Sci/Tech en Wed Feb 21 13:15:38 IST 2024 ai-surpasses-humans-in-creativity-tests <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Get ready to be amazed because artificial intelligence has just shown off its creative skills! In a recent study, 151 human participants went head-to-head with ChatGPT-4 in three tests designed to measure creative thinking, and the AI came out on top!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The tests measured something called &quot;divergent thinking,&quot; which is all about coming up with unique and original ideas. ChatGPT-4 wowed everyone by providing more creative and elaborate answers than the human participants. It's like when you have to think of the best way to avoid talking about politics with your parents – that's the kind of creative thinking we're talking about!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, published in Scientific Reports, was led by U of A Ph.D. students and an assistant professor. They used tests like the Alternative Use Task, where participants had to think of creative uses for everyday objects, and the Consequences Task, which asked people to imagine what would happen if humans didn't need sleep anymore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers found that ChatGPT-4 was more original and elaborate than humans on all the creative thinking tasks. But hold on – there are some important things to consider. The study looked at creative potential, not actual creative achievements, and the AI doesn't have its own ideas – it needs a human to guide it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers also didn't check if ChatGPT-4's answers were appropriate for real life. So, while the AI came up with lots of original answers, the human participants might have felt limited by having to keep their ideas grounded in reality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the researchers also pointed out that the tests might not be perfect for measuring human creativity. They're questioning whether these tests really capture all the different ways people can think creatively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But here's the big news: AI like ChatGPT-4 is getting better and better, and it's starting to outshine humans in new ways. It's not clear yet whether AI will replace human creativity, but the researchers think AI could be a really cool tool to help people be more creative in the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Mar 07 14:03:49 IST 2024 why-isro-has-pinpointed-48-locations-for-safe-return-of-gaganyaan-astronauts <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The human spaceflight programme ‘Gaganyaan' led by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) aims to position India among the world’s top space-exploring nations. Should it succeed, India will be counted alongside the United States, Russia and China as countries with ongoing human spaceflight endeavors. ISRO plans to start unmanned test flights for the Gaganyaan mission later this year and conduct seven trial launches by March 2025.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier, ISRO had identified two potential landing locations within Indian territorial waters—the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Ultimately, the Arabian Sea was chosen as the landing site due to the turbulent conditions and the unpredictability associated with the Bay of Bengal, according to an official.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In case there is any deviation from the primary plan, even minor, the space agency has pinpointed 48 alternative sites in international waters for contingency purposes, according to officials. Senior officials involved in the mission have disclosed to the media that ISRO has earmarked 48 alternative sites globally for the potential splashdown of the Gaganyaan crew and module. This step has been taken to ensure that the astronauts can be returned safely and securely.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Choosing various potential splashdown locations highlights ISRO’s comprehensive approach to risk management and meticulous planning. This strategy underlines the organization’s commitment to securing the safe re-entry of India’s inaugural astronauts on a homegrown space mission. The primary concern during any space mission is the safety of the crew members. By selecting multiple spots for splashdown, the mission organizers can choose the most favourable conditions—such as calm seas and minimal waves—to ensure a safe landing and recovery of the crew,” explained space expert Girish Linganna.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He further explains that by selecting multiple spots, including international waters, the Gaganyaan mission organizers are prepared for various scenarios and contingencies. In case of any unforeseen circumstances, such as technical failures, adverse weather conditions, or geopolitical issues, having alternative landing options provides flexibility and ensures the mission’s success.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few experts point out that the Gaganyaan mission is India’s first human spaceflight programme and it is crucial to maintain good relations with other nations. By including international waters in the splashdown spots, India demonstrates a commitment to international cooperation and adherence to international norms and regulations for space activities.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The selection of multiple splashdown spots allows the mission organizers to plan and execute recovery operations efficiently. By considering various factors such as proximity to naval bases, availability of recovery vessels and logistical support they can ensure a smooth recovery process for the crew and the spacecraft. Conducting a human spaceflight mission is a complex endeavour and each mission provides valuable learning experiences. By selecting multiple splashdown spots, the Gaganyaan mission organizers can gather additional data and insights that can contribute to future missions and advancements in space exploration,” added Linganna.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier, ISRO had announced the selection of the first four astronauts for the Gaganyaan mission. These astronauts, who are test pilots from the Indian Air Force, will participate in the space mission, which is slated for launch by the end of next year. From the four astronaut currently undergoing training, three will be chosen for the ultimate mission.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In preparation for the mission, ISRO scientists have carried out numerous tests to verify the safety of all systems for carrying the astronauts to space and returning them safely to Earth. Additionally, ISRO has made modifications to its rockets and propulsion systems to adapt them for manned missions, marking a significant first in the agency’s 55-year history.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“For the Gaganyaan mission ISRO has modified its medium-lift, three-stage rocket, previously known as GSLV Mark-3, to comply with the standards required for human spaceflight. This upgraded version has been renamed ‘Human-Rated LVM3’, or HLVM3. This particular rocket has been utilized in ISRO’s notable missions, including the lunar explorations, Chandrayaan-2 and Chandrayaan-3, among others. Atop this upgraded rocket, a new orbital module has been designed, equipped with both a crew module, serving as the living quarters for the astronauts, and a service module,” remarked Linganna.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The comprehensive testing phase for this mission began in 2017 and is expected to extend over the coming months. These tests draw upon the space agency’s years of globally recognized expertise and experience. The mission is designed to conclude with the module landing exclusively in the Arabian Sea. The Indian authorities will be strategically positioned in this area to conduct the recovery of both the crew and the module.&nbsp;</p> Tue Mar 05 18:19:13 IST 2024 revolutionary-nanosheet-method-unlocks-new-frontiers-in-brain-im <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A groundbreaking method for in vivo brain imaging has been unveiled by a team of researchers led by the Exploratory Research Center on Life and Living Systems (ExCELLS) and the National Institute for Physiological Sciences (NIPS). Referred to as the “nanosheet incorporated into light-curable resin” (NIRE) method, this innovative approach promises to enable large-scale and long-term observation of neuronal structures and activities in awake mice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This groundbreaking development has the potential to shed light on the intricacies of neuroplastic changes at various levels over extended periods in animals that are awake and engaged in various behaviors, ultimately paving the way for a deeper understanding of the brain's inner workings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lead author Taiga Takahashi of the Tokyo University of Science and ExCELLS explained, &quot;The NIRE method is superior to previous methods because it produces larger cranial windows than previously possible, extending from the parietal cortex to the cerebellum, utilizing the biocompatible nanosheet and the transparent light-curable resin that changes in form from liquid to solid.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This method, which involves the use of light-curable resin to fix polyethylene-oxide–coated CYTOP (PEO-CYTOP) nanosheets onto the brain surface, has the potential to facilitate extended periods of high-resolution imaging with minimal impact on transparency. Corresponding author Tomomi Nemoto at ExCELLS and NIPS emphasized, &quot;The NIRE method enables imaging to be performed for a longer period of more than 6 months with minimal impact on transparency. This should make it possible to conduct longer-term research on neuroplasticity at various levels—from the network level to the cellular level—as well as during maturation, learning, and neurodegeneration.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nemoto added, &quot;The method holds promise for unraveling the mysteries of neural processes associated with growth and development, learning, and neurological disorders. Potential applications include investigations into neural population coding, neural circuit remodeling, and higher-order brain functions that depend on coordinated activity across widely distributed regions.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In essence, the NIRE method represents a significant advancement in the field of neuroimaging, providing a powerful tool for researchers to investigate neural processes that were previously difficult or impossible to observe. This novel approach's ability to create large cranial windows with prolonged transparency and fewer motion artifacts should allow for large-scale, long-term, and multi-scale in vivo brain imaging, opening new opportunities to enhance our understanding of the brain's complexity and function.</p> Tue Mar 05 16:40:28 IST 2024 humans-have-driven-earth-s-freshwater-cycle-out-of-stable-state- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Human activity has pushed the Earth's freshwater resources far beyond the stable conditions that prevailed before industrialisation, a study has found.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The findings, published in the journal Nature Water, show that the updated planetary boundary for freshwater change was surpassed by the mid-twentieth century.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the first time that global water cycle change has been assessed over such a long timescale with an appropriate reference baseline, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Human pressures, such as dam construction, large-scale irrigation and global warming, have altered freshwater resources to such an extent that their capacity to regulate vital ecological and climatic processes is at risk, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The international team calculated monthly streamflow and soil moisture at a spatial resolution of roughly 50x50 kilometers using data from hydrological models that combine all major human impacts on the freshwater cycle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers determined the conditions during the pre-industrial period (1661-1860). They then compared the industrial period (1861-2005) against this baseline.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The analysis showed an increase in the frequency of exceptionally dry or wet conditions -- deviations in streamflow and soil moisture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dry and wet deviations have consistently occurred over substantially larger areas since the early 20th century than during the pre-industrial period, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Overall, the global land area experiencing deviations has nearly doubled compared with pre-industrial conditions, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We found that exceptional conditions are now much more frequent and widespread than before, clearly demonstrating how human actions have changed the state of the global freshwater cycle,&quot; said Vili Virkki, a doctoral researcher at Aalto University in Finland, and one of the lead authors of the paper.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because the analysis was done at a high spatial and temporal resolution, the researchers could explore geographical differences in the deviations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Exceptionally dry streamflow and soil moisture conditions became more frequent in many tropical and subtropical regions, while many boreal and temperate regions saw an increase in exceptionally wet conditions, especially in terms of soil moisture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These patterns match changes seen in water availability due to climate change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were more complex patterns in many regions with a long history of human land use and agriculture, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For example, the Nile, Indus and Mississippi river basins have experienced exceptionally dry streamflow and wet soil moisture conditions, indicating changes driven by irrigation, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Using a method that's consistent and comparable across hydrological variables and geographical scales is crucial for understanding the biophysical processes and human actions that drive the changes we are seeing in freshwater,&quot; said Miina Porkka, who co-led the study at Aalto before moving to the University of Eastern Finland.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With this comprehensive view of the changes in streamflow and soil moisture, researchers are better equipped to investigate the causes and consequences of the changes in the freshwater cycle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Understanding these dynamics in greater detail could help guide policies to mitigate the resulting harm -- but our immediate priority should be to decrease human-driven pressures on freshwater systems, which are vital to life on Earth,&quot; said Aalto's Associate Professor Matti Kummu, senior author of the study.&nbsp;</p> Mon Mar 04 17:07:47 IST 2024 conservation-efforts-strengthened-as-national-dolphin-research-c <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has officially opened the National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC) in Patna, marking a significant milestone as the first of its kind in Asia. The centre, inaugurated on Monday, is set to bring together scientists and researchers dedicated to the study of Gangetic Dolphins,&quot; stated Prem Kumar, state minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (DEFCC).</p> <p>Describing the center as a crucial platform for understanding dolphin behavior and conducting research, Kumar highlighted its potential to make significant contributions to the conservation of Gangetic Dolphins. Bandana Preyashi, Secretary-DEFCC, emphasized that the NDRC is not only the first of its kind in India but also across Asia.</p> <p>Researchers at the centre will focus on various aspects of dolphin behavior in their natural habitat, including studying food habits and adaptation to changing environments, Preyashi explained. Additionally, the centre will play a vital role in training fishermen to avoid inadvertently harming dolphins during fishing activities.</p> <p>With the inauguration of the NDRC, Bihar is set to become a leading hub for research on Gangetic Dolphins, India's national aquatic animal, Preyashi concluded.</p> Mon Mar 04 16:32:25 IST 2024 brain-s-waste-removal-system-unveiled--neurons-act-as-miniature- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered that brain cell activity during sleep is responsible for propelling fluid into, through, and out of the brain, cleaning it of debris. This process is facilitated by individual nerve cells coordinating to produce rhythmic waves that propel fluid through dense brain tissue, effectively washing the tissue in the process.</p> <p>The findings, published in Nature, suggest that synchronized neural activity powers fluid flow and removal of debris from the brain. According to Li-Feng Jiang-Xie, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Pathology &amp; Immunology, these neurons act as miniature pumps, and building on this process could potentially delay or prevent neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, in which excess waste accumulates in the brain and leads to neurodegeneration.</p> <p>The brain's cleaning process during sleep has long eluded scientists due to the challenge of observing it in the living brain. However, using new imaging technologies, researchers were able to observe in mice a plumbing system that piggybacks on the brain's blood vessels and pumps cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through the brain's tissue, effectively flushing waste back into the circulatory system. This timely removal of waste from the brain is essential, as the accumulation of toxic proteins such as amyloid-beta can lead to neurodegenerative diseases .</p> <p>The study's senior author, Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, highlighted the critical importance of the brain disposing of metabolic waste to prevent neurodegenerative diseases. The findings suggest the possibility of developing strategies and potential therapies to speed up the removal of damaging waste and prevent dire consequences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Mar 02 16:13:08 IST 2024 explained-how-gaganyaan-astronauts-will-profit-from-simulator-training <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>ISRO's Gaganyaan mission marks India’s inaugural manned space venture with comprehensive preparations being conducted across different ISRO facilities.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gaganyaan mission aims at sending four astronauts into space, reaching an altitude of 400 kilometres above Earth for a three-day duration. Subsequently, they will return with a planned water landing off India’s coast.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yesterday, Prime Minister Modi conferred ‘astronaut wings’ upon the four men selected for the Gaganyaan mission, slated for launch in 2024-2025. The individuals chosen are Group Captain Prashanth Nair, Group Captain Ajit Krishnan, Group Captain Angad Pratap and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla—all pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The four astronauts underwent preparatory training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Russia—the very facility where India’s first space traveller, Rakesh Sharma, prepared for his 1984 space voyage.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Located in Star City, approximately 30 kilometres north of Moscow, the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC) is named after Yuri Gagarin, the first human to journey into space. The centre is equipped with state-of-the-art training technology, including comprehensive simulators, and provides extensive survival training for a variety of potential landing environments, such as mountains, forests, marshes, deserts, the Arctic and maritime scenarios.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After finishing 13 months of intensive training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre and multiple stages of theoretical and physical preparations in India, the astronauts are now ready to proceed with their training in the United States. Earlier, ISRO Chairman S Somanath disclosed to the press that the next phase of training is scheduled to take place at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Johnson Space Center, in Texas, soon.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Training with simulators will be one of the most significant aspect of the training. “ISRO has sourced its simulators from both international and local vendors to support its training programmes. The Dynamic Training Simulator (DTS) was acquired from Thales Alenia Space, France, whereas the Independent Training Simulator (ITS) came from L&amp;T Technology Services in India. Additionally, Indian firms were responsible for developing the Virtual Reality Training Simulator (VRTS) and the Static Mock-up Simulator (SMS),” explained space expert Girish Linganna.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dwelling further on simulator training, Linganna says that the Dynamic Training Simulator (DTS) is a system designed to simulate the physical sensations and experiences that astronauts will encounter during a space mission. “DTS reproduces the various motions, sounds and forces—such as jerk (sudden movement), vibrations, acceleration, changes in speed and direction and shocks—which occur during critical phases of spaceflight. These phases include stage separation, parachute deployment, touchdown (landing) and emergency scenarios, such as the activation of the Crew Escape System. The purpose of DTS is to prepare astronauts for the actual conditions they will face in space, enhancing their readiness and safety for the mission,” pointed out Linganna.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is the Integrated Training Simulator (ITS) which is a tabletop simulator designed to acquaint astronauts with the crew control interface, covering both electrical and mechanical aspects. It mimics the Crew Module’s user interface, including display systems, pages, alerts and control buttons. ITS facilitates procedural training across various crew activities and is composed of four key components such as the simulation environment and hardware interface, system simulation system, mission control console, and trainer console. This setup aims to provide comprehensive training on operating spacecraft controls and responding to mission scenarios.