleets of machine learning capable devices in the world—we're getting close to double digit millions a year of Roombas sold, and that's pretty cool. So I think that there's a way to do this where we are trust-first, and if we can get permission to use data by offering a benefit, we could pretty rapidly grow our data set.

Hero image of iRobot Roomba j7+ with automatic dirt dock.

The iRobot j7 will be available in Europe and the United States within the next week or so for $650. The j7+, which includes the newly redesigned automatic dirt dock, will run you $850. And the Genius 3.0 software should now be available to all Roombas via an app update today.


Match ID: 127 Score: 7.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 10 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

International Space Station: Smoke triggers alert on board
Thu, 09 Sep 2021 08:21:03 GMT
The alarm went off as the space station's batteries were being charged, Russia's space agency says.
Match ID: 128 Score: 7.86 source: www.bbc.co.uk age: 10 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

Watch live: Matthias Maurer speaks to media in Europe
Wed, 08 Sep 2021 14:34:00 +0200
Matthias Maurer pictured in the American EMU spacesuit

ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer will soon be launched to the International Space Station for his first mission, ‘Cosmic Kiss’. Tune in to ESA Web TV from 9:00 CEST (8:00 BST) to 10:00 CEST (9:00 BST) Thursday 9 September to watch his pre-launch news conference and learn what awaits him in orbit. 


Match ID: 129 Score: 7.86 source: www.esa.int age: 11 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

Drop tests for touchdown on Mars
Fri, 03 Sep 2021 11:00:00 +0200
Video: 00:06:16

The ExoMars team have performed important parachute drop tests as crucial preparation for a safe touchdown on Mars in 2023. The European Rosalind Franklin rover will search for signs of past life beneath the surface of Mars with its unique two metre drill and onboard laboratory. The Russian surface science platform Kazachok will study the environment at the landing site. Landing on Mars is always a challenging endeavour and all possible parameters are taken into account.

More information on ExoMars: http://www.esa.int/exomars


Match ID: 130 Score: 7.86 source: www.esa.int age: 16 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

Nauka's Troubled Flight—Before It Tumbled the ISS
Thu, 26 Aug 2021 15:30:00 +0000


This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

Any hopes that the space agencies in Houston and Moscow had for tamping down public concerns over the International Space Station's recent tumble in orbit were lost last week as new revelations from Moscow confirmed worst-case rumors.

The ISS's tumble was caused by the inadvertent firing of maneuvering thrusters on the newly arrived Nauka Russian research module (referred to as the MLM module by NASA). But it's become clear that the module had been lurching from crisis to crisis during its weeks-long flight before it rendezvoused and docked at the space station. This is raising concerns about exactly how much NASA knew and when, given the stringent safety requirements normally in place that any visiting vehicle must meet before being allowed to approach the station.

This and other questions have been raised as the last two weeks have seen a remarkable and surprising degree of Russian openness, especially as compared to NASA's. Some of that transparency has also surfaced an interesting coincidence (at minimum) involving a spaceflight-themed movie potentially being filmed aboard Nauka that at least complicates but also perhaps begins to explain some of the curious components of this near-disaster's chronology.

Here's the outline:

First, Alexander Khokhlov, a Russian space expert and member of the private Russian Federation of Cosmonautics, had told the RIA Novosti news agency that several emergency situations had occurred on the Nauka during the flight to the ISS, but that Russian specialists managed to cope with "most" of them.

According to him, systems that had significant problems included the infrared sensors which determine the local horizon, the radar antenna that feeds into the automated Kurs rendezvous system, and the Kurs system itself. He also had described a "severe emergency" with the propulsion system. A number of these failures were subsequently confirmed by the European Space Agency while NASA remained silent.

Then on August 7, Dmitry Rogozin, General Director of Roscosmos, spoke with RIA Novosti about the problems of building the Nauka space module. And on the YouTube channel "Soloviev LIVE" (typically noted for its hosts hewing to the official government line), Rogozin singled out the shutting down of a Ukrainian aerospace factory as creating "predictable difficulties in the flight" of Nauka. In Soviet days, this factory used to make an accordion-like bellows used in the propellant tanks to separate the pressurizing gas from the liquid fuel as it was pushed into the engines. In Rogozin's words, "We understood that we would have to spend, in fact, all eight days in manual control of both the flight of this module and the docking. And indeed we had problems there" While the exact details are unclear, it looks like the Russians were worried that accidental leaks across the propellant/pressurant barrier would frustrate automatic real-time management of propellant flow into the module's rocket engines, and instead required direct valve commanding from ground stations.

When asked about such reports last week, a NASA spokesman in Houston had simply said that "Roscosmos regularly updated NASA and the rest of the international partners on MLM's progress during the approach to station" but gave no details and referred all inquiries about Russian hardware issues to Moscow. "We would point you to Roscosmos for any specifics on MLM systems/performance/procedures."

Large screens show a blue and green world map and close ups of space vehicles in front of rows of people in front of computer screens. Moscow Mission Control CenterRoscosmos

On August 13, RIA Novosti reported that 61-year-old Deputy General Designer of the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation Alexander Kuznetsov, the senior Russian space official in direct charge of the Nauka module, had been hospitalized with a stroke immediately after the docking. He was, however, soon released—although a few days later was hospitalized again. The agency attributed the stroke to "the colossal tension" and that "Kuznetsov, along with other specialists and members of the state commission, spent all eight days of the module's flight at the Mission Control Center, practically without leaving the premises."

On August 14, RIA Novosti confirmed that "mass failures of the systems of the Nauka module… arose after it was put into low-earth orbit and threatened a serious emergency." But the story was upbeat: According to a "source in the rocket and space industry," these problems "were eliminated thanks to the continuous work of ground specialists for eight days, the revision of the module's flight task and the creation of an emergency working group of the best experts in the industry."

The story's chronology of challenges was daunting: "The main problems of the first two days of the flight of the Nauka module were: the failure of the flight program and the operation of one of the fuel valves, the problem of transmitting the command package on board from the ground measuring complexes, the absence of a signal from two sensors of the infrared vertical [sensor] and from one of the two star sensors." The story described how Mission Control Center director Vladimir Solovyov immediately reported on the critical situation to the general director of the Roskosmos state corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, who took direct control of the module's flight.

Communication between the Moscow Mission Control Center—"TsUP" in Russian—was too uncertain, so "engineers of the Russian Space Systems holding were promptly dispatched to all ground measuring points, who coped with the task of stable transmission of commands to the module and receiving telemetric information from it."

On July 23, a working group was created by Rogozin to save the troubled module. The group was headed by Sergey Kuznetsov, General Designer of the Salyut Design Bureau and included representatives of the Keldysh Center, the developers of Nauka.

Starting from July 25, the main and backup sets of the Kurs rendezvous and docking system were successfully tested, the fuel reserves required for the rendezvous were recalculated, a new docking scheme was calculated taking into account the strength of the station and the module (the maximum docking speed was limited to 8 centimeters per second), and the stable operation of both star sensors, responsible for the exact orientation of the Nauka, was restored.

These ad-hoc fixes raise the issue of how much did those rushed and admittedly often poorly coordinated ground station commanding and flight software reprogramming initiatives themselves contribute to the potential for onboard "software glitches" such as the still-undefined one now blamed for the renegade thruster firing that tumbled the station? And what is the actual current status and residual content level of the propellant tanks aboard Nauka, given the official descriptions of major monitoring function loss during the rendezvous maneuvers?

Large square solar panels stick out from cylindrical white and brown modules in space. An inset black and white screen shows numerical information. Roscosmos

In any case, the parade of details of the problems overcome during the pre-docking phase of the mission stands in stark contrast to the Russian press treatment of the post-docking thruster firing incident. On August 4 there had been one interview with former cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, executive director for manned programs of Roscosmos. on Russia 24 TV channel:

"The module, apparently, itself could not believe that it had already docked, so when the control system of the module was [reinitialized], the control system decided that it was still in free flight—and, not understanding what was happening, for safety, an algorithm was triggered, turning on the motors … This, of course, should not have happened. The commission is now examining the reasons for this…. The station is a rather delicate device ... Everything was done as lightly as possible. And the additional load causes a load on the [motor] drives of solar batteries, on the [frames] on which everything is installed…. This is an emergency situation that will need to be analyzed in detail… There are probably no damages ... Nothing broke off from the station, I can reassure you, but the extent to which we have loaded the station, what are the consequences, it will now be assessed by experts."

But, aside from these candid comments from Krikalev, the thruster firing became a non-event, except in brief press references to a short interlude in which the "station temporarily lost its orientation." That wording, more suggestive of an addled old man who felt dizzy than of an enormous structure doing a full tumble and a half with counter-thrusting rocket engines shoving at it in totally unexpected directions, recalled the laconic NASA press release after the near-catastrophic Mir fire in 1997: "Small Fire Put Out on Mir."

NASA's narrative-control lid in 1997 was so tight that Jerry Linenger—who'd been aboard Mir in 1997 and considered the incident a very narrow brush with death—later recalled how he was forced to send accurate accounts of that emergency to his wife via a data stick carried by a returning German visiting cosmonaut, since he knew all official messages (including family emails) were being monitored.

Perhaps an echo of that NASA policy is detectable today: Since the Nauka docking, nobody on the US side—three US crew members, a French astronaut, and the Japanese station commander—has been seen to tweet any mention of the dramatic tumble and recovery on docking day. Their public message traffic looks as if the incident never happened.

As the month of August passes, parallel review boards in the United States and Russia are at work behind closed doors. On August 9, NASA ISS program manager Joel Montalbano told journalist Jeff Foust on a Facebook discussion thread that it's a "little too early" to set a timeline for the investigation. NASA is in "regular communications" with Russian colleagues on this, he said. Montalbano also told US specialist on the Russian space program Marcia Smith that they "may have more to say in 2-3 weeks."

If the dramatic launch and trouble-plagued rendezvous of Nauka looks slapdash premature—a bizarre notion for a feat that was originally planned for fifteen years ago—there is one intriguingly suggestive schedule-driver that is only weeks in the future.

A routine launch of the next long-term Russian crew had long been slated for early October. Called "Soyuz MS-19," it was to carry three professional Russian cosmonauts who had been training for at least a year. But several months ago there was a redirection of the mission and the crew.

Two of the three cosmonauts were bumped from the mission and replaced by a movie actor and a director/cameraman, as part of a commercial project to make a spaceflight-themed movie in space.

The project reportedly has high level backing by powerful figures in Moscow, including in the Kremlin, as well as overseas investors.

Even more significant than political favoritism, however, is the simple question of cash. Since the mid-1990s, the influx of foreign funding for the Russian space industry has been a cash cow for space program officials and their political protectors.

Aside from rented official approvals, this first-of-its-kind movie project has been developed and the scene lists tailored specifically to the Nauka module. Nauka contains the living quarters for the extra visitors, the laboratory unit to simulate an in-space operating room (the movie's main theme), and high-quality viewports for spectacular imagery of Earth below.

The potential relevance for any putative urgency to launch Nauka, ready or not, is that it had to occur at least several weeks before this MS-19 mission, or the wrong people would have been aboard the Soyuz, and long-term crew activity planning was not subject to revision. The choice might have been go now, or wait another year for the cash commissions the movie project would have generated. Or the timing could just be a coincidence, just one more unanswered question in an orbital drama of mystery and misdirection.


Match ID: 131 Score: 7.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 24 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

Film and cultures
Wed, 25 Aug 2021 14:23:00 +0200
Image:

Samples of the Biofilms experiment are headed to the International Space Station on the SpaceX CR23 cargo resupply mission this weekend to help maintain astronaut and material safety in space. 

A common piece of advice of the past 18 months has been to make sure you wash your hands thoroughly. This is because microorganisms are easily spread across common surfaces like door handles and light switches, and it is no less true in space. The Space Station is, after all, a lab as well as a home to astronauts. It is especially important to keep this environment safe for the long-term health of astronauts and equipment on board.

Funded by ESA and developed by the Chair of Functional Materials at Saarland University and the Working Group for Aerospace Microbiology at German Aerospace Center DLR, Biofilms will test the antimicrobial properties of laser-structured metal surfaces such as steel, copper and brass under microgravity conditions.

But what is biofilm? When growing on surfaces, bacteria can ooze a mixture of microbial structures such as proteins and lipids. The biofilm is what makes microbes resistant to antibiotics and disinfectants. Left to grow, biofilm can be hard to clean and can erode surfaces, especially metals.

To combat microbial growth, Biofilms will test the growth of bacteria such as human skin-associated bacteria Staphylococcus capitis with a novel approach. The innovation of the experiment lies in the structured surfaces of common metals. Using Direct Laser Interference Patterning (DLIP) to add texture to the surfaces, researchers will study how well microbes grow (or not) on copper, metal and steel. Findings could help prevent microbial contamination in space.

Researchers performed a dry run of the experiment on Earth and all parameters, including hardware provided by Kayser Italia, checked out. The experiment will soon take center stage in space, where 24 experiment cultures will grow in the European Columbus module of the Space Station.


Match ID: 132 Score: 7.86 source: www.esa.int age: 25 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

The New Supersonic Boom
Mon, 16 Aug 2021 15:00:00 +0000


On 9 April 1945, less than a month before the end of hostilities in Europe, a young Luftwaffe pilot named Hans Guido Mutke put his jet-propelled Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter-bomber into a steep dive, intending to come to the aid of a fellow airman below. As the Messerschmitt accelerated downward, the plane began to shake violently, and the controls became unresponsive. Mutke managed to regain control and lived to describe the incident, in which he later laid claim to having exceeded the speed of sound, a controversial but plausible assertion.

This and similar episodes during and after World War II led some to believe that aircraft would have great difficulty ever "breaking the sound barrier"—a phrase that led to a popular misconception that there is some kind of brick wall in the sky that a plane must pierce to fly at supersonic speeds.


Image of Chuck Yeager piloting the Bell X-1 rocket plane in 1947. Piloting the bullet-shaped Bell X-1 rocket plane in 1947, Chuck Yeager became the first person to exceed the speed of sound while in horizontal flight.Everett Collection/Alamy

The aircraft that unquestionably tore down that metaphorical wall was the Bell X-1, a bullet-shaped experimental rocket-plane. In October of 1947, test pilot Chuck Yeager coaxed his bright orange X-1 to a speed that slightly exceeded that of sound while the plane was in horizontal flight, although the U.S. Air Force didn't officially announce the feat until the following year.

Since then, jets have been regularly exceeding Mach 1—shorthand for the speed of sound in the surrounding air. Even the Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainer, introduced in 1959, could do so. And some military jets can fly much faster. The SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft, which first flew in the 1960s, can travel at better than Mach 3.

Although military aircraft were breaking the sound barrier daily during the 1950s and '60s, commercial passenger flights during this time remained limited to subsonic speeds. That situation didn't change until early in 1976, with the first scheduled flights of the French-British Concorde supersonic airliner, which could reach Mach 2. The Soviet Union's Tupolev TU-144, which could fly just as fast and had been used to transport mail and freight the previous year, began carrying passengers in 1977.

It would have been reasonable to project that we'd all be zooming around the globe at supersonic speeds by now. But, of course, we're not.

At the time, it would have been reasonable to project that we'd all be zooming around the globe at supersonic speeds by now. But, of course, we're not. The Concorde last flew nearly two decades ago. Today's airliners travel no faster than their counterparts of 60 years ago—indeed, they tend to fly somewhat slower to reduce fuel costs.

Now, several aircraft manufacturers and NASA are intent on ushering in a new era of supersonic commercial aviation. They're preparing prototypes for flight and they've got designs for full-blown airliners capable of carrying scores of passengers. And this time, their biggest challenge probably won't be the sonic booms, which backers insist they can adequately address. The main obstacles will be regulatory and, especially, environmental: Supersonic airliners could be hugely more polluting than their subsonic counterparts.

Are we nevertheless on the cusp of a new, golden age of high-speed commercial aviation? Will people soon be jetting across the Pacific in three hours? To answer those questions requires a deeper understanding of what went on, and what went wrong, during that first push to develop supersonic airliners more than a half century ago.

Image of the Concorder airliner, taking flight during a test flight in 1970. The Concorde, shown here at the start of a test flight in 1970, was particularly noisy, both during takeoff and when exceeding the speed of sound, which subjected people below to the loud double bang of its sonic boom.AP

In 1956, nine years after Yeager's history-making flight, the U.K. government established a Supersonic Transport Advisory Committee, which began discussions with international partners about building a supersonic airliner. And in 1962 the French and British governments forged an agreement to cooperate in the development of what soon became known as the Concorde. The sleek delta-winged airliner made its first supersonic test flight in 1969.

Although the United States chose not to participate in the development of the Concorde, in 1963 President John F. Kennedy announced plans to develop a U.S. supersonic airliner. Shortly afterward, the federal government issued a contract to Boeing, which had prevailed over Lockheed and others in a design competition, to develop such a plane.

Meanwhile, environmentalists were voicing concern—about how noisy such aircraft are taking off, about the possibility that their high-altitude emissions would erode the ozone layer, and about how disruptive the sonic booms would be. The last of these issues was perhaps the most vexing, prompting the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to mount various exercises to gauge how the public would react to sonic booms.

The most extensive such experiment took place over Oklahoma City in 1964. For months, supersonic aircraft flew over the city, eight times a day, seven days a week, at unpredictable times but always during daylight hours. Dominic Maglieri, an expert on sonic booms whose career began in the early 1950s, recalls the results of those months-long tests.

"It looked as though people were kind of acclimating to it," says Maglieri. "But as it went on that changed—considerably: Pretty soon they were getting thousands of calls and complaints." Some of that negative feedback included demands for compensation, says Maglieri, including one from the owner of a palatial home who claimed that a sonic boom had cracked his marble floors.

A table of data showing the boom dates for sonic room damage. The 1964 Oklahoma City tests involved more than 1,000 flights, which sparked more than 15,000 complaints, as documented in a 1971 report prepared by the National Bureau of Standards.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Clearly, nobody would accept stone-fracturing sonic booms. Those objections added to the concerns environmentalists were raising about the ozone layer—a scenario seemingly justified a few years later by MIT researchers, who concluded that a future fleet of 500 supersonic airliners would deplete the ozone layer by 16 percent.

Despite strong support from the FAA, the airline industry, and aerospace companies, the U.S. Senate ceased funding the development of a supersonic airliner in 1971. Two years later, the FAA banned supersonic flight over land, a prohibition that remains to this day.

The Concorde went on to serve various destinations, including some in the United States, flying at supersonic speeds only over water. That continued until 2003, when British Airways and Air France retired their fleets, together amounting to just 12 aircraft. (Fourteen production aircraft were manufactured, but one was scrapped in 1994 and another crashed in 2000.)

While the Concorde successfully overcame the technical hurdles standing in the way of supersonic passenger service, it succumbed to economics: The cost of fuel and maintenance was especially high for these planes. A new generation of aeronautical engineers and entrepreneurs are, however, keen to once again take on the technical, environmental, and economic challenges.

It's perhaps unsurprising that the 21st-century push for supersonic travel is being led by newcomers rather than established manufacturers. The best-funded of this group is Denver-based Boom Technology (which also goes by the trade name Boom Supersonic).

Rendering of Boom Technology's Overture airliner in the sky. This artist's rendering shows Boom Technology's future Overture airliner, which will be able to carry as many as 88 people.Boom Supersonic

In 2016, while it was still in Y Combinator's startup incubation program, Boom got a big shot in the arm from the Virgin Group, which offered engineering support and optioned the first 10 of Boom's airliners. (More recently, Virgin Galactic has been designing a supersonic airliner of its own.) Virgin's interest in this sphere shouldn't be surprising: 13 years earlier, the group's founder Sir Richard Branson attempted, unsuccessfully, to purchase the seven Concorde airliners British Airways was retiring, for use by Virgin Atlantic.

Boom went on to garner more than US $150 million from various venture funds and Japan Airlines. It has used that money to build a one-third scale prototype, called the XB-1, of an airliner that will be able to carry as many as 88 passengers. The company expects commercial flights of the larger plane, which it calls Overture, to begin in 2029.

What these aircraft manufacturers are contending is that their eventual customers are going to be willing to pay to prevent net carbon emissions.

Boom is emphasizing its plans to mitigate the environmental impacts that inevitably arise with supersonic flight. Testifying to a House subcommittee on aviation this past April, Boom's CEO, Blake Scholl, noted that, "sustainable aviation fuels, or SAF, are key to Overture sustainability, and we are designing Overture from the ground up to run on 100 percent SAF, enabling net-zero-carbon flight." In preparation, Boom has investigated the use of biofuels in the engines of its XB-1 demonstrator, and it has partnered with Prometheus Fuels, which will provide the XB-1 with jet fuel synthesized using carbon extracted from the atmosphere using renewable energy.

Boom has stated that its plane will go supersonic only over water. Even so, the company is " shaping the aircraft optimally for sonic-boom reduction," according to its website. In a similar vein, another startup, Boston-based Spike Aerospace, is stressing that its planned S-512 supersonic business jet is "aerodynamically designed to offer proprietary Quiet Supersonic Flight Technology. This will enable it to operate at its full cruising speed of Mach 1.6 (1,100 miles per hour) without producing a loud, disturbing sonic boom on the ground." Ditto for California-based Exosonic, which claims that the supersonic airliner it has on the drawing board "will create a softer thump on the ground that will be quieter than typical traffic."

Rendering of NASA's X-59 aircraft flying in the sky. This artist's rendering depicts NASA's X-59 low-noise demonstrator aircraft, now being constructed by Lockheed Martin.Lockheed Martin

This is exactly the strategy that NASA is exploring with an experimental aircraft called the X-59 QueSST, that name being a contraction of sorts of "quiet supersonic technology." Lockheed-Martin Corp. is right now constructing the X-59 at its famed Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, Calif.

