World leaders for Silk Road talks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

World leaders for Silk Road talks

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held from May 14 to 15 in Beijing and President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony and host the round table summit of the leaders, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday.

Xi has championed the “One Belt, One Road” initiative to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe, a landmark program to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects.

China has dedicated US$40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the US$50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Among those attending will be Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will also be attending the forum.

British finance minister Philip Hammond will come as Prime Minister Theresa May’s representative, while Germany and France will send high-level representatives.

Wang confirmed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as one of the leaders coming, along with the Spanish, Greek, Hungarian, Serb and Polish prime ministers and Swiss and Czech presidents.

“This is an economic cooperation forum, an international cooperation platform that everyone is paying attention to, supports and hopes to participate in,” Wang said.

“One Belt, One Road is to date the most important public good China has given to the world, first proposed by China but for all countries to enjoy,” said.

“The culture and historical genes of One Belt, One Road come from the old Silk Road, so it takes Eurasia as its main region,” he said, adding that representatives of 110 countries would attend the forum.

A section of the New Silk Road is in Pakistan, where some projects run through the disputed Kashmir region.

Wang dismissed concerns, saying the Pakistan project had no direct connection to the dispute and India was welcome to participate in the New Silk Road.

“Indian friends have said to us that One Belt, One Road is a very good suggestion,” he said.

During the forum, China is expected to sign cooperative documents with nearly 20 countries and more than 20 international organizations, Wang told reporters.

China will work with countries along the route on action plans concerning infrastructure, energy and resources, production capacity, trade and investment, which will help to turn the grand blueprint into a clear roadmap, he said.

Another task of the forum will be to push forward delivery of cooperative projects, Wang said.

During the forum, parties will identify major cooperative projects, set up working groups and establish an investment cooperation center.

China will also work with all parties on a set of measures that will include improved financial cooperation, a cooperation platform for science, technology and environmental protection, and enhanced exchanges and training of talent.

Participants will sign financing agreements to support their cooperative projects, Wang said.

China will use the forum to build a more open and efficient international cooperation platform; a closer, stronger partnership network; and to push for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system, Wang said.

The Army’s New Glasses Can Switch From Light To Dark Tint In Under A Second

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TASK AND PURPOSE’S WEBSITE)

The Army’s New Glasses Can Switch From Light To Dark Tint In Under A Second

on April 17, 2017

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The Army is pulling out all the stops in its race to make soldiers look as futuristic as possible — and be as safe as possible. Part of the Soldier Protection System, there’s new armor in the works, as well as a new helmet, which looks it was pulled from science fiction, or Airsoft. But the service isn’t forgetting the little things, like the importance of seeing what you’re shooting at, which is why it’s creating new glasses and goggles.

Because the new helmet’s visor isn’t tinted, the new eyewear, officially called Transition Combat Eye Protection, automatically switches from a clear setting to a dark tint, and then back again, depending on the amount of light, according to PEO Soldier.

 

In less than a second, soldiers operating in sunny arid environments will be able to adjust quickly and easily, without carrying around multiple expensive glasses that are just going to get lost.

RELATED: THE ARMY JUST STARTED PRODUCING ITS BRAND NEW BALLISTICS HELMET_ »

At $200 a piece, soldiers will have just one expensive piece of gear to lose. What could go wrong? The eyewear won’t be on the list of items soldiers are required to carry, according to Army Times, but they’re authorized to use and commanders can purchase them for their troops if they want to, because that’s sure to happen.

Full body armor Soldier Protection System poster

Looking at the glasses and goggles, then back to the helmet, it does make you wonder: If the idea is to help soldiers operate more easily in varying light conditions, it would be a bit of a pain to get to the button on the eyewear to turn it on, especially while wearing a helmet which encases your head. Fortunately, once the glasses or goggles are on, the transition is automatic. Just don’t forget to activate them before heading out.

The article has been updated to clarify that the TCEP system transitions from light to dark automatically once turned on, according to a statement received from PEO Soldier after publication.  (Updated 4/17/17, 3:18 pm EST).