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Explaining about the Virtual Reality Training Simulator (VRTS) Linganna says that it is a VR-based system designed for astronaut training in the Gaganyaan mission. It utilizes VR headsets and hand controllers, enabling astronauts to become familiar with the Crew Module’s interiors, including front-end electronics, hardware display monitors and the placement of various components. “Through VRTS, astronauts can interact virtually with switches and control panels, as well as read real-time data from displays, providing an immersive experience that closely replicates the actual environment of the Crew Module,” remarked Linganna.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to these there is the Static Mock-up Simulator (SMS), which has been designed by ISRO to closely replicate the environment of the Crew Module, offering astronauts a realistic experience of the space they will operate in.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This simulator ensures that astronauts become familiar with the layout, including the positioning and operations of control buttons and display systems. It mirrors the exact dimensions and space available for crew activities, matching the actual Crew Module. Every component, such as avionics, the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) and the Cabin Pressure Control System (CPCS), is precisely placed to match their locations in the actual flight Crew Module, providing a true-to-life ground experience for the crew,” added Linganna.&nbsp;</p> Wed Feb 28 18:59:41 IST 2024 climate-change-reducing-fish-weight-in-oceans--study-finds <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan has revealed that climate change may be causing a reduction in the weight of fish in the western North Pacific Ocean. The study, published in the journal Fish and Fisheries, found that fish weight in the region dipped in the 2010s due to warmer water limiting food supplies. This reduction in fish weight has significant implications for fisheries and policymakers managing ocean resources under future climate change scenarios.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers attributed the reduction in fish weight to several factors related to climate change. They found that warmer water limited food supplies, leading to more competition for food among fish species. This competition for food, particularly due to greater numbers of Japanese sardines, resulted in a decline in fish weight. The study also highlighted that with higher temperatures, the ocean's upper layer becomes more stratified, leading to the replacement of larger plankton with smaller, less nutritious species, such as jellyfish. Additionally, climate change can alter the timing and length of phytoplankton blooms, which may no longer align with key periods of the fish life cycle. The migration of fish has also been shown to be affected, impacting fish interaction and competition for resources.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study investigated 17 fish stocks from 13 species and found that many decreased in weight during the 1980s and the 2010s. The team analyzed long-term data for six fish populations from four species between 1978 and 2018 and medium-term data for 17 fish populations from 13 species from 1995/1997 to 2018. The results showed two periods of reduced fish body weight, first in the 1980s and again in the 2010s. The team attributed the 1980s weight decline to an increase in Japanese sardine, which likely led to greater competition for food within and between fish species. In the 2010s, the effect of climate change warming the ocean appeared to have resulted in more competition for food, as cooler, nutrient-dense water could not easily rise to the surface.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The findings of this study align with broader research indicating that climate change is already having a serious impact on seafood. The study found that the amount of seafood that humans could sustainably harvest from a wide range of species shrank by 4.1 percent from 1930 to 2010, a casualty of human-caused climate change. This decline in sustainable seafood harvest has significant implications for global food supplies and the livelihoods of millions of people who rely on fishing for income.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Feb 28 14:56:01 IST 2024 chatbots--misleading-responses-pose-threat-to-us--election-parti <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A recent report has shed light on the concerning trend of popular chatbots generating false and misleading information related to the ongoing US presidential primaries. The findings, based on the insights of artificial intelligence experts and a bipartisan group of election officials, reveal that these inaccuracies have the potential to disenfranchise voters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As fifteen states and one territory gear up for Super Tuesday, where both Democratic and Republican presidential nominating contests will take place, millions of individuals are turning to AI-powered chatbots for basic information about the voting process. However, these chatbots, trained on extensive internet text data, have been found to provide AI-generated answers that are prone to suggesting non-existent polling places or offering illogical responses based on outdated information.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The report, which synthesized the workshop findings of election officials and AI researchers, highlighted the inadequacy of chatbots in providing nuanced and accurate information about elections. In a test conducted at Columbia University, five large language models including OpenAI's ChatGPT-4, Meta's Llama 2, Google's Gemini, Anthropic's Claude, and Mixtral from Mistral, were found to have varying degrees of failure when responding to basic questions about the democratic process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The workshop participants rated a majority of the chatbots' responses as inaccurate, with 40% of the responses categorized as harmful due to perpetuating dated and inaccurate information that could potentially limit voting rights. For instance, when the chatbots were asked about the location of a voting precinct in the ZIP code 19121, Google's Gemini provided a response that was factually incorrect.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The report also raised concerns about the chatbots pulling from outdated or inaccurate sources, thus highlighting the potential of generative AI to amplify longstanding threats to democracy. In light of these findings, there are growing concerns about AI tools exacerbating the spread of false and misleading information during the elections, as well as attempts at AI-generated election interference.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While some technology companies have made symbolic pledges to adopt precautions to prevent AI tools from being used to generate false information, the report's findings underscore the need for greater scrutiny and regulation of AI in the political sphere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Feb 28 12:22:46 IST 2024 nasa-s-dart-mission-reshapes-asteroid-dimorphos <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A frequent idea in sci-fi and apocalyptic films is that of an asteroid striking Earth and causing global devastation. While the probabilities of this kind of mass extinction occurring on our planet are incredibly small, they are not zero.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The results of Nasa's Dart mission to the asteroid Dimorphos have now been published. They contain fascinating details about the composition of this asteroid and whether we can defend Earth against incoming space rocks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) was a spacecraft mission that launched in November 2021. It was sent to an asteroid called Dimorphos and commanded to collide with it, head on, in September 2022.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dimorphos posed and poses no threat to Earth in the near future. But the mission was designed to see if deflecting an asteroid away from a collision course with Earth was possible through kinetic means in other words, a direct impact of a human-made object on its surface.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Asteroid missions are never easy. The relatively small size of these objects (compared to planets and moons) means there is no appreciable gravity to enable spacecraft to land and collect a sample.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Space agencies have launched a number of spacecraft to asteroids in recent times. For example, the Japanese space agency's (Jaxa) Hayabusa-2 mission reached the asteroid Ryugu in 2018, the same year Nasa's Osiris-Rex mission rendezvoused with the asteroid Bennu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Japanese Hayabusa missions (1 and 2) fired a small projectile at the surface as they approached it. They would then collect the debris as it flew by.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>High-speed collision</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the Dart mission was special in that it was not sent to deliver samples of asteroid material to labs on Earth. Instead, it was to fly at high speed into the space rock and be destroyed in the process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A high-speed collision with an asteroid needs incredible precision. Dart's target of Dimorphos was actually part of a double asteroid system, known as a binary because the smaller object orbits the larger one. This binary contained both Didymus the larger of the two objects and Dimorphos, which behaves effectively as a moon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The simulations of what has happened to Dimorphos show that while we might expect to see a very large crater on the asteroid from Dart's impact, it is more likely that it has, in fact, changed the shape of the asteroid instead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ant hitting two buses</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The collision was of a mass of 580kg hitting an asteroid of roughly 5 billion kg. For comparison, this is equivalent to an ant hitting two buses. But the spacecraft is also travelling around 6 kilometres per second.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The simulation results based on observations of the asteroid Dimorphos have shown that the asteroid now orbits around its larger companion, Didymus, 33 minutes slower than before. Its orbit has gone from 11 hours, 55 minutes to 11 hours, 22 minutes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The momentum change to the core of Dimorphos is also higher than one would predict from the direct impact, which may seem impossible at first. However, the asteroid is quite weakly constructed, consisting of loose rubble held together by gravity. The impact caused a lot of material to be blown off of Dimorphos.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This material is now travelling in the opposite direction to the impact. This acts like a recoil, slowing down the asteroid.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Observations of all the highly reflective material that has been shed from Dimorphos allows scientists to estimate how much of it has been lost from the asteroid. Their result is roughly 20 million kilograms equivalent to about six of the Apollo-era Saturn V rockets fully loaded with fuel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Combining all the parameters together (mass, speed, angle and amount of material lost) and simulating the impact has allowed the researchers to be fairly confident about the answer. Confident not only regarding the grain size of the material coming from Dimorphos, but also that the asteroid has limited cohesion and the surface must be constantly altered, or reshaped, by minor impacts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But what does this tell us about protecting ourselves from an asteroid impact? Significant recent impacts on Earth have included the meteor which broke up in the sky over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013, and the infamous Tunguska impact over a remote part of Siberia in 1908.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While these were not the kinds of events that are able to cause mass extinctions like the 10km object that wiped out the dinosaurs when it struck our planet 66 million years ago the potential for damage and loss of life with smaller objects such as those at Chelyabinsk and Tunguska is very high.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Dart mission cost US$324 million (255 million), which is low for a space mission, and with its development phase completed, a similar mission to go and deflect an asteroid heading our way could be launched more cheaply.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The big variable here is how much warning we will have, because a change in orbit of 30 minutes as was observed when Dart struck Dimorphos will make little difference if the asteroid is already very close to Earth. However, if we can predict the object path from further out preferably outside the Solar System and make small changes, this could be enough to divert the path of an asteroid away from our planet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We can expect to see more of these missions in the future, not only because of interest in the science surrounding asteroids, but because the ease of removing material from them means that private companies might want to step up their ideas of mining these space rocks for precious metals.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(The Conversation: By Ian Whittaker, Nottingham Trent University)&nbsp;</p> Tue Feb 27 16:06:04 IST 2024 transforming-waste-into-sustainable-solutions-for-rural-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A groundbreaking study has unveiled a promising new waste management technology that could significantly enhance the quality of life in rural India. Published in the prestigious journal Science of the Total Environment, the research presents compelling evidence that the process of pyrolysis holds the key to addressing indoor air pollution, soil health, and energy generation in Indian villages.</p> <p>Lead researcher, Siming You from the University of Glasgow, explained, &quot;Indoor air pollution is a serious issue in rural India, where cooking with fossil fuels in unventilated residences disproportionately affects the health of women and children.&quot;</p> <p>The study delves into the intricate process of pyrolysis, which involves transforming biomass waste such as rice straw, manure, and wood into valuable resources. By subjecting organic materials to temperatures exceeding 400 degrees Celsius in an oxygen-free chamber, pyrolysis yields bio-oil, syngas, and biochar fertilizer, each offering distinct benefits for rural communities.</p> <p>You further emphasized, &quot;The BioTRIG system has the potential to help address all of these serious problems with a trigeneration approach to turning otherwise unusable waste into three useful sources of bioenergy.&quot;</p> <p>The research team's comprehensive analysis, encompassing a survey of nearly 1,200 rural households in Odisha, revealed a strong desire for cleaner cooking options and reliable access to grid electricity. Over 80% of participants expressed a willingness to transition from smoke-producing coal for indoor cooking, while almost all respondents prioritized access to dependable electricity.</p> <p>Furthermore, the researchers outlined a sustainable community-level pyrolysis system, &quot;BioTRIG,&quot; designed to utilize agricultural waste to produce bioenergy. This innovative approach not only addresses environmental concerns but also offers economic viability for the communities living below the poverty line.</p> <p>Computer simulations have projected that the BioTRIG system could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 350 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita per annum, signaling a substantial positive impact on climate emissions and public health.</p> <p>&quot;The communities are also faced with the degradation of arable land from unsustainable farming practices, and access to reliable electricity is an ongoing challenge,&quot; said You, highlighting the multifaceted challenges that the BioTRIG system aims to tackle.</p> <p>With the potential to revolutionize waste management and energy production in rural India, this groundbreaking study underscores the significant impact that innovative technologies can have on sustainable development and public health, aligning with the UN's sustainable development goals and the Indian government's initiatives to address these pressing challenges.</p> Mon Feb 26 15:53:30 IST 2024 satellites-are-burning-up-in-the-upper-atmosphere- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Elon Musk's SpaceX has announced it will dispose of 100 Starlink satellites over the next six months, after it discovered a design flaw that may cause them to fail. Rather than risk posing a threat to other spacecraft, SpaceX will de-orbit these satellites to burn up in the atmosphere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But atmospheric scientists are increasingly concerned that this sort of apparent fly-tipping by the space sector will cause further climate change down on Earth. One team recently, and unexpectedly, found potential ozone-depleting metals from spacecraft in the stratosphere, the atmospheric layer where the ozone layer is formed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The relative low earth orbit where satellites monitoring Earth's ecosystems are found is increasingly congested Starlink alone has more than 5,000 spacecraft in orbit. Clearing debris is therefore a priority for the space sector.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Newly launched spacecraft must also be removed from orbit within 25 years (the US recently implemented a stricter five-year rule) either by moving upwards to a so-called graveyard orbit or down into the Earth's atmosphere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lower orbiting satellites are usually designed to use any remaining fuel and the pull of the Earth's gravity to re-enter the atmosphere. In a controlled reentry, the spacecraft enters the atmosphere at a pre-set time to land in the most remote part of the Pacific Ocean at Point Nemo (aka the spacecraft cemetery). In an uncontrolled re-entry, spacecraft are left to follow a natural demise and burn up in the atmosphere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nasa and the European Space Agency promote this form of disposal as part of a design philosophy called design for demise. It is an environmental challenge to build, launch and operate a satellite robust enough to function in the hostility of space yet also able to break up and burn up easily on re-entry to avoid dangerous debris reaching the Earth's surface. It's still a work in progress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Satellite operators must prove their design and re-entry plans have a low human-hit rate before they are awarded a license. But there is limited concern regarding the impact on Earth's upper atmosphere during the re-entry stage. This is not an oversight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Initially, neither the space sector nor the astrophysics community considered burning up satellites on re-entry to be a serious environmental threat to the atmosphere, at least. After all, the number of spacecraft particles released is small when compared with 440 tonnes of meteoroids that enter the atmosphere daily, along with volcanic ash and human-made pollution from industrial processes on Earth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bad news for the ozone layer?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So are atmospheric climate scientists overreacting to the presence of spacecraft particles in the atmosphere? Their concerns draw on 40 years of research into the cause of the ozone holes above the south and north poles, that were first widely observed in the 1980s.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, they now know that ozone loss is caused by human-made industrial gases, which combine with natural and very high altitude polar stratospheric clouds or mother of pearl clouds. The surfaces of these ethereal clouds act as catalysts, turning benign chemicals into more active forms that can rapidly destroy ozone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dan Cziczo is an atmospheric scientist at Purdue University in the US, and a co-author of the recent study that found ozone depleting substances in the stratosphere. He explains to me that the question is whether the new particles from spacecraft will help the formation of these clouds and lead to ozone loss at a time when the</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earth's atmosphere is just beginning to recover. Of more concern to atmospheric scientists such as Cziczo is that only a few new particles could create more of these types of polar clouds not only at the upper atmosphere, but also in the lower atmosphere, where cirrus clouds form. Cirrus clouds are the thin, wispy ice clouds you might spot high in the sky, above six kilometres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They tend to let heat from the sun pass through but then trap it on the way out, so in theory more cirrus clouds could add extra global warming on top of what we are already seeing from greenhouse gases. But this is uncertain and still being studied.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cziczo also explains that from anecdotal evidence we know that the high-altitude clouds above the poles are changing but we don't know yet what is causing this change. Is it natural particles such as meteoroids or volcanic debris, or unnatural particles from spacecrafts? This is what we need to know.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Concerned, but not certain</b></p> <p>So how do we answer this question? We have some research from atmospheric scientists, spacecraft builders and astrophysicists, but it's not rigorous or focused enough to make informed decisions on which direction to take. Some astrophysicists claim that alumina (aluminium oxide) particles from spacecraft will cause chemical reactions in the atmosphere that will likely trigger ozone destruction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Atmospheric scientists who study this topic in detail have not made this jump as there isn't enough scientific evidence. We know particles from spacecraft are in the stratosphere. But what this means for the ozone layer or the climate is still unknown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is tempting to overstate research findings to garner more support. But this is the path to research hell and deniers will use poor findings at a later date to discredit the research. We also don't want to use populist opinions. But we've also learnt that if we wait until indisputable evidence is available, it may be too late, as with the loss of ozone. It's a constant dilemma.