"I used to joke that the airplane looked like an F 16 on steroids," says David Richwine, NASA's deputy project manager for technology on the X-59. "It's a long airplane—I think it's around 97 feet long." Richwine explains that adding length is one of the ways to "manage the sonic-boom signature," which is an engineer's way of saying to make the sound less jarring.

How successful NASA is in doing so will be tested as soon as 2024, when the X-59 is flown over a small set of U.S. cities to gauge the public's reactions to what Richwine expects to be a "sonic thump." Assuming this campaign takes place on schedule, it'll be 60 years after the FAA's Oklahoma City tests. Get your marble floors ready.

Interestingly, the company that was working the hardest to reduce the sonic-boom effects from a supersonic jet it was developing, Aerion Corp., now appears to be going out of business. The company, based in Reno, Nev., was founded by billionaire Robert Bass in 2003.

Aerion's initial foray into commercial supersonic commercial aircraft was to be a 12-passenger business jet, the AS2, designed to have a top speed of Mach 1.4. The company was exploring the possibility of flying the AS2 in a fashion that would allow it to travel at supersonic speeds over land without subjecting the people below to a sonic boom. "Boomless Cruise" was Aerion's name for the technology.

Although we won't get to see it in action with Aerion's AS2, another supersonic hopeful might yet pursue this intriguing strategy, which merits a brief description.

Illustration of hot and cold air for slow and fast supersonic flight during Mach Cutoff. The phenomenon of Mach cutoff requires that the air near the ground be warmer and that the plane fly not too much faster than the speed of sound. Its sonic boom would then travel downward at a shallow angle and be refracted sufficiently to stay away from the ground [left]. A plane moving faster would create a sonic boom that travels downward at an angle that is too steep to be refracted away from the ground [right].David Schneider

The key concept is a phenomenon known as Mach cutoff, the physics of which is straightforward. When a plane flies at supersonic speeds, it outpaces the sound waves it creates. Those sounds pile up, causing a shock wave to form. That boom-inducing shock wave travels away at an angle that depends on how fast the plane is moving relative to the speed of sound. For a jet traveling at many times the speed of sound, the boom propagates at a steep angle from the flight path. For one traveling just barely faster than the speed of sound, the boom propagates at a shallow angle.

That second situation is important here because of another bit of relevant physics: The speed of sound in air depends on temperature. At altitude, where the air is colder, sound travels more slowly than it does in the warmer air near the ground. This phenomenon causes sound waves to refract (bend) as they travel downward, just as light waves refract when moving between water and air or glass and air.

Because of such refraction, sounds traveling downward at a sufficiently shallow angle can be bent upward enough never to impinge on the ground. Similar physics accounts for the mirages you might see when shallowly inclined rays of light are bent upward by the air just above hot asphalt, which gives them the appearance of having reflected off a puddle.

So if an aircraft is flown not too much faster than the speed of sound, in air that is sufficiently warmer near the surface, the sonic boom it creates, loud as it might be, will never reach the ground. You can have supersonic flight without the boom.

Society will have to weigh the environmental consequences of supersonic transport against the time-savings it would offer a relatively select few travelers.

The compromise is that the plane can't travel much faster than the speed of sound—Mach 1.1 or 1.2, tops. That isn't a big improvement over something like the Cessna's Citation X business jet, which can travel at Mach 0.94. Exploiting the Mach cutoff phenomenon commercially would also require the FAA to relax its prohibition on supersonic flight over land, which it may never do.

The companies working hard now to bring commercial supersonic flight back understand that they have to address sonic-boom noise, one way or another. And the farthest along, Boom Technology, is also taking pains to explain how its planes can be flown with fuels that won't add to the enormous amounts of carbon that commercial aviation is already spewing into the air.

"There are a couple of problems with that logic," says Dan Rutherford, who is aviation and shipping program director for the International Council on Clean Transportation. "First of all, once the plane is out the door, there's very little control that a manufacturer has over what fuel is used." What these aircraft manufacturers are contending is that their eventual customers are going to be willing to pay to prevent net carbon emissions. "The planes themselves are not going to be fuel efficient," says Rutherford. He and two colleagues estimated in 2018 that a commercial supersonic airliner like the one Boom is designing would likely use five to seven times as much fuel per passenger-kilometer as a comparable subsonic aircraft.

Rutherford further notes that biomass-derived jet fuels are at least three or four times as expensive as conventional jet fuel and that synthetic jet fuel made from carbon extracted from the atmosphere will be more expensive still. Combine those higher fuel costs with the higher fuel consumption and "you start to have such high operating costs for those planes that it is very difficult to see them succeed in the market," he says.

Rendering of NASA's X-59 aircraft flying in the sky. This past June, United Airlines announced its intention to purchase 15 Overture airliners from Boom Technology. They will presumably resemble this artist's rendering after they go into service.Boom Supersonic

But Michael Leskinen, vice president of corporate development for United Airlines, which in early June announced plans to purchase 15 of Boom's Overture airliners, explained to IEEE Spectrum, "We'll be working to introduce and supply the market with more and more sustainable aviation fuel, and our hope is that with more supply, we'll be able to drive that cost of fuel down as well." Still, it's easy to imagine that the economic pressures would be such that, even if United sticks to using sustainable fuels, other operators would end up flying the aircraft with conventional jet fuel, boosting carbon emissions from air travel by five or more times per passenger-kilometer flown.

But it gets worse, according to Rutherford. "If you look at the other emissions from supersonics that also warm the planet—these are the nitrogen oxides, the particulate matter, and the water vapor for supersonics operating in the stratosphere—those could be even worse for the climate, on the order of 20 times or more just because the pollution stays up in the atmosphere so much longer."

Rutherford admits that the science of these noncarbon effects is less certain than it is for CO 2. But as was true for concerns about the ozone layer back in the 1960s, proponents of supersonic commercial aviation need to consider the deleterious effects of all the pollutants these planes create and their extended residence times at the altitudes these planes fly. Will they actually do that?

"We're committed to being 100 percent green," Leskinen says. "That's across the spectrum of impacts that our aircraft have. And that will be no different for Overture than it is for any other aircraft we choose to operate." It's a grand promise, but even if United can keep to it, it's a promise that the company is making for 2050, not for 2029 when the Overture will be introduced.

Larger society will have to weigh the likely environmental consequences of supersonic transport against the time savings this futuristic mode of transportation would offer a select few travelers. There are, of course, many ways this could play out over the coming decades, perhaps with different nations adopting different policies. What seems certain, however, is that Adam Smith's invisible hand will exert considerable influence, just as it did for earlier supersonic wonders: the Concorde and the space shuttle. In the end, both proved technological dead ends simply because they cost more to operate than their services were worth.


Match ID: 133 Score: 7.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 34 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

Space Station Incident Demands Independent Investigation
Fri, 06 Aug 2021 19:20:30 +0000


This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

In an International Space Station major milestone more than fifteen years in the making, a long-delayed Russian science laboratory named Nauka automatically docked to the station on 29 July, prompting sighs of relief in the Mission Control Centers in Houston and Moscow. But within a few hours, it became shockingly obvious the celebrations were premature, and the ISS was coming closer to disaster than at anytime in its nearly 25 years in orbit.

While the proximate cause of the incident is still being unravelled, there are worrisome signs that NASA may be repeating some of the lapses that lead to the loss of the Challenger and Columbia space shuttles and their crews. And because political pressures seem to be driving much of the problem, only an independent investigation with serious political heft can reverse any erosion in safety culture.

Let's step back and look at what we know happened: In a cyber-logical process still not entirely clear, while passing northwest to southeast over Indonesia, the Nauka module's autopilot apparently decided it was supposed to fly away from the station. Although actually attached, and with the latches on the station side closed, the module began trying to line itself up in preparation to fire its main engines using an attitude adjustment thruster. As the thruster fired, the entire station was slowly dragged askew as well.

Since the ISS was well beyond the coverage of Russian ground stations, and since the world-wide Soviet-era fleet of tracking ships and world-circling network of "Luch" relay comsats had long since been scrapped, and replacements were slow in coming, nobody even knew Nauka was firing its thruster, until a slight but growing shift in the ISS's orientation was finally detected by NASA.

Russia's Nauka approaches the space station, preparing to dock on 29 July 2021. NASA

Within minutes, the Flight Director in Houston declared a "spacecraft emergency"—the first in the station's lifetime—and his team tried to figure out what could be done to avoid the ISS spinning up so fast that structural damage could result. The football-field-sized array of pressurized modules, support girders, solar arrays, radiator panels, robotic arms, and other mechanisms was designed to operate in a weightless environment. But it was also built to handle stresses both from directional thrusting (used to boost the altitude periodically) and rotational torques (usually to maintain a horizon-level orientation, or to turn to a specific different orientation to facilitate arrival or departure of visiting vehicles). The juncture latches that held the ISS's module together had been sized to accommodate these forces with a comfortable safety margin, but a maneuver of this scale had never been expected.

Meanwhile, the station's automated attitude control system had also noted the deviation and began firing other thrusters to countermand it. These too were on the Russian half of the station. The only US orientation-control system is a set of spinning flywheels that gently turn the structure without the need for thruster propellant, but which would have been unable to cope with the unrelenting push of Nauka's thruster. Later mass-media scenarios depicted teams of specialists manually directing on-board systems into action, but the exact actions taken in response still remain unclear—and probably were mostly if not entirely automatic. The drama continued as the station crossed the Pacific, then South America and the mid-Atlantic, finally entering Russian radio contact over central Europe an hour after the crisis had begun. By then the thrusting had stopped, probably when the guilty thruster exhausted its fuel supply. The sane half of the Russian segment then restored the desired station orientation.

Initial private attempts to use telemetry data to visually represent the station's tumble that were posted online looked bizarre, with enormous rapid gyrations in different directions. Mercifully, the truth of the situation is that the ISS went through a simple long-axis spin of one and a half full turns, and then a half turn back to the starting alignment. The jumps and zig-zags were computational artifacts of the representational schemes used by NASA, which relate to the concept of "gimbal lock" in gyroscopes.

How close the station had come to disaster is an open question, and the flight director humorously alluded to it in a later tweet that he'd never been so happy as when he saw on external TV cameras that the solar arrays and radiators were still standing straight in place. And any excessive bending stress along docking interfaces between the Russian and American segments would have demanded quick leak checks. But even if the rotation was "simple," the undeniably dramatic event has both short term and long-term significance for the future of the space station. And it has antecedents dating back to the very birth of the ISS in 1997.

How close the ISS had come to disaster is still an open question.

At this point, unfortunately, is when the human misjudgments began to surface. To calm things down, official NASA spokesmen provided very preliminary underestimates in how big and how fast the station's spin had been. These were presented without any caveat that the numbers were unverified—and the real figures turned out to be much worse. The Russian side, for its part, dismissed the attitude deviation as a routine bump in a normal process of automatic docking and proclaimed there would be no formal incident investigation, especially any that would involve their American partners. Indeed, both sides seemed to agree that the sooner the incident was forgotten, the better. As of now, the US side is deep into analysis of induced stresses on critical ISS structures, with the most important ones, such as the solar arrays, first. Another standard procedure after this kind of event is to assess potential indicators of stress-induced damage, especially in terms of air leaks, and where best to monitor cabin pressure and other parameters to detect any such leaks.

The bureaucratic instinct to minimize the described potential severity of the event needs cold-blooded assessment. Sadly, from past experience, this mindset of complacency and hoping for the best is the result of natural human mental drift that comes when there are long periods of apparent normalcy. Even if there is a slowly emerging problem, as long as everything looks okay in the day to day, the tendency is ignore warning signals as minor perturbations. The safety of the system is assumed rather than verified—and consequently managers are led into missing clues, or making careless choices, that lead to disaster. So these recent indications of this mental attitude about the station's attitude are worrisome. The NASA team has experienced that same slow cultural rot of assuming safety several times over the past decades, with hideous consequences. Team members in the year leading up to the 1986 Challenger disaster (and I was deep within the Mission Control operations then) had noticed and begun voicing concerns over growing carelessness and even humorous reactions to occasional "stupid mistakes," without effect. Then, after imprudent management decisions, seven people died.

The same drift was noticed in the late 1990s, especially in the joint US/Russian operations on Mir and on early ISS flights. It led to the forced departure of a number of top NASA officials, who had objected to the trend that was being imposed by the White House's post-Cold War diplomatic goals, implemented by NASA Administrator Dan Goldin. Safety took a decidedly secondary priority to international diplomatic value. Legendary Mission Control leader Gene Kranz described the decisions that were made in the mid-1990s over his own objections, objections that led to his sudden departure from NASA. "Russia was subsequently assigned partnership responsibilities for critical in-line tasks with minimal concern for the political and technical difficulties as well as the cost and schedule risks," he wrote in 1999. "This was the first time in the history of US manned space flight that NASA assigned critical path, in-line tasks with little or no backup." By 2001-'02, the results were as Kranz and his colleagues had warned. "Today's problems with the space station are the product of a program driven by an overriding political objective and developed by an ad hoc committee, which bypassed NASA's proven management and engineering teams," he concluded.

To reverse the apparent new cultural drift, NASA headquarters or some even higher office is going to have to intervene.

By then the warped NASA management culture that soon enabled the Columbia disaster in 2003 was fully in place. Some of the wording in current management proclamations regarding the Nauka docking have an eerie ring of familiarity. "Space cooperation continues to be a hallmark of U.S.-Russian relations and I have no doubt that our joint work reinforces the ties that have bound our collaborative efforts over the many years" wrote NASA Director Bill Nelson to Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency, on July 31. There was no mention of the ISS's first declared spacecraft emergency, nor any dissatisfaction with Russian contribution to it.

To reverse the apparent new cultural drift, and thus potentially forestall the same kind of dismal results as before, NASA headquarters or some even higher office is going to have to intervene. The causes of the Nauka-induced "space sumo match" of massive cross-pushing bodies need to be determined and verified. And somebody needs to expose the decision process that allowed NASA to approve the ISS docking of a powerful thruster-equipped module without the on-site real-time capability to quickly disarm that system in an emergency. Because the apparent sloppiness of NASA's safety oversight on visiting vehicles looks to be directly associated with maintaining good relations with Moscow, the driving factor seems to be White House diplomatic goals—and that's the level where a corrective impetus must originate. With a long-time U.S. Senate colleague, Nelson, recently named head of NASA, President Biden is well connected to issue such guidance for a thorough investigation by an independent commission, followed by implementation of needed reforms. The buck stops with him.

As far as Nauka's role in this process of safety-culture repair, it turns out that quite by bizarre coincidence, a similar pattern was played out by the very first Russian launch that inaugurated the ISS program, the 'Zarya' module [called the 'FGB'] in late 1997. Nauka turns out to be the repeatedly rebuilt and upgraded backup module for that very launch, and the parallels are remarkable. The day the FGB was launched, on 20 November 1998, the mission faced disaster when it refused to accept ground commands to raise its original atmosphere-skimming parking orbit. As it crossed over Russian ground sites, controllers in Moscow sent commands, and the spacecraft didn't answer. Meanwhile, NASA guests at a nearby facility were celebrating with Russian colleagues as nobody told them of the crisis. Finally, on the last available in-range pass, controllers tried a new command format that the onboard computer did recognize and acknowledge. The mission—and the entire ISS project—was saved, and the American side never knew. Only years later did the story appear in Russian newspapers.

Still, for all its messy difficulties and frustrating disappointments, the U.S./Russian partnership turned out to be a remarkably robust "mutual co-dependence" arrangement, when managed with "tough love." Neither side really had practical alternatives if it wanted a permanent human presence in space, and they still don't—so both teams were devoted to making it work. And it could still work—if NASA keeps faith with its traditional safety culture and with the lives of those astronauts who died in the past because NASA had failed them.

Postscript: As this story was going to press, a NASA spokesperson responded to queries about the incident saying:

As shared by NASA's Kathy Lueders and Joel Montalbano in the media telecon following the event, Roscosmos regularly updated NASA and the rest of the international partners on MLM's progress during the approach to station. We continue to have confidence in our partnership with Roscosmos to operate the International Space Station. When the unexpected thruster firings occurred, flight control teams were able to enact contingency procedures and return the station to normal operations within an hour. We would point you to Roscosmos for any specifics on Russian systems/performance/procedures.

Match ID: 134 Score: 7.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 43 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

No Antenna Could Survive Europa’s Brutal, Radioactive Environment—Until Now
Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:30:00 +0000


Europa, one of Jupiter's Galilean moons, has twice as much liquid water as Earth's oceans, if not more. An ocean estimated to be anywhere from 40 to 100 miles (60 to 150 kilometers) deep spans the entire moon, locked beneath an icy surface over a dozen kilometers thick. The only direct evidence for this ocean is the plumes of water that occasionally erupt through cracks in the ice, jetting as high as 200 km above the surface.

The endless, sunless, roiling ocean of Europa might sound astoundingly bleak. Yet it's one of the most promising candidates for finding extraterrestrial life. Designing a robotic lander that can survive such harsh conditions will require rethinking all of its systems to some extent, including arguably its most important: communications. After all, even if the rest of the lander works flawlessly, if the radio or antenna breaks, the lander is lost forever.

Ultimately, when NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where I am a senior antenna engineer, began to seriously consider a Europa lander mission, we realized that the antenna was the limiting factor. The antenna needs to maintain a direct-to-Earth link across more than 550 million miles (900 million km) when Earth and Jupiter are at their point of greatest separation. The antenna must be radiation-hardened enough to survive an onslaught of ionizing particles from Jupiter, and it cannot be so heavy or so large that it would imperil the lander during takeoff and landing. One colleague, when we laid out the challenge in front of us, called it impossible. We built such an antenna anyway—and although it was designed for Europa, it is a revolutionary enough design that we're already successfully implementing it in future missions for other destinations in the solar system.

Currently, the only planned mission to Europa is the Clipper orbiter, a NASA mission that will study the moon's chemistry and geology and will likely launch in 2024. Clipper will also conduct reconnaissance for a potential later mission to put a lander on Europa. At this time, any such lander is conceptual. NASA has still funded a Europa lander concept, however, because there are crucial new technologies that we need to develop for any successful mission on the icy world. Europa is unlike anywhere else we've attempted to land before.

People standing in front of an antenna.  The antenna team, including the author (right), examine one of the antenna's subarrays. Each golden square is a unit cell in the antenna. JPL-Caltech/NASA

For context, so far the only lander to explore the outer solar system is the European Space Agency's Huygens lander. It successfully descended to Saturn's moon Titan in 2005 after being carried by the Cassini orbiter. Much of our frame of reference for designing landers—and their antennas—comes from Mars landers.

Traditionally, landers (and rovers) designed for Mars missions rely on relay orbiters with high data rates to get scientific data back to Earth in a timely manner. These orbiters, such as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey, have large, parabolic antennas that use large amounts of power, on the order of 100 watts, to communicate with Earth. While the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers also have direct-to-Earth antennas, they are small, use less power (about 25 W), and are not very efficient. These antennas are mostly used for transmitting the rover's status and other low-data updates. These existing direct-to-Earth antennas simply aren't up to the task of communicating all the way from Europa.

Additionally, Europa, unlike Mars, has virtually no atmosphere, so landers can't use parachutes or air resistance to slow down. Instead, the lander will depend entirely on rockets to brake and land safely. This necessity limits how big it can be—too heavy and it will require far too much fuel to both launch and land. A modestly sized 400-kilogram lander, for example, requires a rocket and fuel that combined weigh between 10 to 15 tonnes. The lander then needs to survive six or seven years of deep space travel before finally landing and operating within the intense radiation produced by Jupiter's powerful magnetic field.

We also can't assume a Europa lander would have an orbiter overhead to relay signals, because adding an orbiter could very easily make the mission too expensive. Even if Clipper is miraculously still functional by the time a lander arrives, we won't assume that will be the case, as the lander would arrive well after Clipper's official end-of-mission date.

JPL engineers pose with a mock-up of a Europa lander concept JPL engineers, including the author (bottom row on left), pose with a mock-up of a Europa lander concept. The model includes several necessary technological developments, including the antenna on top and legs that can handle uneven terrain. JPL-Caltech/NASA

I've mentioned previously that the antenna will need to transmit signals up to 900 million km. As a general rule, less efficient antennas need a larger surface area to transmit farther. But as the lander won't have an orbiter overhead with a large relay antenna, and it won't be big enough itself for a large antenna, it needs a small antenna with a transmission efficiency of 80 percent or higher—much more efficient than most space-bound antennas.

So, to reiterate the challenge: The antenna cannot be large, because then the lander will be too heavy. It cannot be inefficient for the same reason, because requiring more power would necessitate bulky power systems instead. And it needs to survive exposure to a brutal amount of radiation from Jupiter. This last point requires that the antenna must be mostly, if not entirely, made out of metal, because metals are more resistant to ionizing radiation.

The antenna we ultimately developed depends on a key innovation: The antenna is made up of circularly polarized, aluminum-only unit cells—more on this in a moment—that can each send and receive on X-band frequencies (specifically, 7.145 to 7.19 gigahertz for the uplink and 8.4 to 8.45 GHz for the downlink). The entire antenna is an array of these unit cells, 32 on a side or 1,024 in total. The antenna is 32.5 by 32.5 inches (82.5 by 82.5 centimeters), allowing it to fit on top of a modestly sized lander, and it can achieve a downlink rate to Earth of 33 kilobits per second at 80 percent efficiency.

