▼ Kepler 80g and 90i: NASA-Google joint discovery of planets [12-15-17]
Google and NASA said on December 2017 that advanced computer analysis identified two new planets around distant stars, including one that is part of the first star system with as many planets as Earth's solar system.
The research by Google and the University of Texas at Austin that used data from NASA raised the prospects of new insights into the universe by feeding data into computer programmes that can churn through information faster and more in-depth than humanly possibly, a technique known as machine learning.
In this case, software learned differences between planets and other objects by analysing thousands of data points, achieving 96% accuracy, NASA said at a news conference.
The data came from the Kepler telescope which NASA launched into space in 2009 as part of a planet-finding mission that is expected to end next year as the spacecraft runs out of fuel.
The software's artificial "neural network" combed through data about 670 stars, which led to the discovery of planets Kepler 80g and Kepler 90i.
The latter, a scorching, rocky mass 30% larger than Earth, is the eighth planet found to be orbiting the same star.
Astronomers had never before observed an eight-planet network beside the solar system that includes Earth, researchers said.
Advancements in hardware and new techniques for machine learning have made it possible in recent years for automated software to tackle data analysis in science, finance and other industries.
▼ Tonga's newest island provides clues to Martian life [12-15-17]
The world's newest island - formed during a volcanic eruption in the remote Pacific three years ago - may offer clues to how life potentially developed on Mars, NASA said on Dec 13, 2017.
The island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai rose from the seabed about 65 km northwest of the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa in late 2014 or early 2015.
Scientists initially expected the island - created when vast quantities of rock and dense ash spewed from the earth's crust - to wash away within a few months.
But NASA said it had proved more resilient than expected, possibly because warm sea water combined with ash during the volcanic explosion to create a concrete-like substance known as "tuff".
While the island - which initially measured one km wide, two km long and about 100 metres high - has undergone significant erosion, it is now expected to last anywhere from six to 30 years.
Mars had many similar volcanic islands.
▼ Now access email IDs in Hindi in Rajasthan! [12-15-17]
Now access email IDs in Hindi in Rajasthan!
Rajasthan has become the first state in India to launch free email addresses in Hindi for its residents.
The facility will be available at email@example.com (in Devanagari script).
The initiative aims to ensure maximum participation of people towards e-governance and ensure that maximum government facilities are available in vernacular language.
The project is being implemented by state IT department with partnership in form of in-sourcing with private IT companies.
This initiative is small part of 'Rajasthan DigiKit' which has seen enrollment of more than one crore people from the state.
The first e-mail ID from this initiative was created by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje with id firstname.lastname@example.org (in Devnagari).
All government personnel in state will soon have an email id in Hindi too.
The Hindi email ID will be offered to all the Internet users.
▼ This battery charges 5 times faster than lithium-ion ones! [12-14-17]
Scientists have developed a new graphene-based battery material with charging speed five times faster than today's lithium-ion batteries.
The breakthrough by researchers at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) in South Korea provides promise for the next generation mobile batteries and electric vehicles.
Standard lithium batteries require charging time of at least an hour to fully charge, even with quick charging technology, so numerous attempts to explore new innovative materials have been started.
Among the materials looked at, graphene, a material with high strength and conductivity, has widely become the primary source of interest.
In theory, a battery based on the "graphene ball" material requires only 12 minutes to fully charge, researchers said.
This "graphene ball" was utilised for both the anode protective layer and cathode materials.
This ensured an increase of charging capacity, decrease of charging time as well as stable temperatures.
Researchers used graphene and mass synthesised it into a 3D form using silica (SiO2).
Their research enables mass synthesis of graphene at an affordable price as the markets for mobile devices and electric vehicles is growing rapidly.
Graphene: Know More
- Graphene is an allotrope (form) of carbon consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in an hexagonal lattice.
- It is the basic structural element of many other allotropes of carbon, such as graphite, charcoal, carbon nanotubes and fullerenes.