&nbsp;</p> <p><i>(The Conversation: By Fionagh Thomson, Durham University)&nbsp;</i></p> Mon Feb 26 15:15:26 IST 2024 scientists-measure-gravity-at-microscopic-scale--giving-new-insi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Scientists have managed to measure gravity at the microscopic scale, a development that could potentially lead to a better understanding of quantum gravity theory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The gravitational force, famously conceptualized by physicist Isaac Newton, has long been acknowledged as primarily influential at macroscopic scales due to its fundamental weakness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Einstein's theory of general relativity, widely accepted as the prevailing theory of gravity, has been substantiated through various experiments. Recent confirmation includes the direct observation of gravitational waves resulting from the merger of two black holes in 2016, along with other studies focusing on black hole imaging.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the behavior of gravitational force at the atomic scale, within the quantum realm, remains a mystery. It is widely believed that particles and forces at this scale interact differently than objects of regular size.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Published in the esteemed journal 'Science Advances', the study, led by physicists at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom in collaboration with researchers in the Netherlands and Italy, has successfully detected a weak gravitational pull on a tiny particle using an innovative technique involving levitating magnets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lead author Tim Fuchs, from the University of Southampton, emphasized the significance of the results, stating, &quot;For a century, scientists have tried and failed to understand how gravity and quantum mechanics work together. Now we have successfully measured gravitational signals at the smallest mass ever recorded, it means we are one step closer to finally realizing how it works in tandem.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The scientists utilized a sophisticated setup involving superconducting devices, or &quot;traps,&quot; with magnetic fields, sensitive detectors, and advanced vibration isolation to measure a weak pull of just 30 attonewtons (aN) -- 30 quintillionths (10 raised to -18) of a newton -- on a tiny particle weighing 0.43 milligrams. This was achieved by levitating the particle in freezing temperatures a hundredth of a degree above absolute zero, approximately -273 degrees Celsius.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Professor of physics Hendrik Ulbricht explained that the results open the door for future experiments involving even smaller objects and forces. Their novel technique, employing extremely cold temperatures and devices to isolate vibrations of tiny particles, is likely to prove crucial for measuring quantum gravity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;From here, we will start scaling the source down using this technique until we reach the quantum world on both sides. By understanding quantum gravity, we could solve some of the mysteries of our universe - like how it began, what happens inside the black holes, or uniting all forces into one big theory,&quot; said Fuchs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Unraveling these mysteries will help us unlock more secrets about the universe's very fabric, from the tiniest particles to the grandest cosmic structures,&quot; added Ulbricht.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(With inputs from PTI)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Feb 24 18:29:06 IST 2024 cloud-clustering-patterns-reveal-increasing-severity-of-extreme- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>By studying cloud clustering patterns in a warming climate, scientists have shown that with rising temperatures, extreme rainfall events become more severe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Focussing on the area of the tropics around the equator, the scientists from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) and the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M) in Germany used a climate model to study how cloud and storm clustering impacted extreme rainfall events.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They found that with warming climate, extreme rainfall events in the tropics increase in severity more than what was expected from the theory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We can see that when clouds are more clustered, it rains for a longer time, so the total amount of rainfall increases,&quot; said Jiawei Bao from ISTA, and the lead author of the study published in the journal 'Science Advances'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We also found that more extreme rain over high-precipitation areas happens at the cost of expansion of dry areas - a further shift to extreme weather patterns. This is due to how clouds and storms cluster together, which we could now simulate with this new climate model,&quot; said Bao.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Their model captures the complex dynamics of air movement and hence, simulates the climate with a much higher resolution than the previous ones that do not factor clouds and storms in as much detail, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These complex dynamics at play are involved in creating clouds and helping them congregate to form more intense storms, they explained.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Climate models divide the earth's atmosphere into three-dimensional chunks, each with its own data about temperature, pressure, humidity, and many more physical properties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Physical equations are then employed to simulate how these chunks interact and change over time to create a representation of the real world. Simplifications are introduced in these models to conserve on computing power and storage, the researchers explained.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We used a climate model developed at MPI-M and analysed the data hosted at the German Climate Computing Centre in Hamburg with a resolution of just five kilometres which was very computationally expensive,&quot; said Bao.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;All climate research is an immense collaborative effort by hundreds of people who want to contribute to our understanding of the world and our impact on it,&quot; added Bao.&nbsp;</p> Sat Feb 24 17:18:12 IST 2024 cooperation-flourishes-with-a-blend-of-group-competition-and-rep <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A new study has suggested that a combination of repeated interactions and group competition synergistically contributes to fostering cooperation effectively, shedding light on the unresolved mysteries of human evolution. The study conducted by researchers from the Universities of Zurich, Lausanne, and Konstanz, challenges the prevailing explanations of cooperative behavior in human evolution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We have challenged the prevailing theory that suggests cooperative behavior prevailed due to repeated interactions alone. Our comprehensive theoretical analysis linked with the experiment shows that repeated interactions alone cannot explain the evolution of human cooperation,&quot; said Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich, the corresponding author of the study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research addresses the long-standing question of how pro-social, cooperative behavior could have evolved, prioritizing the benefit of the community over that of the individual. The prevalent theory suggests that cooperative behavior pays off in the long run due to repeated interactions, where individuals learn that cooperation leads to mutual benefits over time. However, the researchers found strong empirical evidence that people behave cooperatively even in non-recurrent and anonymous interactions, challenging the existing explanations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an experiment conducted among indigenous people in Papua New Guinea, resembling a trust game, the participants engaged in exchanges of money and had to decide whether to act selfishly or rather cooperatively. Charles Efferson of the University of Lausanne, the first author of the study, summarized the results, stating, &quot;Repeated interactions create an incentive for cooperation within the group. However, this is a fragile state. Group competition, on the other hand, has a stabilizing effect on this fragile state.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study revealed that the migration of cooperative and non-cooperative individuals between groups weakens the cooperative groups, challenging the idea that groups with several team-oriented members fare better in competition and that general cooperation spreads because less cooperative groups die out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;This is perhaps the most provocative result of our study, as it completely contradicts the mainstream,&quot; added Ernst Fehr. Furthermore, the analysis showed that competition between cooperative groups weakens overall cooperation in the population, highlighting the complexity of the evolution of cooperation in human history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The participants in the experiment were each given five monetary units in local currency, equivalent to half a day's wages, and were divided into pairs for a one-time interaction, an anonymous sequential exchange. The experiment demonstrated that the simultaneous interaction of both mechanisms, &quot;repeated interactions&quot; and &quot;group competition,&quot; leads to a form of super-additive cooperation, explaining the cooperative behavior observed even in one-time interactions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Feb 24 17:06:40 IST 2024 sex-is-a-robust-determinant-of-human-brain-organisation <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A study conducted by Stanford Medicine has revealed the presence of distinct brain organisation patterns in women and men, shedding light on the significant role of sex in shaping the human brain. The study introduces a powerful new artificial intelligence model boasting an impressive accuracy of over 90% in distinguishing between male and female brains based on scans of brain activity. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provide crucial insights into the existence of reliable sex differences in the human brain and emphasize the potential implications for addressing neuropsychiatric conditions that affect women and men differently.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The lead author of the study, senior research scientist Srikanth Ryali, emphasised the significance of the study, saying, &quot;A key motivation for this study is that sex plays a crucial role in human brain development, in aging, and in the manifestation of psychiatric and neurological disorders.&quot; The study's senior author, Vinod Menon, further highlighted the importance of identifying consistent and replicable sex differences in the healthy adult brain, asserting, &quot;Identifying consistent and replicable sex differences in the healthy adult brain is a critical step toward a deeper understanding of sex-specific vulnerabilities in psychiatric and neurological disorders.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study's findings underscore the pivotal role of sex in shaping human brain organisation and carry significant implications for understanding and addressing neuropsychiatric conditions that manifest differently in women and men.</p> Fri Feb 23 15:09:25 IST 2024 japans-slim-moon-probe-survives-lunar-night-establishes-contact-with-earth <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Over a month after it made a spectacular landing on the moon's surface, Japan's Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) moon lander did the unexpected: It survived the freezing lunar night before re-establishing communication with the Earth.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) took to X to relay the development. &quot;Last night, a command was sent to #SLIM and a response was received, confirming that the spacecraft has made it through the lunar night and maintained communication capabilities.&quot;&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>However, the communication with SLIM was terminated soon after, the JAXA added. &quot;Communication with SLIM was terminated after a short time, as it was still lunar midday and the temperature of the communication equipment was very high. Preparations are being made to resume operations when instrument temperatures have sufficiently cooled,&quot; it added.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>JAXA had previously said the probe was not designed to survive a lunar night.<br> </p> <p>The development is considered a breakthrough as the Chandrayaan-3 lander and rover have so far failed to wake from hibernation after the two-week frosty lunar night. The ISRO had then said that efforts to establish contact would continue. Chandrayaan-3 landed near the lunar south pole on August 23, making India only the fourth nation in history to achieve a lunar landing, after the U.S., Russia and China.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>As for Japan's SLIM, the spacecraft made a historic &quot;pinpoint&quot; touchdown on the moon on January 20, making Japan the fifth country<br> </p> <p>to put a probe on the moon. However, shortly after landing within 55 m (180 ft) of its target just south of the moon's equator, SLIM ran out of power after tipping over. Its solar panels ended up at the wrong angle. However, the panels regained electricity after a week, thanks to a change in sunlight's direction.</p> <p>The SLIM lander went into hibernation on February 1 after it sent images taken on its navigation camera. The agency too confirmed the spacecraft had entered a dormant state as expected.<br> </p> <p>After Japan, the U.S.-based Intuitive Machines' Odysseus too managed to land a craft on the moon's surface, thereby becoming the first commercial firm to do so.&nbsp;<br> </p> Mon Feb 26 12:46:55 IST 2024 indian-scientists-develop-synthetic-antibody-that-can-neutralise <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have developed a synthetic human antibody that can neutralise a potent neurotoxin produced by the Elapidae family of highly toxic snakes, which includes the cobra, king cobra, krait and black mamba.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team at IISc's Scripps Research Institute and the Evolutionary Venomics Lab (EVL) at the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), adopted an approach used earlier to screen for antibodies against HIV and COVID-19 in order to synthesise the new venom-neutralising antibody.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the first time that this particular strategy is being applied to develop antibodies for snakebite treatment, says Senji Laxme RR, PhD student at EVL, CES and co-first author of the study published in 'Science Translational Medicine.'</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers say that this development takes us one step closer to a universal antibody solution that can offer broad protection against a variety of snake venoms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Snake bites cause thousands of deaths every year, especially in India and sub-Saharan Africa. The current strategy for developing antivenoms involves injecting snake venom into equines like horses, ponies and mules, and collecting antibodies from their blood. But there are several problems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These animals get exposed to various bacteria and viruses during their lifetime, explains Kartik Sunagar, Associate Professor at CES and joint corresponding author of the study. As a result, antivenoms also include antibodies against microorganisms, which are therapeutically redundant. Research has shown that less than 10% of a vial of antivenom actually contains antibodies that are targeted towards snake venom toxins.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The antibody developed by the team, according to an IISc press release, targets a conserved region found in the core of a major toxin called the three-finger toxin (3FTx) in the elapid venom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although different species of elapids produce different 3FTxs, a handful of regions in the protein are similar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team zeroed in on one such conserved region a disulphide core. They designed a large library of artificial antibodies from humans, which were displayed on yeast cell surfaces. They then tested the antibodies' ability to bind to 3FTxs from various elapid snakes around the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After repeated screening, they narrowed down their choices to one antibody that could bind strongly to various 3FTxs. Among the 149 variants of 3FTxs in public repositories, this antibody could bind to 99, the release said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers then tested their antibody in animal models. In one set of experiments, they pre-mixed the synthetic antibody with a toxic 3FTx produced by the Taiwanese banded krait, and injected it into mice. Mice given just the toxin died within four hours. But those given the toxin-antibody mix survived past the 24-hour observation window and looked completely healthy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team also tested their antibody against the whole venom of the monocled cobra from Eastern India and the black mamba from sub-Saharan Africa, and found similar results.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The efficacy of the antibody was found to be nearly 15 times that of the conventional product, IISc said. Crucially, when they first injected the venom and then gave the antibody after a time delay 0 minutes, 10 minutes and 20 minutes the antibody was still able to save mice. The conventional product, however, only worked well when injected alongside the venom. A delay of even 10 minutes significantly reduced the potency of the conventional antivenom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition, the team used cryo-EM to tease out the crystal structure of the toxin-antibody complex, and found that their binding was very similar to the binding between the toxin and receptors found in muscles and nerve cells, it was stated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our antibody seems to mimic the toxin-binding site of the receptor in our body, says Sunagar. Venom toxins, therefore, are binding to our antibody instead of the receptor. Since our antibody neutralises venom even with delayed administration, it may suggest that it can displace toxins that are bound to receptors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers used human-derived cell lines to produce the antibody, bypassing the need to inject the venom first into animals like horses. Because the antibody is fully human, we don't expect any off-target or allergic responses, Laxme adds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This solves two problems at the same time, says Sunagar. First, it is an entirely human antibody and, hence, side-effects, including fatal anaphylaxis, occasionally observed in patients being treated with conventional antivenom, can be prevented. Secondly, this would mean that animals need not be harmed in future to produce this life-saving antidote.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The same approach can be used to develop antibodies against other snake venoms too, which can then be combined into a single antivenom therapy, the release said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On taking this forward to clinical trials, Sunagar says, At this stage, a clinician cannot rely on this single antibody for treatment as this is only effective against certain elapid snakes. We are in the process of discovering additional antibodies against other snake venom toxin targets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A universal antivenom in future would consist of a couple of such synthetic antibodies that would hopefully neutralise venoms of most snakes in various parts of the world. A universal product, or at least a cocktail of antibodies that work pan-India, could then be taken to human clinical trials.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Feb 23 15:52:02 IST 2024 forestation-found-to-have--side-effects---could-offset-co2-remov <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Large scale forestation, recognised as one of the essential carbon removal strategy to mitigate climate change, has been found to have &quot;side-effects&quot; that could offset the benefits by a third.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Researchers have found that while forestation - converting bare or cultivated land into forests - helps in increasing carbon dioxide absorption from the atmosphere, there are other complex Earth System responses at play that could reduce these gains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earth System science assumes a holistic view of the dynamic interactions between various Earth's spheres like atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and others, and their many constituent subsystems fluxes and processes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This study, led by the University of Sheffield, UK, found that some of these complex responses offsetting the CO2 removal benefits included reduced reflectivity of the land surface and changes to the atmospheric concentrations of other greenhouse gases like methane and ozone, termed as &quot;indirect effects&quot; of forestation by the researchers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They also found, however, that when forestation was implemented alongside other strategies to tackle climate change, such as reducing fossil fuel emissions, the negative impacts of these indirect effects were lower.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The findings suggested that the benefits of wide-scale forestation efforts may be overestimated and highlighted the importance of combining these efforts with complementary climate change mitigation strategies for more effective long-term action, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Many businesses now offer to plant a tree with a purchase, and some countries plan to expand, conserve, and restore forests. Trees can help tackle climate change, but we need to be careful about relying on them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We need to evaluate forestation, and other climate change mitigation strategies, in detail. This will help identify limitations and unintended consequences so these can be minimised where possible,&quot; said James Weber from the University of Sheffield's School of Biosciences and lead author of the study published in the journal Science.