Let's take a closer look at the unit cells I mentioned, to better understand how this antenna does what it does. Circular polarization is commonly used for space communications. You might be more familiar with linear polarization, which is often used for terrestrial wireless signals; you can imagine such a signal propagating across a distance as a 2D sine wave that's oriented, say, vertically or horizontally relative to the ground. Circular polarization instead propagates as a 3D helix. This helix pattern makes circular polarization useful for deep space communications because the helix's larger “cross section" doesn't require that the transmitter and receiver be as precisely aligned. As you can imagine, a superprecise alignment across almost 750 million km is all but impossible. Circular polarization has the added benefit of being less sensitive to Earth's weather when it arrives. Rain, for example, causes linearly polarized signals to attenuate more quickly than circularly polarized ones.

This exploded view of an 8-by-8 subarray of the antenna This exploded view of an 8-by-8 subarray of the antenna shows the unit cells (top layer) that work together to create steerable signal beams, and the three layers of the power divider sandwiched between the antenna's casing. JPL-Caltech/NASA

Each unit cell, as mentioned, is entirely made of aluminum. Earlier antenna arrays that similarly use smaller component cells include dielectric materials like ceramic or glass to act as insulators. Unfortunately, dielectric materials are also vulnerable to Jupiter's ionizing radiation. The radiation builds up a charge on the materials over time, and precisely because they're insulators there's nowhere for that charge to go—until it's ultimately released in a hardware-damaging electrostatic discharge. So we can't use them.

As mentioned before, metals are more resilient to ionizing radiation. The problem is they're not insulators, and so an antenna constructed entirely out of metal is ­­still at risk of an electrostatic discharge damaging its components. We worked around this problem by designing each unit cell to be fed at a single point. The “feed" is the connection between an antenna and the radio's transmitter and receiver. Typically, circularly polarized antennas require two perpendicular feeds to control the signal generation. But with a bit of careful engineering and the use of a type of automated optimization called a genetic algorithm, we developed a precisely shaped single feed that could get the job done. Meanwhile, a comparatively large metal post acts as a ground to protect each feed from electrostatic discharges.

The unit cells are placed in small 8-by-8 subarrays, 16 subarrays in total. Each of these subarrays is fed with something we call a suspended air stripline, in which the transmission line is suspended between two ground planes, turning the gap in between into a dielectric insulator. We can then safely transmit power through the stripline while still protecting the line from electric discharges that would build up on a dielectric like ceramic or glass. Additionally, suspended air striplines are low loss, which is perfect for the highly efficient antenna design we wanted.

Put together, the new antenna design accomplishes three things: It's highly efficient, it can handle a large amount of power, and it's not very sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Removing traditional dielectric materials in favor of air striplines and an aluminum-only design gives us high efficiency. It's also a phased array, which means it uses a cluster of smaller antennas to create steerable, tightly focused signals. The nature of such an array is that each individual cell needs to handle only a fraction of the total transmission power. So while each individual cell can handle only a few watts, each subarray can handle more than 100 watts. And finally, because the antenna is made of metal, it expands and contracts uniformly as the temperature changes. In fact, one of the reasons we picked aluminum is because the metal does not expand or contract much as temperatures change.

The power divider for an 8-by-8 subarray The power divider for an 8-by-8 subarray splits the signal power into a fraction that each unit cell can tolerate without being damaged. JPL-Caltech/NASA

When I originally proposed this antenna concept to the Europa lander project, I was met with skepticism. Space exploration is typically a very risk-averse endeavor, for good reason—the missions are expensive, and a single mistake can end one prematurely. For this reason, new technologies may be dismissed in favor of tried-and-true methods. But this situation was different because without a new antenna design, there would never be a Europa mission. The rest of my team and I were given the green light to prove the antenna could work.

Designing, fabricating, and testing the antenna took only 6 months. To put that in context, the typical development cycle for a new space technology is measured in years. The results were outstanding. Our antenna achieved the 80 percent efficiency threshold on both the send and receive frequency bands, despite being smaller and lighter than other antennas.

In order to prove how successful our antenna could be, we subjected it to a battery of extreme environmental tests, including a handful of tests specific to Europa's atypical environment.

One test is what we call thermal cycling. For this test, we place the antenna in a room called a thermal chamber and adjust the temperature over a large range—as low as –170 ℃ and as high as 150 ℃. We put the antenna through multiple temperature cycles, measuring its transmitting capabilities before, during, and after each cycle. The antenna passed this test without any issues.

Photo of unit cells Each unit cell is pure aluminum. Collectively, they create a steerable signal by canceling out one another's signals in unwanted directions and reinforcing the signal in the desired direction. JPL-Caltech/NASA

The antenna also needed to demonstrate, like any piece of hardware that goes into space, resilience against vibrations. Rockets—and everything they're carrying into space—shake intensely during launch, which means we need to be sure that anything that goes up doesn't come apart on the trip. For the vibration test, we loaded the entire antenna onto a vibrating table. We used accelerometers at different locations on the antenna to determine if it was holding up or breaking apart under the vibrations. Over the course of the test, we ramped up the vibrations to the point where they approximate a launch.

Thermal cycling and vibration tests are standard tests for the hardware on any spacecraft, but as I mentioned, Europa's challenging environment required a few additional nonstandard tests. We typically do some tests in anechoic chambers for antennas. You may recognize anechoic chambers as those rooms with wedge-covered surfaces to absorb any signal reflections. An anechoic chamber makes it possible for us to determine the antenna's signal propagation over extremely long distances by eliminating interference from local reflections. One way to think about it is that the anechoic chamber simulates a wide open space, so we can measure the signal's propagation and extrapolate how it will look over a longer distance.

What made this particular anechoic chamber test interesting is that it was also conducted at ultralow temperatures. We couldn't make the entire chamber that cold, so we instead placed the antenna in a sealed foam box. The foam is transparent to the antenna's radio transmissions, so from the point of view of the actual test, it wasn't there. But by connecting the foam box to a heat exchange plate filled with liquid nitrogen, we could lower the temperature inside it to –170 ℃. To our delight, we found that the antenna had robust long-range signal propagation even at that frigid temperature.

The last unusual test for this antenna was to bombard it with electrons in order to simulate Jupiter's intense radiation. We used JPL's Dynamitron electron accelerator to subject the antenna to the entire ionizing radiation dose the antenna would see during its lifetime in a shortened time frame. In other words, in the span of two days in the accelerator, the antenna was exposed to the same amount of radiation as it would be during the six- or seven-year trip to Europa, plus up to 40 days on the surface. Like the anechoic chamber testing, we also conducted this test at cryogenic temperatures that were as close to those of Europa's surface conditions as possible.

Photo of antenna in an anechoic chamber with the antenna in a white foam box. The antenna had to pass signal tests at cryogenic temperatures (–170 °C) to confirm that it would work as expected on Europa's frigid surface. Because it wasn't possible to bring the temperature of the entire anechoic chamber to cryogenic levels, the antenna was sealed in a white foam box. JPL-Caltech/NASA

The reason for the electron bombardment test was our concern that Jupiter's ionizing radiation would cause a dangerous electrostatic discharge at the antenna's port, where it connects to the rest of the lander's communications hardware. Theoretically, the danger of such a discharge grows as the antenna spends more time exposed to ionizing radiation. If a discharge happens, it could damage not just the antenna but also hardware deeper in the communications system and possibly elsewhere in the lander. Thankfully, we didn't measure any discharges during our test, which confirms that the antenna can survive both the trip to and work on Europa.

We designed and tested this antenna for Europa, but we believe it can be used for missions elsewhere in the solar system. We're already tweaking the design for the joint JPL/ESA Mars Sample Return mission that—as the name implies—will bring Martian rocks, soil, and atmospheric samples back to Earth. The mission is currently slated to launch in 2026. We see no reason why our antenna design couldn't be used on every future Mars lander or rover as a more robust alternative—one that could also increase data rates 4 to 16 times those of current antenna designs. We also could use it on future moon missions to provide high data rates.

Although there isn't an approved Europa lander mission yet, we at JPL will be ready if and when it happens. Other engineers have pursued different projects that are also necessary for such a mission. For example, some have developed a new, multilegged landing system to touch down safely on uncertain or unstable surfaces. Others have created a “belly pan" that will protect vulnerable hardware from Europa's cold. Still others have worked on an intelligent landing system, radiation-tolerant batteries, and more. But the antenna remains perhaps the most vital system, because without it there will be no way for the lander to communicate how well any of these other systems are working. Without a working antenna, the lander will never be able to tell us whether we could have living neighbors on Europa.

This article appears in the August 2021 print issue as “An Antenna Made for an Icy, Radioactive Hell."

During the editorial process some errors were introduced to this article and have been corrected on 27 July 2021. We originally misstated the amount of power used by Mars orbiters and the Europa antenna design, as well as the number of unit cells in each subarray. We also incorrectly suggested that the Europa antenna design would not require a gimbal or need to reorient itself in order to stay in contact with Earth.


Match ID: 135 Score: 7.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 59 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

La NASA y la ESA se asocian en un nuevo esfuerzo para abordar el cambio climático global
Tue, 13 Jul 2021 12:40 EDT
La NASA y la Agencia Espacial Europea (ESA, por sus siglas en inglés) han formado una asociación estratégica única en su tipo para observar la Tierra y su entorno cambiante.
Match ID: 136 Score: 7.86 source: www.nasa.gov age: 68 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

NASA, ESA Partner in New Effort to Address Global Climate Change
Tue, 13 Jul 2021 11:58 EDT
NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) have formed a first-of-its-kind strategic partnership to observe Earth and its changing environment.
Match ID: 137 Score: 7.86 source: www.nasa.gov age: 68 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

At Least 2,034 Ways Earth Has Blown Its Cover
Fri, 02 Jul 2021 13:00:00 +0000


We search the stars for signs of intelligent life. What if the stars were looking back, wondering the same thing about us?

Austrian astrophysicist Lisa Kaltenegger has an idea of what that might mean, or at least where that perspective might be coming from: 2,034 stars, seven with known and confirmed exoplanents, either are, have been, or will one day be positioned so they could spot Earth using techniques currently known to us.

This would cover a period starting roughly about the beginning of recorded history (a time when people still spoke Proto-Indo-European, and the first Pharaonic dynasty sprouted in the Nile Valley) and going 5,000 years into the future. And at some point during this timeline, beings orbiting one of those 2,034 stars might have a chance to look Earthward and see our pale blue dot transiting the sun. 

The observation comes out of a nifty bit of trajectory mining on a giant catalog of nearby stars.

Kaltenegger, director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, and Jackie Faherty, astrophysicist and star catalog expert at the American Museum of Natural History, teamed up to explore it. They used analytical software to comb through a cosmic chart of observed star positions; this data comes via the European Space Agency craft Gaia. Gaia is a space observatory now eight years in orbit and delivering increasingly robust snapshots in its quest to plot a three-dimensional map of perhaps two billion stars in the Milky Way and further out when it’s all said and done.

Kaltenegger and Faherty use motion calculations to plot linear star trajectories backwards and forwards in time, filtering the observed stars to focus on the region of the sky through which from our perspective the sun appears to pass through during a year. Projected out into space on a narrow band, it is a place from which an observer would be able to detect the transit of our planet across the sun. 

In our long-running search for extraterrestrial life, we use transits to examine exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. (We’ve even used transits of Venus to study the solar system.) Starlight passes through the atmosphere of a planet, or is reflected off of it. We can use spectrometry to analyze and gain an understanding of the chemical composition of planetary atmospheres, and so whether they might be friendly to life (as we know it). 

Kaltenegger and Faherty show the perspective from the other end of the telescope—where we’d be the aliens—and show the potential, at least, for advanced life forms. Spectrometric sensing from far away might have picked up our Great Oxidation Event and marked us as a living world. 

As published in the journal Nature, Faherty and Kaltenegger sifted through a Gaia catalog of nearby stars, starting with 330,000 star positions within 100 parsecs of us (that’s 326 light years and a common celestial distance benchmark). They converted these positions into three-dimensional Cartesian coordinates and back using scripts and a classification algorithm; in going through these steps in increments of time, backwards and forwards, they could see which stars were entering or exiting a position where they’d have a view on Earth. (For a closer look at Faherty’s code subroutines, check her GitHub repository.) 

They found 313 stars had been in the zone at some point in the last 5,000 years, 1,402 stars that have been there for some time, and 319 that will do so at some point in the next 5,000 years (Teegarden’s Star will come into the zone in 29 years). Faherty then wrote code in order to ingest the list into OpenSpace visualization software.

The star data Kaltenegger and Faherty worked with is a recent download, as researchers get ready for Gaia’s next full data delivery sometime in 2022. Kaltenegger’s been pondering how we look from space for some time, though. She published the first “Alien ID Chart” in 2007, showing how Earth might appear as seen through geological time. “That’s interesting,” says Leiden Observatory’s Anthony Brown, who heads Gaia’s data processing and analysis consortium. “Thinking about these stars that in principle could see Earth transit across the Sun.”

Brown’s also worked with Gaia astrometry data to build a map, his being an image of star trails projected across the sky for the next 400,000 years. As Gaia takes more and more census observations over time, the projections will get more precise. Gaia’s set to deliver other surprises, too: spectral data from Gaia’s blue and red photometers mean astronomers are in process of characterizing the astrophysics of hundreds of millions of stars. 

Sorting through all this and getting to findings will take data processing power and creative thinking, says Minia Manteiga, a member of Gaia’s data processing consortium and astronomer at the University of A Coruña. “Gaia is a paradigmatic example of big data astronomy,” she says. It will require inferential statistics as well as unsupervised algorithms and machine learning techniques, she adds.

Kaltenegger’s role-reversing perspective—where we become the observed instead of the observer—prompt questions for her students, who generally say they’d visit advanced planets, given the means. “But while I love Earth—it is my favorite planet— in terms of technology and evolution we are not that far along yet,” Kaltenegger says, pointing out we have only been using radio waves for 100 years. “Assume the cosmos is teeming with life, would we really be the place everyone would want to contact and visit? Or maybe...not yet?” 


Match ID: 138 Score: 7.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 79 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

Lasers Could Clear Space Junk From Orbit
Fri, 14 May 2021 19:25:00 +0000


Ever since humans started launching rockets into space, the amount of junk flying around Earth has been growing, to the point where debris has damaged satellites or forced the space station to shift its orbit. Now researchers in Australia want to use lasers to track the wayward particles, and even shove them out of the way before they cause problems.

“If we leave all this debris in space, eventually they are going to collide with each other and there's going to be a snowballing effect where more debris is created,” says Celine D’Orgeville, a professor at Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Canberra. “And at some point it would be so much debris at certain altitudes that we won't be able to use those altitudes anymore for human endeavors.”

She’s talking about the Kessler syndrome, shown to dramatic—and exaggerated—effect in the 2013 movie Gravity. Though it’s unlikely to produce a dramatic cascade of orbital crashes that shreds the International Space Station and leaves Sandra Bullock wearing a spacesuit in a lake, the space junk can cause problems. NASA says there are more than half a million pieces of debris, from disused satellites to flecks of paint, speeding around the earth at up to 17,500 mph.

D’Orgeville and her colleagues propose applying adaptive optics, a technique widely used in astronomy, to the problem of tracking the smaller pieces of debris, between 1 and 10 cm in size, which can be hard to see. Adaptive optics lets astronomers overcome the atmospheric turbulence caused by changes in pressure and temperature that makes the stars twinkle.

To do that, astronomers create a laser guide star by firing a yellow laser beam through a telescope. The beam strikes a layer of sodium particles high in the atmosphere, above the turbulence, and bounces back. Photodetectors measure distortions in the reflected beam to calculate the amount of turbulence, then instruct a series of actuators on a deformable mirror to push and pull on different parts of the mirror to compensate for the distortion. That causes a dramatic improvement in focus.

ANU instrument scientist Celine d'Orgeville stands in front of the EOS 1.8 meter telescope at Mount Stromlo Observatory. ANU instrument scientist Celine d'Orgeville stands in front of the EOS 1.8 meter telescope at Mount Stromlo Observatory. Photo: ANU

Using the system, D’Orgeville and her colleagues can fire a series of infrared laser pulses at the orbiting flotsam to measure where they are and where they’re headed. Without adaptive optics, they wouldn’t be able to focus the infrared laser well enough to find small objects. Knowing the path of the debris, they can warn, say, a communications satellite to alter its orbit slightly to avoid getting hit.

But the team wants to go further than that, and use yet another laser to actually push some of the debris out of the way. If they discover that two tiny pieces of space junk were headed for a crash—which might result in more, harder-to-track debris—they could fire a 20-kilowatt infrared laser at one of the pieces. The light pressure from the laser would be enough, after a few shots, to gently nudge the junk onto a different trajectory. “It's not going to destroy the debris or anything, but at least you can move it out of its way,” she says. “So the idea is to delay the Kessler effect.”

If they wanted to actually destroy the space junk, they could push it into a lower orbit, until it fell into the atmosphere and burned up like a meteor. But barring the development any sort of “tractor beam”-like pulling force, the laser would probably have to be based in space, where it could more easily push debris toward the planet.

The idea was developed at ANU’s Space Environment Research Centre, whose government funding recently dried up, so D’Orgeville is looking for a new funding source to help her demonstrate the proposal. All of the laser and adaptive optics equipment is available at the university’s Mt. Stromlo Observatory outside Canberra.

And she wants to reassure anyone who worries she may be shooting airplanes out of the sky or destroying expensive government satellites. There are regulations in place to avoid interfering with sky and orbital traffic, and the laser doesn’t pack that kind of punch.  “We're nowhere near the power that would be required to damage anything,” she says. “We're just using pressure to change the orbit by a few centimeters at a time.”


Match ID: 139 Score: 7.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 127 days
qualifiers: 5.00 europe, 2.86 eu

Cheap Sensors for Smarter Farmers
Sun, 12 Sep 2021 15:14:00 +0000


Demonstrating that we are truly living in an era of "smart agriculture," many of the technologies showcased in this year's ARPA-E Summit were in the farming sector—most notably, sensors for crops and farmlands. Just like the smart devices that enable us to monitor our health every minute of the day, these agricultural sensors allow farmers to monitor plant and soil conditions close to real-time. Here are two that caught this writer's eyes.

First up is a 3D-printed, biodegradable soil sensor that checks moisture and nitrogen levels. One of the benefits of using print electronics is being able to mass-produce at a low cost, says Gregory Whiting at the University of Colorado, Boulder, one of the principal investigators of the team working on the sensors. "Agriculture is a pretty cost constrained industry," Whiting says, and 3D-printed sensors allow farmers to place many sensors throughout their large farmlands—often hundreds of acres—without spending a ton of money.

And this enables the farmers to monitor soil conditions in greater detail, Whiting says. Depending on factors such as how the sun hits the ground, the amount of water or the fertilizer needed could vary patch by patch. Traditional sensors were too expensive for the farmers to buy in large quantities, and, as a result, the special resolution wasn't high enough to reflect this variability. With the new, cheap sensors, farmers will be able to collect data on their farms without worrying about the variability.

One problem with mass-producing sensors, however, is that it creates a lot of waste. That's why Whiting and his colleagues decided on using biodegradable materials, ­­such as zinc and wood. But this solution also posed a challenge: What if the sensor degrades before the job is done?

Whiting and his team solved this issue by encapsulating the sensor parts using beeswax or soy wax. The protective wax casing ensures moisture and nitrogen sensing parts, made from zinc, to operate properly for the desired amount of time, typically a few months until the crops fully grow. And by the end of that period, the casing would start to break down, and the sensor would degrade.

Whiting says that the sensor signal will be transmitted via long-range RFID—like those used in toll roads—collected using a drone or farm equipment with a reader attached. The team is currently testing the sensors in a greenhouse. By 2022, they plan to move out to a field. "Building electronics made of zinc and wood and waxes—it's just very weird and cool," Whiting says.

The other sensor that was also notable amongst those presented in this year's ARPA-E Summit was a zero-power infrared sensor detecting a plant's thirst. This sensor, developed by Matteo Rinaldi and his team at Northeastern University, shines infrared light on the leaves of a plant. By reading the reflected light, it can tell if the plant is dehydrated or not.

brown square representing a farm with rows and rows of green plants. pink poles with light sensors are on three rows. There are 5 yellow wifi symbols, labelled sensor node. A large silver canister on the far end is labelled Water Tank/Reservoir. An antenna shape on top is labelled Gateway/Pump controller. Conceptual vision of a smart farm that could employ the Northeastern University zero-power and low-cost sensor nodes in a crop field. Each wireless sensor node is used for non-contact water stress detection in plants.Vaggeeswar Rajaram/Northeastern University

The idea to use infrared light stemmed from Rinaldi's previous project: detecting exhaust fumes from cars. By shifting the detection range to match the reflection signal from the moisture of plant leaves instead of the exhaust fumes, the team was able to reinvent their technology for agricultural use. With this shift, "whatever changes in reflectance [are] depending only on water stress of the plant and nothing else," says Antea Risso, a graduate student working on this project. "So, it's quite reliable."

One of the biggest drawbacks of the soil sensors is the need for calibration, Risso says. Even within a single farm, there could be many different types of soil present, and calibrating the sensors accordingly could take up a lot of time. The plant sensor would only have to be calibrated by the plant type, which is minimal compared to the soil sensor, Risso says. In addition, reading the moisture level directly from the plant assesses its health more accurately, which is ultimately what the farmers care about.

green background. a silver pair of tweezers holds a brown rectangle that gleams with black and silver electronics on a grid The silicon chip hosts hundreds of plasmonically-enhanced micromechanical photoswitches.RUBY WALLAU/NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY

The sensor uses energy only when the infrared signal indicates that the plant is dehydrated. When the signal with the right wavelength is absorbed by the nanoplasmonic absorbers designed and engineered by Rinaldi's team, the temperature of the device increases, and that causes the device to bend, turning on the power switch. Because the switch is expected to be on only seldomly, Rinaldi says their sensors will last about 10 years without the need to change batteries.