The Army’s New Modified Stryker Has A Special Laser Surprise For ISIS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TASK AND PURPOSE WEBSITE)

The Army’s New Modified Stryker Has A Special Laser Surprise For ISIS

on April 17, 2017

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In their fight against ISIS, American troops face a dangerous and unpredictable new threat on foreign battlefields: weaponized drones specially designed for suicide missions. And while all branches of the military are exploring advanced gear for combat troops that will counter the new threat of “flying IEDs,” the Army has already whipped up a special armored vehicle to keep soldiers out of harm’s way.

Last week, the Army unveiled a specially modified Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV) prototype outfitted with a special surprise for ISIS militants: an experimental laser weapon that can shoot down enemy drones without firing a single round — or making a sound.

Dubbed the Mobile High Energy Laser (MEHEL), the Army showed off the Stryker at the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, blasting more than 50 remote-controlled test targets out of the sky with its 5 kilowatt laser cannon. Here’s the Army account of the test:

On a television screen in a nearby tent off Thompson Hill — a range used during the 10-day Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment here — observers watched the black and white output of those sensors on two flat-screen televisions, April 12. A crosshair was centered on the screen. When what appeared to be a drone entered the frame, the crosshairs locked on to it and followed it.

After a few attempts to destroy the drone with the laser, the drone fell from the sky, crashing to the ground. Not a bullet was fired, and no sounds were made by the system that accomplished the kill.

“We were skeptical at first, when we were first briefed we’d be shooting down drones with lasers,” the MEHEL commander, Army Capt. Theo Kleinsorge, said of the demonstration. “We achieved a success rate well beyond what we expected we’d have and we are excited to see this go to the next step of the experiment, shooting beyond the horizon, and showing this technology can solve the problem.”

This Mobile High-Energy Laser-equipped Stryker was evaluated, April 12, during the 2017 Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

The Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, already a favorite combat support platform for decades, were slated for upgrades as of 2016, including a medium-caliber cannon and Javelin anti-tank missiles. But given the emerging threats posed by ISIS UAVs, the MEHEL seems like an appropriate pivot for the Pentagon. The War Zone has a great breakdown of the MEHEL’s specs:

A basic Stryker ICV weighs in at nearly 16.5 tons, has a top speed of over 60 miles per hour on improved roads, and usually carries a .50 caliber M2 machine gun or a 40mm Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. The MEHEL still has a machine gun, but its main weapon is a five kilowatt laser. On top of the laser, the vehicle had has powerful cameras to detect and track targets, as well as electronic warfare equipment. The latter system can try and crash an unmanned aircraft by jamming the signal from its control station, as well as try and pinpoint the location of those sites.

This isn’t the first time the Army has experimented with direct-energy weapons to counter enemy drones. In 2016, the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command demonstrated the High Energy Laser Mobile Test Truck (HELMTT), outfitted with a 10 kilowatt laser director, during last year’s MFIX.

“Our team did a great job,” SMDC Technical Center HELMTT demonstrator program manager Adam Aberle said at the time. “We absolutely blew lots of stuff up.”

Despite the spectacular test at the 2017 MFIX, it’s unclear when the MEHEL will actually deploy downrange to Afghanistan and Iraq. But based on the excitement of program managers and observers on hand to watch the MEHEL in action, lasers can’t hit the battlefield soon enough.

“It’s mind-blowing stuff to think you are shooting a laser at something,” Spc. Brandon Sallaway said of the MEHEL test at Fort Sill. “Sometimes it’s hard to fathom.”

Earth-Sized Telescope Just Took The First-Ever Photo Of A Black Hole: How It Will Test Theory Of Relativity

  • (THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TECH TIMES)

Earth-Sized Telescope Just Took The First-Ever Photo Of A Black Hole: How It Will Test Theory Of Relativity

15 April 2017, 10:37 pm EDT By Katrina Pascual Tech Times
  

New images captured by the Event Horizon Telescope will help test basic predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity in the extreme-physics environment of black holes.

( ESO/O. Furtak )

Ten nights of staunch observation may have led astronomers to successfully peer inside a black hole and take an image of its event horizon, or its point of no return.

The mass of data collected is now on its way to two supercomputers in the United States and Germany to confirm in early 2018 if it is indeed the very first capture of the renowned gravitational sinkhole.

Black Hole Information Paradox

The ultimate goal for researchers was getting a picture of a region surrounding the black hole. This is the event horizon, or the boundary beyond which not even light can escape the object’s massive grasp.

Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, born in 1915 and which details how gravity affects the cosmos, has the existence of extremely massive black holes as one of its first predictions.