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the study, the researchers simulated wide scale forestation under two future scenarios - one with minimal efforts to tackle climate change and another with extensive mitigation measures alongside forestation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We know that forests are critically important for biodiversity, water, ecosystem services, and the climate. What this research shows is that the effectiveness of reforestation for climate mitigation declines significantly in higher latitudes and unless paired with deep emission reductions which reduces air pollution,&quot; said study co-author Stephanie Roe, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Global Climate and Energy Lead Scientist, and lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC's) Sixth Assessment Report.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Preventing deforestation, when compared to reforestation efforts, is a far more efficient way to mitigate climate change, added Roe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Further, the study critically showed that not all forestation is equal, with more favourable potential in the tropics, whereas forestation at higher latitudes may well result in net global warming, according to David Edwards, Head of Tropical Ecology and Conservation Group at the University of Cambridge, UK, and not involved in the study.&nbsp;</p> Fri Feb 23 15:44:51 IST 2024 revolutionary-quantum-dot-solar-cell-achieves-record-breaking-ef <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a major stride towards enhancing solar energy technology, a research team from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) has unveiled a groundbreaking quantum dot (QD) solar cell, marking a significant advancement towards the commercialization of next-generation solar cells.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team, led by Professor Sung-Yeon Jang from the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST, has achieved an impressive 18.1% efficiency in QD solar cells, representing the highest efficiency among quantum dot solar cells recognized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Professor Jang said, &quot;Our developed technology has achieved an impressive 18.1% efficiency in QD solar cells. This remarkable achievement represents the highest efficiency among quantum dot solar cells recognized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research team's innovation involves a novel ligand exchange technique, enabling the synthesis of organic cation-based perovskite quantum dots (PQDs). This technique ensures exceptional stability while suppressing internal defects in the photoactive layer of solar cells. Sang-Hak Lee, the first author of the study, emphasized the significance of the breakthrough by stating, &quot;This study presents a new direction for the ligand exchange method in organic PQDs, serving as a catalyst to revolutionize the field of QD solar cell material research in the future.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>QDs, semiconducting nanocrystals with dimensions ranging from several to tens of nanometers, have garnered significant attention due to their outstanding photoelectric properties. The team's achievement in increasing the efficiency of organic PQDs from 13% to 18.1% using the ligand exchange strategy is a significant leap for the practical application of QDs in solar cells. Moreover, these solar cells demonstrate exceptional stability, maintaining their performance even after long-term storage for over two years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;This study presents a new direction for the ligand exchange method in organic PQDs, serving as a catalyst to revolutionize the field of QD solar cell material research in the future,&quot; commented Professor Jang.&nbsp;</p> Thu Feb 22 12:19:16 IST 2024 ai-powered-study-forecasts-dramatic-shift-in-agricultural-land-b <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Scientists have used artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse how agricultural land suitability can change in 25 years, and found that the number of croplands would increase in the northern regions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, published in in journal IEEE Access, predicted cropland distribution based on various climate models and shared socioeconomic pathways scenarios It focused on the regions of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By 2050, scientists predict that global demand for food will increase by 110 per cent, while today about 40 per cent of croplands and pastures are under threat due to the increasing average temperature on the planet, high concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and many other factors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The latest study found that in 25 years the amount of arable land will increase, but it will shift to the north, and some currently exploited agricultural regions may require increased irrigation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research included three stages: collecting and preprocessing data, training a machine learning model, and evaluating results by predicting cropland distribution based on various climate models and shared socioeconomic pathways scenarios.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Machine learning is a type of AI that helps computers learn and improve from data analysis without explicit programming.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers obtained three data sets and analysed them for three different climate change scenarios: a sustainable, low-emission green energy future, a 'business-as-usual' trajectory with moderate emissions, and a high fossil fuel dependency scenario with significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We have obtained a model that predicts with good accuracy what is now, and used this model to predict what will happen in 2050,&quot; said Valery Shevchenko, a research engineer at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, Russia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We cannot say that this will be 100 per cent the case, because it is important to take into account many parameters here -- for example, the type of land, soil erosion,&quot; Shevchenko added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The resaerchers emphasise that their findings align with and complement recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which highlight the importance of detailed regional assessments for adapting to climate variability and ensuring food supplies.&nbsp;</p> Thu Feb 22 11:41:17 IST 2024 cmfri-advocates-spatial-and-temporal-fishing-regulations-to-prot <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has unveiled a plan to identify and protect shark hotspots in Indian waters, aiming to safeguard the endangered species from targeted fishing activities. Dr. Shoba Joe Kizhakudan, Head of the Finfish Fisheries Division of the CMFRI, highlighted the urgency of this initiative, emphasising the need to enforce spatial and temporal fishing regulations to combat the overexploitation threatening the survival of sharks in Indian waters.</p> <p>During a consultative meeting on the conservation of sharks held in Kochi, Dr. Kizhakudan stressed the vulnerability of sharks, noting that they face challenges in reproducing at a rate that can offset the escalating number of deaths each year. The CMFRI reported a concerning 55% decline in the landings of elasmobranch, a group encompassing sharks, rays, and guitarfish, between 2012 and 2022, underscoring the pressing need for conservation efforts.</p> <p>Director Dr. A Gopalakrishnan emphasised the institute's commitment to understanding the intricate dynamics between fishing activities and other factors impacting shark populations over the next five years. This knowledge, he asserted, will be instrumental in formulating effective conservation, sustainability, and management strategies, ensuring the livelihood security of coastal communities.</p> <p>This pioneering initiative by the CMFRI marks a significant step forward in the protection of endangered shark species, reflecting a concerted effort to address the pressing issue of overfishing and secure the sustainability of marine ecosystems in Indian waters.</p> <p>CMFRI has been at the forefront of elasmobranch research, receiving global recognition for its expertise. Notably, the institute has been designated as a CITES Scientific Authority in India, responsible for conducting non-detrimental finding (NDF) studies on CITES-listed marine species. Dr. Gopalakrishnan revealed that CMFRI's annual landing estimates for 121 species of elasmobranchs in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and its researchers' involvement in IUCN Subject Specialist Groups and CITES panels further underscore its leadership in this critical field.</p> <p>The institute's influence has extended internationally, with the government of Oman seeking technical guidance from CMFRI for their shark and ray research programs, emphasisng the institute's role in advancing conservation efforts on a global scale.&nbsp;</p> Wed Feb 21 13:56:03 IST 2024 astrosat-observatory-unravels-mysteries-of-black-hole-x-ray-bina <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India's pioneering space astronomy observatory, AstroSat, has facilitated an international team of scientists in uncovering the enigmatic nature of the X-ray binary system known as MAXI J1820+070, home to a black hole, announced ISRO. X-ray binaries, named for their emission of X-rays, comprise a normal star and a collapsed star, which may manifest as a white dwarf, neutron star, or a black hole, as per NASA. MAXI J1820+070 is identified as a low-mass X-ray binary housing a black hole as a compact entity.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, titled &quot;A Multi-Wavelength Spectral Study of MAXI J1820+070 in the Soft and Hard States,&quot; conducted by an international team, &quot;provides distinctive insights into the behavior of this transient black hole X-ray binary during its 2018 outburst,&quot; said a statrement from the ISRO.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team, spearheaded by researchers from the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, incorporates scientists from India, the United Kingdom, Abu Dhabi, and Poland. This comprehensive analysis has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. Positioned at a distance of 9,800 light-years from Earth, MAXI J1820+070 was initially detected during its outburst in 2018 utilizing the MAXI instrument aboard the International Space Station (ISS), ISRO revealed. Owing to its proximity to Earth and its remarkable luminosity upon discovery, emerging as the second brightest object in the X-ray sky, MAXI J1820+070 garnered substantial attention within the astronomy community, prompting numerous observation campaigns across various electromagnetic bands, elucidated the agency.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Equipped with three X-ray payloads and a UV telescope, AstroSat captured soft and hard X-ray emissions as well as far ultraviolet radiation, portraying an intricate depiction of the nearby and distant regions encompassing the black hole in MAXI J1820+070. Through collaboration with the Las Cumbres Observatory on optical data and NASA's NICER mission on soft X-ray data, the team comprehended the dynamics of the X-ray binary system, as reported by ISRO. &quot;The study uncovers compelling revelations about the accretion states of MAXI J1820+070. Black hole X-ray binaries such as MAXI J1820+070 frequently exhibit multiple accretion states throughout an outburst,&quot; ISRO added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Employing advanced techniques, the researchers disclosed the black hole's spin, shedding light on its fundamental properties. &quot;The significance of this study extends beyond MAXI J1820+070, underscoring the pivotal role of AstroSat in advancing the understanding of transient black hole X-ray binaries,&quot; noted ISRO.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Feb 21 12:02:57 IST 2024 new-innovation-offers-hope-for-sustainable-biodegradable-plastic <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Researchers have achieved a significant breakthrough in the sustainable production of fumaric acid, a key component of biodegradable plastics. The new artificial photosynthesis technology effectively doubles the yield of fumaric acid production compared to previous methods, offering a promising solution for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and providing an innovative way to produce biodegradable plastics while reusing waste resources.</p> <p>A research team from Osaka Metropolitan University has unveiled a groundbreaking advancement in the sustainable production of fumaric acid, a vital element in the creation of biodegradable plastics. This achievement comes amid heightened global concern over climate change and plastic pollution, positioning the research as a significant step towards a more sustainable future.</p> <p>The innovative artificial photosynthesis technology developed by the researchers has the potential to revolutionize the production of fumaric acid, effectively doubling its yield compared to previous methods. This breakthrough not only promises a more efficient use of resources but also offers a potential solution for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, a critical environmental concern in today's world.</p> <p>Professor Yutaka Amao, leading the Research Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at Osaka Metropolitan University, expressed the importance of this advancement, stating, &quot;This is an extremely important advancement for the complex bio/photocatalyst system. It is a valuable step forward in our quest to synthesize fumaric acid from renewable energy sources with even higher yields, steering us toward a more sustainable future.&quot;</p> <p>The research team's accomplishment represents a significant stride in the sustainable production of fumaric acid, traditionally derived from petroleum, using renewable resources, carbon dioxide, and biomass-derived compounds. Their efforts hold the promise of reducing the environmental impact of plastic production while promoting the efficient use of waste resources.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue Feb 20 16:13:24 IST 2024 nail-biter-how-houston-based-intuitive-machines-broke-the-uss-50-year-absence-from-the-moons-surface <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Nearly six months after India's Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft successfully landed on the lunar surface, the Moon was back in news. Houston-based Intuitive Machines scripted history on Thursday evening after its lander Nova-C lander, nicknamed Odysseus, touched down on the moon, making it the first American spacecraft on the lunar surface since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.</p> <p>While it filled the United States' 50-year-old absence from the lunar surface, Intuitive Machine also became the first commercial outfit to put a spacecraft on the Moon.<br> </p> <p>Odysseus was launched into space on February 15 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The 14-foot-tall lander then spent six days cruising more than 620,000 miles to reach the moon.<br> </p> <p>But, the landing was not without a hitch. As Odysseus was making its final descent, mission controllers lost contact with the spacecraft. Though not unexpected, the landing time - Eastern Time 6:24 p.m. - passed uneventfully.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>It was then a nail-biting moment as the engineers at Intuitive Machines waited with bated breath to establish communications with lander. &quot;We're not dead yet,&quot; they said with hope.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Though there was a faint signal from one of Odysseus’ antennas, more data was needed to determine how the spacecraft landed and in what condition. About two hours later, the team received good news. &quot;What we can confirm without a doubt is, our equipment is on the surface of the moon and we are transmitting,&quot; mission director Tim Crain said after that milestone moment. &quot;Odysseus has found his new home.&quot;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Odysseus touched down softly near the rim of the crater Malapert A, about 300 kilometers from the lunar south pole where Chandrayaan-3 landed. &quot;After troubleshooting communications, flight controllers have confirmed Odysseus is upright and starting to send data,&quot; Intuitive Machines&nbsp;<a href=";t=uBjmyMFvjhs77TyehDCmXQ">said in an update on X</a>. &quot;Right now, we are working to downlink the first images from the lunar surface.&quot;<br> </p> <p>The lander and the payloads will now operate for about seven Earth days on the lunar surface. Like the Pragyan rover in Chandrayaan, the rover of Odysseus will also sleep when the sun goes down at Malapert A, due to the bitter cold of the long lunar night.<br> </p> <p>After Chandrayaan-3 mission, Japan landed its own moon probe, called SLIM last month.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>NASA, which awarded Intuitive Machines $118 million to carry out the moon landing, will likely use these companies to transport cargo and scientific instruments to the lunar surface as part of the agency’s broader ambitions to return astronauts to the moon.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Roping in commerical firms is also part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services programme. Last month, a separate company tried but failed to send a lander to the moon under the same NASA program. That spacecraft, built by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, suffered a crippling malfunction shortly after launch, following which the mission was scrapped.&nbsp;<br> </p> Fri Feb 23 13:37:44 IST 2024 why-isros-mars-orbiter-mission-2-will-be-a-milestone-in-indias-space-history <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India's space programme has consistently punched above its weight, garnering global attention with its ambitious and budget-conscious missions. Now, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is aiming even higher, with its upcoming Mars Orbiter Mission 2 (MOM 2) - an endeavour to land a rover and deploy a first-of-its-kind helicopter on the Red Planet. This mission holds immense scientific potential, further solidifying India's position as a leading player in space exploration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the most interesting aspects of MOM 2 is the inclusion of the Martian Boundary Layer Explorer (MARBLE), a sophisticated drone designed to soar up to 100m above the Martian surface. Equipped with an advanced instrument suite, this ingenious helicopter will perform vertical profiling of the Martian atmosphere, gathering invaluable data on various parameters, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, atmospheric composition and more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Understanding the temperature variations at different altitudes is crucial for studying atmospheric circulation and thermal structure. Measuring atmospheric pressure across different levels helps scientists understand the composition and density of the Martian atmosphere. Besides that, detailed wind data is essential for predicting dust storms and understanding atmospheric dynamics. Analysing the atmospheric composition at different heights provides insights into the evolution of the Martian atmosphere and its potential habitability,” said Srimathy Kesan, founder and CEO of Space Kidz India, which is into design, fabrication and launch of small satellites, spacecraft and ground systems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The information collected by MARBLE will be a game-changer, unlocking the secrets of the Martian atmosphere and climate. “Understanding Martian weather patterns is vital for future human missions and robotic exploration, enabling us to predict dust storms, wind patterns, and other hazards. Accurate weather forecasts will ensure the safety and success of future endeavours on Mars. By studying the composition of the atmosphere at different altitudes, scientists can gain insights into planet's past and its dramatic transformation from a warmer, wetter planet to the cold, dry world we see today. This knowledge will shed light on the evolution of climate and the potential for past or present life on Mars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Data gathered by MARBLE will aid the design and planning of future missions to Mars, ensuring their safety and success by providing crucial information about atmospheric conditions and potential landing sites,” Kesan said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This ambitious mission follows a series of remarkable achievements by ISRO in space exploration. It all began with the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) in 2013, marking India's first interplanetary mission and making it the fourth space agency in history to successfully orbit Mars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to reports, the Indian space agency intends to dispatch a drone or rotorcraft to Mars, akin to NASA's Ingenuity quadcopter. Over three years, Ingenuity completed 72 flights on Mars, totalling over two hours of airtime and covering a distance of 18km. This distance exceeded NASA's initial plans fourteen-fold. Ingenuity reached altitudes of up to 24m and achieved speeds of up to 36km per hour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said space expert Girish Linganna: “A quadcopter, or quadrotor, is a helicopter driven by four rotors. Known for stability and manoeuverability, its simple design makes it ideal for uses like photography, surveillance, and research. Quadcopters are widely used in drones for both recreational and professional tasks. The Ingenuity quadcopter is a small, innovative drone developed by NASA, designed to perform aerial reconnaissance and demonstrate powered flight on Mars. Attached to its belly was the Perseverance rover, making history with its first flight in April 2021. Weighing just 1.8kg (four pounds) on Earth, it has surpassed expectations by completing numerous successful flights on Mars.