So far, the team has tested their prototypes in the lab environment. By the end of this year, Rinaldi says the team will test a portable prototype in an actual field. At the same time, Rinaldi is already taking steps to commercialize the technology. He and Zhenyun Qian, a research assistant professor at Northeastern, co-founded Zepsor Technologies, aiming to bring the technology into the market.

"There are a lot of precision-oriented agriculturists [who] are very, very interested in this," Risso says. "So, we are hoping to test it sooner with their collaboration."


Match ID: 140 Score: 5.71 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 7 days
qualifiers: 5.71 eu

A Stroke Study Reveals the Future of Human Augmentation
Sun, 12 Sep 2021 13:00:00 +0000
A successful clinical trial on stimulating the vagus nerve shows that it could change everything from medical treatment to Olympic training. Are we ready?
Match ID: 141 Score: 5.71 source: www.wired.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 5.71 eu

Um presidente fraco é um prato cheio para o Centrão de Arthur Lira
Sun, 12 Sep 2021 10:00:20 +0000

Os protestos de 7 de setembro diminuíram Bolsonaro, que agora irá comer ainda mais na mão do ‘sistema’ que prometeu destruir.

The post Um presidente fraco é um prato cheio para o Centrão de Arthur Lira appeared first on The Intercept.


Match ID: 142 Score: 5.71 source: theintercept.com age: 7 days
qualifiers: 5.71 eu

Electric Flying Cars May Be Possible With New Batteries
Tue, 15 Jun 2021 14:24:00 +0000


If getting flying cars to work has been a challenge, electric flying cars are an even tougher nut to crack, due to the weight of the batteries required and how quickly they must be able to pump out energy. But a new twist on lithium-ion batteries may help them become reality. 

Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft have attracted increasing attention for urban air mobility services that could open sky corridors in cities for travel. By combining the convenience of helicopters when it comes to local takeoff and landing with the efficient aerodynamic flight of airplanes and the low noise and environmental impact of electric vehicles, electric flying cars might help cities reduce traffic congestion. Indeed, a 2020 report from management consultant firm Roland Berger in Munich, Germany, identified 95 ongoing eVTOL projects worldwide.

However, developing batteries for electric flying cars has been a challenge. Researchers have to worry about their weight, since they have to fly. They must deliver very high power while the vehicle moves vertically during takeoff and landing. They also need high energy densities to stay aloft a useful amount of time in the air.

In addition, since the commercial model for eVTOL aircraft will likely initially involve air taxi services, their batteries will also need to recharge quickly and often so they can earn high revenues during rush hours. They may each need to make 15 trips during the morning rush hour and another 15 during the evening rush hour to justify their cost—for example, from a city to an airport, carrying three to four people about 80 kilometers, says study senior author Chao-Yang Wang, an automotive, mechanical, chemical and materials engineer and director of the Electrochemical Engine Center at Pennsylvania State University.

A number of these desirable features work against each other, Wang notes. For example, fast charging usually reduces the number of possible recharge cycles, and high energy densities reduce charging speeds.

Now Wang and his colleagues have developed prototype battery designs they say can support 80-kilometer eVTOL trips with energy densities of 271 watt-hours per kilogram. These lithium-ion batteries can sustain more than 2,000 fast recharging cycles over their lifetimes, and recharge in just five to 10 minutes.

“The first generation of batteries for commercially viable flying cars is now available,” Wang says.

“Simplicity is our most complicated task”

The scientists relied on technology they developed for standard electric vehicles that incorporate 10-micron-thin nickel foils into batteries to help them rapidly heat to 60 degrees Celsius. Heating batteries can help them rapidly charge without forming the kinds of lithium spikes that can damage their innards and cause short circuits.

Heating can also help electric flying cars deal with a problem related to how their batteries are never allowed to completely discharge while they are in operation, as they always have to retain some charge to stay in the air and to land. When a battery is empty, its resistance to charging is low, but the higher its remaining charge, the more slowly it recharges. Heating the prototype eVTOL batteries can help them rapidly discharge their leftover energy, so they can then quickly recharge.

“Our self-heating technique has a heating speed of 1 to 5 degrees Celsius per second and consumes only 0.8 percent battery energy for every 10 degree Celsius temperature rise,” Wang says. “At the same time, the embedded nickel foil adds less than 1.5 percent weight and volume and less than 0.3 percent cost to a baseline battery.”

It took Wang and his colleagues about 10 years from stumbling upon the idea of heating batteries “to demonstrating and perfecting it to various battery prototypes today,” he says. A great challenge they faced was reducing the complexity of these self-heating structures as much as possible—“simplicity is our most complicated task,” he adds.

The researchers are now applying their strategy to battery chemistries with even greater energy densities. With the next generation of batteries they are developing, they aim to achieve 350 to 400 watt-hour per kilogram energy densities and reduce costs to US $50 per kilowatt-hour while keeping charging times of five to 10 minutes.

“This second generation will enable not only commercial fleet eVTOLs like flying taxis, but also privately owned flying cars,” Wang says. “My dream is to drive a flying car to work before I retire.”

The scientists detailed their findings June 7 in the journal Joule.


Match ID: 143 Score: 3.57 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 96 days
qualifiers: 3.57 germany

Exosuit That Helps With the Heavy Lifting
Fri, 10 Sep 2021 14:44:24 +0000


New advances in robotics can help push the limits of the human body to make us faster or stronger. But now researchers from the Biorobotics Laboratory at Seoul National University (SNU) have designed an exosuit that corrects body posture. Their recent paper describes the Movement Reshaping (MR) Exosuit, which, rather than augmenting any part of the human body, couples the motion of one joint to lock or unlock the motion of another joint. It works passively, without any motors or batteries.

For instance, when attempting to lift a heavy object off the floor, most of us stoop from the waist, which is an injury-inviting posture. The SNU device hinders the stooping posture and helps correct it to a (safer) squatting one. "We call our methodology 'body-powered variable impedance'," says, Kyu-Jin Cho, a biorobotics engineer and one of the authors, "[as] we can change the impedance of a joint by moving another."

Most lift-assist devices—such as Karl Zelik's HeroWear—are designed to reduce the wearer's fatigue by providing extra power and minimizing interference in their volitional movements, says co-author Jooeun Ahn. "On the other hand, our MR Exosuit is focusing on reshaping the wearer's lifting motion into a safe squatting form, as well as providing extra assistive force."

Movement reshaping exo-suit for safe lifting

The MR suit has been designed to mitigate injuries for workers in factories and warehouses who undertake repetitive lifting work. "Many lift-related injuries are caused not only by muscle fatigue but also by improper lifting posture," adds Keewon Kim, a rehabilitation medicine specialist at SNU College of Medicine, who also contributed to the study. Stooping is easier than squatting, and humans tend to choose the more comfortable strategy. "Because the deleterious effects of such comfortable but unsafe motion develop slowly, people do not perceive the risk in time, as in the case of disk degeneration."

The researchers designed a mechanism to lock the hip flexion when a person tries to stoop and unlock it when they tried to squat. "We connected the top of the back to the foot with a unique tendon structure consisting of vertical brake cables and a horizontal rubber band," graduate researcher and first author of the study, Sung-Sik Yoon, explains. "When the hip is flexed while the knee is not flexed, the hip flexion torque is delivered to the foot through the brake cable, causing strong resistance to the movement. However, if the knees are widened laterally for squatting, the angle of the tendons changes, and the hip flexion torque is switched to be supported by the rubber band."

The device was tested on ten human participants, who were first-time users of the suit. Nine out of ten participants changed their motion pattern closer to the squatting form while wearing the exosuit. This, says Ahn, is a 35% improvement in the average postural index of 10 participants. They also noticed a 5.3% reduction in the average metabolic energy consumption of the participants. "We are now working on improving the MR Exosuit in order to test it in a real manual working place," Ahn adds. "We are going to start a field test soon."

“Wearable devices do not have to mimic the original anatomical structure of humans."

The researchers plan to commercialize the device next year, but there are still some kinks to work out. While the effectiveness of the suit has been verified in their paper, the long-term effects of wearing have not. "In the future, we plan to conduct a longitudinal experiment in various fields that require lift posture training such as industrial settings, gyms, and rehabilitation centers," says Cho.

They are also planning a follow-up study to expand the principle of body-powered variable impedance to sports applications. "Many sports that utilize the whole body, such as golf, swimming, and running, require proper movement training to improve safety and performance," Cho continues. "As in this study, we will develop sportswear for motion training suitable for various sports activities using soft materials such as cables and rubber bands."

This study shows that artificial tendons whose structure is different from that of humans can effectively assist humans by reshaping the motor pattern, says Ahn. The current version of the exosuit can also be used to prevent inappropriate lifting motions of patients with poor spinal conditions. He and his colleagues expect that their design will lead to changes in future research on wearable robotics: "We demonstrated that wearable devices do not have to mimic the original anatomical structure of humans."


Match ID: 144 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 9 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Brain-Inspired AI Will Enable Future Medical Implants
Fri, 10 Sep 2021 13:00:01 +0000


Artificial intelligence can identify subtle patterns in data, which is particularly useful in medicine. So far, these have been offline processes—doctors perform a medical test, and data from the test is run through a software program after. A real-time process could allow doctors to identify and treat a medical problem much more quickly. One way to detect these patterns in real time would be with an AI system implanted in the body.

In a new study led by researchers from TU Dresden, researchers created a system made from networks of tiny polymer fibers that, when submerged in a solution meant to replicate the inside of the human body, function as organic transistors. These networks can detect and classify abnormal electrical signals in the body. To test their system, the researchers used it to identify patterns in types of irregular heartbeats. Technology like this could be used to detect medical concerns like irregular heartbeats and others, such as high blood sugar.

"What we have demonstrated is a general concept," said Matteo Cucchi, PhD student at TU Dresden and the study's lead author. "It's a general approach that then can be specialized for one particular application."

Neuron-like transistors

To create biocompatible hardware, Cucchi and his colleagues used networks of polymer fibers made out of a carbon-based material called PEDOT. The tiny networks of branching fibers are visible with a microscope. Cucchi and fellow researchers led by Karl Leo, senior author of the study and director of the Dresden Integrated Center for Applied Physics and Photonic Material, where this research took place, were struck by how similar they looked to neurons.

When immersed in an electrolyte (a salt solution) that mimics conditions inside the human body, the networks of fibers become organic electrochemical transistors (OECTs), which, like silicon-based transistors in traditional computers, act as switches for electrical current, though using a different mechanism.

In a traditional silicon transistor, a metal contact controls whether the transistor is on or off. An OECT "works very differently because you contact the channel with the electrolyte, and you change the potential of the electrolyte," said Leo. "In this way, you can control the number of ions which are in the polymer [fibers] or the electrolyte. And that is changing the conductivity." These organic transistors transform electrical inputs into nonlinear signals, like the binary code that computers use, making it usable for computation.

The researchers used an approach to machine learning called reservoir computing for their system. Unlike the highly-structured organization of other machine learning systems, the components are configured randomly to form a reservoir. In the study, the OECTs were random because of the way they were made. The researchers used a method called AC electropolymerization, which involves running alternating current between electrodes across a liquid precursor to PEDOT. Material starts to condense on one electrode and a fiber eventually grows to the other. The process produces fibers with varying resistances and response times, which help transform the electrical inputs into nonlinear outputs.

The researchers input data in the form of electrical signals, replicating the type of ionic information that the system would receive if it were inside the body. The system worked best when the data was encoded into electrical frequencies. The signals are changed and transformed by the "black box" of the reservoir. Then, the researchers could train a smart system to interpret the results as one of several electrical patterns. In this way, the reservoir is trained to recognize and classify patterns of electrochemical information.

Testing the system

One of the datasets the researchers tested their system on was data that represented four types of heartbeats—one normal and three irregular. The AI could correctly distinguish between the four types of heartbeats 88% of the time. Importantly, the heartbeat data was part of an already existing dataset and was not collected from any people as part of the study.

In the future, implantable devices using more specialized versions of this technology might be able to detect unusual electrical signals and medical concerns from within a person's body. The researchers write that this could be particularly useful after surgery. Leo imagines a device with a simple light display that would stay green if a heartbeat were normal and turn red if it became irregular. Cucchi said that such a device could enable doctors to "act immediately on the signal without losing time and money on analysis and invasive procedures."

For now, the researchers said, the technology is nowhere near being used inside a person. The study only examined how a system like this could work. Use of it as a medical implant would require extensive preclinical and clinical testing. The hardware in the study also used outside power and had no internal power source, as an implant would.

The technology also raises questions about the implications of implanting an AI device in a person's body. The authors suggest that this system could be used online, or in real-time, which would raise questions about how that data is presented and collected. Leo says these are important questions to consider alongside future research.

"There is an ongoing discussion about AI and how you apply it, and its potential for misuse," said Leo. "It's definitely an issue here."


Match ID: 145 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 9 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

This Memory Tech Is Better When It's Bendy
Thu, 09 Sep 2021 18:28:00 +0000


For stick-on displays, smart bandages, and cheap flexible plastic sensors to really take off, they'll need some way of storing data for the long-term that can be built on plastic. "In the ecosystem of flexible electronics, having memory options is very important," says Stanford electrical engineering professor Eric Pop.

But versions of today's non-volatile memories, such as Flash, aren't a great fit. So when Pop and his team of engineers decided to try adapting a type of phase-change memory to plastic, they figured it would be a long shot. What they came up with was a surprise—a memory that actually works better because it's built on plastic. The energy needed to reset the memory, a critical feature for this type of device, is an order of magnitude lower than previous flexible versions. They reported their findings this week in Science.

Phase-change memory (PCM) is not an obvious win for plastic electronics. It stores its bit as a resistive state. In its crystalline phase, it has a low resistance. But running enough current through the device melts the crystal, allowing it to then freeze in an amorphous phase that is more resistive. The process is reversible. Importantly, especially for experimental neuromorphic systems, PCM can store intermediate levels of resistance. So a single device can store more than one bit of data.

Unfortunately, the usual set of materials involved doesn't work well on flexible substrates like plastic. The problem is "programming current density": Basically, how much current do you need to pump through a given area in order to heat it up to the temperature at which the phase change takes place? The uneven surface of bendy plastic means PCM cells using the usual materials can't be made as small as they are on silicon, requiring more current to achieve the same switching temperature.

Think of it as trying to bake a pie in an oven with the door slightly ajar. It will work, but it takes a lot more time and energy. Pop and his colleagues were looking for a way to close the oven door.

They decided to try a material called a superlattice, crystals made from repeating nanometers-thick layers of different materials. Junji Tominaga and researchers at the National Institute of Applied Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, Japan had reported promising results back in 2011 using a superlattice composed of germanium, antimony, and tellurium. Studying these superlattices, Pop and his colleagues concluded that they should be very thermally insulating, because in its crystalline form there are atomic-scale gaps between the layers. These "van der Waals-like gaps" restrict both the flow of current and, crucially, heat. So when current is forced through, the heat doesn't quickly drain away from the superlattice, and that means it takes less energy to switch from one phase to another.

Cross-section of a circular shape with a copper layer on top (Pt), followed by a grey layer, 4 mixed blue and green layers (Sb2Te3/GeTe), with a partial light grey layer (AI2O3)a grey layer, and a yellow layer (PI) on the bottom. Current is confined to a superlattice by a pore-like structure of aluminum oxide. This makes heating more efficient so the memory can switch states using less energy.A.I. Khan and A. Daus

But the superlattice work was hardly a slam dunk. "We started working on it several years ago, but we really struggled and almost gave up," says Pop. The superlattice works if the van der Waals gaps are oriented parallel to each other and without major mixing between layers, Pop explains. But the peculiarities of the material deposition equipment involved mean that "just because they published their parameters in Japan, doesn't mean you can use them in a tool in Palo Alto."

Asir Intisar Khan, a doctoral candidate working with Pop, had to push through a trial-and-error process that involved more than 100 attempts to produce superlattices with the right van der Waals gaps.

A black and white micrograph image, labelled 5nm A superlattice structure formed by alternating layers of antimony telluride and germanium telluride. Van der Waals-like gaps form between the layers, restricting the flow of current and heat.K. Yamamoto and A.I. Khan

The researchers kept the heat in the memory device by confining the flow of current to a 600-nanometer-wide pore-like structure that was surrounded by insulating aluminum oxide. The final layer of insulation was the plastic itself, which resists the flow of heat considerably better than the silicon PCM is usually built on. The completed device had a current density of about 0.1 mega-amperes per square centimeter, about two orders of magnitude lower than conventional PCM on silicon and an order of magnitude better than previous flexible devices. Furthermore, it showed four-stable resistance states. So it can store multiple bits of data in a single device.

That building the device on plastic would actually improve things wasn't something the team had planned. Alwin Daus, a post-doctoral researcher in the lab with flexible electronics expertise, says the team assumed that the titanium nitride electrode between the superlattice and the substrate would limit heat loss and thus the substrate would not influence the memory operation. But later simulations confirmed that heat penetrates into the plastic substrate, which has a low thermal conductivity compared to silicon substrates.

The work reported this week is a proof of concept for low-power storage on flexible surfaces, Khan says. But the importance of thermal insulation applies to silicon devices as well. The team hopes to improve the devices by further shrinking the pore diameter and by making the sides of the device more insulating. Simulations already show that making the aluminum oxide walls thicker reduces the current needed to reach the switching temperature.The researchers will also look into other superlattice structures that might have even better properties.


Match ID: 146 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 9 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

The Birthplace of the AC Grid
Wed, 08 Sep 2021 18:00:01 +0000


Back in the 1800s, electricity distribution was a short-range business, driven by nearby DC generators. That changed in 1895. On 13 July of that year, the Folsom Powerhouse, in California, became the first facility to send high-voltage alternating current over long-distance transmission lines. It brought electricity to Sacramento over a 35-kilometer-long distribution line using newly invented AC generators and hydroelectric power. The facility generated three-phase 60 Hz AC electricity—the standard in the United States today—and powered Sacramento businesses such as Buffalo Brewing, as well as the California State Capitol building and the city's streetcars.

On the 126th anniversary of the achievement, 13 July, the Folsom Powerhouse was commemorated with an IEEE Milestone. The IEEE Sacramento Valley Section sponsored the nomination. You can watch the dedication ceremony on the facility's Facebook page.

Administered by the IEEE History Center and supported by donors, the Milestone program recognizes outstanding technical developments around the world.

STEPPING INTO INDUSTRY

Horatio Gates Livermore moved from Maine to California in 1850 during the Gold Rush in pursuit of riches, according to a walking tour of Folsom and the facility, which is now a state historic park. After 12 years of mining gold, however, Livermore became more interested in building a logging business and sawmill. He sought to use water wheels powered by the 48-km-long American River to operate sawmills and other industrial plants in the Folsom area. The river runs from the Sierra Nevada mountains to downtown Sacramento, where it connects to the Sacramento River.

In 1862, he and his sons, Horatio Putnam and Charles Edward, bought Natoma Water and Mining, in Sacramento, to turn the dream into reality. The company owned a network of dams, ditches, and reservoirs that supplied water to the numerous gold mines located around the American River, according to the facility's website.

In the mid-1860s, the company started construction on a dam in the town of Folsom to provide a pond that would store the logs cut in the higher foothills before they were sent down the river to the sawmill.

The company faced several challenges, however, including finding affordable labor—which delayed construction for many years. After Livermore died in 1892, his sons were able to complete the project by hiring inmates at the San Quentin prison.

The brothers saw a business opportunity larger than just generating power for the sawmills. Instead, they set their sights on providing power to Sacramento with the help of a new technology: hydroelectric power. Folsom is 37 km from Sacramento.

LET THERE BE ELECTRICITY

Although the two brothers didn't build the first electric power plant in the world, it was the largest one at the time and the first to use AC generators.

Photo of a blue electric generator The 750-kilowatt, 2.6 meters tall AC generators that were used at Folsom Powerhouse were manufactured by General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y.Everett Collection Historical/Alamy

The Folsom Powerhouse's main building contained four 750-kilowatt generators that were each 2.6 meters tall and weighed more than 25 metric tons. The generators—manufactured by General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y.—were the "largest three-phase dynamos yet constructed," according to an 1895 report in The Electrical Journal. A 2,896-meter-long canal parallel to the American River, completed in 1893, provided water power to the generators through four dual turbines invented by John B. McCormick. Each pair of generators produced 1,260 horsepower. The turbines were powered by river water that flowed through four 2.4-meter penstocks—channels to regulate the flow that had gates that could be closed to turn off the water.

The generators' voltage output was increased from 800 volts to 11,000 by recently invented Stanley transformers. The high voltage allowed the electricity to be sent on a system developed by Louis Bell, chief engineer of the power transmission department at GE. If the AC generators failed, the facility had two small DC generators as backups.

Horatio, Charles, and Albert Gallatin, a partner in Huntington, Hopkins Hardware, formed the Folsom Water Power Co. It supplied water to Sacramento Electric Power and Light, which the three men founded in 1892.

On 13 July 1895, with two generators in operation, electricity was successfully transmitted over 35 km of uninsulated copper wire to Sacramento.

The facility was acquired in 1902 by California Gas and Electric, headquartered in San Francisco, and three years later became part of Pacific Gas and Electric.

The Folsom Powerhouse provided electricity to Sacramento for nearly five decades. In 1952 PG&E donated the powerhouse to California, according to an article about the facility on PG&E's blog. The original Folsom dam was removed to make way for a larger dam, and the facility was designated a state historic park.