“They are the ultimate endpoint of space and time, and may represent the ultimate limit of our knowledge,” said radio astronomer Heino Falcke of Radboud University in the Netherlands, adding that the first images will turn black holes from mythical things to concrete evidence that scientists can actually study.

Einstein’s theory notes that all the information crossing a black hole’s event horizon gets lost forever. Yet according to quantum mechanics, information can never be lost.

Back in the 1970s, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking found that black holes can disappear, and so information can be lost forever. The theoretical structure that quantum mechanics puts forward is therefore compromised if the particles’ information could indeed be lost in the black hole.

Event Horizon Telescope

All the scientific inquiry and ambition has led to the widely ambitious Event Horizon Telescope, an international collaboration linking eight observatories to create a virtual telescope dish as wide as Earth. While the method is nothing new, it is the first time that a project is done on a large scale.

The radio-dish network went to work on a 10-day window starting April 4, peering at two supermassive black holes: Sagittarius A*, lying at the core of the Milky Way and 4 million times as huge as our sun; and the Messier 87, a black hole in a neighboring galaxy some 53 million light-years away.

The telescope has investigated the vicinity of each of the monster black holes before, but this marks the first time the network comprised the South Pole telescope as well as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope located in Chile.

ALMA, for one, increases the Event Horizon Telescope’s acuity 10 times, allowing it to find something as tiny as a golf-sized object on the moon — and potentially the small event horizons of the black holes.

Hurdling The Weather And Months Of Waiting

The image returned is hoped to demonstrate the flow of material moving in and out of the black hole.

“What we expect to see is an asymmetric image where you have a circular dark region. That’s the black hole shadow,” MIT research scientist Vincent Fish told Newsweek, adding the presence of the photon ring or a spherical area of space where gravity is so potent that photons are forced to travel in orbits.

The weather proved to be a crucial factor in the mission as astronomers observe black holes in millimeter radio waves, which water absorbs as well as emits. This means precipitation could cloud the observations.

Mitigating this issue involves placing radio telescopes at high altitudes, although rain, clouds, or snow could still take the observatory offline. Even high-altitude winds could shut down a given telescope.

Thus Fish and his fellow scientists met every day to decide on when to activate the large network and assess weather conditions at every site. Constant weather monitoring and communication among astronomers were done.

The researchers have collected about one petabyte of data, which equates to MP3 songs playing continuously for more than 2,000 years without any repeats. Two research institutes, the MIT Haystack and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, are receiving the said data.

The telescopes’ recorded information is stored on 1,024 drives, which will be mailed to the research institutes’ processing centers. Hard drives coming from the South Pole telescope, too, cannot be sent out until the end of winter in the region, or by the end of October.

Despite the long wait and other external factors, the team remains optimistic. Falcke said that even if the images emerge as “crappy and washed out,” they can help test basic predictions of Einstein’s theory in the extreme-physics environment of a black hole.

Knowing the black hole’s mass and distance, explained Fish, means one should see the shadow and ring, and that the latter will have a specific diameter and will be quite circular.

“If the shape isn’t circular or the wrong size, then relativity has made a prediction that has failed,” he said.

Researchers Find a New Way to Make Water From Thin Air

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF KQED NEWS SITE)

Researchers Find a New Way to Make Water From Thin Air

A prototype MOF-based water-collection device is set up for testing on the roof of a building on the MIT campus.
A prototype MOF-based water-collection device is set up for testing on the roof of a building on the MIT campus. (Courtesy Evelyn Yang, MIT)

Researchers have come up with a new way to extract water from thin air. Literally.

This isn’t the first technology that can turn water vapor in the atmosphere into liquid water that people can drink, but researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UC Berkeley say their approach uses less power and works in drier environments.

The new approach makes use of a substance called a MOF, a metal-organic framework. As the name suggests, these are materials made of metals mixed with organic compounds. Powders made from MOFs are very porous, so researchers have proposed using them to store hydrogen or methane fuels or to capture carbon dioxide.

MIT’s Evelyn Wang and her Berkeley colleague Omar Yaghi decided to try using MOFs to capture water. MOF powders can not only suck up liquid water, they can also absorb water vapor.

And there’s plenty of water vapor in the atmosphere. Even in the driest place on the planet there are tons of water molecules floating overhead.