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to reports, ISRO's rotorcraft is currently in the planning phase. It is anticipated to be equipped with a variety of instruments, including sensors for temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed, electric fields, trace elements, and dust. The helicopter aims to reach altitudes of up to 100m in Mars's sparse atmosphere to analyse the planet's atmospheric conditions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Space experts also point out that, in theory, it's possible for a modified drone to fly around Mars, although in practice, this presents significant challenges. “Similar to a helicopter, a drone operating on Earth stays airborne by pushing air downwards, which creates a thrust that balances out the force of gravity. The positive aspect is that Mars's surface gravity is just about one-third of Earth's, meaning the rotors wouldn't need to exert as much effort to counteract its pull. However, the disadvantage is that Mars's atmosphere is much thinner than Earth's, having a density that is 60 times lower with only 1 per cent the pressure at the surface compared to our planet. Therefore, for a drone of a certain weight, the rotors need to be significantly more efficient at producing downward thrust. This requires enlarging the rotors, adding more of them, increasing their rotation speed, or employing a mix of these strategies. For instance, doubling both the number of rotors and their size could work, but it would result in a rather cumbersome design,” Linganna said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Temperatures on Mars can plummet to as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius) at night, challenging the durability and design thresholds of numerous drone components. Additionally, there's the challenge of powering the device: Mars gets less than half the solar energy that Earth does. While it's all feasible, and NASA is exploring the options, opting for a smaller airship design might be more feasible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“An airship design refers to the concept of creating a lighter-than-air vehicle, which can float and navigate through the air by utilising buoyant gases, such as helium or hydrogen, to lift it. Unlike heavier-than-air drones that rely on rotors or wings for lift, an airship's design capitalises on the principle of buoyancy to stay aloft, making it potentially more suitable for environments with thinner atmospheres, like Mars, due to its lower energy requirements for sustained flight,” said Linganna.</p> Wed Feb 21 14:03:11 IST 2024 bird-survey-set-to-uncover-avian-riches-in-chhattisgarh-s-kanger <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A team of over 70 experts hailing from 10 different states is gearing up to conduct a comprehensive bird survey in the Kanger Valley National Park, Chhattisgarh, from February 25 to 27. This initiative follows last year's eye-opening survey, which unveiled the park's significance as a thriving avian habitat, revealed the park's director, Dhammshil Ganvir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of particular interest is the Bastar Hill Mynah, the state bird of Chhattisgarh, which has been spotted in over 15 villages neighboring the national park. The park, spanning 200 square kilometers and adorned with sal trees, is renowned for its natural allure, biodiversity, and geological wonders such as the Tirathgarh waterfall and Kutumsar limestone caves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ganvir emphasized that the park's allure extends beyond its boundaries, as it shelters bird species from the Western Ghats and the eastern Himalayas of India. The upcoming survey aims to identify and understand more bird species within the park, contributing to their conservation and enriching the experience for eco-tourists and bird enthusiasts alike.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The collaborative effort, in partnership with Bird Count India and the Wildlife of Chhattisgarh, will bring together experts, researchers, and volunteers from West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. Furthermore, the Mynah Mitra Scheme, involving local youth and village members, and the support from the eco development committee, highlight the community's active role in avian conservation within the park.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue Feb 20 13:42:33 IST 2024 astronomers-uncover-universes-brightest-object--quasar-devouring <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Astronomers have identified what could be the brightest object in the universe - a quasar with a voracious black hole at its core, consuming the equivalent of a sun each day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This record-breaking quasar radiates with a brilliance 500 trillion times greater than our own sun. The black hole steering this cosmic spectacle is over 17 billion times more massive than our familiar star, as revealed by an Australian-led research team in a recent publication in the journal Nature Astronomy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite appearing as a mere speck in images, this quasar comprises a tumultuous environment. The swirling disk encircling the black hole, comprised of luminous gases and matter from engulfed stars, resembles a celestial hurricane.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lead author Christian Wolf of Australian National University described the quasar as &quot;the most violent place that we know in the universe,&quot; emphasizing the extraordinary nature of this discovery.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Initially spotted by the European Southern Observatory during a sky survey in 1980, the object, known as J0529-4351, was initially misconstrued as a star. It was only last year that it was correctly identified as a quasar, thanks to observations conducted by telescopes in Australia and Chile's Atacama Desert.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Professor Priyamvada Natarajan from Yale University expressed excitement about the revelation, highlighting that the quasar had been &quot;hiding in plain sight&quot; and was previously misclassified as a star.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Further analysis and computer modeling have demonstrated that the quasar is devouring the equivalent of 370 suns annually, signifying a staggering rate of consumption. The research team estimates the black hole's mass to be between 17 and 19 billion times that of our sun, with additional observations required to comprehend its growth rate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Situated 12 billion light-years away, this extraordinary quasar has existed since the early stages of the universe, offering a compelling glimpse into the cosmos.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue Feb 20 11:18:08 IST 2024 unsubstantiated-conspiracy-theories-continue-to-attract-people <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Many people believe at least one conspiracy theory. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing conspiracies do happen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To take just one example, the CIA really did engage in illegal experiments in the 1950s to identify drugs and procedures that might produce confessions from captured spies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, many conspiracy theories are not supported by evidence, yet still attract believers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For example, in a previous study, we found about seven per cent of New Zealanders and Australians agreed with the theory that visible trails behind aircraft are chemtrails of chemical agents sprayed as part of a secret government program. That's despite the theory being roundly rejected by the scientific community.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fact that conspiracy theories attract believers despite a lack of credible evidence remains a puzzle for researchers in psychology and other academic disciplines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, there has been a great deal of research on conspiracy theories published in the past few years. We now know more about how many people believe them, as well as the psychological and political factors that correlate with that belief.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But we know much less about how often people change their minds. Do they do so frequently, or do they to stick tenaciously to their beliefs, regardless of what evidence they come across?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>From 9/11 to COVID</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We set out to answer this question using a longitudinal survey. We recruited 498 Australians and New Zealanders (using the Prolific website, which recruits people to take part in paid research).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Each month from March to September 2021, we presented our sample group with a survey, including ten conspiracy theories, and asked them how much they agreed with each one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All of these theories related to claims about events that are either ongoing, or occurred this millennium: the September 11 attacks, the rollout of 5G telecommunications technology, and COVID-19, among others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While there were definitely some believers in our sample, most participants disagreed with each of the theories.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most popular theory was that pharmaceutical companies (Big Pharma') have suppressed a cure for cancer to protect their profits. Some 18 per cent of the sample group agreed when first asked.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The least popular was the theory that COVID-19 vaccines' contain microchips to monitor and control people. Only two per cent agreed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Conspiracy beliefs probably aren't increasing</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite contemporary concerns about a pandemic of misinformation or infodemic, we found no evidence that individual beliefs in conspiracy theories increased on average over time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This was despite our data collection happening during the tumultuous second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns were still happening occasionally in both Australia and New Zealand, and anti-government sentiment was building.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While we only tracked participants for six months, other studies over much longer time frames have also found little evidence that beliefs in conspiracy theories are increasing over time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, we found that beliefs (or non-beliefs) in conspiracy theories were stable but not completely fixed. For any given theory, the vast majority of participants were consistent sceptics not agreeing with the theory at any point.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were also some consistent believers who agreed at every point in the survey they responded to. For most theories, this was the second-largest group.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet for every conspiracy theory, there was also a small proportion of converts. They disagreed with the theory at the start of the study, but agreed with it by the end. There was also a small proportion of apostates who agreed with the theory at the start, but disagreed by the end.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nevertheless, the percentages of converts and apostates tended to balance each other pretty closely, leaving the percentage of believers fairly stable over time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Inside the rabbit hole'</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This relative stability is interesting, because one criticism of conspiracy theories is that they may not be falsifiable: what seems like evidence against a conspiracy theory can just be written off by believers as part of the cover up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet people clearly do sometimes decide to reject conspiracy theories they previously believed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our findings bring into question the popular notion of the rabbit hole that people rapidly develop beliefs in a succession of conspiracy theories, much as Alice tumbles down into Wonderland in Lewis Carroll's famous story.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While it's possible this does happen for a small number of people, our results suggest it isn't a typical experience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For most, the journey into conspiracy theory belief might involve a more gradual slope a bit like a real rabbit burrow, from which one can also emerge.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(The Conversation: By Matt Williams, Massey University, John Kerr, University of Otago, Mathew Marques, La Trobe University)&nbsp;</p> Mon Feb 19 16:33:34 IST 2024 isros-mission-successful-insat-3ds-weather-satellite-placed-into-orbiting <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle carrying a third generation meteorological INSAT-3DS satellite has successfully entered the orbit on Saturday. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed that the vehicle has &quot;successfully placed the satellite into the intended geosynchronous transfer orbit.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;I am very happy to announce the successful accomplishment of the mission GSLV-F14 INSAT-3DS. The spacecraft has been injected into a very good orbit. We also noted that the vehicle has performed very well. Congratulations to everyone who has been a part of the team,” said ISRO chairman S. Somanath.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>INSAT-3DS satellite aims to augment the study of the Earth's surface and oceanic observations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The satellite weighing 2,274 kg would serve various departments under the Ministry of Earth Sciences including the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), ISRO said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the second mission for ISRO this year after the successful launch of the PSLV-C58/EXPOSAT mission.&nbsp;</p> Sat Feb 17 18:45:09 IST 2024 isro-s-insat-3ds-satellite-launch-to-improve-weather-forecasting <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The countdown for the launch of the INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite aboard a Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket is proceeding smoothly, according to ISRO's latest update on Saturday.</p> <p>The primary goal of this mission is to ensure the continuity of services provided by the operational INSAT-3D and INSAT-3DR, enhancing meteorological observations, monitoring land and ocean surfaces for weather forecasting, disaster warnings, and providing satellite-aided Research and Rescue Services.</p> <p>The 27.5-hour countdown began at 2:30 pm on Friday at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, marking the launch scheduled for later today at 5:35 pm from the second launch pad. This GSLV rocket, equipped with a cryogenic upper stage, is anticipated to separate the 2,274 kg Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) into the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit after about 20 minutes of flight. Following this, scientists will execute a series of maneuvers to position the satellite into the Geostationary orbit in the coming days.</p> <p>Measuring 51.7 meters in height, the rocket will carry imager payloads, sounder payloads, data relay transponders, and Satellite-aided Search and Rescue transponders to study various aspects such as cloud properties, fog, rainfall, snow cover, snow depth, fire, smoke, land, and ocean. The data provided by INSAT-3DS will benefit various departments of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, including the India Meteorological Department, National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, National Institute of Ocean Technology, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, and other agencies and institutes to improve weather forecasts and meteorological services.</p> <p>Sources indicate that the INSAT-3DS mission is expected to have a lifespan of around 10 years. This mission marks ISRO's second successful launch in 2024, following the PSLV-C58/EXPOSAT launch on January 1.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>(With inputs from PTI)</i></p> Sat Feb 17 12:26:31 IST 2024 your-brain-learns-better-from-people-you-like <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Have you ever noticed that you tend to pay more attention to someone you like, and maybe less to someone you don't? Well, researchers in cognitive neuroscience have found that our brains are actually &quot;programmed&quot; to learn more from people we like and less from those we dislike. This discovery sheds light on how our brain handles new information and makes connections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Memory is like a superpower for learning. It helps us learn from new experiences and update what we already know. We learn from individual experiences and connect them to understand the world better. This way, we can make educated guesses about things we haven't directly experienced. This is called memory integration, and it makes learning quick and flexible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inês Bramão, a psychology professor at Lund University, gives an example of memory integration: Imagine you see a man with a dog in the park, and later you see the dog with a woman in the city. Your brain quickly connects the dots and assumes that the man and woman are a couple, even though you've never seen them together before.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a series of experiments, researchers found that our ability to remember and connect information across learning events is influenced by who presents the information. If the information comes from someone we like, it's easier for us to connect the dots compared to when it comes from someone we dislike.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The participants in the study were asked to remember and connect different objects, like a bowl, ball, spoon, or scissors. It turned out that memory integration was influenced by whether the information came from someone the participant liked or disliked.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers found that this discovery can be applied to real life. For example, in politics, if you sympathize with a political party that argues for raising taxes to benefit healthcare, you might attribute improvements in healthcare to the tax increase, even if the improvements had a different cause. This shows how our brain's way of processing information can affect our understanding of real-world issues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mikael Johansson, a psychology professor at Lund University, emphasizes that this research shows how our memory can be influenced by the source of information, and how this can lead to polarization and resistance to new knowledge. This means that we are more likely to form new connections and update our knowledge from information presented by groups we favor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Understanding the roots of polarization and resistance to new knowledge from basic brain functions offers a deeper insight into these complex behaviors. It's not just about social media filter bubbles; it's also about how our brains naturally handle information.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers also highlight that we integrate information differently depending on who is delivering it, even when the information is completely neutral. In real life, where information often triggers stronger reactions, these effects could be even more significant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Feb 16 17:14:22 IST 2024 unveiling-the-secret-of-a-better-cup-of-tea--the-role-of-root-mi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Researchers from Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in China have unveiled a surprising secret to enhancing the flavor and quality of tea: the microbial communities residing on tea roots.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lead researcher Tongda Xu explains, “Significant disparities in microbial communities, particularly nitrogen metabolism-related microorganisms, were identified in the roots of tea plants with varying qualities through microbiomics. Crucially, through the isolation and assembly of a synthetic microbial community from high-quality tea plant roots, we managed to notably enhance the amino acid content in various tea plant varieties, resulting in an improvement in tea quality.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, published in the journal Current Biology, sheds light on the crucial role of root microbes in the production of high-quality tea. By altering the microbial composition on tea roots, the researchers were able to enhance the amino acid content, ultimately improving the taste and quality of the tea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers constructed a synthetic microbial community, known as SynCom, which closely mirrored the microbial composition found in association with a high-theanine tea variety called Rougui. When applied to tea roots, SynCom boosted theanine levels, showcasing its potential to enhance tea quality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Co-author Wenxin Tang shares, “The initial expectation for the synthetic microbial community derived from high-quality tea plant roots was to enhance the quality of low-quality tea plants. However, to our astonishment, we discovered that the synthetic microbial community not only enhances the quality of low-quality tea plants but also exerts a significant promoting effect on certain high-quality tea varieties. Furthermore, this effect is particularly pronounced in low-nitrogen soil conditions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These findings hold promise for the future of tea production and agriculture as a whole. The researchers believe that synthetically produced microbial communities could not only improve tea quality, especially in nitrogen-deficient soil conditions, but also reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. Moreover, the study suggests that this breakthrough could have far-reaching implications for other agricultural crops.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Xu emphasises, “Based on our current experimental findings, the inclusion of the SynCom21 microbial community has not only improved the absorption of ammonium nitrogen in different tea varieties but also enhanced the uptake of ammonium nitrogen in Arabidopsis thaliana. This suggests that the ammonium nitrogen uptake-promoting function of SynCom21 may be applicable to various plants, including other crops.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The implications of this research extend beyond tea production, as the potential to improve the quality of other crops, such as rice with greater protein content, is on the horizon. The team plans to further optimize SynCom and assess its utilization in field trials, with the aim of unraveling the full extent of how root microbes can affect other secondary metabolites in tea trees.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Feb 16 14:24:48 IST 2024 scientists-cultivate-hybrid-food-by-growing-animal-cells-in-rice <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Korean scientists have developed a unique method of growing animal muscle and fat cells inside rice grains, resulting in a new hybrid food with immense potential. Presented in the journal Matter, this innovative approach could offer a more affordable and sustainable protein alternative to address the environmental and ethical challenges associated with industrial agriculture.