The Milestone plaque is to be displayed at the Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park. The plaque reads:

Folsom was one of the earliest electrical plants to generate three-phase alternating current, and the first using three-phase 60 hertz. On 13 July 1895, General Electric generators began transmitting electricity 22 miles to Sacramento at 11,000 volts, powering businesses, streetcars, and California's capitol. The plant demonstrated advantages of three-phase, 60 hertz long-distance transmission, which became standard, and promoted nationwide development of affordable hydropower.


Match ID: 147 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Pfizer’s Edge in the COVID-19 Vaccine Race: Data Science
Wed, 08 Sep 2021 13:03:59 +0000


Pfizer dominated news headlines and family dinner conversations last December when it became the first company to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. market. The pharma giant accomplished the feat in record time: less than a year after the disease was first identified.

Integral to that effort was the work of Pfizer's informatics and digital technology team for its vaccine R&D business. Led by Frank DePierro, this group of researchers crunched and chronicled all of the clinical trial data that led to a green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and a safeguard for millions of people. What did it take to make that happen? IEEE Spectrum spoke with DePierro last week via video call to find out. The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.

Frank DePierro Frank DePierro, Pfizer

IEEE Spectrum: What's it like to have the eyes of the world on your work?

Frank DePierro: It's been wild knowing how close my team and I are to the success of this vaccine. I would read articles with people speculating about the data or science, watch news clips with talking heads or experts, or overhear people discussing rumors while out and about, and the whole time I would be biting my tongue thinking about how wrong or right something was that was being said. Being so close to the process but also having to hold so much back, even from close family and friends, made it a tense year.

Spectrum: That must have been exasperating.

DePierro: The spring and summer of 2020 was the most difficult time of my life. I was at home working remotely, under intense pressure to deliver and run the team, had to balance working the longest hours of my career while helping a third grader with school and keeping a three-year-old entertained because my wife was busy on the front lines as a healthcare worker. I think people forget—especially in the news cycles—that we are human too, juggling all the same things while also trying to advance science.

“Being so close to the process but also having to hold so much back, even from close family and friends, made it a tense year."

Spectrum: What does your team do for Pfizer?

DePierro: My team supports clinical trial data. When blood and other kinds of samples are brought to the lab, each sample has to be received, tracked, divided up, and analyzed with complex robotics and instruments, and then statistical analysis is performed and final data generated. So the tools that track all of those samples and generate the data—that's my team. Then we report it out to the FDA.

Spectrum: How many samples from COVID-19 vaccine trials have you processed?

DePierro: The short answer is: a lot! In the last year and a half we logged more clinical samples for COVID than all other vaccine programs combined since 2014.

Spectrum: What kinds of assays or tests are conducted on the samples?

DePierro: It depends on what kind of clinical trial we're running. One test we run is where we introduce a live virus to a blood sample to see how the blood reacts. If the virus is neutralized in the blood, that tells us that the person had built up immunity. We also do PCR, which is the same technology used ubiquitously now in COVID diagnostics.

Spectrum: What are some of the informatics tools that you use?

DePierro: The main behemoth behind all of what we do is called LIMS, which is a Laboratory Information Management System. This is the broad system that enables us to track samples coming in, collect the data, and aggregate it. These are off-the-shelf, but highly customizable, and a lot of venders offer them. The one we happen to use for our vaccine trials is by a company called LabWare. There are certain aspects where we just check boxes to configure, but there are other aspects where we're going in and writing complex subroutines and code using a proprietary language called LIMS Basic, which is very similar to a Java or BASIC.

Then we have other tools that enable us to connect the instruments, robotics and statistical modeling. We're heavy users of SAS. That's the bread and butter of many of the algorithms we write that statistically analyze the clinical data to generate final results. We also use R for statistical analysis. And we have many complex instruments and robotics that have their own proprietary applications that need to be configured and have to communicate effectively with our LIMS or other applications.

“From a workforce perspective, it was all-hands-on-deck. There was no weekend, there was no evening. It was all work, and everyone understood that."

Spectrum: How did your job change when COVID hit?

DePierro: We were really compressed on time. When we're going to run a new assay or sample test, we have to program it into our systems and make sure the robotics and instruments are properly configured, and for a PCR assay, for example, this typically takes 6 to 12 months. For COVID, we did it in about two weeks with a team that dropped everything else. A neutralization assay normally takes 24 months because there are complex algorithms to program to match the scientific requirements. We did it in about two months.

We also became a lot better at summarizing the data. This involves cleaning it up and packaging it for the company's leadership and the FDA to look at. For a normal study, we would prepare this maybe two or three times during the course of a long study. With COVID, we had to come up with a way to report data every day for the company's leadership. As we got closer to having something to submit to the FDA, we started reporting it up to four times a day—often overnight.

Spectrum: How were you able to speed up your timeline by so much?

DePierro: It was serendipitous because maybe a year before the pandemic, we had put into place a lot of new informatics infrastructure for one of our Prevnar 20 vaccine trials against pneumonia. In preparing for that we put a tremendous amount of time, energy, money, and resources into improving our LIMS and putting in more servers and optimizing our background processes and robotics so that everything was more efficient.

Once COVID hit, we capitalized on those improvements. And from a workforce perspective, it was all-hands-on-deck. There was no weekend, there was no evening. It was all work, and everyone understood that. My whole team got pulled into COVID straight away, and we grew by probably by 30-40% over the last year. We did as much as we could with the same regulatory compliance and without cutting corners.

“If a new study or update to an existing study is needed to look at variants, theoretically it requires work, but hopefully most of it will leverage what has already been built."

Spectrum: Pfizer was the first company to get authorization from the FDA for its COVID-19 vaccine. How much do you think your team's work contributed to that?

DePierro: We were a huge part of that. The improvements we had made to our infrastructure in the couple of years leading up to the pandemic played a big role. For example, our LIMS is configured to allow for a certain amount of pseudo-parallel processing. So we spent months retooling algorithms in the system, adding additional load balanced servers, retooling the database, splitting processes into backgrounds, and improving general parameters for many of our configured assays, which is an incredible amount of work to do under the strict validation standards we follow. The result was noteworthy. In 2017 we were averaging about 20 concurrent users at peak processing and only several dozen batches of samples a week. By the end of 2019 we had upwards of 150 concurrent users, and the number of batches processed per week exceeded 300. This helped to set us up for success in 2020 and 2021.

Spectrum: When new variants emerge, how does that affect your work?

DePierro: If a new study or update to an existing study is needed to look at variants, theoretically it requires work, but hopefully most of it will leverage what has already been built. Some of the biggest challenges come whenever we add novel assays to an existing study or new study. That then requires that we understand the science of the requirements and how that study depends on new instruments or robotics. We will also continue to have pressures on us to package and report out data at quicker intervals than in the past.

Spectrum: What's next for your team as the pandemic plays out?

DePierro: It's a matter of making things more robust and even more efficient. We've become really good at summarizing data. And people have an expectation now of seeing summarized data often and quickly on novel dashboards. So it's still a lot of weekends and nights, and the problem is how do we dial that back when we're still in a pandemic?


Match ID: 148 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Here’s How We Could Brighten Clouds to Cool the Earth
Tue, 07 Sep 2021 18:47:52 +0000


As we confront the enormous challenge of climate change, we should take inspiration from even the most unlikely sources. Take, for example, the tens of thousands of fossil-fueled ships that chug across the ocean, spewing plumes of pollutants that contribute to acid rain, ozone depletion, respiratory ailments, and global warming.

The particles produced by these ship emissions can also create brighter clouds, which in turn can produce a cooling effect via processes that occur naturally in our atmosphere. What if we could achieve this cooling effect without simultaneously releasing the greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants that ships emit? That's the question the Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB) Project intends to answer.

Scientists have known for decades that the particulate emissions from ships can have a dramatic effect on low-lying stratocumulus clouds above the ocean. In satellite images, parts of the Earth's oceans are streaked with bright white strips of clouds that correspond to shipping lanes. These artificially brightened clouds are a result of the tiny particles produced by the ships, and they reflect more sunlight back to space than unperturbed clouds do, and much more than the dark blue ocean underneath. Since these "ship tracks" block some of the sun's energy from reaching Earth's surface, they prevent some of the warming that would otherwise occur.

The formation of ship tracks is governed by the same basic principles behind all cloud formation. Clouds naturally appear when the relative humidity exceeds 100 percent, initiating condensation in the atmosphere. Individual cloud droplets form around microscopic particles called cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Generally speaking, an increase in CCN increases the number of cloud droplets while reducing their size. Through a phenomenon known as the Twomey effect, this high concentration of droplets boosts the clouds' reflectivity (also called albedo). Sources of CCN include aerosols like dust, pollen, soot, and even bacteria, along with man-made pollution from factories and ships. Over remote parts of the ocean, most CCN are of natural origin and include sea salt from crashing ocean waves.

Satellite imagery. To the left is white clouds with tracks forming within. To the left is green and brown land mass. Satellite imagery shows "ship tracks" over the ocean: bright clouds that form because of particles spewed out by ships.Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Rapid Response Team/GSFC/NASA

The aim of the MCB Project is to consider whether deliberately adding more sea salt CCN to low marine clouds would cool the planet. The CCN would be generated by spraying seawater from ships. We expect that the sprayed seawater would instantly dry in the air and form tiny particles of salt, which would rise to the cloud layer via convection and act as seeds for cloud droplets. These generated particles would be much smaller than the particles from crashing waves, so there would be only a small relative increase in sea salt mass in the atmosphere. The goal would be to produce clouds that are slightly brighter (by 5 to 10 percent) and possibly longer lasting than typical clouds, resulting in more sunlight being reflected back to space.

"Solar climate intervention" is the umbrella term for projects such as ours that involve reflecting sunlight to reduce global warming and its most dangerous impacts. Other proposals include sprinkling reflective silicate beads over polar ice sheets and injecting materials with reflective properties, such as sulfates or calcium carbonate, into the stratosphere. None of the approaches in this young field are well understood, and they all carry potentially large unknown risks.

Solar climate intervention is not a replacement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which is imperative. But such reductions won't address warming from existing greenhouse gases that are already in the atmosphere. As the effects of climate change intensify and tipping points are reached, we may need options to prevent the most catastrophic consequences to ecosystems and human life. And we'll need a clear understanding of both the efficacy and risks of solar climate intervention technologies so people can make informed decisions about whether to implement them.

Our team, based at the University of Washington, the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, comprises experts in climate modeling, aerosol-cloud interactions, fluid dynamics, and spray systems. We see several key advantages to marine cloud brightening over other proposed forms of solar climate intervention. Using seawater to generate the particles gives us a free, abundant source of environmentally benign material, most of which would be returned to the ocean through deposition. Also, MCB could be done from sea level and wouldn't rely on aircraft, so costs and associated emissions would be relatively low.

The effects of particles on clouds are temporary and localized, so experiments on MCB could be carried out over small areas and brief time periods (maybe spraying for a few hours per day over several weeks or months) without seriously perturbing the environment or global climate. These small studies would still yield significant information on the impacts of brightening. What's more, we can quickly halt the use of MCB, with very rapid cessation of its effects.

Solar climate intervention is the umbrella term for projects that involve reflecting sunlight to reduce global warming and its most dangerous impacts.

Our project encompasses three critical areas of research. First, we need to find out if we can reliably and predictably increase reflectivity. To this end, we'll need to quantify how the addition of generated sea salt particles changes the number of droplets in these clouds, and study how clouds behave when they have more droplets. Depending on atmospheric conditions, MCB could affect things like cloud droplet evaporation rate, the likelihood of precipitation, and cloud lifetime. Quantifying such effects will require both simulations and field experiments.

Second, we need more modeling to understand how MCB would affect weather and climate both locally and globally. It will be crucial to study any negative unintended consequences using accurate simulations before anyone considers implementation. Our team is initially focusing on modeling how clouds respond to additional CCN. At some point we'll have to check our work with small-scale field studies, which will in turn improve the regional and global simulations we'll run to understand the potential impacts of MCB under different climate change scenarios.

The third critical area of research is the development of a spray system that can produce the size and concentration of particles needed for the first small-scale field experiments. We'll explain below how we're tackling that challenge.

One of the first steps in our project was to identify the clouds most amenable to brightening. Through modeling and observational studies, we determined that the best target is stratocumulus clouds, which are low altitude (around 1 to 2 km) and shallow; we're particularly interested in "clean" stratocumulus, which have low numbers of CCN. The increase in cloud albedo with the addition of CCN is generally strong in these clouds, whereas in deeper and more highly convective clouds other processes determine their brightness. Clouds over the ocean tend to be clean stratocumulus clouds, which is fortunate, because brightening clouds over dark surfaces, such as the ocean, will yield the highest albedo change. They're also conveniently close to the liquid we want to spray.

Two part diagram. Top is labelled Twomey Effect. Two cloud shapes with droplets, and the left says "lower albedo" "fewer larger drops". The right says "higher albedo" "more smaller drops". Between says "macrophysically identical clouds. The bottom is labelled "Cloud Adjustments". Three more clouds with droplets include left "more smaller drops", two arrows next to "Macrophysical cloud responses" and the top arrow points to "higher albedo" "suppressed precipitation" and the bottom arrow to "lower albedo" "enhanced entrainment" In the phenomenon called the Twomey effect, clouds with higher concentrations of small particles have a higher albedo, meaning they're more reflective. Such clouds might be less likely to produce rain, and the retained cloud water would keep albedo high. On the other hand, if dry air from above the cloud mixes in (entrainment), the cloud may produce rain and have a lower albedo. The full impact of MCB will be the combination of the Twomey effect and these cloud adjustments. Rob Wood

Based on our cloud type, we can estimate the number of particles to generate to see a measurable change in albedo. Our calculation involves the typical aerosol concentrations in clean marine stratocumulus clouds and the increase in CCN concentration needed to optimize the cloud brightening effect, which we estimate at 300 to 400 per cubic centimeter. We also take into account the dynamics of this part of the atmosphere, called the marine boundary layer, considering both the layer's depth and the roughly three-day lifespan of particles within it. Given all those factors, we estimate that a single spray system would need to continuously deliver approximately 3x10 15 particles per second to a cloud layer that covers about 2,000 square kilometers. Since it's likely that not every particle will reach the clouds, we should aim for an order or two greater.

We can also determine the ideal particle size based on initial cloud modeling studies and efficiency considerations. These studies indicate that the spray system needs to generate seawater droplets that will dry to salt crystals of just 30–100 nanometers in diameter. Any smaller than that and the particles will not act as CCN. Particles larger than a couple hundred nanometers are still effective, but their larger mass means that energy is wasted in creating them. And particles that are significantly larger than several hundred nanometers can have a negative effect, since they can trigger rainfall that results in cloud loss.

We need a clear understanding of both the efficacy and risks of solar climate intervention technologies so people can make informed decisions about whether to implement them.

Creating dry salt crystals of the optimal size requires spraying seawater droplets of 120–400 nm in diameter, which is surprisingly difficult to do in an energy-efficient way. Conventional spray nozzles, where water is forced through a narrow orifice, produce mists with diameters from tens of micrometers to several millimeters. To decrease the droplet size by a factor of ten, the pressure through the nozzle must increase more than 2,000 times. Other atomizers, like the ultrasonic nebulizers found in home humidifiers, similarly cannot produce small enough droplets without extremely high frequencies and power requirements.

Solving this problem required both out-of-the-box thinking and expertise in the production of small particles. That's where Armand Neukermans came in.

black and white photo of a woman with dark hair and a striped shirt Kate Murphy leads the engineering effort for the MCB project at PARC, the Xerox research lab in Silicon Valley. Christopher Michel

black and white photo of an older man with white hair wearing glasses and a striped shirt Armand Neukermans brought his expertise in ink jet printers to bear on the quest to make nozzles that could efficiently and reliably spray tiny droplets of seawater. Christopher Michel

After a distinguished career at HP and Xerox focused on production of toner particles and ink jet printers, in 2009 Neukermans was approached by several eminent climate scientists, who asked him to turn his expertise toward making seawater droplets. He quickly assembled a cadre of volunteers—mostly retired engineers and scientists. and over the next decade, these self-designated "Old Salts" tackled the challenge. They worked in a borrowed Silicon Valley laboratory, using equipment scrounged from their garages or purchased out of their own pockets. They explored several ways of producing the desired particle size distributions with various tradeoffs between particle size, energy efficiency, technical complexity, reliability, and cost. In 2019 they moved into a lab space at PARC, where they have access to equipment, materials, facilities, and more scientists with expertise in aerosols, fluid dynamics, microfabrication, and electronics.

The three most promising techniques identified by the team were effervescent spray nozzles, spraying salt water under supercritical conditions, and electrospraying to form Taylor cones (which we'll explain later). The first option was deemed the easiest to scale up quickly, so the team moved forward with it. In an effervescent nozzle, pressurized air and salt water are pumped into a single channel, where the air flows through the center and the water swirls around the sides. When the mixture exits the nozzle, it produces droplets with sizes ranging from tens of nanometers to a few micrometers, with the overwhelming number of particles in our desired size range. Effervescent nozzles are used in a range of applications, including engines, gas turbines, and spray coatings.

The key to this technology lies in the compressibility of air. As a gas flows through a constricted space, its velocity increases as the ratio of the upstream to downstream pressures increases. This relationship holds until the gas velocity reaches the speed of sound. As the compressed air leaves the nozzle at sonic speeds and enters the environment, which is at much lower pressure, the air undergoes a rapid radial expansion that explodes the surrounding ring of water into tiny droplets.

A man and a woman wearing masks stand at a table in a white tent. In the foreground is silver and blue equipment including a nozzle from which white spray is emitting. Coauthor Gary Cooper and intern Jessica Medrado test the effervescent nozzle inside the tent. Kate Murphy

Neukermans and company found that the effervescent nozzle works well enough for small-scale testing, but the efficiency—the energy required per correctly sized droplet—still needs to be improved. The two biggest sources of waste in our system are the large amounts of compressed air needed and the large fraction of droplets that are too big. Our latest efforts have focused on redesigning the flow paths in the nozzle to require smaller volumes of air. We're also working to filter out the large droplets that could trigger rainfall. And to improve the distribution of droplet size, we're considering ways to add charge to the droplets; the repulsion between charged droplets would inhibit coalescence, decreasing the number of oversized droplets.

Though we're making progress with the effervescent nozzle, it never hurts to have a backup plan. And so we're also exploring electrospray technology, which could yield a spray in which almost 100 percent of the droplets are within the desired size range. In this technique, seawater is fed through an emitter—a narrow orifice or capillary—while an extractor creates a large electric field. If the electrical force is of similar magnitude to the surface tension of the water, the liquid deforms into a cone, typically referred to as a Taylor cone. Over some threshold voltage, the cone tip emits a jet that quickly breaks up into highly charged droplets. The droplets divide until they reach their Rayleigh limit, the point where charge repulsion balances the surface tension. Fortuitously, surface seawater's typical conductivity (4 Siemens per meter) and surface tension (73 millinewtons per meter) yield droplets in our desired size range. The final droplet size can even be tuned via the electric field down to tens of nanometers, with a tighter size distribution than we get from mechanical nozzles.

Electrospray diagram with a row of black rectagular shapes, then blue cones over small dots, a blue line and gray boxes, labelled Extractor, Taylor cone, capillary array (ground), filter, housing and on the bottom, salt water This diagram (not to scale) depicts the electrospray system, which uses an electric field to create cones of water that break up into tiny droplets. Kate Murphy

Electrospray is relatively simple to demonstrate with a single emitter-extractor pair, but one emitter only produces 10 7–109 droplets per second, whereas we need 1016–1017 per second. Producing that amount requires an array of up to 100,000 by 100,000 capillaries. Building such an array is no small feat. We're relying on techniques more commonly associated with cloud computing than actual clouds. Using the same lithography, etch, and deposition techniques used to make integrated circuits, we can fabricate large arrays of tiny capillaries with aligned extractors and precisely placed electrodes.

Two micrograph images. Left shows rows of circular nozzles with darker circular centers. Right is a close-up. Images taken by a scanning electron microscope show the capillary emitters used in the electrospray system. Kate Murphy

Testing our technologies presents yet another set of challenges. Ideally, we would like to know the initial size distribution of the saltwater droplets. In practice, that's nearly impossible to measure. Most of our droplets are smaller than the wavelength of light, precluding non-contact measurements based on light scattering. Instead, we must measure particle sizes downstream, after the plume has evolved. Our primary tool, called a scanning electrical mobility spectrometer, measures the mobility of charged dry particles in an electrical field to determine their diameter. But that method is sensitive to factors like the room's size and air currents and whether the particles collide with objects in the room.

To address these problems, we built a sealed 425 cubic meter tent, equipped with dehumidifiers, fans, filters, and an array of connected sensors. Working in the tent allows us to spray for longer periods of time and with multiple nozzles, without the particle concentration or humidity becoming higher than what we would see in the field. We can also study how the spray plumes from multiple nozzles interact and evolve over time. What's more, we can more precisely mimic conditions over the ocean and tune parameters such as air speed and humidity.

4 people in a large white text looking at equipment on a table Part of the team inside the test tent; from left, "Old Salts" Lee Galbraith and Gary Cooper, Kate Murphy of PARC, and intern Jessica Medrado. Kate Murphy

We'll eventually outgrow the tent and have to move to a large indoor space to continue our testing. The next step will be outdoor testing to study plume behavior in real conditions, though not at a high enough rate that we would measurably perturb the clouds. We'd like to measure particle size and concentrations far downstream of our sprayer, from hundreds of meters to several kilometers, to determine if the particles lift or sink and how far they spread. Such experiments will help us optimize our technology, answering such questions as whether we need to add heat to our system to encourage the particles to rise to the cloud layer.