The researchers built a small prototype water collector that contains a thin layer of MOF powder. The powder absorbs water vapor until it is saturated.

“Once you achieve that maximum amount,” Wang says, “you apply some type of heat to the system to release that water.”

And when the water is released, it collects in the bottom of the prototype.

There are other compounds that can suck water from the air, zeolites for example, but Wang says it takes a significant amount of energy to get these materials to release the water. Not so with a MOF device. “The amount of energy required is very low,” she says.

In the prototype, the heat needed to drive the water out of the MOF comes from ambient sunlight — no external power supply is needed.

Even in Chile's Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth, there are water molecules floating overhead.
Even in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth, there are water molecules floating overhead. (MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

As they report in the journal Science, Wang and her colleagues tested the prototype of their MOF-based device on the roof of a building at MIT, and it worked great.

But it’s just a prototype. It used only a fraction of an ounce of the MOF powder. “So the amount of water that we’ve shown is also pretty small,” says Wang.

According to Wang’s calculations, a full-size system using about 2 pounds of MOF powder could deliver close to three quarts of water per day.

And she expects scaling up the prototype won’t be all that expensive. Although MOFs are a relatively new material, “there are companies that already make various MOFS at very large bulk scales,” she says.

There are many steps before a mass-produced MOF-based water collector becomes a reality. It hasn’t been shown, for example, that the water released by the MOF powder is free of contaminants.

But it’s conceivable that someday if you’re visiting Death Valley, one of the driest places in the United States, you’ll be able to wet your whistle with a device based on Wang and Yaghi’s concept.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The U.S. Just Dropped The ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ In Afghanistan. But What Is That?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

The U.S. Just Dropped the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ in Afghanistan. But What Is That?

Apr 13, 2017

The United States on Thursday dropped “the mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat, on an ISIS tunnel and cave complex in eastern Afghanistan.

The bomb, officially called the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), was dropped from a MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said, according to the Associated Press. The target was near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

President Donald Trump said Thursday the bombing was a “very successful mission,” according to Reuters, and he touted the mission as evidence of a stronger foreign policy under his administration. It was not immediately clear how much damage the bomb did, how many militants were killed, or whether any civilians were killed.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is the bomb?

The GBU-43 is a GPS-guided weapon that weighs an enormous 21,600 pounds, according to an article from the Eglin Air Force Base. Each one costs $16 million, according to military information website Deagel.

During testing in the early 2000s, it created a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away, according to the Air Force story.

Why was it developed?

The MOAB was designed in 2002 as a replacement for the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, according to the Air Force article. Its purpose was initially to put pressure on former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“The goal is to have the pressure be so great that Saddam Hussein cooperates,” said then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a 2003 interview, according to the Air Force article. “Short of that — an unwillingness to cooperate — the goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the coalition.”

Has it been used before?

The bomb was sent to the Middle East in 2003, but it had never been used before this week.

How many does the U.S. have?

The U.S. military says it has 20 MOAB bombs and has spent about $314 million producing them, according to CNBC.

What kind of destruction does it cause?

While not all details from Thursday’s blast have been made public, the bomb is very powerful. “What it does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and lights the air on fire,” Bill Roggio, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Air Force Times. “It’s a way to get into areas where conventional bombs can’t reach.”

While it was initially intended to deter U.S. opponents, this week’s strike marks a change to using the weapon as an active tool in fighting ISIS. The use of the MOAB in the Nangarhar province indicates the U.S. still considers ISIS a threat in the area.

NASA: 2 Near By ‘Ocean Planets’ Most Likely Places To Find Life, Maybe Humans Can Survive There?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) NASA has new evidence that the most likely places to find life beyond Earth are Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus. In terms of potential habitability, Enceladus particularly has almost all of the key ingredients for life as we know it, researchers said.

New observations of these active ocean worlds in our solar system have been captured by two NASA missions and were presented in two separate studies in an announcement at NASA HQ in Washington today.
Using a mass spectrometer, the Cassini spacecraft detected an abundance of hydrogen molecules in water plumes rising from the “tiger stripe” fractures in Enceladus’ icy surface. Saturn’s sixth-largest moon is an ice-encased world with an ocean beneath. The researchers believe that the hydrogen originated from a hydrothermal reaction between the moon’s ocean and its rocky core. If that is the case, the crucial chemical methane could be forming in the ocean as well.
“Now, Enceladus is high on the list in the solar system for showing habitable conditions,” said Hunter Waite, leader of the Cassini Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer team at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and lead author of the Enceladus study.