</p> <p>The research, conducted by first author Sohyeon Park under the guidance of corresponding author Jinkee Hong at Yonsei University, South Korea, introduces the concept of &quot;cell-cultured beef rice.&quot; By incorporating animal-derived cells into rice grains, the scientists aimed to enhance the nutritional value of this widely consumed staple.</p> <p>&quot;Imagine obtaining all the nutrients we need from cell-cultured protein rice,&quot; says Sohyeon Park. &quot;Rice already has a high nutrient level, but adding cells from livestock can further boost it.&quot;</p> <p>To create a suitable environment for the growth of cell-cultured meat, the team utilized the porous and structured nature of rice grains, which serve as solid scaffolds for the cells. Additionally, certain molecules present in rice facilitate the nourishment and growth of these cells, making rice an ideal platform for this innovative approach.</p> <p>The process involved coating rice with fish gelatin, an edible ingredient that helps cells adhere to the grains more effectively. Cow muscle and fat stem cells were then introduced into the rice, which were left to culture in a petri dish for 9 to 11 days. The final product was a cell-cultured beef rice that fulfilled food safety requirements and posed a low risk of triggering food allergies.</p> <p>The hybrid beef rice was carefully characterized through various food industry analyses, including nutritional value, odor, and texture. The findings revealed that the hybrid rice contained 8% more protein and 7% more fat than regular rice. In terms of texture, the hybrid rice exhibited a firmer and brittler consistency compared to the typical sticky and soft texture. The presence of different odor compounds corresponded to the muscle and fat content of the hybrid rice, with beef and almond-related compounds detected in the former, and cream, butter, and coconut oil compounds in the latter.</p> <p>Livestock production is known for its significant resource consumption, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions. The team's hybrid rice, however, boasts a remarkably smaller carbon footprint and is estimated to release less than 6.27 kg of CO2 for every 100 g of protein produced, compared to the 49.89 kg released by beef. Additionally, the cost of hybrid rice is projected to be around $2.23 per kilogram, while beef costs $14.88.</p> <p>With its low food safety risks and relatively straightforward production process, the team is optimistic about the commercial viability of this innovative product. However, further research aims to improve the conditions within the rice grains to enhance the thriving of both muscle and fat cells, ultimately increasing the nutritional value of the hybrid rice.</p> <p>&quot;I didn't expect the cells to grow so well in the rice,&quot; says Park. &quot;Now I see a world of possibilities for this grain-based hybrid food. It could one day serve as food relief for famine, military ration, or even space food.&quot;</p> Thu Feb 15 16:38:20 IST 2024 the-dark-side-of-wildlife-selfies--harmful-human-wildlife-intera <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>One of the biggest privileges of being a primatologist is spending time in remote locations with monkeys and apes, living near these animals in their habitats and experiencing their daily lives. As a 21st-century human, I have an immediate impulse to take pictures of these encounters and share them on social media.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Social media can help scientists raise awareness of the species we study, promote their conservation and obtain jobs and research funding. However, sharing images of wild animals online can also contribute to illegal animal trafficking and harmful human-wildlife interactions. For endangered or threatened species, this attention can put them at further risk.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My research seeks to find ways for scientists and conservationists to harness the power of social media while avoiding its pitfalls. My colleague, ecologist and science communicator Cathryn Freund, and I think we have some answers. In our view, wildlife professionals should never include themselves in pictures with animals. We also believe that featuring infant animals and animals interacting with humans leads viewers to think about these creatures in ways that are counterproductive to conservation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Show and tell?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many conservation biologists are thinking hard about what role social media can and should play in their work. For example, the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Section on Human-Primate Interactions has issued guidelines for how to use images of wild primates and how to conduct primate watching tours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These guidelines recommend that when scientists show photos of themselves with a wild primate, the caption should state that the person in the image is a trained researcher or conservationist. However, there isn't much data assessing whether this approach is effective.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We wanted to test whether people actually read these captions and whether informative captions helped curb viewers' desires to have similar experiences or to own the animal as a pet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a study published in 2023, my colleagues and I created two mock Instagram posts one showing a human near a wild gorilla, the other focusing on a gloved human hand holding a slender loris a small lemurlike primate native to Southeast Asia. Half of these photos carried basic captions like Me with a mountain gorilla or Me with my research subject; the other half included more detailed captions that also stated, All animals are observed (gorilla) or captured and handled (loris) safely and humanely for research with the proper permits and training.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We showed over 3,000 adults one of these mock Instagram posts and asked them to complete a survey. The results shocked us.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Viewers who saw the Instagram posts with the more detailed caption recognised that the picture depicted research. But regardless of the caption, more than half of the viewers agreed or strongly agreed that they would want to seek out a similar experience with the loris or gorilla.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over half of the viewers agreed or strongly agreed that they would want these animals as pets and that the animals would make good pets. Presumably, participants did not know anything about the animals' life habits, behaviour or survival needs, or that neither of these species is at all suited to be a pet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Why media impact matters</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While these responses may sound merely sentimental or naive, research shows that media particularly social media contribute to harmful human encounters with wildlife and to the exotic pet trade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For example, the Harry Potter films and books, which featured owls as magical creatures used by wizards, led to a sharp increase in the illegal owl trade in Indonesia. Owls once were collectively known in Indonesia as Burung Hantu, or ghost bird, but now in the country's bird markets they are commonly called Burung Harry Potter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Studies show that images of people holding lorises drive illegal captures and sales of lorises and other primates. Owners then post further videos showing them handling the animals improperly for example, tickling the loris, which makes it raise its arms. Viewers see this behaviour as cute, but in fact the animals do this to activate toxic glands in their upper arms and move venom to their mouths in preparation to defend themselves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In earlier research, we found that when orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centres feature baby orangutans and humans interacting with orangutans in YouTube videos, these posts received more views than videos of adult orangutans or orangutans not interacting with people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, people who watched videos showing infant orangutans, or humans interacting with the animals, posted comments that were less supportive of orangutan conservation. They also stated more frequently that they wanted to own orangutans as pets or interact with them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many people who seek out wildlife encounters are not aware of the harm that these experiences cause. Animals can transmit diseases to humans, but it also works the other way: Humans can transmit potentially deadly diseases to wild animals, including measles, herpes viruses and flu viruses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When humans move through an animal's habitat or worse, handle or chase the animal they cause stress reactions and alter the animal's behaviour. Animals may avoid feeding sites or spend time and energy fleeing instead of foraging.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Owning wild animals as pets is even more problematic. I have worked with several rescue and rehabilitation centres that shelter orangutans formerly kept as pets or tourist attractions. These animals typically are in very poor health and have to be taught how to socialise, move through trees and find their own food, since they have been deprived of these natural behaviours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The last thing that any responsible conservation biologist studying endangered species wants to do is encourage this kind of human-wildlife contact.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Comment instead of sharing</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many well-meaning researchers and conservationists, along with members of the public, have posted images of themselves near wild animals on social media. I did it too, before I understood the consequences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our findings indicate that caption information is not enough to keep people from seeking out animal encounters. As we see it, the answer is for researchers to stop taking and sharing these pictures with the general public.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When scientists create posts, we recommend selecting images that show only wildlife, in as natural a context as possible, or only people in the field not both together. Researchers, conservationists and the public can go back through their social media history and delete or crop images that show human-wildlife interaction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists can also reach out to people who post images of humans interacting with wild animals, explain why the images can be harmful and suggest taking them down. Leading by example and sharing this information are simple actions that can save animals' lives.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>(The Conversation: By Andrea l DiGiorgio, Princeton University)&nbsp;&nbsp;</i></p> Thu Feb 15 16:23:04 IST 2024 why-is-there-so-much-attention-swirling-around-neuralink- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Putting a computer inside someone's brain used to feel like the edge of science fiction. Today, it's a reality. Academic and commercial groups are testing brain-computer interface devices to enable people with disabilities to function more independently.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet Elon Musk's company, Neuralink, has put this technology front and centre in debates about safety, ethics and neuroscience. In January 2024, Musk announced that Neuralink implanted its first chip in a human subject's brain. The Conversation reached out to two scholars at the University of Washington School of Medicine Nancy Jecker, a bioethicst, and Andrew Ko, a neurosurgeon who implants brain chip devices for their thoughts on the ethics of this new horizon in neuroscience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How does a brain chip work?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Neuralink's coin-size device, called N1, is designed to enable patients to carry out actions just by concentrating on them, without moving their bodies. Subjects in the company's PRIME study short for Precise Robotically Implanted Brain-Computer Interface undergo surgery to place the device in a part of the brain that controls movement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The chip records and processes the brain's electrical activity, then transmits this data to an external device, such as a phone or computer. The external device decodes the patient's brain activity, learning to associate certain patterns with the patient's goal: moving a computer cursor up a screen, for example.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over time, the software can recognise a pattern of neural firing that consistently occurs while the participant is imagining that task, and then execute the task for the person. Neuralink's current trial is focused on helping people with paralysed limbs control computers or smartphones.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Brain-computer interfaces, commonly called BCIs, can also be used to control devices such as wheelchairs. A few companies are testing BCIs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What's different about Neuralink?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Noninvasive devices positioned on the outside of a person's head have been used in clinical trials for a long time, but they have not received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for commercial development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are other brain-computer devices, like Neuralink's, that are fully implanted and wireless. However, the N1 implant combines more technologies in a single device: It can target individual neurons, record from thousands of sites in the brain and recharge its small battery wirelessly. These are important advances that could produce better outcomes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Why is Neuralink drawing criticism?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Neuralink received FDA approval for human trials in May 2023. Musk announced the company's first human trial on his social media platform, X formerly Twitter in January 2024. Information about the implant, however, is scarce, aside from a brochure aimed at recruiting trial subjects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Neuralink did not register at, as is customary, and required by some academic journals. Some scientists are troubled by this lack of transparency. Sharing information about clinical trials is important because it helps other investigators learn about areas related to their research and can improve patient care. Academic journals can also be biased toward positive results, preventing researchers from learning from unsuccessful experiments. Fellows at the Hastings Centre, a bioethics think tank, have warned that Musk's brand of science by press release, while increasingly common, is not science.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They advise against relying on someone with a huge financial stake in a research outcome to function as the sole source of information. When scientific research is funded by government agencies or philanthropic groups, its aim is to promote the public good. Neuralink, on the other hand, embodies a private equity model, which is becoming more common in science.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Firms pooling funds from private investors to back science breakthroughs may strive to do good, but they also strive to maximise profits, which can conflict with patients' best interests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2022, the US Department of Agriculture investigated animal cruelty at Neuralink, according to a Reuters report, after employees accused the company of rushing tests and botching procedures on test animals in a race for results. The agency's inspection found no breaches, according to a letter from the USDA secretary to lawmakers, which Reuters reviewed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the secretary did note an adverse surgical event in 2019 that Neuralink had self-reported. In a separate incident also reported by Reuters, the Department of Transportation fined Neuralink for violating rules about transporting hazardous materials, including a flammable liquid.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What other ethical issues does Neuralink's trial raise? When brain-computer interfaces are used to help patients who suffer from disabling conditions function more independently, such as by helping them communicate or move about, this can profoundly improve their quality of life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In particular, it helps people recover a sense of their own agency or autonomy one of the key tenets of medical ethics. However well-intentioned, medical interventions can produce unintended consequences. With BCIs, scientists and ethicists are particularly concerned about the potential for identity theft, password hacking and blackmail.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Given how the devices access users' thoughts, there is also the possibility that their autonomy could be manipulated by third parties. The ethics of medicine requires physicians to help patients, while minimising potential harm. In addition to errors and privacy risks, scientists worry about potential adverse effects of a completely implanted device like Neuralink, since device components are not easily replaced after implantation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When considering any invasive medical intervention, patients, providers and developers seek a balance between risk and benefit. At current levels of safety and reliability, the benefit of a permanent implant would have to be large to justify the uncertain risks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What's next?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For now, Neuralink's trials are focused on patients with paralysis. Musk has said his ultimate goal for BCIs, however, is to help humanity including healthy people keep pace with artificial intelligence. This raises questions about another core tenet of medical ethics: justice. Some types of supercharged brain-computer synthesis could exacerbate social inequalities if only wealthy citizens have access to enhancements. What is more immediately concerning, however, is the possibility that the device could be increasingly shown to be helpful for people with disabilities, but become unavailable due to loss of research funding.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For patients whose access to a device is tied to a research study, the prospect of losing access after the study ends can be devastating. This raises thorny questions about whether it is ever ethical to provide early access to breakthrough medical interventions prior to their receiving full FDA approval.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Clear ethical and legal guidelines are needed to ensure the benefits that stem from scientific innovations like Neuralink's brain chip are balanced against patient safety and societal good.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>(The Conversation: By Nancy S Jecker and Andrew Ko, University of Washington)</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Feb 15 12:08:46 IST 2024 engaging-in-gardening--hunting--fishing--and-foraging-improves-f <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A new study conducted in rural New England has discovered an amazing secret to fighting hunger during tough times like the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change events. The research found that activities like gardening, hunting, fishing, and foraging played a crucial role in making sure people had enough food to eat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study was carried out by a team of clever researchers from the University of Vermont and the University of Maine. They talked to over 1,000 people living in the countryside of Vermont and Maine, which are known as the most rural states in the United States. They wanted to find out how these folks were getting their food and if they felt secure about having enough to eat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers were thrilled to discover that people who took part in activities like gardening, hunting, fishing, foraging, and even raising their own animals had better access to food, even 9 to 12 months after the pandemic started. This means that these activities can really make a difference in helping families stay fed and healthy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers hope that the people in charge of making important decisions, called policymakers, will pay attention to their findings. They want them to realise just how important it is to support activities like gardening and foraging, so that everyone can have enough food, even during tough times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They also found that these activities were especially helpful for people who were struggling to get enough food even before the pandemic. It's like these activities gave them a special boost in getting the food they needed. The researchers are working hard to understand why some people had a harder time using these activities to improve their food security. They want to figure out how to help these folks overcome any challenges they might face.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the pandemic, people all over the country were starting their own gardens and even had a hard time finding canning jars because so many people were preserving their own food. This study is exciting because it provides solid proof that when people grow their own food, go hunting or fishing, or even gather food from nature, it really makes a difference in making sure everyone has enough to eat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the researchers involved in the study said, &quot;This is the strongest evidence we have so far that producing your own food can really help.&quot; It's amazing to think that something as simple as growing your own vegetables or catching your own fish can have such a big impact on making sure no one goes hungry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers want to make sure that everyone has the chance to grow their own food and take care of their families. They believe that by creating programs and policies that make it easier for people to do these activities, we can all have a healthier and more secure food system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, if you ever have the chance to grow your own vegetables in a garden or go fishing with your family, remember that you're not just having fun, you're also making sure that everyone has enough to eat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Feb 14 16:53:24 IST 2024 study-reveals-gender-based-differences-in-teachers--perspectives <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a recent study, researchers discovered interesting gender-based nuances in teachers' perspectives on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in education. The findings highlight how male and female teachers perceive the role of AI in the classroom. The published report reveals that female teachers in the study tended to prioritize rule-based (deontological) perspectives, while their male counterparts expressed a greater concern for the consequences of AI. This suggests that gender plays a significant role in shaping teachers' attitudes towards AI in education.