- Graphene has many unusual properties.
- It is the strongest material ever tested,efficiently conducts heat and electricity and is nearly transparent.
- Graphene shows a large and nonlinear diamagnetism, which is greater than that of graphite, and can be levitated by neodymium magnets.
▼ Jupiter's Great Red Spot one and a half earths wide! [12-13-17]
Jupiter's Great Red Spot - the solar system's most famous storm - is almost one-and-a-half Earths wide and penetrates about 300 kilometres into the planet's atmosphere, according to data collected by NASA's Juno spacecraft.
Juno data indicate that the solar system's most famous storm is almost one-and-a-half Earths wide, and has roots that penetrate about 300 kilometres into the planet's atmosphere.
The science instrument responsible for this in-depth revelation was Juno's Microwave Radiometer (MWR).
Juno's Microwave Radiometer has the unique capability to peer deep below Jupiter's clouds.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a giant oval of crimson- coloured clouds in Jupiter's southern hemisphere that race counter-clockwise around the oval's perimeter with wind speeds greater than any storm on Earth.
Measuring 16,000 kilometres in width as of April 3, this year, the Great Red Spot is 1.3 times as wide as Earth.
Juno found that the Great Red Spot's roots go 50 to 100 times deeper than Earth's oceans and are warmer at the base than they are at the top.
Winds are associated with differences in temperature, and the warmth of the spot's base explains the ferocious winds we see at the top of the atmosphere.
Future of the Great Red Spot
- The future of the Great Red Spot is still very much up for debate. While the storm has been monitored since 1830, it has possibly existed for more than 350 years.
- In the 19th century, the Great Red Spot was well over two Earths wide.
- At the time NASA's Voyagers 1 and 2 sped by Jupiter on their way to Saturn and beyond, in 1979, the Great Red Spot was twice Earth's diameter.
- Today, measurements by Earth-based telescopes indicate the oval that Juno flew over has diminished in width by one- third and height by one-eighth since Voyager times.
- Juno also has detected a new radiation zone, just above the gas giant's atmosphere, near the equator. The zone includes energetic hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur ions moving at almost light speed.
- The new zone was identified by the Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument (JEDI) investigation.
▼ ISRO develops small satellite launch vehicles [12-13-17]
The Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) is developing small satellite launch vehicles to launch low-cost small satellites.
Preliminary work to design and develop such ambitious small launch vehicle already has started at ISRO's rocket development node, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).
The small launch vehicle will be able to put satellites of up to 500-600 kg in orbits close to the Earth. VSSC has designed the vehicle using the rocket technology.
Small satellite launch vehicles have tremendous potential to cut the launch fee that customers pay. Ride on small launchers is ninth or tenth of the present cost.
Besides, they are easy to assemble compared to about 40 days taken to assemble a PSLV.
What is a Small Satellite?
Small Satellites Sector: Know More
- Small satellites, miniaturized satellites, or smallsats, are satellites of low mass and size, usually under 500 kg (1,100 lb).
- While all such satellites can be referred to as "small", different classifications are used to categorize them based on mass.
- Satellites can be built small to reduce the large economic cost of launch vehicles and the costs associated with construction.
- Miniature satellites, especially in large numbers, may be more useful than fewer, larger ones for some purposes - for example, gathering of scientific data and radio relay.
- Technical challenges in the construction of small satellites may include the lack of sufficient power storage or of room for a propulsion system.
- Since 1999, ISRO's PSLV rockets have launched 209 small satellites from 28 countries for fee. In February 2017, PSLV created world record by launching 104 satellites to space.
- Globally, the small satellites market is booming as they are used for various applications.
- As such, worldwide, operators and private players are developing small launchers to capture the market at a much lower cost.
- Global space industry consulting firm Euroconsult in July 2017 had estimated that 6,200 smallsats - many of them will be launched during 2017-2026 and its market value will touch to $30 billion - up from $8.9 billion in last decade.