This illustration shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015.

“The presence of hydrogen established another reference point saying there is hydrothermal activity inside this body, and that’s interesting because we know in our own oceans, those are very important places that are teeming with life, and they are probably one of the earliest places where life happened on Earth.”
Additionally, the Hubble Space Telescope showed a water plume erupting on the warmest part of the surface of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons with an icy crust over a salty liquid water ocean containing twice as much water as Earth’s seas. This is the second time a plume has been observed in this exact spot, which has researchers excited that it could prove to be a feature on the surface.

The green oval highlights the plumes Hubble observed on Europa. The area also corresponds to a warm region on Europa's surface.

“This is significant, because the rest of the planet isn’t easy to predict or understand, and it’s happening for the second time in the warmest spot,” said Britney Schmidt, second author on the Europa study.

Why is this exciting?

“This is the closest we’ve come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “These results demonstrate the interconnected nature of NASA’s science missions that are getting us closer to answering whether we are indeed alone or not.”
The necessary ingredients for life as we know it include liquid water, energy sources and chemicals such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus.
But we’ve also learned that life finds a way in the harshest of Earth’s environments, like vents in the deepest parts of the ocean floor. There, microbes don’t receive energy from sunlight, but use methanogenesis, a process that reduces carbon dioxide with hydrogen, to form methane.
Europa and Enceladus are showcasing some of these key ingredients for life in their oceans, which is why researchers believe they are the best chance for finding life beyond Earth in our own solar system.

These composite images show a suspected plume of material erupting two years apart from the same location on Jupiter's icy moon Europa.

Previous results from the Cassini mission’s flybys of Enceladus already had researchers intrigued. First, they could see plume material linked to interior water. They determined that the moon had a global ocean, and then a cosmic dust analyzer revealed silicon dioxide grains, indicating warm hydrothermal activity.
“This (molecular hydrogen) is just like the icing on the cake,” Waite said. “Now, you see the chemical energy source that microbes could use. The only thing we haven’t seen is phosphorus and sulfur, and that’s probably because they were in small enough quantities that we didn’t see them. We have to go back and look and search for signs of life as well.”
Earth is considered an ocean world because those bodies of water cover the majority of the planet’s surface. Other ocean worlds in our solar system, besides Europa and Enceladus, potentially include Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Callisto; Saturn’s moons Mimas and Titan; Neptune’s moon Triton; and the dwarf planet Pluto.
It is believed that Venus and Mars were once ocean worlds, but the greenhouse gas effect and a vulnerable atmosphere, respectively, caused those planets to lose their oceans.

What’s next?

Although the Cassini mission, which began in 2004, comes to an end this year, Waite is eager for NASA to return to Enceladus and search for life, because he believes it is the best candidate for habitability.
Researchers want to confirm a very solid case for habitability by finding sulfur and phosphorus on Enceladus, as well as narrowing down the pH (potential of hydrogen) and reinforcing previous measurements. The second step would be looking for signs of life by flying a spectrometer through the plume, searching for rations of amino and fatty acids, certain isotopic ratios indicative of life and other relationships in molecules that indicate energy for microbial life, Waite said.

This graphic illustrates how Cassini scientists think water interacts with rock at the bottom of the ocean of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, producing hydrogen gas.

But first, we’re going to investigate Europa’s habitability.
NASA plans to further explore ocean worlds in our solar system, including through the recently named Europa Clipper mission, the first to explore an alien ocean. Waite believes that Europa is currently at a disadvantage because a mass spectrometer hasn’t flown through its plume to collect data, and it’s Europa’s turn to have that experience.
“If there are plumes on Europa, as we now strongly suspect, with the Europa Clipper, we will be ready for them,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science.

NASA's Europa Clipper will study Jupiter's moon Europa and whether it could harbor conditions suitable for life.