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, the study highlighted the importance of self-efficacy and anxiety in teachers' views on AI. Educators who felt more confident and less anxious about using AI showed a stronger inclination towards rule-based and outcome-based perspectives. The researchers emphasized that teachers' confidence in utilizing AI technologies and their ability to manage any associated anxieties are crucial factors in their decision-making process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, conducted by the USC Center for Generative AI and Society, included 248 K-12 educators from public, charter, and private schools across 41 states in the United States. The report serves as an invitation to educators, policymakers, technologists, and learners to explore the potential of generative AI in shaping the future of education. As the field continues to evolve, it is essential to embrace and enhance the use of generative AI as a powerful educational tool.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Drawing from the field of philosophy, the study applied the &quot;trolley problem&quot; thought experiment to the context of education. This moral dilemma presents the question of whether it is morally acceptable to sacrifice one individual to save a greater number. In the realm of education, teachers must grapple with the decision of when, where, and how to incorporate generative AI into the classroom, balancing rule-based and outcome-based perspectives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lead researcher, Aguilar, concluded that teachers are actively engaging with the moral challenges posed by AI and are calling for the adoption of an ethical framework for its use in education. The study further emphasizes the need for educators to explore AI system values and ensure fairness for students.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The USC Center for Generative AI and Society, established in March 2023, aims to investigate the transformative impact of AI on various aspects of culture, education, media, and society. Co-directed by William Swartout and Holly Willis, the center focuses on the intersection of AI with education, media, and culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Swartout, who leads the education effort, suggests that rather than banning generative AI from the classroom, it is crucial to rethink the educational process and leverage AI to enhance education. For example, generative AI could be utilized to assist students in brainstorming topics or critiquing their essays, thereby improving critical thinking skills. Swartout emphasizes the importance of evaluating the process of creating an essay rather than solely grading the final product, as a means to address concerns about cheating.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The report also includes research contributions from Gale Sinatra, Changzhao Wang, Eric Bui, and Benjamin Nye. Sinatra and Wang, alongside Bui and Nye, highlight the need to ensure that AI technologies are employed to augment human capabilities rather than replace them, preserving the relational and emotional aspects of teaching and learning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue Feb 13 16:13:49 IST 2024 milder-heat-waves-more-deadly-in-long-term--india-study-finds <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>While the most extreme heat waves have the greatest short-term impact on mortality, it is the mildest ones that kill most over time because they are more common, according to a study conducted in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As heat waves are projected to become more common as the Earth's climate warms, the health risks of temporarily elevated temperatures must be investigated further, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We wanted to find out how much the risk of death increases during heat waves,&quot; said study first author Jeroen de Bont from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, published in the journal Environment International, examined excess mortality in ten cities in different parts of India with different climate zones between 2008 and 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By selecting the days that were hotter than 95, 97 or 99 per cent of all days in the different regions, the researchers were able to create different definitions of heat waves and examine the health risks associated with them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The hottest and longest heat waves, those that were hotter than 99 per cent of days and lasted at least five days, increased mortality the mostby over 33 per cent, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study found that heat waves that were hotter than 95 percent of all days and lasted only one day increased mortality the leastby just over 10 per cent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The mildest heat waves were surprisingly the deadliest and the number of deaths was more or less inversely proportional to the intensity and duration of the heat waves, the researchers said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;This is because the milder heat waves were so much more common than the hotter ones. In the end, the most extreme heat waves turned out to cause the lowest number of deaths because they were so infrequent,&quot; said de Bont.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;One consequence of this may be that heat warnings may need to be triggered at lower temperature thresholds to protect more people,&quot; the researcher said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team argues that policymakers and other stakeholders need to plan for both the relatively mild, short, and common, and the extreme, long, and uncommon heat waves in order to offer relevant measures to protect public health in the future.&nbsp;</p> Tue Feb 13 11:40:40 IST 2024 how-isros-insat-3ds-to-be-launched-on-saturday-will-provide-unique-weather-insights <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The GSLV-F14 is all set to launch the InSAT-3DS weather satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) on February 17 (Saturday) at 5.30 PM from the SDSC-SHAR, Sriharikota. The satellite is expected to undergo a series of manoeuvres to reach its designated geostationary orbit. This will be the GSLV rocket’s 16th mission. The InSAT-3DS satellite will work alongside the currently active InSAT-3D and InSAT-3DR. R stands for ‘repeat’ satellites, significantly expanding India’s meteorological capabilities.<br> <br> Data from the InSAT-3DS satellite will empower a wide range of agencies within the MoES, including the India Meteorology Department (IMD), National Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), among others.<br> <br> Previous satellites in this series include the InSAT-3A, InSAT-3B, and InSAT-3C, all of which are no longer operational. The InSAT-3D is still functioning and will continue to do so until 2024, while the InSAT-3DR is operational and expected to remain so until 2026. The next in line is the InSAT-3DS.<br> <br> “This mission will utilize advanced instruments to track changes on land and in the oceans, providing crucial data on vegetation health, ocean temperatures and potential hazards. This detailed monitoring will be essential for forecasting weather patterns, understanding climate change and taking environmental protection measures. It has a 6-Channel multispectral imager that acts like a super-powered camera, detecting both visible and invisible light, such as infrared. Its sharp detail and ability to see multiple wavelengths help scientists understand the inner workings of cloud formations, predict rainfall amounts and measure temperatures throughout the atmosphere,” explained space expert Girish Linganna.<br> <br> In addition to these, it also has a 19-Channel Sounder which is a highly advanced thermometer that checks the temperature of the atmosphere at various heights, from right above the ground to high up in the air. It works by detecting the small amounts of heat energy, known as infrared energy, which the air releases. This tool looks at this energy in 19 different ways—each way focusing on a specific layer of atmosphere. Rather than just giving one overall temperature, the sounder maps out temperatures and moisture at different levels to help weather experts understand the atmosphere’s stability and predict storms.<br> <br> “It also has a data relay transponder which enhances weather forecasting capabilities by receiving meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic data from automatic data collection platforms or automatic weather stations (AWS). Besides, it has a satellite-aided search and rescue transponder. For instance, if one is lost at sea, or in a remote area and has a special emergency beacon the transponder will listen for distress signals from these beacons. If it hears one, it will quickly alert rescue teams, telling them exactly where to find the person,” remarked Linganna.<br> <br> The satellite is built using ISRO’s trusted I-2k bus platform and has a starting weight of 2,275 kg when sent into space. When a satellite uses the I-2k bus platform, it usually means that the satellite is of a moderate size and is equipped for various tasks, such as monitoring the Earth, sensing from afar, facilitating communication, and studying the weather.<br> <br> ‘Bus’ refers to a satellite’s fundamental framework and functional base which accommodates and sustains all essential subsystems, including mechanisms for generating and storing power, such as solar panels and batteries; propulsion systems to control the satellite’s position and orbit; communication systems for transmitting and receiving information; thermal control systems to maintain the right temperature; and onboard computers that manage all these functions.<br> <br> The GSLV on which this satellite will be launched is a flexible launch vehicle, deploying satellites for communications, navigation, Earth resource surveys and other missions. While traversing Earth’s atmosphere, the valuable payload is safeguarded from atmospheric forces by Ogive payload fairing, a nose-cone-like structure providing critical protection to the satellite.<br> <br> The 51.7-metre GSLV, weighing 420 tons, uses a three-stage design. The GS1 first stage is built around an S139 solid-propellant motor (139 tons) and augmented by four L40 liquid-propellant strap-ons (40 tons each). Stage two (GS2) relies on an Earth-storable liquid-propellant engine (40 tons). The final stage (GS3) is cryogenic, fuelled by 15 tons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.<br> <br> Explaining about the GTO, the space expert said it is a highly elliptical, temporary path used to launch satellites. “Picture it as a stretched-out oval around Earth, with its closest point (perigee) usually a few hundred kilometres above the surface and farthest point (apogee) around 36,000 kilometres out. Later, the satellite uses its own engines to move into a geosynchronous orbit. This is a special circular orbit about 36,000 kilometres above the Earth,” said Linganna.<br> <br> But how does the INSAT-3DS compare with other global weather satellites? “The Meteosat (Europe): Europe's Meteosat satellites, operated by EUMESTAT, provide similar and, in some ways, more advanced capabilities than ISRO's INSAT-3DS. They offer higher spatial resolution and capture images more frequently for detailed European weather observations. Similarly, Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) from the United States (NASA builds and launches the GOES and NOAA operates them) are some of the most advanced weather satellites currently in operation. Their capabilities exceed those of the INSAT-3DS, providing wider spectral coverage and finer details for critical meteorological information across the Americas. Also, the Japan Meteorological Agency's Himawari satellites excel in very high-frequency image updates crucial for real-time monitoring of severe weather patterns and phenomena within East Asia and the Western Pacific,” remarked Linganna.</p> <p>But space experts point out that each satellite system (India, Europe, US, Japan) primarily supports the meteorological needs of its respective region. This regional specialization means the satellites are configured to collect data tailored to the particular weather patterns and conditions of their areas.</p> <p>There's a continual evolution in satellite technology. Newer generations of weather satellites (like GOES-16 and beyond) possess even greater spectral bands, more sensitive instruments, and faster data capturing than their predecessors, including the INSAT-3DS. Satellites might differ in their emphasis: some excel in severe storm monitoring, others in climate data collection, and others in atmospheric composition analysis.&nbsp;</p> Mon Feb 12 19:15:02 IST 2024 all-aboard-app-helps-blind-and-visually-impaired-commuters-find- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A team of researchers from Mass Eye and Ear has developed a smartphone app called &quot;All_Aboard&quot; to assist individuals who are blind or visually impaired (BVI) in finding their bus stops. The app focuses on improving micro-navigation, which involves finding the exact locations of bus stops and destinations. It aims to complement mainstream GPS systems, which provide macro-navigation for planning routes using public transportation .</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The All_Aboard app utilises the phone's camera to detect street signs from a distance of 30 to 50 feet. It then provides auditory cues to guide the user towards their destination, with the frequency of the sounds changing as they approach the bus stop. The app is powered by artificial intelligence, using a deep learning neural network trained on approximately 10,000 images of bus stops collected in various cities and regions around the world .</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A recent study evaluated the effectiveness of the All_Aboard app compared to Google Maps in helping BVI individuals navigate a set route with 10 bus stops in both urban (Boston) and suburban (Newton, Mass.) locations. The study measured the localization error (gap distance) and the rate of successful localisation. The researchers found that the All_Aboard app had a success rate of 93 percent, while Google Maps had a success rate of 52 percent. Additionally, the average gap distance with Google Maps was 6.62 meters, compared to 1.54 meters with All_Aboard .</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Our findings suggest that the All_Aboard app could help travelers with visual impairments in navigation by accurately detecting the bus stop, and therefore greatly reducing their chance of missing buses due to standing too far from the bus stops,” said Gang Luo, of the Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass Eye and Ear. “This study indicates that computer vision-based object recognition capabilities can be used in a complementary way and provide added benefit to purely mapping-based, macro-navigation services in real-world settings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study's findings suggest that the All_Aboard app could greatly assist travellers with visual impairments in accurately detecting bus stops, reducing the chance of missing buses due to standing too far away from the stops. The app's computer vision-based object recognition capabilities provide added benefits to mapping-based macro-navigation services in real-world settings.</p> Sat Feb 10 15:02:13 IST 2024 handwriting-boosts-brain-connectivity-more-than-typing- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In an era dominated by digital devices, the act of writing by hand is slowly fading away from schools and universities. However, a groundbreaking study conducted by Norwegian researchers has revealed that writing by hand leads to higher brain connectivity compared to typing on a keyboard. The findings emphasize the importance of exposing students to handwriting activities and the impact it can have on their learning abilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, involved 36 university students who were prompted to either write or type a given word displayed on a screen. The researchers collected high-density EEG data to measure brain activity during the tasks. Astonishingly, the connectivity of different brain regions increased significantly when participants wrote by hand, but not when they typed. This intricate brain connectivity is known to play a vital role in memory formation and encoding new information, thus enhancing learning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Professor Audrey van der Meer, a brain researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and co-author of the study, explained that the careful formation of letters during handwriting, accompanied by the use of multiple senses, contributes extensively to the brain's connectivity patterns. The movement of the fingers when writing by hand stimulates the brain in ways that typing cannot replicate. This may explain why children who primarily learn to write and read on tablets struggle to differentiate between mirror-image letters such as 'b' and 'd'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the study utilized digital pens for handwriting, the researchers believe that the results would be similar with traditional pen and paper. The implications are clear: handwriting, whether in print or cursive, offers unique benefits for learning and memory recall.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers argue that students should be given more opportunities to use pens instead of relying solely on keyboards during classes. They propose guidelines to ensure that students receive a minimum amount of handwriting instruction, with many US states already reintroducing cursive writing training. However, they also acknowledge the importance of keeping pace with technological advancements. While handwritten lecture notes have shown to aid learning and retention, typing on a computer may be more practical for longer texts or essays.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Feb 09 16:57:45 IST 2024 indian-developers-making-major-impact-in-accelerating-ai-innovation-globally-satya-nadella <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Microsoft Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said that the Indian developers are making a major impact in accelerating Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovation globally. He said that the next generation of AI is changing how and what developers build everywhere, including in India.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It's fantastic to see how India's developer community is applying our technology and tools to build the future for India and the world,” remarked Nadella. He was addressing developers and technology leaders at the Microsoft AI Tour in Bengaluru.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nadella said that Microsoft will expand its ‘Code; Without Barriers’ program to India this month, as the company is aiming to democratize access to technology skills nationwide. This program was launched in 2021 across nine Asia Pacific (APAC) countries to help close the gender gap in the region’s fast-growing cloud, AI, and digital technology sectors. The program provides support, training, and networking opportunities for female developers and coders, and those in other technical roles to contribute to inclusive economic growth, encourage innovation, and reflect the region’s social makeup. Through ‘Code; Without Barriers’, Microsoft will provide skilling and certification to 75,000 women developers in India in 2024.&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nadella noted that India is the fastest-growing market on GitHub, a Microsoft-owned software collaboration and innovation platform, with 13.2 million developers using the platform. It is expected to overtake the US as the largest developer community on GitHub by 2027. India also has the second-highest number of generative AI projects on GitHub after the United States.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yesterday Nadella had announced Microsoft’s new skilling investment in India to empower people and organizations to thrive in the AI era. The investment will see Microsoft provide 2 million people in India with AI skilling opportunities by 2025 through its ADVANTA(I)GE INDIA initiative.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the event the Microsoft AI Tour, in Bengaluru, developers from nonprofit organizations, student developers, and large enterprises showcased how Microsoft technologies have accelerated their AI adoption and empowered them to innovate. For instance a generative AI startup Sarvam AI provides large language models (LLMs) that offer Indic language support. This startup aims to make the development, deployment, and distribution of generative AI apps in India more better performing, and cheaper.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly the Shiksha copilot, developed by the Sikshana Foundation and Microsoft Research India, aims to improve learning outcomes, and empower teachers to create comprehensive, age-appropriate lesson plans with personalized learning experiences. It is using Azure OpenAI models that help teachers develop a complete lesson plan with engaging content in 60 to 90 seconds instead of 60 to 90 minutes. It is currently deployed in about 30 rural and urban schools in Bengaluru..&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Open Healthcare Network (using Microsoft's GitHub Copilot) has helped manage 581 hospitals, oversee 20,712 hospital beds, attend to 362,349 patients, and facilitated over 500 million consultations in India with the support of 1,884 health workers.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly, technology firms such as Persistent Systems has developed an Intelligent Digital Engineering Platform, using Azure AI from Microsoft. It has enabled large enterprises across various sectors in India to adopt and integrate LLM technology. By leveraging Azure patterns for observability, data governance, and model registry, the platform provides a comprehensive environment for developing LLM applications.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In November 2022, Microsoft India had launched the Azure Society of Excellence (ASE) in collaboration with premier technology institutes like IITs, IIMs and BITS Pilani to work with startups and their incubation cells. The exclusive program provides technological support and mentorship to startups, helping them to become future-ready. Microsoft has successfully onboarded over 1700 Indian startups to the Microsoft Founders Hub through the ASE. It has also signed memorandums of understanding with 10 leading incubators across Indian technology and management institutes.