▼ Geminid Meteor Shower : Know More [12-12-17]
Star-lovers and sky-enthusiasts can enjoy a meteor shower display on December 13 after 10 p.m., and in the early morning hours of December 14, named the Geminid meteor shower.
Rocks and dust particles from space that are about to collide with Earth's atmosphere are called meteoroids. Those that enter and streak through the atmosphere are called meteors.
Usually when comets, which are chunks of ice with lot of dust, come close to the sun, the ice melts and the dust and rocks are left behind along the orbit of the comet.
If Earth, in its yearly motion around the Sun happens to pass through such a debris trail, they enter the Earth's atmosphere with considerable speed and due to friction in the atmosphere, burns up and give rise to not only a single bright streak in the sky but numerous meteors, called meteor shower.
Why is the Geminid meteor shower called so?
- Geminid meteor shower is so named because the meteors appear to originate from the constellation of Gemini in the night sky.
- It is not a comet but an unusual asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1983, that is the origin of the meteors.
- Asteroids are rocky bodies going round the Sun, originating from a region between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter.
- Unlike the planets, their orbits are sometimes extremely elliptical and intersect the orbit of Mars and even Earth.
- The Earth-orbit-crossing asteroids are called Apollo Asteroids.
- 3200 Phaethon, named after the son of the Sun god Helios, is an Apollo Asteroid that may have undergone a collision with another object in the distant past to produce the stream of particles that Earth runs into - creating this meteor shower.
- 3200 Phaethon, a 5.1-k.m.-long piece of rock, has characteristics which are close to a comet. In its close approach to Sun, it sheds huge amount of rock and dust in its path and Earth happens to pass that path every year during December 4-16.
- Generally, the meteor shower associated with 3200 Phaethon peaks around second week of December every year and are quite numerous.
▼ Trachoma-free India celebrates another health milestone [12-12-17]
India was declared free from infective Trachoma, a contagious bacterial infection of the eye. The infection causes inflamed granulation on the inner surface of the lids.
It was announced by Union Health Minister J P Nadda after releasing National Trachoma Survey Report (2014-17) in New Delhi.
With this, India met goal of trachoma elimination as specified by World Health Organisation (WHO) under its GET2020 (Global Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020) program.
- Trachoma is a chronic infective disease of eye and is leading cause of infective blindness globally. It is outcome of poor environmental and personal hygiene and inadequate access to water and sanitation.
- It affects conjunctiva under the eyelids.
- Repeated Trachoma infection causes scarring leading to in-turning of the eyelashes and eyelids which further causes damage to cornea and blindness.
- It is main cause of corneal blindness in India, affecting young children. It was found affecting the population North Indian states like Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh.
▼ Excitonium : New form of matter discovered! [12-12-17]
Researchers at the University of Illinois have announced discovery of new form of matter called excitonium.
The existence of this strange and mysterious type of matter was theorized after the term excitonium was theoretically coined by Harvard theoretical physicist named Bert Halper in the 1960s,
To prove existence of excitons, scientists had studied crystals doped with dichalcogenide titanium diselenide (1T-TiSe2), a transition metal.
This material is made up of a kind of boson, a composite particle that could allow matter to act as a superfluid, superconductor, or even as an insulating electronic crystal.
Scientists were able to observe existence of excitonium using novel technique called momentum-resolved electron energy-loss spectroscopy (M-EELS).
- Excitonium is a condensate made up of excitons and exhibits macroscopic quantum phenomena just like a superconductor.
- Excitons are particles that are formed in a very strange quantum mechanical pairing.
- They are obtained by combining escaped electrons and "holes".
- This quirky quantum-mechanical pairing is possible because, in semiconductors, electrons on edge of one energy level in atom are able to jump into the next energy level when excited, leaving behind a "hole" in previous level.
- This hole acts like a positively charged particle, attracting the negatively charged electron that escaped.