The data obtained in these preliminary tests will also inform our models. And if the results of the model studies are promising, we can proceed to field experiments in which clouds are brightened sufficiently to study key processes. As discussed above, such experiments would be performed over a small and short time so that any effects on climate wouldn't be significant. These experiments would provide a critical check of our simulations, and therefore of our ability to accurately predict the impacts of MCB.

It's still unclear whether MCB could help society avoid the worst impacts of climate change, or whether it's too risky, or not effective enough to be useful. At this point, we don't know enough to advocate for its implementation, and we're definitely not suggesting it as an alternative to reducing emissions. The intent of our research is to provide policymakers and society with the data needed to assess MCB as one approach to slow warming, providing information on both its potential and risks. To this end, we've submitted our experimental plans for review by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and for open publication as part of a U.S. National Academy of Sciences study of research in the field of solar climate intervention. We hope that we can shed light on the feasibility of MCB as a tool to make the planet safer.


Match ID: 149 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 11 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

New Resource for University Educators
Tue, 07 Sep 2021 18:00:00 +0000


Engineering education has evolved during the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and universities to close classrooms and shift to remote learning, prompting instructors to adapt their curricula and teaching style. As schools reopen this year using in-person, hybrid, and remote learning models, it has become crucial for teachers to adjust.

To help them, in May IEEE launched its Teaching Excellence Hub, a resource for university-level educators who are teaching engineering, computer science, and technology courses online or in person. The website offers tools they can use to improve their curriculum, manage student teams, and more. The hub is a collaboration between the IEEE Education Society and the IEEE Educational Activities Board.

'"IEEE quickly observed that university faculty did not have the resources or support they needed during the COVID-19 pandemic as they transitioned to remote learning," says Burton Dicht, director of student and academic programs for IEEE Educational Activities. "The IEEE Teaching Excellence Hub is meant to help all university staff access resources and tools they can use in the ever-adapting world of education."

Here is an overview of what the hub offers.

ON-DEMAND EVENTS

Best practices. The IEEE Education Society and the IEEE Educational Activities Board co-sponsored the Engineering Education 2.0 interactive four-part virtual-event series to equip engineering educators with best practices. IEEE Senior Member Arnold Pears, an engineering education expert and current vice president of publications for the IEEE Education Society, is the featured speaker.

Distance learning series. The four webinars in this series cover technologies to facilitate student-teacher communication.

IEEE accreditation series. This series presents behind-the-scenes experiences from IEEE/ABET program evaluators and global accreditation experts. The first event, How an IEEE Program Evaluator Prepares for a University Visit, is available on demand.

Teaching remotely. The Effective Remote Instruction virtual conference, held in April, brought together faculty members from across the globe to share real-world examples and best practices. Five webcasts from the conference are available, offering continuing-education units and professional development hour credits.

  • Ditching the Traditional College Lecture in Remote Instruction.
  • Making Labs Effective With Remote Learning.
  • Managing Remote Student Teams.
  • Student Assessments for Remote Delivery.
  • Student and Data Privacy When Offering Remote Instruction.

Registration is free for all the events. Attendees can earn a digital certificate of participation.

ARTICLES OF INTEREST

The hub offers reading material on the following topics.

Academic integrity. The ethical behavior expected in an educational setting.

Assessment techniques. Ways to measure formative and summative levels of student learning.

Career development. Activities for personal and professional improvement through continuing education, skill acquisition, experience, and curated mentorship.

Cooperative learning. Peer-to-peer learning and support where students work together to solve a problem or complete a task.

Educational research. The systematic study of how people learn and teach, and how people experience education.

Equality, diversity, and inclusion. Ensuring equal access to engineering, computing, and technology education and careers, as well as the inclusion of viewpoints that reflect the diversity of the community.

Flipped classroom learning. A technique that requires students to study material before class and then apply their knowledge through problem-solving exercises in class.

Learning technologies. Technology-based tools that enable information delivery and assessment of students, including networks, applications, learning management systems, and computer-aided learning software.

Remote instruction. How students learn through online content and interaction.

The hub's content is reviewed by an editorial board, which includes members from all 10 IEEE regions, reflecting the global nature of the organization.

Vist the hub to find more resources.

Johanna Perez is a digital marketing specialist for IEEE Educational Activities.


Match ID: 150 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 12 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Crypto’s Slow Motion Gold Rush
Tue, 07 Sep 2021 15:20:23 +0000


When Chinese authorities cracked down on cryptocurrency mining in May, earnings soared for miners in other countries. That set the stage for a crypto gold rush in other countries, but supply chain disruptions and logistical bottlenecks have made capitalizing on the opportunity tough.

Mining plays a crucial role in the functioning of many cryptocurrencies, including the two biggest—Bitcoin and Ethereum. Miners compete with each to solve complex calculations that help secure transactions, and are rewarded with new coins in return. While anyone with a computer can try their hand at mining, today the bulk of it is done by professional outfits running thousands of specialized chips in dedicated datacenters.

In April, 46 percent of all mining took place in China, according to data from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance. But in May Chinese regulators banned the practice over concerns about mining's excessive energy consumption and perceived threats to financial stability. In a matter of weeks, all that mining capacity went offline.

With the bulk of the competition out of action, profits for miners in the rest of the world skyrocketed. Combined with a rally in the price of Bitcoin starting in June, the ban prompted a scramble to set up whole new operations or relocate mining chips stranded in China. But that's easier said than done, says Dave Perrill, CEO of Compute North, which builds specialized data centers where miners rent space for their chips.

"We've seen newer miners that haven't done this before thinking you can buy 10,000 machines and just find a spot to plug them in," he says. "It can take six to twelve months to build up those kinds of facilities."

Compute North has operations in Texas, Nebraska and South Dakota, and is expanding rapidly to cope with demand, says Perrill, but all of their space is booked out until the second quarter of next year. That's a situation mirrored around the world, which is posing a major problem for owners of idle mining chips.

"If you're not plugged in, you're not making money," says Perrill. "The math is real easy—zero revenue. It's literally a melting ice cube, it's a depreciating asset."

The challenges facing new mining operations have changed significantly in the last six month. Prior to China's crackdown, a global semiconductor shortage meant getting hold of new chips was the major bottleneck, says Perril, but that has flipped in the last four months as many shuttered Chinese mines look to offload hardware on the second-hand market.

But building a bitcoin mine is about more than just the chips. Disruptions to the global supply chain due to the covid-19 pandemic have hit everything from the pre-fabricated containers used to house chips, to power cables and fans, to the transformers used to manage the enormous amounts of electricity mines require, says Perrill.

A recovery in Bitcoin's so-called hashrate—a measure of the collective computing power of all miners—in the last couple of months has been widely attributed to Chinese mining equipment being relocated. But miners often shutdown their chips when the price of Bitcoin falls, says Garrick Hileman, head of research at crypto finance house Blockchain.com, so this recovery might also be partly down to previously mothballed chips coming back online.

Miners are famously secretive, says Hileman, so it's hard to tell exactly what's going on. But as new chips are sold out until early next year, they are unlikely to be adding significantly to capacity. And the cost and complexity of moving such large amounts of gear, particularly when global shipping is facing major delays, suggest much may still be lying idle. "Moving that amount of infrastructure isn't something that happens overnight," says Hileman. "Many in the industry are expecting this process to play out over a 12 or 18 month period."

Given that time is of the essence, many Chinese miners have hopped across the border to Russia or Kazakhstan, says Hileman, but North America has also seen a large influx. That's partly due to the availability of some of the cheapest power in the world from Texas' wind farms and Quebec's hydropower plants, but he thinks it may also be due to a more stable regulatory environment. "Regulatory clarity is a huge factor now," he says. "That's probably the second biggest factor now, after electricity, and it might actually be number one for many people."

The exodus was already underway before the crackdown, says Jaran Mellerud, an analyst at investment firm Arcane Crypto. China has long been hostile to cryptocurrencies, but many miners set up shop there anyway to be close to the leading suppliers of mining chips, who are all Chinese, he says.

For years, rapid performance gains with each new generation of chips meant having close relationships with suppliers was a crucial competitive advantage, but in recent years progress has slowed. That has reduced China's pull, says Mellerud, and the country's share of mining was already in decline from its peak of 75 percent in late 2019.

And after being stung this time round, Mellerud thinks many of the larger miners will hedge their bets going forward. " I don't believe China will be the last country to crackdown on Bitcoin mining," he says. "I think that big miners will try to try to diversify geographically."

But while the disruption to the mining industry may take some time to shake out, the episode has highlighted the resilience of cryptocurrencies, says Mellerud. The only visible impact for Bitcoin users was a slight increase in processing times, which resolved after a few weeks when the network automatically adjusted the difficult of mining problems.

"Think about any other computing network that you've ever worked with," says Perrill. "What could take out half their capacity in a matter of two weeks and continue to run just as well as it did prior? To me, that is a huge testament to the architecture and the engineering and the foresight of the Bitcoin network."


Match ID: 151 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 12 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

ISS Daily Summary Report – 9/06/2021
Mon, 06 Sep 2021 16:00:22 +0000
Payloads Genes in Space-8:  The crew performed the setup of the Fluorescence Viewer and mini-PCR and performed Freeze and Fly Ops #3 to demonstrate the heating and fluorescent visualization functions of the Genes in Space experiment.  Some pharmaceuticals used to maintain astronaut health do not work as well in space, which may be linked to …
Match ID: 152 Score: 2.86 source: blogs.nasa.gov age: 13 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

What Makes an Artist in the Age of Algorithms?
Mon, 06 Sep 2021 12:00:00 +0000
The Grammy-nominated composer BT spoke to WIRED about art as a form of big data—and his new composition that lives on the blockchain.
Match ID: 153 Score: 2.86 source: www.wired.com age: 13 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Solar Power from Space? Caltech’s $100 Million Gambit
Wed, 11 Aug 2021 15:01:13 +0000


In 1941 Isaac Asimov, the science fiction writer, published a short story called "Reason." It was a cautionary tale about robotics and artificial intelligence, but it's also remembered now for its fanciful setting: A space station that gathered solar energy to send to the planets via microwave. Ever since, space-based solar power has been an out-there idea—something with potential to change the world, if we can ever master the technology, and muster the funds, to do it.

Donald Bren has done his share of reading about solar power, and since he is one of America's wealthiest real estate developers, he's in a position to help muster the funds. The California Institute of Technology has just announced that, since 2013, Bren and his wife Brigitte have given the school more than US $100 million to help make photovoltaic power from orbit a reality.

That's a lot of money, and, importantly, the work has been spread out over a decade. A team at Caltech is aiming for the first launch of a test array in late 2022 or 2023.

"This is something that's pretty daring," says Ali Hajimiri, a professor of electrical engineering and a co-director of Caltech's Space Solar Power Project. The long timeline, he says, "allows you take chances, and take risks. Sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don't, but when you do that, in an educated, controlled fashion, you end up with things that you never expected."

Bren, 89, made most of his fortune—estimated between $15.3 billion and $16.1 billion—building offices and homes in Orange County, California. He is majority owner of New York City's iconic MetLife Building. He's also donated land and money for environmental conservation. He gives few interviews (he declined to speak for this story), and while Caltech's Space Solar Power Project has been public, Bren's support of it was a secret until now.

High Earth orbit is a great place for a solar farm—the sun never sets and clouds never form. But to generate a meaningful amount of electricity, most past designs were unrealistically, and unaffordably, massive. Engineers depicted giant truss structures, usually measured in kilometers or miles, to which photovoltaic panels or mirrors were attached, absorbing or concentrating sunlight to convert to direct current, then transmit it to the ground via laser or microwave beams. Hundreds of rocket launches might be needed to build a single installation. It was technology too big to succeed.

"What was really required to make this compelling was to have a paradigm shift in the technology," says Harry Atwater, the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at Caltech and a leader of the project. "Instead of weighing a kilogram per square meter, we're talking about systems we can make today in the range of 100 to 200 grams per square meter, and we have a roadmap for getting down to the range of 10 to 20 grams per square meter."

How? Through no single step, but perhaps the biggest change in thinking has been to make solar arrays that are modular. Lightweight gallium-arsenide photovoltaic cells would be attached to "tiles"—the fundamental unit of the Caltech design, each of which might be as small as 100 square centimeters, the size of a dessert plate.

Each tile—and this is key—would be its own miniature solar station, complete with photovoltaics, tiny electronic components, and a microwave transmitter. Tiles would be linked together to form larger "modules" of, say, 60 square meters, and thousands of modules would form a hexagonal power station, perhaps 3 km long on a side. But the modules would not even be physically connected. No heavy support beams, no bundled cables, much less mass.

"You can think of this as like a school of fish," says Atwater. "It's a bunch of identical independent elements flying in formation."

Transmission to receivers on the ground would be by phased array—microwave signals from the tiles synchronized so that they can be aimed with no moving parts. Atwater says it would be inherently safe: microwave energy is not ionizing radiation, and the energy density would be "equal to the power density in sunlight."

Space solar power is probably still years away. Analysts at the Aerospace Corporation's Center for Space Policy and Strategy caution that it "will not be a quick, easy, or comprehensive solution." But there is ferment around the world. JAXA, Japan's space agency, is hard at work, as is China's. Launch costs are coming down and new spacecraft are going up, from internet satellites to NASA's moon-to-Mars effort. The Aerospace Corp. analysts say terrestrial power grids may not be the first users of solar power satellites. Instead, they say, think of…other space vehicles, for which a microwave beam from an orbiting solar farm may be more practical than having their own solar panels.

"Is there a need for a lot of additional work? Yes," says Hajimiri. But "some of the ingredients that were major showstoppers before, we are moving in the direction of addressing them."

All of this has the Caltech engineers excited. "It's important for us to be willing to take chances," Hajimiri continues, "and move forward with challenging problems that, if successful, would work toward the betterment of our lives."


Match ID: 154 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 39 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

JPL's Plan for the Next Mars Helicopter
Tue, 10 Aug 2021 17:00:00 +0000


The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is currently preparing for its 12th flight in Jezero Crater on Mars, which is 11 flights more than was strictly necessary for NASA to have declared the technology demonstrator a success. Over the last four months, Ingenuity has proven that flight on Mars is not only possible, but practical, and can contribute tangible scientific value—even for a vehicle that was not designed to do much in the way of science at all.

The question now is how Ingenuity's spectacular performance will influence NASA's future Mars exploration strategy.

It turns out NASA has been thinking about this since long before Ingenuity landed on Mars. About three years ago, as Ingenuity's design and testing phase was mostly over and the Perseverance rover was getting closer to launch, roboticists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA Ames Research Center, and AeroVironment (a company that helped to develop Ingenuity) got together and began to sketch out what a next generation Mars helicopter might look like. How would a Martian helicopter effectively scale up? What kinds of science instruments could it carry? What missions could only be done with such a helicopter?

The result was the Mars Science Helicopter (MSH), a 30-kilogram hexacopter able to do unique science on the Martian surface without requiring rover support.


The first element in JPL's design approach was to provide as many options as possible to the scientific community, explains J. (Bob) Balaram, Ingenuity Chief Engineer at JPL and one of the authors of a white paper on the Mars Science Helicopter. That meant thinking about all kinds of different vehicle sizes and mission architectures. "Ingenuity could be scaled both up and down," Balaram tells us. "We could make it even smaller, into a scout. Or, we could scale it up into a full-size standalone helicopter. And there are things in between, maybe something in the 5kg class, where it's taking samples from distant sites and bringing them back to a lander for analysis." JPL presented this menu of Mars helicopter options to planetary scientists, asking them to imagine what kinds of new research might be possible with each platform. And there's a lot to imagine.

Airborne Science on Mars

"This is a brand new way of looking at Mars," Balaram says. "Aerial mobility gives you reach, range, and resolution. You can reach places that no wheeled vehicle can get to. You can travel kilometers every day. And depending on what height you fly at, you can get whatever resolution you want with your instruments. We were just telling the scientists, think big!"

Here are examples of some of the ways in which scientists have been thinking big, in the form of two potential missions for a future Mars Science Helicopter.

Mawrth Vallis: Searching for Life at Inaccessible Sites

Two satellite images of Mawrth Vallis on Mars, a rendering of MSH taking images of the inside of a crater, and a diagram of MSH sampling an inaccessible crater wall. A version of MSH could image and sample crater walls, inaccessible to ground robots.

Mawrth Vallis is a huge 640-kilometer long outflow channel that may have hosted rivers, lakes, and wetlands about 3.5 billion years ago. On Earth, minerals found at sites like these preserve organic material. This mission concept would combine a stationary lander with smaller helicopter using a two rotor coaxial design, similar to Ingenuity. The helicopter would scout for promising locations over a wide area, and then use an arm and microdrill to bring samples back to the lander, which would carry science instruments including a micro-imaging suite and a life-detection instrument. And on the off chance that life is discovered on Mars, airborne sampling from a helicopter would help to guard against contamination.

Milankovič Crater: Mapping Subsurface Water Ice

Four satellite images showing an area of Mars' northern highlands, and diagram of MSH investigating water ice. A hexacopter version of MSH could map subsurface water ice over a large area, while also collecting atmospheric data from the lower atmosphere that's hard to measure from the surface or from orbit.

High northern latitudes on Mars are thought to host a significant amount of water ice just under the surface. This is important for understanding the water cycle and climate history of Mars, and also because water ice can potentially provide oxygen to breathe as well as rocket fuel for future human exploration. Creating accurate maps of subsurface ice from orbit is challenging, but a large hexacopter version of MSH equipped with a neutron spectrometer, infrared imager, and meteorology package would be able to provide high resolution data over a very large area.

"You'd shoot a little projectile from the drone that embeds itself in the cliff wall, and then you'd reel it back in with a sample."

Within these mission scenarios, perhaps the most astonishing potential application suggested in the white paper is contact interrogations of otherwise inaccessible surfaces—that is, taking in-flight samples of rocks or soil from areas that a rover (and perhaps even a human) could never reach, like midway up a cliff wall. "The ability to do station keeping against a cliff wall is fairly standard machine vision," Balaram says. "So then the question becomes, what is the actual end effector? You can imagine something like a penetrator with a reel-in device. You'd shoot a little projectile from the drone that embeds itself in the cliff wall, and then you'd reel it back in with a sample. Or maybe you find some green slime that you want to collect, so you shoot something at it that's sticky, like fly paper. This is the kind of science that we can potentially do."

A Serious Engineering Effort

Size comparison of MSH and Ingenuity Each of the Mars Science Helicopter's rotors is the size of Ingenuity's rotors. Balaram describes MSH as "basically six Ingenuitys."

Although MSH's science payload is still very conceptual, Balaram says that the concept for the vehicle itself "isn't just a cartoon—it's a serious engineering effort." The hexacopter shown in the rendering above is the most mature design; JPL considered simply scaling up Ingenuity and making MSH a larger coaxial helicopter, but Balaram explains that there were some control issues that, while not unsolvable, make a hexarotor design more appealing. The hexacopter airframe will be somewhat heavier than the coaxial design, but a hexacopter also has the advantage of being able to operate with one (or even possibly two) nonfunctional rotors.

The current MSH concept has a mass of about 31 kg and a total diameter of just over four meters, with six rotors each sporting a quartet of 0.64 meter blades. The payload of 5 kg gives MSH what Balaram calls a very attractive sweet spot for science instruments. MSH would have a top speed of about 30 m/s, a five minute hover time, or a range of up to 10km per flight, and a solar cell on top of the vehicle would be able to recharge MSH's batteries over the course of one Martian day. This kind of range and speed means that MSH could cover as much ground in a few days as a rover like Curiosity has covered in years. JPL and its partners have also been working on things like blade design, manufacturability, and how MSH would fold up inside of an aeroshell for entry, descent, and landing. There's even the exciting possibility of a mid-air deployment as part of the landing process, which would avoid the additional cost and complexity of a dedicated lander.

Three renderings showing how the hexacopter's arms collapse inward and fold up to fit inside of an aeroshell. MSH could fold up to fit inside of the same aeroshell used for the Mars Pathfinder mission.

Since much of the work done on the Mars Science Helicopter took place before Perseverance and Ingenuity landed on Mars, the MSH team has been learning a lot about Martian rotorcraft operations from how Ingenuity has been performing over the last several months, which in turn is informing design decisions about MSH. "One of the main unknowns that we had was how much we could rely upon orbital images to pick landing sites," Balaram says. Ingenuity has shown that orbital images are actually pretty good for this, and even with relatively low resolution images, finding safe landing fields is fairly reliable. This means MSH might not need quite as sophisticated of a hazard detection system for making autonomous landings, simplifying the design and saving mass. Ingenuity's experience has also given the MSH team more confidence about flying in windy conditions. "In terms of the control performance, Ingenuity has turned out to be exceeding our expectations," says Balaram, which translates into potentially tuning the performance of MSH to be a little less conservative. "It's kind of like, let's just relax our design margins, because some of the tough problems that we thought were tough are probably not as challenging as we thought they could be. So those lessons learned feed forward into the science helicopter."

Ingenuity has also shown how modern computing hardware and software can be used in spacecraft. Its technology demo status meant that JPL could get a little more creative than normal, using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 running Linux which gave the little helicopter 150 times more computing power than the Perseverance rover. Balaram wants to leverage Ingenuity's success into a similar approach with MSH: "One of the things that we demonstrated with Ingenuity is even though it was a technology demo, we could still build in the right amount of redundancy through clever computing architecture. You can imagine using processors that may be slightly fragile from a radiation perspective, but that use a voting system to make decisions, running three of them in parallel. It's a way of thinking about how we want to do computing that isn't insisting on bulletproof hardware from the 90s—it's still conservative, just not necessarily the old way of doing things. And there's no fundamental reason why these kinds of things cannot be done in the next generation helicopter."

