Monthly Archives: July 2015
Nasa scientists have announced the discovery of Kepler 452b, also known as ‘Earth 2.0‘, an earth-like planet in our galaxy.
Over the course of years of data-gathering by the Kepler space telescope and even more analysis and work here on Earth, scientists confirmed the existence of the distant exoplanet, which is the most earth-like planet ever discovered.
Although the planet is far too far away to photograph, advanced Nasa technology means we know a surprising amount about this ‘New Earth‘.
Beginning the conference, John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said: “Today we’re announcing the discovery of an exoplanet that as far as we can tell is a pretty close cousin of Earth. It’s the closest so far. It’s Earth 2.0.”
Everything about Kepler 452b — from its size, the length of its years, the estimated conditions on the surface — is very similar to Earth.
Years on Kepler 452b are about the same duration as they are on Earth:
A year on the newly-discovered planet — the time it takes to orbit its star, Kepler 452 — lasts for 385 days, only 20 days longer than a year here on Earth.
That’s much different to years on other, closer planets to Earth. A year on Venus, sometimes the closest planet to the Earth, lasts only 88 Earth-days. A year on Neptune, further out in our solar system, is the equivalent of 185 Earth-years.
It’s spent billions of years within the optimal habitable distance of its star:
Kepler 452, the planet’s star, is around 1.5 billion years older than our Sun. If a planet is too close to its star, it will be too hot to host life. If it’s too far away, it will be too cold.
Kepler 452b has been the perfect distance from its star for many billions of years. According to Jon Jenkins, the Kepler data analysis lead at NASA’s Ames Research Centre, this means it’s possible that it hosts life on its surface, or at least could have at some point in its history.
It could have active volcanoes and water on its surface:
Kepler 452b is possibly the right temperature to allow liquid water to exist on the surface — as far as we know, this is essential for supporting life.
According to John Coughlin, a researcher at the SETI Institute in California, the Kepler team worked with geologists to find out the make-up of the planet. Due to its size and age, it’s likely that it is a rocky planet, meaning it could have a volcanic system under its surface.
Humans could potentially survive in Kepler 452b’s stronger gravity:
The new planet is slightly larger than Earth, and is estimated to have twice the gravitational pull of our own planet. However, according to the scientists on the Kepler team, this doesn’t mean it couldn’t support life.
Jon Jenkins said that humans could “adapt” to the gravity, possibly becoming “more stocky over many generations.”
“People already adapt to heavy weights — humans are built to do this kind of thing. The human body has an amazing ability to repair itself — so over time, humans could adapt.”
Plants could potentially thrive there:
The planet’s star, Kepler 452, is slightly bigger than our own Sun. The added light and heat energy that the planet receives from the star not only means it is slightly warmer than Earth, but could also mean that plant life could thrive there.
And since plant photosynthesis is what produces the air we breathe, that means this essential building block of life has a good chance of living on Kepler 452b.
Jon Jenkins told the press conference: “The sunshine from Kepler’s star is very similar to sunshine from our own star, and plants could be able to photosynthesise just the same.”
“It would feel a lot like home.”
You could even get a tan there:
Dr Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Kepler 452b receives the same kind of spectrum and intensity of light as we do on Earth. This means plants from our planet could grow there if it were rocky and had an atmosphere. You could even get a healthy tan like here on holiday.”
Much more research on the planet is still being done, which will be able to confirm whether anything could thrive on Kepler 452b.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty much impossible to get there (at the moment):
Kepler 452b is warm, possibly wet, and might be able to host plant life — however, it’s 1,400 lightyears away.
A lightyear is the distance that a beam of light can travel in a year. Light travels at over 670 million miles per hour. Light from the Sun takes around eight minutes to reach Earth, so naturally, a trip to Kepler 452b would take an incredibly long time.
Nasa’s New Horizon probe — the one that recently took the amazing pictures of Pluto — left Earth’s orbit faster than any other spacecraft before it, at around 36,373mph.
If a spacecraft carrying humans travelled at this speed towards Kepler 452b, it would take the unlucky astronauts around 25.8 million years to get there. To put that in perspective, early, primitive humans only evolved around 2.5 million years ago.
“Less than 0.1% of email in the average Gmail inbox is spam, and the amount of wanted mail landing in the spam folder is even lower, at under 0.05%,” Sri Harsha Somanchi, product manager, said in a Google blog post.
“Even still, Gmail spam detection isn’t perfect. So we’re sharing some of the new ways we are supporting the senders of wanted mail, and using the latest Google smarts to filter out spam,” Somanchi further stated.
Google is launching Gmail Postmaster Tools that help qualified high-volume senders analyse their email, including data on delivery errors, spam reports, and reputation. This way they can diagnose any hiccups, study best practices, and help Gmail route their messages to the right place.
The company said the spam filter now uses an artificial neural network to detect and block the especially sneaky spam—the kind that could actually pass for wanted mail.
“We also recognise that not all inboxes are alike. So while your neighbor may love weekly email newsletters, you may loathe them. With advances in machine learning, the spam filter can now reflect these individual preferences,” the blog post reads.