- Excitonium exhibits macroscopic quantum phenomena, like a superconductor and this findings holds great promise for unlocking further quantum mechanical mysteries.
- As a superconductor and superfluid, this material can be used to further existing technologies. These applications, especially those in practical technologies, are purely speculative at this point.
▼ PRL Ahmedabad researchers decode solar storms [12-11-17]
A group of researchers from Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, have, for the first time, figured out the conditions under which certain types of solar storms can flow towards the earth and affect its atmosphere.
This is important because such storms contain charged particles travelling at very high speeds and these can affect the electronics present on satellites in orbit around the earth.
Solar storms are violent events on the sun which can temporarily distort the earth's magnetosphere - the region around the earth which is influenced by its magnetic field.
These temporary disturbances, called geomagnetic storms, can generate shock waves in the interplanetary medium that can accelerate charged particles to very high energies and which, in turn, can harm the satellites placed by humans in space.
Such solar storms have two causes: Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) and Corotating Interaction Regions (CIR).
CME and CIR: Know More
LI: Know More
- CMEs are huge explosions of charged particles extending beyond the sun's corona or outer layer and can be visibly observed.
- CIRs are much more complicated and difficult to observe.
- CMEs can be detected by a coronagraph when they are ejected from the Sun
- CIRs are generated in the interplanetary medium and there are no visual signatures for CIRs. Hence, in order to detect [them], solar wind parameters need to be characterised critically
- Charged particles are being spewed continually out of the sun's corona, forming the solar wind. Some parts of these winds move faster than others.
- Since they contain charged particles in a plasma state, these different regions physically interact with each other to form wavelike disturbances called CIRs that emanate from the sun and spiral outwards.
- They are called "corotating" interaction regions as they rotate along with the sun, attached to it at one end.
- The sun goes through cyclic variations with a period of eleven years during which sunspot activity increases to a maximum and then decreases.
- There is an imaginary point on the line joining the sun and earth known as the L1 point or the Lagrange 1 point.
- A special feature of this point is that a particle placed there will feel no gravitational pull due to either the sun or the earth as the two forces cancel each other.
- CIRs that come at an angle of 6 degrees or less at the first Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth system (L1 point) affect the earth's outer plasma environment.
- Those CIRs that are incident at angles more than 6 degrees at the L1 point will not reach the earth.
- This is the first time that such an understanding has been arrived at.
- The group plans to futher focus on the causes for the events when solar wind flow angle deviates from 6 degree for a considerable duration of time.
▼ Oldest super-massive black hole discovered! [12-8-17]
Scientists have discovered ULAS J1342+0928, the oldest supermassive black hole ever found - a behemoth that grew to 800 million times the mass of the sun when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age.
This newfound giant black hole, which formed just 690 million years after the Big Bang, could one day help shed light on a number of cosmic mysteries, such as how black holes could have reached gargantuan sizes quickly after the Big Bang and how the universe got cleared of the murky fog that once filled the entire cosmos.
Supermassive black holes with masses millions to billions of times that of the sun are thought to lurk at the hearts of most, if not all, galaxies.
Previous research suggested these giants release extraordinarily large amounts of light when they rip apart stars and devour matter, and likely are the driving force behind quasars, which are among the brightest objects in the universe.
Astronomers can detect quasars from the farthest corners of the cosmos, making quasars among the most distant objects known.
The farthest quasars are also the earliest known quasars - the more distant one is, the more time its light took to reach Earth.
The previous record for the earliest, most distant quasar was set by ULAS J1120+0641.
That quasar is located 13.04 billion light-years from Earth and existed about 750 million years after the Big Bang.
The newfound quasar (and its black hole), named ULAS J1342+0928, is 13.1 billion light-years away.
▼ IIT-B researchers create low cost vibration sensors [12-6-17]
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay have successfully made low-cost piezo-resistive vibration sensors using polyurethane foam coated with carbon nanomaterial-based ink.