Making It Happen

Currently, NASA's Mars program is focused on sample return, and while a Mars Helicopter could play a unique and compelling role in a sample return mission, it's by no means the obvious choice. Unless NASA decides that helicopters on Mars are absolutely the way to go and funds MSH directly, the next Mars helicopter will have to survive a competitive proposal process that weighs potential science against cost, complexity, and risk. As of right now, Balaram says that the MSH concept is mature enough for a broad range of potential science missions, and that the next step is to optimize it for a specific mission scenario, taking into account a landing location, time of year, and overall goals and constraints.

If the idea of a flagship helicopter mission to Mars seems far-fetched, it's important to remember that NASA's first rover on Mars was also a small technology demonstrator: Sojourner. With an initial mission length of seven Martian days, Sojourner stayed active for 83 days, and helped to give NASA the experience and confidence required to send first the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, and then the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers, to Mars.

Like Sojourner, Ingenuity is really just a brief preview of what a science helicopter mission could do, and Bob Balaram believes that the concept has proved itself. Given that Ingenuity has been "very effective, I'm hopeful that NASA will give us the chance to engage with Mars in a completely new way with MSH," Balaram tells us. "We've opened up aerial mobility on Mars. We've landed in a few places, and flown a little bit here and there. But let's put our imaginations to the test and see what we could do if we had access to the whole planet—what could we achieve? That's what the challenge is for all of us. To imagine that, and then make it happen."


Match ID: 155 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 40 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Europa Clipper Mission
Fri, 23 Jul 2021 14:18 EDT
NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for Earth’s first mission to conduct detailed investigations of Jupiter's moon Europa.
Match ID: 156 Score: 2.86 source: www.nasa.gov age: 57 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Stratospheric Balloons Take Monitoring and Surveillance to New Heights
Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:00:00 +0000


Alphabet's enthusiasm for ­balloons deflated earlier this year, when it announced that its high-altitude Internet company, Loon, could not become commercially viable.

But while the stratosphere might not be a great place to put a cellphone tower, it could be the sweet spot for cameras, argue a host of high-tech startups.

The market for Earth-observation services from satellites is expected to top US $4 billion by 2025, as orbiting cameras, radars, and other devices monitor crops, assess infrastructure, and detect greenhouse gas emissions. Low­-altitude observations from drones could be worth.

Neither platform is perfect. Satellites can cover huge swaths of the planet but remain expensive to develop, launch, and operate. Their cameras are also hundreds of kilometers from the things they are trying to see, and often moving at tens of thousands of kilometers per hour.

Drones, on the other hand, can take supersharp images, but only over a relatively small area. They also need careful human piloting to coexist with planes and helicopters.

Image of the United States Map displaying different altitudes. Click here to see larger. StoryTK

Balloons in the stratosphere, 20 kilometers above Earth (and 10 km above most jets), split the difference. They are high enough not to bother other aircraft and yet low enough to observe broad areas in plenty of detail. For a fraction of the price of a satellite, an operator can launch a balloon that lasts for weeks (even months), carrying large, capable sensors.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the U.S. military has funded development in stratospheric balloon tests across six Midwest states to “provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats."

But the Pentagon is far from the only organization flying high. An IEEE Spectrum analysis of applications filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission reveals at least six companies conducting observation experiments in the stratosphere. Some are testing the communications, navigation, and flight infrastructure required for such balloons. Others are running trials for commercial, government, and military customers.

The illustration above depicts experimental test permits granted by the FCC from January 2020 to June 2021, together covering much of the continental United States. Some tests were for only a matter of hours; others spanned days or more.


Match ID: 157 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 59 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

China Tries To Solve Its Rocket Debris Problem
Thu, 24 Jun 2021 13:34:00 +0000


On the morning of 17 June, China launched the first astronauts to its Tianhe space station module, with a Long March 2F rocket sending the crewed Shenzhou-12 spacecraft into orbit.

Overlooked from this major success, however, was that downrange from its Gobi Desert launch site, empty rocket stages fell to ground. As getting to orbit is about reaching velocity high enough to overcome gravity (roughly 7.8 kilometers per second), rockets consist of stages, with tanks and engines optimized for flying through atmosphere dumped to reduce mass once empty. A video posted on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo emerged that seems to show one of these as part of the recovery process, with apparent residual, hazardous propellant leaking from the broken boosters. According to the source, road closures and evacuations allowed a safe clean up.

Stunningly, this is not unusual for Chinese space launches. China’s three main spaceports were built during the Cold War when security was paramount, with the U.S. and Soviet Union considering the possibility of preemptive strikes on facilities linked to China’s fledging nuclear weapon capabilities. Only the Wenchang launch center, established in 2016 for new rockets, is on the coast. As China has been aiming to launch as many as 40 or more times annually in the last few years, the issue is growing, with some stages falling on or near inhabited areas, including close to a school.

However where the stages fall and how they are dealt with is not as haphazard as it appears. The areas in which stages and side boosters fall are calculated to avoid major populations, and local warnings and evacuation orders are issued and implemented in advance. The array of amateur footage of falling rocket stages backs up the claim that the events are known and expected. No casualties from these events have so far been reported.

Yet this approach is costly, disruptive and not without continued risks and occasional damage.

To mitigate and eventually solve the problem, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), the country’s main space contractor is developing controllable parafoils to constrain the areas in which the stages fall, most recently tested on a Long March 3B launch from Xichang, southwest China, one of China’s workhorse launchers, which most frequently threaten inhabited areas. Grid fins, the kind which help guide Falcon 9 rocket core stages to landing areas, have been tested on smaller Long March 2C and 4B launch vehicles.

The latter step is part of attempts to develop rockets that can launch, land and be reused like the Falcon 9, thus controlling the fall of large first stages.

The Long March 8, which had a debut (expendable) flight in December, is expected to be CASC’s first such launcher. Chinese commercial companies including Landspace, iSpace, Galactic Energy and Deep Blue Aerospace, are also working on reusable rockets. Low altitude hop tests are expected this year. Though, as SpaceX has demonstrated in a self-depreciating compilation, landing rockets vertically is no mean feat.

Additionally, the Long March 7A rocket, which launches from the coast, is expected to eventually replace the aging Long March 3B rocket for launches to geostationary orbit. As a bonus the 7A uses relatively clean kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant instead of the toxic fuel and oxidizer mix used by the 3B. The Long March 2F used for crewed launches could also be replaced by a Long March 7 or a low-Earth orbit version of a new-generation rocket being developed to eventually send Chinese astronauts to the moon.

China has also developed the ability to conduct launches at sea (though the most recent such launch flew directly over Taiwan). Its new Long March 5B, which launches from the coast, also has its own particular issue, namely the first stage actually (and unusually) reaching orbit, and returning to Earth wherever and whenever the atmosphere drags it back down.

Despite these measures, launching over land and population centers is fraught with risk. The debris issues and events above are when things go well; failures could bring yet greater danger. China’s space industry and activities have expanded greatly in recent decades, including lunar and planetary exploration, human spaceflight, remote sensing, spy, weather and other satellites, as well as a new commercial space sector. Some areas of space operations playing catch up.


Match ID: 158 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 87 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Sub-THz Communication - A Key Enabler for Beyond 5G?
Thu, 17 Jun 2021 14:55:06 +0000


In this webinar, we summarize the technical challenges to generate THz radiation using electronic and photonic approaches, including their applications. We will look at over-the-air (OTA) measurement of antenna characteristics in the sub-THz region, focusing on D-band (110 GHz to 170 GHz) and discussing initial results for channel measurements in the sub-THz area up to 325 GHz.


Match ID: 159 Score: 2.86 source: engineeringresources.spectrum.ieee.org age: 94 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Terran R Rocket from Relativity Space Will Be Completely 3D Printed, Completely Reusable
Thu, 10 Jun 2021 12:48:00 +0000


The era of just tossing rockets willy nilly into space and then littering orbit, the ocean, and the occasional backyard with their remains may finally be drawing to a close. This week, Relativity Space is announcing the Terran R, a 65 meter tall entirely 3D-printed two stage launch vehicle capable of delivering 20,000 kg into low Earth orbit and then returning all of its bits and pieces safely back to the ground to be launched all over again.

Relativity Space’s special sauce is that they 3D print as close to absolutely everything as they possibly can, reducing the part count of their rockets by several orders of magnitude. While traditional rocket engines may contain thousands of parts, Relativity’s Aeon engine is composed of just three direct metal laser sintered components. This makes the engines faster and cheaper to build and far easier to assemble, which Relativity hopes will let them rapidly scale. And even though their current(ish) generation expendable launch vehicle, the Terran 1, has yet to fly (it will likely do so this year), Relativity is already thinking much, much bigger with the Terran R.

As you might expect from a system with a target launch date of 2024, the technical details on the Terran R are a bit sparse. In particular, we wanted to know exactly how Relativity plans on achieving full reusability with this design, since they’ll need to recover the first stage, the second stage, and the payload fairing, which (traditionally) is four separate bits of spacecraft that would have to be recovered separately. But the Terran R will streamline this process, both figuratively and literally.

The figurative streamlining is achieved by keeping the fairings attached to the second stage, rather than jettisoning them into space, in a setup that I am 100% sure was inspired by the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. This means that the fairings don’t have to be recovered separately, but instead can return to Earth along with the second stage, reducing the bits of spacecraft that you have to recover from four to two.

“We are going to take an iterative approach to recovery—pushing our capability with each flight to learn and then modify our vehicle and software appropriately,” Zach Dunn, Relativity’s SVP of Engineering and Manufacturing told Spectrum in an email. “We'll do this with both the first and second stages. Initially we are planning on down range landing at sea, but we'll also be working to get back to land.  And our initial intent is that both stages will land propulsively.”

The literal streamlining you can see in the video and renderings of the rocket, with its fluid lines and what look like wings on both the first and second stage. “These are aerodynamic surfaces to help stabilize the stages during reentry,” Dunn says. “For the second stage specifically, they aid in distributing the heat and aero loading over the full side of the stage. This distribution of load coupled with the use of exotic alloys for the second stage will enable reentry and recovery.”

Relativity expects that the Terran R will launch from Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral in 2024.


Match ID: 160 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 101 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

If Necessary, Mars Rover Curiosity Could Rip Its Own Wheels Off to Stay Mobile
Wed, 12 May 2021 14:23:00 +0000


The Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity landed on Mars in August of 2012. After a year of exploring Gale Crater, JPL engineers noticed some wear on Curiosity’s wheels, in the form of dents and small holes in the wheels’ 0.75mm thick aluminum skin. While not unexpected, the wear on the wheels kept increasing at a higher rate than JPL had planned for, and by early 2017 (after about 16km of driving), the rover had experienced the first breaks in the much thicker structural elements that hold its wheels together, called grousers. 

Each of Curiosity’s wheels has 19 grousers, so one or two broken ones isn’t much of a concern. But if enough of the grousers snap off, the worst-case scenario is that the inside of the wheel could loosen and make contact with the cabling that connects the motor inside the wheel hub with the motor controller inside the body of the rover. That could potentially render the wheel inoperable, or even cause electrical damage that could mess up control of other motors around the rover.

JPL’s Wheel Wear Tiger Team (“Tiger Teams” being a thing that has a history at NASA going back to Apollo 13) took a look at the problem, and came up with some recommendations about where and how to drive that have been very successful at reducing wheel wear rates. But since there’s no way of eliminating wheel wear completely, they also came up with a backup plan that they could implement if the wheel damage approaches catastrophic. It involves Curiosity finding a nice sharp rock and using it to rip out the insides of its own wheels.

Every 1000 meters of driving, Curiosity pulls over and uses the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the end of its robotic arm along with its Mastcam camera to snap some pictures of its wheels so that JPL can keep track of wheel wear. The images below show one of the flight wheels in pristine condition, along with a MAHLI image taken on 4 April 2021, showing extensive skin damage and a missing grouser on one of the rover’s middle wheels.

Rover wheels A new MSL flight wheel (left), compared to a MAHLI image of one of Curiosity’s middle wheels (right) taken on Mars on April 4, 2021. Images: JPL, NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

As of mid-April, Curiosity has driven a total of 25.246 km, and JPL has found one broken grouser on the right middle wheel along with three broken grousers on the left middle wheel, the third of which happened within the last 1000 meters of driving. The grousers on the front and rear pairs of wheels are all intact. The wheels will remain functional even if most of the aluminum skin is missing; it’s really the grousers that keep the structure of the wheel stable.

Odometry features An image showing the odometry features on Curiosity’s wheels, taken on Mars on January 26, 2017. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In addition to the 19 grousers that go around the wheel, each wheel also has an odometry feature, which is a section of the wheel that has a pattern of holes in it. These holes help the rover visually track its progress, and they also spell out “JPL” in Morse code, because why not. The odometry feature is more structurally robust, and JPL expects that it’ll hang on even if all the grousers on a wheel break.

A “critical damage state” for one of Curiosity’s wheels, with all 19 grousers broken, would look something like this:

MSL wheel damage Left: a “critically damaged” MSL flight wheel used for testing with 19 broken grousers. Right: JPL engineer Amanda Steffy holds a wheel that was tested to failure on the Scarecrow rover in the JPL Mars Yard. Images: JPL

The broken part of the wheel is the inner two-thirds; the outer third of the wheel (where the wheel connects to the hub) is supported by spindles along with an interior stiffening rig, and JPL has found that the grousers almost always break right where the edge of that that stiffening ring is. Extensive testing back here on Earth using a rover mobility analogue called Scarecrow has shown that even if the entire inner section of the wheel is completely broken off, Curiosity is more or less just fine driving on only the remaining outer third of the wheel, which JPL calls a “rimmed wheel.” The issue, though, is that the broken inner part of the wheel would be flopping around between the rimmed wheel and the body of the rover, and could cause problems with the wiring around the wheels. 

Rimmed wheel Scarecrow testing driving on a rimmed wheel. Photo: JPL

To be clear, Curiosity’s wheels are totally functional (if a little beat up) at the moment. It would take 14 broken grousers on a single wheel before JPL would formally consider taking further action. Their latest predictions, based on how much more driving the rover is likely to do and incorporating driving strategies that have substantially reduced wheel wear, suggest that 14 broken grousers won’t happen until somewhere around 2034. But as part of JPL’s Wheel Wear Strategic Plan, they came up with a potential solution for wheels in a critical damage state, called wheel shedding. The objective of wheel shedding is to take the broken inner two-thirds of the wheel and completely detach it from the rover to protect that fragile cabling and (hopefully) keep the rover roving. Obviously, the rover is not in the least equipped to do this by itself, but as it turns out Mars is covered in potential wheel shedding tools in the form of pointy rocks. 

Wheel diagram An diagram of an “unrolled” MSL wheel, showing at top the structure of a damaged wheel and at bottom a rimmed wheel after a successful shed maneuver. Image: JPL

The idea here is for Curiosity to use a rock to deliberately create two additional breaks in the wheel (one each side of the innermost edge of the odometry feature), and then peel all the rest of the damaged wheel away. This is done via two maneuvers: a “Twist and Shout” maneuver to make the first break by catching the inner part of the wheel on a rock and twisting the wheel, followed by a “Pigeon Toe” maneuver, where the now mostly broken off part of the wheel is pressed up against the rock as the rover attempts to drive forward while wiggling the damaged wheel. If all goes well, the damaged section gets peeled away by the rock, and the rover continues on the outer third of the wheel, plus the leftover odometry section which would just kinda hang on for the ride.

wheel shedding First, the rover positions its wheel on top of a rock (left). It then twists that wheel 90 degrees while driving straight with its other wheels, causing the damaged part of the wheel to bend and eventually break (right). Photos: JPL

wheel shedding After the first break is complete (left), the rover straightens the wheel, and drives back towards the rock, pushing the damaged wheel section up against the rock (right). Photos: JPL

wheel shedding Alternating forward and backward driving motions with the damaged section against the rock causes a second break (left), shown from an overhead view (right). Photos: JPL

wheel shedding With the shed maneuver complete, the rover drives off, leaving the damaged wheel behind. Photo: JPL

JPL estimates that performing a shed maneuver would take between one and two months per wheel, but again, the wheels are doing okay for now. “Since other mitigations that the team has put in place are extending wheel life predicts further and further into the future, it is unlikely that we will need to perform a wheel shed maneuver,” JPL’s Evan Graser told us in an email. “There’s always a chance of reaching the end of a wheel’s life during the mission, but we’re many years away from even needing to make the decision whether to pursue shedding further.” 

Graser is the Mobility & Mechanisms subsystem team lead for the Curiosity rover, and a member of the MSL Wheel Wear team. If Curiosity does get to that 14 broken grouser milestone, Graser says, they’d start taking another serious look at the wheel shed maneuver, since there’s still lots of stuff they’d have to figure out before performing the maneuver with the real rover on Mars. For example, JPL is not entirely sure how much of a problem that hanging odometry feature would be, and while they seem certain it’ll break off on its own at some point, it could potentially cause some problems before it does so.

It will also be necessary to refine the shed maneuver and better characterize how long it’ll take, and make sure they can get it to work on Mars, which is definitely not the easiest thing in the world, considering it’s off-world and all. “It’s much easier to make decisions and correct problems when you can simply walk around Scarecrow,” Graser says “It’s much harder on the actual vehicle where the only information we get is from our onboard cameras.”

Finding the right rock will also be a bit of a challenge. Mars is covered in rocks, but it’s also a big, dynamic place with lots of geologic diversity, and the shed maneuver requires a very specific sort of rock: embedded in the ground, 10-15 cm in height, 1-2 steep faces to make wheel positioning easier, plus some kind of feature or protrusion on the top of a rock to hook the wheel onto. Curiosity has already passed rocks that could be used for wheel shedding, but it’s also possible that the rover may end up following its science mission into geologic areas where it won’t be able to find the rock that it needs, and if so, well, that’s just how it goes. 

Rover wheel comparison A comparison between the wheels of the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Meanwhile, over in Jezero Crater, Perseverance is just starting its own Martian journey, and as you’d expect, JPL took everything that they learned from observing Curiosity’s wheel wear and used it to develop more rugged wheels for Perseverance.

“The design of Perseverance’s wheels was informed by the damage to Curiosity wheels, and the new wheels have numerous features that make them tougher,” explains Graser. “More grousers with less spacing between them, a new tread design without chevrons, and a thicker skin all contribute. The Mars 2020 team conducted extensive testing of the new wheels and found that they both perform better and have greatly improved damage tolerance compared to Curiosity’s.”

MSL selfie This Curiosity “selfie,” taken at a location called Mont Mercou, was captured on March 26, 2021, the 3,070th Martian day of the rover’s mission. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

I’m very much hoping that Curiosity gets to the point where JPL might have to start looking at wheel shedding again, if for no other reason than it will have meant that the rover has been hard at work for at least an additional decade. But until that milestone of 14 broken trousers is reached (in 2034 or thereabouts), the MSL Wheel Wear team is on pause, and it sounds like they don’t really think that this will ever be a problem they’ll come back to because wheel wear won’t be the thing that limits Curiosity’s lifetime.

Curiosity has spent more than 3000 days on Mars, far longer than its primary mission life of two years. It’s probably unrealistic to expect that Curiosity will match Opportunity, which exceeded its 90-day primary mission life by a mind-blowing factor of 57. According to the Wheel Wear Team, current wheel damage rates and a steadily decreasing effective driving rate due to the way Curiosity’s radioisotope thermoelectric generator works implies that “no wheel will reach a state of heavy damage during the predicted lifetime of the rover.” 

Even if the shed maneuver is never used on Mars, I love the fact that this is the solution that the folks JPL conceptualized, developed, and then tested because it seems so completely in the tradition of spectacularly crazy ideas that include things like giant clusters of bouncy airbags and rocket-powered skycranes—stuff where you hear about it, think they can’t possibly be serious, and then gradually realize that it is in fact the best solution to the problem. And if JPL keeps coming up with creative solutions like these to keep Curiosity alive and well (or at least, well enough), maybe 2034 won’t seem quite so far away.

Rimmed Wheel Performance on the Mars Science Laboratory Scarecrow Rover, by Evan Graser, Sean McGill, Arturo Rankin, and Alex Bielawiec from JPL was presented at the 2020 IEEE Aerospace Conference, and you can read it here.

This article appears in the July 2021 print issue as “JPL’s Backup Plan for Worn Rover Wheels.”


Match ID: 161 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 130 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Coming Home: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Mission to Begin Return from Deep Space
Fri, 07 May 2021 14:37:00 +0000


It’s a good thing robotic spacecraft are not sentient, because if they were, they would probably hate us. Their reward for a job well done has usually been abandonment. We build them, send them far into space, record the data they send back, and then, because there’s usually no realistic way to recover them, we leave them to the abyss.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid-sampling probe is one of the rare exceptions. On May 10, if everything works, it will start on its way home. No, NASA hasn’t had a change of philosophy, and OSIRIS-REx itself will never land on Earth. But sealed inside a re-entry capsule on its instrument deck is a tiny sample of rock and dirt from the surface of the asteroid 101955 Bennu, and scientists are waiting for it. It is a precious cache: Bennu is believed to be made of carbon-rich debris from the early ages of the solar system. 

“Bennu is a time capsule,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA. “It’s been out there for four and a half billion years waiting for us.” 

bennu Asteroid 101955 Bennu as seen from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at a distance of 7 km. Bennu is 4.5 billion years old, probably carbon-rich debris from the formation of the solar system. Image: NASA

OSIRIS-REx, launched in 2016, has been orbiting and mapping Bennu since 2018, and in October it descended to the asteroid’s surface to grab some of its soil. Today, six months later, the ship is virtually on the opposite side of the sun from Earth—an optimal time for it to fire its main engines for a trip that should allow it to drop its sample capsule in the Utah desert, 80 km west of Salt Lake City, on September 24, 2023. 