Although Waite favors Enceladus of the two ocean worlds, Schmidt believes that Europa could be the best case for life in our solar system beyond Earth.
Schmidt, an assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, is also one of the architects of the project that became the Europa Clipper mission. She and two other researchers came up with the name while sitting in a hotel room during a conference.
The Europa Clipper, named for the innovative, streamlined ships of the 1800s, will launch in the 2020s and arrive at Europa after a few years.
“The reason we chose it is because the clipper ships were fast, American boats at the time that they were first used, when most shipping was achieved with large, slow vessels,” Schmidt said. “We liked clipper for that reason, an ingenious way to solve the Europa mission problem: How do you get a long-lived mission at Europa with global coverage but not be in the radiation environment?”
Because that region of the solar system traps atomic particles from the sun, the radiation of the area around Jupiter is dangerous to spacecraft.
Schmidt will be an investigator for the ice-penetrating radar instrument that will be housed on the Europa Clipper. It will act like an X-ray, peering through the unknown thickness of Europa’s icy crust the same way scientists use earthquakes to assess the interior of the Earth.
Other instruments will produce high-resolution images of the surface and measure the moon’s magnetic field, temperature, atmospheric particles and even the depth and salinity of the ocean.
Waite is using his knowledge from the Cassini mission to work on an improved mass spectrometer for the Europa Clipper mission.
“Cassini and Enceladus really allowed us to see the kind of things we could do with mass spectrometers and, more importantly, with material that’s coming up straight out of the ocean,” Waite said. “It’s a way of viewing the ocean without drilling into it. We didn’t necessarily have to land; we could sit there and and sample to study quite a bit about these ocean worlds just from flying through the material that comes out of the interior. That’s what the plumes are about on Europa as well. It’s that connection to the interior ocean.”

Europa or Enceladus?

Research suggesting the possibility of an ocean on Europa was published as early as 1977, after the Voyager mission saw long lines and dark spots, as opposed to a cratered surface similar to other moons. Then the Galileo mission reached Europa in 1996 and revealed for the first time that there was an ocean on another planet.
But because neighboring Mars has fueled imaginations and the possibility of exploring another planet for years, the general public hasn’t been as captivated by Jupiter’s moon. There are arguments that life could exist on Mars, but it was most likely habitable in the past, when it supported bodies of water and had a more hospitable climate and an atmosphere.
“The question is, do you want to study something that might have been habitable at one time, or do you want to study something that could be habitable right now?” Schmidt asked. “Europa has been pretty much Europa for 4.5 billion years, as long as the Earth has. So as far as what could have started and evolved there, that’s a compelling question.
Regardless of which of the two ocean worlds is the better candidate for hosting life, both researchers believe that exploring ocean worlds is one of the best things we can do.
“Understanding the diversity of our solar system is pretty important and the possibility ofapplying what we know here to exoplanets, it just opens up the range of possibilities for life beyond our previous expectations,” Waite said.
“These ocean worlds all over the outer solar system that are a little bit alien,” Schmidt said, “they’re the most compelling things that we have in the solar system.”

Tesla Set to Unveil Electric Semi-Truck in September

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

DETROIT — Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk says the company plans to unveil an electric semi-truck in September.

Musk tweeted the announcement Thursday. He offered no other details about the semi, such as whether it will be equipped with Tesla’s partially self-driving Autopilot mode.

Musk also said the company plans to unveil a pickup truck in 18 to 24 months.

Tesla currently sells two electric vehicles, the Model S sedan and Model X SUV. Its lower-cost Model 3 electric car is due out by the end of this year.

But Musk revealed last summer that the Palo Alto, California-based company is working on several more vehicles, including the semi and a minibus.

Tesla shares rose nearly 3 percent in late trading Thursday in response to Musk’s tweet.

NASA To Present New Discoveries About ‘Ocean Worlds’ In Our Solar System

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) NASA will present new discoveries about the ocean worlds in our solar system on Thursday, the agency announced. Learning more about ocean worlds could help in the agency’s quest for life beyond Earth.

The findings were gathered by researchers through the Hubble Space Telescope and Cassini spacecraft. Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, and the mission ends this year.
“During its time at Saturn, Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean that showed indications of hydrothermal activity within the icy moon Enceladus, and liquid methane seas on its moon Titan,” NASA said in a release.
Earth is considered an ocean world because those bodies of water cover the majority of the planet’s surface. Other ocean worlds in our solar system potentially include Jupiter’s moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto; Saturn’s moons Enceladus, Mimas and Titan; Neptune’s moon Triton; and the dwarf planet Pluto.
It is believed that Venus and Mars were once ocean worlds, but the greenhouse gas effect and a vulnerable atmosphere, respectively, caused those planets to lose them.