These sensors can be used for monitoring the health of industrial machines and equipment and help identify incipient failures thereby enabling efficient maintenance schedule planning.
The ink is made of functionalised multi-walled nanotubes that are dispersed in a reduced graphene oxide matrix.
It is conductive due to the presence of large number of multiwalled nanotubes.
The ink, which uniformly coats the pores of the foam when dipped-coated, imparts piezo-resistive properties.
Conductive sheets (made of indium titanium oxide coated polyethylene teraphalate) were pasted on the top and bottom sides of the foam and electrical wires connected to the sheets for measurements.
The ink and sensor were developed at the Plastic Electronics and Energy Laboratory (PEEL), Department of Metallurgical Engineering and Material Science, IIT Bombay.
How It Works
- When the PU foam coated with the ink is perturbed, in this case compressed, the air gaps are removed and the foam gets thinner.
- This provides a conduction path for electrical charges. The resistance drops as the foam is compressed and it becomes more conductive.
- The sensor is so sensitive that it can measure blood pulse.
- The total cost of materials required for making the sensors works out to less than Rs.200 per sensor, and can be reduced further if mass produced.
- The ink costs only about Rs.7 per sensor. No sophisticated equipment is required for fabricating the sensor.
- The sensing bandwidth of the sensor is 80 Hz and the team was able to classify different machine operating conditions (good versus bad bearing, and good versus bad gearbox) based on vibration signals.
- To be able to identify the danger signs of a machine, the output of the vibration sensor has to be captured and the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) has to be computed. One should then look where the peaks are located in the FFT.
▼ Noxeno: Nasal foreign body removal device [12-5-17]
Government has launched Noxeno, a nasal foreign body removal device developed by start-up InnAccel Technologies Private Limited, Bangalore.
It was developed by fellow trained under Biodesign programme.
Noxeno is It is first dedicated tool for anterior nasal foreign body (NFB) removal that allows doctors in any setting to quickly and safely remove objects that people (mostly children aged 2 to 10 years) put into their noses.
The summit was organised by Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Bio Design Programme.
It was attended by leaders of government organisations, academia, medical device industry, start-ups, hospitals, design, business and engineering institutes from Australia, Finland, Canada, India, Germany, Japan, Singapore, UK and USA.
Bio Design Programme: Know More
- Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology is implementing Bio Design Programme to develop innovative and affordable medical devices to cater to clinical needs of country.
- It aims to train next generation of medical technology innovators in country.
- It is implemented by DBT at All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) and IIT Delhi in collaboration with international partners.
- DBT has authorised Biotech Consortium India Limited for management of its intellectual property and other techno- legal activities.
▼ TRAI upholds net neutrality [12-1-17]
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday barred telecom service providers from charging differential rates for data services, effectively prohibiting Facebook's Free Basics and Airtel Zero platform by Airtel in their current form.
1. No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.
2. No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation.
3. Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted.
4. Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified
5. TRAI may review these regulations after a period of two years.
The regulator and Facebook have been at loggerheads over the issue with the authority terming the social networking giant's attempt to lobby for its Free Basics initiative a "crude" attempt at turning the consultation over differential pricing of data services into an "orchestrated opinion poll" on Free Basics. Facebook had partnered with Reliance Communications in India to offer Free Basics service. However, the services were put in abeyance, post a TRAI order to this effect.
▼ Hwasong-15 : Nuclear Missile by North Korea tested [12-1-17]
North Korea successfully launched Hwasong-15, a new type of nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It is North Korea's most powerful ICBM that can reach entire eastern US seaboard and Washington.
The ICBM was launched from near Pyongyang and had reached height of 4,475 km and traveled 950 km before it accurately hitting a sea target.
It landed inside of Japan's economic exclusion zone (EEZ) in Sea of Japan, about 250 km west of Aomori, which is on northern part of Japan's main island of Honshu.