That’s in more than two years, even though Bennu’s orbit is relatively close to Earth’s. There are many reasons for taking it slow. Fuel must be conserved, the ship’s cargo is priceless, and the laws of orbital mechanics are unforgiving. 

“I would call it a moderate risk maneuver,” says Peter Antreasian, the navigation team chief. “It’s high-consequence—mission failure if the maneuver doesn’t go off. But we’ve been doing, oh, gosh, 120 maneuvers so far and we haven’t had a problem yet.”

OSIRIS-REx has been a success so far—but Bennu, a ball of rubble less than 500 meters across, has thrown one surprise after another at mission managers. They never tried to land on the asteroid for the soil sampling; “landing” on a body whose gravity is only 8 one-millionths of Earth’s would never work. Instead, the ship descended to one of the few relatively smooth spots it could find on the surface and jabbed it gently with a drum-shaped collection chamber at the end of a 3-meter arm. To their surprise, the probe seemed to break through the rock. They had hoped for at least 60 grams of soil (a sample that would easily fit in the palm of your hand), but realized the collector was so full that pieces of asteroid debris were escaping from it. They hurried to seal the collector in the return capsule for the ride home. They don’t know what they have – they decided to skip a planned measurement – but one guess is that the capsule is carrying 300 grams.

The return plan, says Antreasian, begins with a seven-minute engine burn that should increase the spacecraft velocity, relative to the sun, by about 950 kilometers per hour. Right now Bennu is 89 percent as far from the sun as Earth is, but to rendezvous with Earth, the spacecraft will have to follow an ellipse that takes it 40 percent farther out—almost as far from the sun as Mars is. Confirmation of the engine burn should come at about 4:16 p.m. EDT Monday, but if it doesn’t happen, there are several more opportunities through June. 

bennu color map A false-color 3D image of asteroid Bennu, showing variations in elevation. The colors represent the distance from the center of Bennu: dark blue areas lie approximately 197 feet (60 meters) lower than peaks indicated in red. Image: NASA

Orbital maneuvering is paradoxical: A spacecraft accelerates to reach a higher orbit, but actually takes longer to complete that orbit. It is almost as if OSIRIS-REx were being shot out in a big arc so that Earth can move into place beneath it.

For safety’s sake, the ship’s planned trajectory would miss the Earth by 10,000 km; a midcourse burn in September 2022 should reduce that to 2,500 km, with later maneuvers to close the gap even more. The sample return capsule—a blunt cone like other re-entry spacecraft dating back to the Apollo Command Module—would detach and go tearing into the atmosphere at 12.2 km/sec, slowed by the thickening air around it and then by parachute. 

Recovery teams will be at the ready to track the capsule down after it lands, and then take it to the Johnson Space Center in Texas to be opened in a sealed, specialized laboratory. Small as the soil sample is likely to be, there should be enough to share with other countries, and some would be stored for decades so that future scientists with better instruments and greater knowledge can study it. 

And as for the main OSIRIS-REx spacecraft? After it releases the re-entry capsule, it will fire its engines again—just enough to go whipping around the Earth, headed toward the inner solar system. If technology and funding allow, it may actually have another mission after Bennu, a reconnaissance of another target in space.

After that, there is no getting around it. Its fuel stores depleted, its electronics degraded by cosmic radiation and extreme temperatures, OSIRIS-REx will probably end up like its brethren: left by its makers to wander the solar system, perhaps forever.

UPDATE, May 10, 2021: NASA confirms that its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully fired its engines to begin the two-year trip from asteroid 101955 Bennu to Earth. The seven-minute engine burn was completed at 4:23 p.m. EDT. Expected arrival date: September 24, 2023.


Match ID: 162 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 135 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Three Decades in the Making, China's Space Station Launches This Week
Wed, 28 Apr 2021 14:43:00 +0000


Encased inside a payload fairing atop a huge Long March 5B rocket at Wenchang spaceport sits Tianhe, the first module for China’s space station project.

The Tianhe space station module launch, unofficially expected around 11 p.m. EDT on April 28 (Thursday), will end nearly three decades of preparation and kick off an intense period of 11 major missions. By the end of 2022 China aims to have constructed its three-module Chinese Space Station (CSS), a first project approved way back in 1992. 

After being effectively blocked from joining the International Space Station by United States policy, China has moved ahead with its own, much smaller facility. While the ISS is around 420 metric tons, the T-shaped CSS will be around 66 tons, making it more comparable to Russia’s Mir. 

It will however still be able to support three astronauts for up to six months at a time, and as many as six crew during mission changeovers, as well as a range of cutting edge science experiments.

Tianhe core module

2018 photo of a full-size model of the core module of China's space station Tianhe A 2018 photo shows a full-size model of the core module of China's space station Tianhe exhibited at the 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province. Photo: Xinhua/Getty Images

The roughly 22-ton Tianhe, meaning “Harmony of the Heavens”, will be the core component of the station. (The station’s name is not to be confused with China’s equally ambitious Tianhe supercomputers, among the fastest in the world.)

The 16.6-meter-long, 4.2-meter-diameter module will provide life support and living quarters for astronauts. Tianhe also carries an attached docking hub which will facilitate the space station’s assembly. Two similarly-sized experiment modules, named Wentian and Mengtian, will connect with Tianhe in 2021. 

The latter pair are designed mainly for scientific research, containing a total of 14 experiment racks for research into areas including biology in microgravity, fluid physics, materials science, combustion and space environment monitoring. A first selection of 17 international experiments will also travel to the CSS through a joint initiative between the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

Tianhe’s docking ports allow crewed Shenzhou and Tianzhou spacecraft to rendezvous and dock with the station. Four cargo spacecraft and four crewed missions will visit during the construction phase.

The module also carries robotic arms to aid construction and an airlock for facilitating extravehicular activities. China’s astronauts have been training underwater in preparation for upcoming spacewalks. 

The CSS is expected to orbit at between 340-450 kilometers above the Earth for at least 10 years. Engines aboard Tianhe will regularly fire to raise its orbit, which otherwise gradually decays due to atmospheric drag. Its propulsion comes from both large thrusters—which will be refueled by propellant transfer from the Tianzhou spacecraft—as well as smaller ion thrusters. Two flexible solar arrays, each with a wingspan of 30 meters, will provide 27 kW of power to the orbital outpost.

After completion in 2022, astronauts, including a new batch featuring engineers and payload specialists, will begin long-term science missions. Around 2024 a Hubble-class space telescope will enter into a similar orbital plane and be able to dock with the CSS for maintenance, repairs and even upgrades. The Xuntian (“survey the heavens”) telescope will have a field of view 300 times greater than Hubble, allowing it to cover 40 percent of the sky over the course of a decade.

CSS origins, debris danger?

China committed to developing human spaceflight launch capabilities and a Shenzhou spacecraft capable of making it safely back through the atmosphere back in 1992. Longer term tests included developing life support, tracking, telemetry and control, data relay satellites and techniques such as orbital rendezvous and docking needed to get astronauts into space and allow them to work for long periods.

China became only the third and most recent country to develop independent human spaceflight launch capabilities in October 2003 with the launch of Yang Liwei about Shenzhou 5.

China over its next five crewed flights expanded to two and three astronaut crews, tested life support aboard two small Tiangong testbed space labs in 2012 and 2016 and finally tested refueling in microgravity with the Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft in 2017. 

The Long March 5B was developed specifically to launch space station modules. It required breakthroughs in manufacturing strong yet thin five-meter-diameter rocket cores and new, cryogenic high-thrust rocket engines. 

The test launch in May last year saw the core stage achieve orbital velocity to deliver a prototype crew spacecraft into orbit. Normally such large stages do not enter orbit, and the countries responsible for the missions plan for the debris to fall into a preplanned area of the ocean or, in the case of SpaceX, often vertically land the core stage.

Once the Long March 5B core stage goes orbital it may stay up for around a week, but there is no telling exactly where or when the stage will reenter the atmosphere. While much of it will burn up, some debris will fall to Earth anywhere between around 43 degrees north and south, the intended orbital inclination of Tianhe. The test mission core stage passed over New York 15 minutes before crashing to Earth.

If something major goes wrong with launch it appears there is a backup module waiting. If all goes well, the backup modules could be used to expand the CSS to six modules. China took this approach with its robotic lunar program, repurposing a backup rover for a pioneering lunar far side mission after an earlier successful moon landing.

China is also planning to have a Shenzhou spacecraft and Long March 2F rocket on standby at all times at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert to launch as soon as possible in the case of emergencies.

The space station will provide China with a wealth of human spaceflight experience over the next decade. At the same time the country is engaging in robotic lunar exploration. The two projects seem likely to converge to allow China to send astronauts to the moon in the 2030s.

Before all of those possibilities, the crucial launch of Tianhe may be streamed live by CCTV (Chinese) or CGTN in English on Youtube.


Match ID: 163 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 144 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Why the FCC Keeps Shooting Down Requests From Companies That Want to Shoot Down Drones
Thu, 15 Apr 2021 17:14:00 +0000


When Hawthorne, Calif.–based startup Epirus decided to test a new electronic weapon last winter, it filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It wanted to test its high-power microwave device in the California desert east of Palm Springs, Calif., about three miles from a small airport and the busy I-10 interstate.

The unnamed prototype would be operated intermittently with an effective radiated power of 270 megawatts—thousands of times higher than the strongest FM radio stations, and in the same ballpark as controversial experiments that produce artificial aurorae—and have a range of 300 meters.

Microwave energy induces a current on the surface of metal objects. Any electronic device in range of powerful microwaves will experience heat and arcing on its circuits, rapidly (and likely permanently) disabling it.

Pesky drones around sensitive areas like airports, prisons, borders, and sporting events have created an instant market for antidrone and microwave weapons, once the preserve of the military.

Microwave weapons that target humans have also been developed, with a recent National Academies report blaming microwave weapons for mysterious illnesses in U.S. embassies around the world.

Epirus is named after a magical bow with infinite arrows wielded by the Greek hero Theseus. (Coincidentally, it is also the name of the Greek island family home of ex–Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, whose son John cofounded the company.)

The solid-state phased array device, wrote Epirus, would be a "critical component of several solutions Epirus plans to provide for existing and future government customers, including vehicle/vessel stop, counter-electronics, and counter-communications solutions."

Prototype of a Leonidas Pod microwave weapon mounted on a drone Prototype of a Leonidas Pod microwave weapon mounted on a drone.Epirus

Epirus offers a trailer-size weapon called Leonidas that could be the device in question. It also has a smaller Pod weapon, light and compact enough to mount on a drone that can "disable a wide range of electronic threats." The company claims it has developed "artificial intelligence–enabled gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors" to produce "extreme" levels of power density.

"A ray gun that can fry a drone's electronics at hundreds of meters sounds like something Tony Stark would invent," says Todd Humphreys, director of the Radionavigation Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Humphreys is also concerned that the system, as described in the FCC application, could produce interference at frequencies used by GPS and Galileo navigation services.

Epirus told IEEE Spectrum that this would not be the case, and Dr. Edl Schamiloglu, an expert in high-power microwaves at the University of New Mexico, agreed that any disruption to distant aircraft would likely only be momentary.

"Generally speaking, these systems are also relatively harmless to humans because there's hardly any thermal energy," said Schamiloglu. "But the Epirus system does seem very viable for a localized defense of a commercial facility, like Yankee Stadium."

The FCC, however, did not let the experiment proceed. "You are advised that the Commission is unable to grant your application for the facilities requested," it wrote back to Epirus's CTO in October. "The FCC is not authorized to approve systems that cause interference or jamming. These systems may only be approved by NTIA for military or other law enforcement type systems."

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is the regulator that oversees military and federal spectrum experiments and allocations.

Epirus is far from the only company eager to test electronic weapons. Anduril Industries, another California mil-tech startup, sought permission from the FCC to test an antidrone system in January, again in Southern California. Its technology is a scalpel to Epirus's hammer, generating signals to interrupt a drone's remote control rather than blast it out of the sky with microwaves. Anduril claimed its system could down drones up to 2 kilometers away in any direction.

Andruril Industries Anvil sUAS Andruril Industries Anvil sUAS.Andruril

"The test device is designed to disrupt…an intrusive drone…by transmitting in the same way as the FCC-authorized device, adding noise in a very targeted fashion with effects limited to the target device and causing the target device to land or return to a predetermined location," wrote an Anduril electrical engineer to the FCC.

The FCC denied the request with a virtually identical response: "The FCC is not authorized to approve testing and operation of this type of system that will disrupt the control channel of a UAV. These systems can only be authorized by NTIA for military or federal agency users."

That didn't stop Anduril from filing similar requests again in mid-February and early April, nor dissuade Alion Science and Technology and DroneShieldfrom seeking permission for their own interference-based antidrone tests. Three of these applications were for demonstrations at the U.S. Navy's Trident Spectre event at a military base in Virginia later this month.

Trident Spectre is an annual exercise organized by the Navy to showcase new technologies for its intelligence and special operations units.

DroneShield wanted to demonstrate the DroneGun MKIII, a "pistol-style" counterdrone disruptor, while Alion admitted to the FCC that it would be "demonstrating a variety of electronic attacks." All three applications were swiftly denied. A 2011 document written for the Joint Chiefs of Staff states that electronic attack testing is not permitted outside of dedicated Department of Defense electronic warfare ranges.

None of the four companies responded to questions about their testing, nor told Spectrum whether the NTIA had subsequently approved their operations within those limits. Because the NTIA does not make details of tests public, it is impossible to know their frequency or scale.

However, it is possible that these—and many other—electronic-weapons experiments are now proceeding quietly, in collaboration with the NTIA and the U.S. military. Anduril has publicly linked its antidrone tests to the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Unit, while Epirus's weapon was developed with Navy funding. All four companies have received government contracts.

Nor is the military the only intended customer for such systems. Judging from the company's website, Epirus is marketing its microwave weapons to sports stadiums and concert venues—and it envisages police forces deploying Epirus technology to bring down hostile drones.

As such systems mature, there is the potential for microwave and other electronic weapons to be tested and even deployed with little advance notice to the general public. And the next time your drone or car or phone suddenly stops working, perhaps microwaves will get the blame.


Match ID: 164 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 157 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Here's What You Need to Know About China's Mars Rover
Mon, 29 Mar 2021 11:00:00 +0000


NASA’s Perseverance rover made its spectacular landing on Mars in February,  but there’s another spacecraft still awaiting its chance at setting down on the Red Planet.

Tianwen-1, China’s first interplanetary expedition, successfully and spectacularly entered Mars orbit February 10. Consisting of both an orbiter and rover, the spacecraft has been circling Mars, preparing for its own landing attempt.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA)—the public face of a generally lowkey, taciturn space program—has said the Tianwen-1 rover will land sometime in May or June. Wang Chi, director general of China’s National Space Science Center, said during the National Academies’ Space Science Week Plenary Session on March 23 that the attempt would take place in mid-May.

While this is still vague, we know a lot about where and how the rover will land, and what it aims to do if the rover successfully sticks the landing—something only NASA has so far achieved.

The Basics

A model of the Tianwen-1 Mars rover is displayed during an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing on March 4, 2021. A model of the Tianwen-1 Mars rover is displayed during an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing on March 4, 2021. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

The 1.85 meters tall rover is solar-powered and has a mass of around 240 kg, making it far smaller than the huge, 1,025-kg radioisotope-powered Perseverance but larger than NASA’s earlier Spirit and Opportunity rovers. It is notably roughly twice as massive as China’s own Yutu lunar rovers.

The six-wheeled rover has a top speed of 200 meters-per-hour and was tested out at a site built by the China Academy of Space Technology. It carries six payloads for science.

China has operated rovers on the moon and has drawn from these missions in developing their Mars rover program. But the far greater distance and communication time challenges mean the vehicle needs to be more autonomous. Additionally, its four solar panels are designed in the shape of foldable butterfly wings. Solar power collection needs to be greater, with Mars receiving around 44% of the levels of sunlight that reach Earth.

The rover’s design lifetime is 90 Sols, or 92.5 Earth days. However, Yutu-2, China’s lunar far side rover had a similar design lifetime, but is still going after more than 800 days.

The CNSA is in the process of deciding a name, with a shortlist of candidate names drawing on Chinese mythology, history, and terms.

Tianwen-1 Rover Science

The rover carries six science payloads to study the topography, geology, soil structure, minerals and rock types and atmosphere in the area.

  • NaTeCam: A pair of 2048 × 2048 pixel navigation and terrain cameras mounted on the mast of the rover to provide 3D panoramic imaging, assist navigation and study Mars topography and geology.

  • MSCam: A multispectral camera installed on the mast between the NaTeCams to provide information on surface materials and their distribution across nine spectral bands. It covers eight spectral bands as well as visible light.

  • MarSCoDe: The Mars Surface Composition Detector includes a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) spectrometer, which vaporizes rocks to analyze their composition.

  • RoPeR: A penetrating radar picking up echo data to study the soil and potential water ice below the surface. Two frequency channels will probe subsurface layers down to 10 meters with centimeter-level vertical resolution and to 100m with 1m resolution, respectively. 

  • RoMAG: A mast-mounted magnetometer for measuring the magnetic field. It will work together with another magnetometer aboard the orbiter.

  • MCS: The Mars Climate Station combines a number of sensors to collect data on temperature, pressure, wind speed and direction.

The rover also carries calibration targets and samples for some instruments, as with Perseverance. It also carries a pair of hazard avoidance cameras on the front of the chassis.

Where will the Tianwen-1 rover land?

high-res image of the expected landing site Tianwen-1 shot this image of the expected landing site Image: CNSA/TPG/AP

The primary landing area is in Utopia Planitia, a large plain and impact basin, selected by balancing engineering constraints—including low altitude to provide more atmospheric slowing of the spacecraft, low latitude for solar power, and relatively smooth surface—with science goals, including those offered by the topography and geology of the area.

Alfred McEwen, director of the Planetary Image Research Laboratory (PIRL) at the University of Arizona, noted last year that “Utopia Planitia may have been extensively resurfaced by mud flows, so it is an interesting place to investigate potential past subsurface habitability.”

The orbiter has already entered an orbit optimized for repeated passes over the target area, collecting imagery to assess the terrain. The target site has been precisely noted as 110.318 degrees east longitude and 24.748 degrees north latitude by official Chinese outlet China Space News

CNSA recently released two images taken by the high-resolution camera on Tianwen-1 which match the given coordinates, according to Phil Stooke, an associate professor at the Department of Geography and the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

Stooke, a planetary cartographer, says the small white lines in both images are sand dunes. “They will probably have to be avoided by the rover, but they are not continuous enough to be serious obstacles,” he says. “There are small craters, but not enough to really get in the way. The surface should be easy to navigate and it would be really nice to be able to visit one of the little volcanic cones if they are in range.”

Another, earlier candidate landing area is Chryse Planitia, close to the landing sites of Viking 1 and Pathfinder. 

How will the rover land?

Landing on Mars presents unique challenges, above and beyond China’s own impressive lunar landings. The great distance from Earth and ensuing light-time delay demands spacecraft automation, while a thin atmosphere dangerously heats spacecraft but does little to slow them. 

The attempt itself is known as entry, descent and landing (EDL), a sequence of automated maneuvers that NASA engineers have dubbed the “seven minutes of terror”—because teams can only watch and wait for signals of success from the surface. 

After separating from the orbiter, the rover will enter the atmosphere traveling at a rate of four kilometers per second. It will be protected by an aeroshell, shaped like a spherical cone whose tip forms a 70-degree angle, providing the first deceleration as it hits the atmosphere and protection from the intense heat generated by contact with the Martian air.

Next, while traveling at supersonic speeds, a disk-gap-band parachute will deploy to further slow the spacecraft during descent, before being discarded. China has drawn on technology and experience from its Shenzhou crewed spacecraft, which has allowed astronauts to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and safely land, for these two phases.

Retropropulsion will be responsible for slowing the spacecraft during its final descent, aiming to softly put a lander platform on the service. Most of the thrust will be provided by a 7,500-Newton variable thrust engine, like the main engine used by China’s Chang’e-3 and -4 lunar landers. The lander will employ a laser range finder and a microwave ranging velocity sensor to gain navigation data—technology that was also developed initially for China’s moon missions. 3D laser scanning, or lidar, will provide terrain data such as elevation. Obstacle-avoiding mode, facilitated by optical cameras, will begin at 20 meters above the surface.

The rover will then need to descend from the platform onto the surface, a painstaking process that may take more than a week.

How to follow?

China did not provide live streams of its Chang’e-4 lunar far side landing nor the recent Chang’e-5 moon sample-return mission, so it is unlikely we’ll get to witness the scenes at mission control as with NASA’s Perseverance and other missions. If coverage is provided, it would likely be through Chinese social media, through Chinese TV, or in English via CGTN.

Regular updates through Chinese media and space authorities such as CNSA will follow swiftly however in the event of a successful landing. 


Match ID: 165 Score: 2.86 source: spectrum.ieee.org age: 174 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

NASA Takes Steps to Reduce Aviation Emissions, Invigorate US Economy
Tue, 23 Feb 2021 16:58 EST
NASA is seeking proposals for ground and flight demonstrations of integrated megawatt-class powertrain systems for subsonic aircraft.
Match ID: 166 Score: 2.86 source: www.nasa.gov age: 207 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

Planetary Sleuthing Finds Triple-Star World
Mon, 11 Jan 2021 13:40 EST
Years after its detection, astronomers have confirmed a planet called KOI-5Ab orbiting in a triple-star system with a skewed configuration.
Match ID: 167 Score: 2.86 source: www.nasa.gov age: 250 days
qualifiers: 2.86 eu

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