“Finally, the spam filter is better than ever at rooting out email impersonation—that nasty source of most phishing scams. Thanks to new machine learning signals, Gmail can now figure out whether a message actually came from its sender, and keep bogus email at bay.”
That little computer you carry around in your pocket is already your camera, navigation device, instant messaging machine, ride-hailing tool and phone. But it’s very possible that, in the not-so-distant future, what we now refer to as “smartphones“ will actually seem pretty dumb and paper-weighty.
As technology evolves, that mini-computer you are already way too obsessed with is bound to get even more useful. Here are three features that could be in the cell phones of tomorrow.
1. A spectrometer.
What it is: A spectrometer is a tool typically used in physical, chemical and biological research that measures properties of light to analyze an object’s chemical makeup. Until recently, spectrometers were too large to carry around, but that has changed. A company called Consumer Physics introduced a handheld spectrometer named Scio last year, and more recently, MIT announced that scientists at the university have developed a spectrometer small enough to fit inside a smartphone camera.
What it could mean for your smartphone: In a smartphone, a spectrometer could give users an easy and accurate way to detect skin conditions, track a person’s vital signs or identify environmental pollutants. It could also give users a way to find out what’s in their food or medication.
2. Crazy accurate GPS.
What it is: Geolocation technology is already widely used in smartphones. That’s how and why you can follow driving directions with Google maps, get picked up by an Uber, or ask your smartphone to locate the closest Starbucks. But geolocation software developed by engineers at the University of Texas at Austin makes it possible to identify a position accurately to within a centimeter using the inexpensive antenna sensors that are in smartphones. Centimeter-accuracy GPS systems already in existence depend on large and expensive hardware.
What it could mean for your smartphone: Synced with the camera in your smartphone, this down-to-the-centimeter GPS would make it possible to instantly map your surroundings in 3-D, increasing the subtle sophistication of virtual reality technology. Also, centimeter-specific geolocation would allow cars to sense and avoid each other in more nuanced situations.
3. Gas sensors.
What it is: New inexpensive wireless sensors developed by chemists at MIT detect gaseous ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, cyclohexanone and other dangerous gases, and can be read by a smartphone. The sensors are also noteworthy because they don’t need to be plugged in. The technology necessary to read these tags already exists in most smartphones.
What it could mean for your smartphone: The gas-sensor-tag and smartphone reading combo would make it super easy to measure explosive chemicals or hazardous environmental pollutants. The chemical readings from smartphones could be combined with geolocation data to track and map hazardous regions.
Also, a sensor could be fixed to food so that anyone with a smartphone could assess the freshness of food. The sensors could measure chemicals released by rotten or spoiled food.
Honda is hitting the 2015 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in this experimental CR-Z with an electric powertrain driving and steering all four wheels up the twisting mountain route. Honda is running a CR-Z at Pikes Peak this year. But as you might have guessed, this is no ordinary CR-Z. This particular racing prototype packs an experimental powertrain.
Though precise technical specifications remain a closely guarded secret at this point, our source at Honda has confirmed a few key details. For starters, the CR-Z racer packs a fully electric powertrain, ditching the 1.5-liter inline-four that forms the internal-combustion component of the street-legal model’s hybrid propulsion system. This contrary to circulating rumors that it could be packing the hybrid powertrain from the new NSX.
Whatever the details of the electric motor (or motors) on board, they’ll be driving and steering all four wheels through Honda’s proprietary Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) and Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) systems. The technologies ought to make the CR-Z racer pretty adept at tackling the 156 twists and turns of the world-famous Race to the Clouds. The aero package is obviously pretty aggressive as well, and the bodywork appears to have been modified to an even greater extent than the carbon-fiber prototype we drove in Japan.
Driving duties will be handled by Tetsuya Yamano, a Japanese driver known in the Super GT series (where he won the GT300 title in 2004 in an NSX) and for running Civics in Gymkhana events back in the 90s. It’ll be competing in the Pikes Peak Challenge Exhibition class, but the idea behind the CR-Z prototype is as much about experimentation as it is about results. The project will serve to train some of Honda’s younger engineers. They won’t be alone on the mountain, though, as Honda also recently announced that it would be fielding its new ARX-04b Le Mans prototype at Pikes Peak this year as well.
After several months of occasionally intense competition, Formula E’s first season of all-electric racing is over. Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird has won the second race of the London ePrix, while NEXTEV TCR’s Nelson Piquet managed to do just well enough (seventh place) to win the overall driver’s title by a single point. Not that Piquet’s chief rival, Sebastien Buemi, is about to cry — he secured the team title for E.dams-Renault after winning the first London race on June 27th.
This is a watershed moment for high-profile EV motorsports, although it’s really just the start of something larger. The initial Formula E season required that everyone drive the same car; that’s good for showcasing driver ability, but not so hot for advancing the automotive industry. The gloves will only really come off during season two, when teams can use their own motors and batteries. While it could result in a handful of manufacturers dominating the races (remember Ferrari’s Formula 1 streak?), it should also lead to technological improvements that filter down to electric cars you can buy.