The Europa mission

NASA plans to further explore ocean worlds in our solar system, including through the recently named Europa Clipper mission. This mission will investigate Jupiter’s moon Europa, which has a salty liquid water ocean containing twice as much water as Earth’s oceans beneath an icy crust.

NASA's Europa Clipper will study Jupiter's moon Europa and whether it could harbor conditions suitable for life.

Researchers want to know whether Europa could support life in its ocean. They spotted water plumes rising 125 miles above the surface in September using the Hubble Telescope.
Europa could be the best case for life in our solar system outside of Earth, said Britney Schmidt, assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
Schmidt is also one of the architects of the project that became the Europa Clipper mission. She and two other researchers came up with the name while sitting in a hotel room during a conference.
The Europa Clipper, named for the innovative, streamlined ships of the 1800s, will launch in the 2020s and arrive at Europa after a few years.
“The reason we chose it is because the clipper ships were fast, American boats at the time that they were first used, when most shipping was achieved with large, slow vessels,” Schmidt said. “We liked clipper for that reason, an ingenious way to solve the Europa mission problem: How do you get a long-lived mission at Europa with global coverage but not be in the radiation environment?”
Because that region of the solar system traps atomic particles from the sun, the radiation of the area around Jupiter is dangerous to spacecraft.
Schmidt will be an investigator for the ice-penetrating radar instrument that will be housed on the Europa Clipper. It will act like an X-ray, peering through the unknown thickness of Europa’s icy crust the same way scientists use earthquakes to assess the interior of the Earth.
Research suggesting the possibility of an ocean on Europa was published as early as 1977, after the Voyager mission saw long lines and dark spots, as opposed to a cratered surface similar to other moons. Then the Galileo mission reached Europa in 1996 and revealed for the first time that there was an ocean on another planet.
But because neighboring Mars has fueled imaginations and the possibility of exploring another planet for years, the general public hasn’t been as captivated by Jupiter’s moon. There are arguments that life could exist on Mars, but it was most likely habitable in the past, when it supported bodies of water and had a more hospitable climate and an atmosphere.
“The question is, do you want to study something that might have been habitable at one time, or do you want to study something that could be habitable right now?” Schmidt asked. “Europa has been pretty much Europa for 4.5 billion years, as long as the Earth has. So as far as what could have started and evolved there, that’s a compelling question.
“If you think about early Earth and early Europa, they were probably very similar, at least at the ocean interface. They are almost the same place at that point in time. That’s why I get excited about Europa. It could have been a place for life over the history of the solar system.”

Russian Arrested In Spain ‘Over Mass Hacking’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Russian arrested in Spain ‘over mass hacking’

Computer keyboardImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Much of Pyotr Levashov’s alleged activity involved ransomware

Spanish police have arrested a Russian programmer following US allegations of large-scale hacking.

Pyotr Levashov was held in Barcelona on Friday and is remanded in custody.

Spanish police said Mr Levashov controlled a botnet called Kelihos, hacking information and installing malicious software in hundreds of thousands of computers.

The arrest was part of a “complex inquiry carried out in collaboration with the FBI”, police said.

Mr Levashov is subject to a US international arrest warrant and a Spanish court will hear whether he can be extradited.

Much of his alleged activity involved ransomware – blocking a computer’s access to certain information and demanding a ransom for its release.

Mr Levashov’s wife Maria told Russian broadcaster RT that the arrest had been made in connection with allegations that Russians had hacked the US presidential election.

She said Spanish police had told her the arrest was in connection with “a virus which appears to have been created by my husband and is linked to [Donald] Trump’s victory”.

However, Agence France-Presse news agency quoted a source close to the matter in Washington as saying that Mr Levashov’s detention was “not tied to anything involving allegations of Russian interference with the US election”.

Donald Trump on the campaignImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image captionMr Levashov’s wife linked the arrest to claims of Russian hacking of the US election

A US intelligence report released in January alleged that Vladimir Putin had tried to help Mr Trump to victory, allegations strongly denied the Russian president.

Mr Trump later commented that the outcome of the election had not been affected.

Several cyber security experts, including Brian Krebs, have also linked Mr Levashov to a Russian spam kingpin, who uses the alias Peter Severa.

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