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Microsoft India engages with a community of two million professional and student developers across 100 cities in India to help them acquire skills and prepare for jobs. This is done with the help of community leaders, Microsoft Valuable professionals (MVP’s) and Azure industry experts along with partnerships with over 100 academic institutions across the country.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In January 2024, Microsoft enabled 100,000 developers to advance their careers in AI through its AI Odyssey initiative. The initiative allowed participants to take the first step towards becoming a subject matter expert in AI by learning new skills and earning Microsoft credentials. Microsoft is expanding the AI Odyssey program to other Asian countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, China, Vietnam, and Thailand, after receiving an overwhelming response from India. The program will also welcome Indian developers who could not participate in the AI Odyssey challenge in January 2024. Phase 2 of the AI Odyssey will run from February 8th, 2024, to June 25th, 2024, aiming to reach another 150,000 developers across Asia.&nbsp;</p> Thu Feb 08 19:07:06 IST 2024 breakthrough-ai-tech-utilises-human-perception-to-filter-out-bac <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A team of researchers at The Ohio State University has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) model that exploits the way humans perceive speech to enhance audio quality. By combining subjective ratings of sound quality with a speech enhancement model, the team has achieved superior speech clarity, as validated by objective metrics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Published in the prestigious journal IEEE/ACM Transactions on Audio, Speech, and Language Processing, the new model outperforms conventional approaches in suppressing noisy audio. These unwanted sounds, which often disrupt listeners' ability to hear what they desire, have long been a challenge to address effectively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike previous methods that solely rely on objective algorithms to extract noise from desired signals, the Ohio State University researchers have taken a groundbreaking approach. By leveraging perception, they have trained the model to remove unwanted sounds, resulting in remarkable audio improvements.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Donald Williamson, an associate professor at The Ohio State University and co-author of the study, the team's unique focus on using human perception to train the model sets their research apart. Williamson explains, &quot;If people can perceive something about the signal's quality, then the model can utilize that information to better remove noise.&quot;</p> <p>This study specifically targeted monaural speech enhancement, which refers to speech originating from a single audio channel, such as a microphone. The researchers trained their innovative model using two datasets from previous studies that involved recordings of people engaged in conversations, some of which were hindered by background noises like TV or music.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To assess the quality of each recording, listeners provided subjective ratings on a scale of 1 to 100. The model's exceptional performance stems from a joint-learning method, combining a specialized speech enhancement language module and a prediction model that anticipates the mean opinion score assigned by human listeners to noisy signals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Results showcased the superiority of this novel approach, outperforming other models in terms of objective metrics such as perceptual quality, intelligibility, and human ratings. However, incorporating human perception of sound quality presents its own set of challenges, as Williamson highlights. Noisy audio evaluation is highly subjective, influenced by factors such as individual hearing capabilities and experiences. Additional considerations, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, further impact how individuals perceive their sound environment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This research paves the way for a new era in audio enhancement technology. By embracing the power of human perception, this revolutionary AI model promises to transform audio experiences across various real-world scenarios.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(With inputs from PTI)</p> Thu Feb 08 16:39:54 IST 2024 nasa-s-climate-satellite-soars-into-orbit-to-unveil-earth-s-chan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src=",-Aerosol-Cloud-Ocean-Ecosystem-PACE-mission-ap.jpg" /> <p>NASA's cutting-edge climate satellite, Pace, was successfully launched into orbit by SpaceX on Thursday. With a budget of USD 948 million, this cutting-edge satellite aims to transform our comprehension of Earth's oceans and atmosphere, providing unprecedented insights into our planet's dynamic environment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ascending into the skies before dawn, the Falcon rocket carried Pace on a rare polar orbit trajectory, heading south over the Atlantic. Over the next three years, the satellite will meticulously observe the oceans and atmosphere from an altitude of 420 miles (676 kilometers), providing crucial insights into our changing climate. Employing its three high-tech science instruments, Pace will scan the globe daily, capturing invaluable data that promises to reshape our comprehension of Earth's delicate ecosystems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lead project scientist, Jeremy Werdell, expressed his enthusiasm, saying, &quot;It's going to be an unprecedented view of our home planet.&quot; By analyzing the oceans and atmosphere, Pace will enhance our ability to predict and prepare for severe weather phenomena such as hurricanes. Moreover, it will enable scientists to closely monitor the effects of rising temperatures on Earth's ecosystems, offering critical information on the occurrence of harmful algae blooms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While NASA already boasts an impressive fleet of Earth-observing satellites, Pace's advanced capabilities will provide a new dimension to these endeavors. By delving into the intricate relationship between atmospheric aerosols, including pollutants and volcanic ash, and marine organisms such as algae and plankton, Pace will unlock invaluable insights into our planet's intricate web of life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Karen St. Germain, NASA's director of Earth science, emphasized the significance of Pace, stating, &quot;Pace will give us another dimension to what other satellites observe.&quot; By employing its innovative technology, including the ability to perceive an astounding 200 colors compared to the seven or eight colors observed by current satellites, Pace will enable scientists to discern different types of algae in the sea and identify various particles in the air.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The world eagerly anticipates the wealth of data Pace will provide, with scientists estimating that initial findings will be available within a month or two. Furthermore, NASA is collaborating with India on the launch of another advanced Earth-observing satellite named Nisar later this year. By utilizing radar technology, Nisar will focus on measuring the impact of rising temperatures on glaciers and other melting icy surfaces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Feb 08 15:10:05 IST 2024 galaxy-formation-mysteries-solved-black-holes-as-stellar-catalys <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Recent analysis of data collected by the James Webb Space Telescope has shattered our previous understanding of the universe. Contrary to classical theories, black holes did not merely emerge after the birth of stars and galaxies – they played a monumental role in shaping the cosmos right from the dawn of time. These celestial behemoths not only existed at the beginning of the universe, but they also acted as catalysts, propelling the birth of new stars and supercharging the formation of galaxies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lead author Joseph Silk, a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University and the Institut of Astrophysics, Paris, Sorbonne University, expressed his astonishment at this paradigm-shifting discovery. &quot;They really boosted everything, like gigantic amplifiers of star formation, which is a whole turnaround of what we thought possible before – so much so that this could completely shake up our understanding of how galaxies form,&quot; Silk revealed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The observations made through the Webb telescope of distant galaxies from the early universe unveiled unexpected brightness, with an unusually high number of young stars and supermassive black holes. These findings challenge the conventional belief that black holes formed after the collapse of supermassive stars, and that galaxies emerged once the first stars illuminated the dark cosmos.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Silk's team proposes an alternative theory, suggesting that black holes and galaxies coexisted and influenced each other's destiny during the first 100 million years of the universe. This crucial period, analogous to the first days of January on a 12-month cosmic calendar, saw black hole outflows crushing gas clouds, transforming them into stars and exponentially accelerating the rate of star formation. This phenomenon of violent winds and turbulent plasma ejected by black holes can be attributed to their immense gravitational pull, generating powerful magnetic fields and acting as colossal particle accelerators.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This revelation provides the missing link in understanding why these early galaxies appear significantly brighter than expected. Enormous winds generated by black holes crushed nearby gas clouds, triggering the birth of stars at an unprecedented rate. This astronomical storm created an extraordinary burst of stellar activity, outshining the predictions of scientists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Silk's team postulates that the young universe underwent two distinct phases. Initially, high-speed outflows from black holes propelled star formation, followed by a second phase where these outflows decelerated. A few hundred million years after the big bang, gas clouds collapsed due to magnetic storms caused by supermassive black holes, resulting in the birth of stars at a rate far exceeding that observed in modern galaxies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the powerful outflows transitioned into a state of energy conservation, the creation of stars gradually declined. This reduction in available gas for star formation shaped the subsequent evolution of galaxies. Silk elucidated, &quot;The big surprise is that there was a seed in the middle of that cloud – a big black hole – and that helped rapidly turn the inner part of that cloud into stars at a rate much greater than we ever expected. And so the first galaxies are incredibly bright.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team anticipates that future observations made by the Webb telescope will provide more precise counts of stars and supermassive black holes in the early universe, further validating their calculations. These observations will not only unravel more clues about the evolution of the universe but also shed light on the mysterious connection between the sun and the supermassive black hole residing at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the quest to decipher our cosmic origins, we stand on the precipice of a new era of knowledge. Within a year, with the aid of enhanced data, countless questions about the universe's beginnings will finally find their answers. As Silk expressed, &quot;The big question is, what were our beginnings?... What's the connection between the two?&quot; With each revelation, we inch closer to unraveling the enigmatic tapestry of the universe and comprehending our place within it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Feb 07 14:54:58 IST 2024 environmental-implications-of-human-presence-on-the-moon <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Humans have always looked at the sky, using the stars as navigation guides or for spiritual storytelling. Every human civilisation has looked to the stars and used celestial movements to measure time and find meaning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This insatiable thirst for knowledge combined with technological advancements have made it possible for us to dream of travelling in space. These dreams became more and more real after the Second World War, the Industrial Revolution, the Cold War and the large-scale exploitation of the Earth's resources.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dreams of space travel started small with the launch of Sputnik-1 by the Soviet Union, and escalated with the US Apollo landing on the moon in 1969.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Six decades later, plans are ramping up for space tourism, missions to the moon and Mars, and mining on the moon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Lunar Resources Registry, a private business that locates valuable resources on the moon and helps investors conduct the required exploration and extraction operations, notes: The space race is evolving into space industrialisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to NASA, the moon holds hundreds of billions of dollars of untapped resources, including water, helium-3 and rare earth metals used in electronics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The dawn of the Anthropocene</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a group of academics researching various aspects of environmental sustainability on Earth, we are alarmed at the speed of these developments and the impacts resource exploitation will have on lunar and space environments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a movement among the international geologic scientific community calling for a new epoch the Anthropocene reflecting the enormous extent to which human activity has altered the planet since the end of the Second World War.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Stratigraphers geologists who study the layers of rock and sediment look for measurable global impact of human activities in the geologic record. According to their research, the starting point for the Anthropocene has been identified as beginning in the 1950s, and the fallout from nuclear testing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To shock humankind into preventing the extensive destruction in space that we have wrought on Earth, it may be effective to add a lunar Anthropocene to the moon's geologic time scale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The case for a lunar Anthropocene is interesting. It can be argued that since the first human contact with the moon's surface, we have seen anthropogenic impact. This impact is likely to increase dramatically. This is presented as justification for a new geologic epoch for the moon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Damaging the Earth</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This new human epoch is hotly debated among stratigraphers as well as researchers in other disciplines. For humanities researchers and artists, the importance of the Anthropocene lies in the power the concept has to evoke human responsibility for bringing the Earth's system to a tipping point.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In The Shock of the Anthropocene, historians Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz argue that the new human epoch entails recognizing that technoscientific advances which have driven socio-political economies relying on extractivism, consumption and waste have led to the extent of damage we measure on Earth at present.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For millenia, most societies understood the importance of their relationship with the natural world for survival. But industrialization and the endlessly growing economy in developed countries has destroyed this relationship.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For example, trees used to be respected for providing timber, food, shade and more. But our industrial growth changed all that; in the past 100 years, more trees have been cut than had been felled in the preceding 9,000 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A lunar Anthropocene</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And now the Anthropocene, this age of human impact, is also arriving on the moon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NASA estimates there are already 227,000 kilos of human garbage littering the moon, mostly from space explorations, including moon buggies and other equipment, excrement, statues, golf balls, human ashes and flags, among other objects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An increasing number of moon missions and extracting resources from the moon could destroy lunar environments. This mirrors what has happened on our planet: humans have used this collection of natural resources and produced enough waste and degradation to bring us to the current sixth mass extinction precipice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our throwaway society leads to not only habitat destruction on Earth, but also now on the moon and in space. We must rethink what we really need. Without a fully functional Earth system, including biodiversity and nature's contribution to life, we will be unable to survive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If the intent is to issue a word of caution and pre-emptively shock and elicit a feeling of responsibility on the part of those actors likely to impact the moon's surface, it may very well be the right time to name a lunar Anthropocene. This may help prevent the kind of extensive and careless destruction we have caused and continue to witness on Earth.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>(The Conversation: By Christine Daigle, Jennifer Ellen Good and Liette Vasseur, Brock University)&nbsp;</i></p> Tue Feb 06 14:24:58 IST 2024 will-the-increase-in-fund-allocation-help-the-dos-in-dealing-wit <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>During the interim budget announcement on Feb 1st, 2024, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman&nbsp; allocated Rs 13,043 crore ( $ 1.63 Billion) for the Department of Space (DoS), which oversees the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and other space-related activities. This represents a hike of Rs 500 crore or approximately $62 million, translating into a 4 percent increase from the previous year's budget estimate of Rs 12,545 crore ($1.56 billion). The Department of Space (DoS) serves as the overarching organization that encompasses various entities, including the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the space sector regulator IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre), as well as affiliated academic and research institutions.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The increase in funds can be attributed to the successful completion of significant space missions like Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya L1, highlighting India's commitment to enhancing its space exploration capabilities. Out of the total allocation, approximately 56 percent (Rs 7,313.73 crore) has been specifically designated for space research, emphasizing the government's focus on advancing scientific inquiry and innovation in space exploration.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, the budget introduces a new fund of Rs 1 lakh crore aimed at stimulating private investment in research and development. This initiative is expected to benefit around 200 space startups, showcasing the government's strategy to foster a robust ecosystem for space entrepreneurship and innovation, ultimately supporting the nation's aspirations in space technology and exploration.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Established in 2020 by the Union Cabinet, IN-SPACe serves as a key agency overseeing the space sector. Since its inception, the agency has experienced a 24 percent increase in revenue expenditure. Reflecting this growth, the funding for the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), which regulates India's space activities, was increased from Rs 60.35 crore in the fiscal year 2023-2024 to Rs 96 crore for 2024-2025.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But will all this increase help the DoS deal with challenges of funding which many space missions face. Experts feel that much more can be done. “The revenue allocated for space technologies, which encompasses projects such as Gaganyaan and the development of systems for new launch vehicles and spaceflight missions, rose by 27 percent. Despite this, the 8 percent budget increase for space technologies seems misaligned with the ambitious plans for upcoming missions in the Chandrayaan program, including Chandrayaan 4 and the Lunar Polar Exploration mission, as well as the development of a partially reusable launch vehicle. In the previous fiscal year, the Department of Space did not fully utilise its budget for space technologies, falling short by more than Rs 1,500 crore,” space expert Girish Linganna told THE WEEK.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On another note the&nbsp; funding for the INSAT satellite systems experienced a significant reduction, with expenditure being cut by half from Rs 531 crore in 2023-2024 to Rs 276 crore in 2024-2025, and capital expenditure decreasing by 60 percent.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This reduction comes even as ISRO is gearing up for the launch of the INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite later this month, indicating a shift in budgetary priorities or adjustments within the organization's broader strategic framework. India has historically faced challenges due to limited space budgets, with its investment in space as a fraction of GDP being relatively low compared to other countries. For instance, the US allocates 0.28 percent of its GDP to space efforts, while Russia dedicates 0.15 percent. This places India as the seventh-highest worldwide, with a 0.04 percent allocation. However, ISRO has gained a reputation for developing cost-efficient solutions like the SSLV rocket, giving India an advantage in the international satellite launch market,” remarked Linganna.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However interestingly over the&nbsp; past ten years, India's space budget has steadily increased from Rs 4,163 crore in 2011-12 to Rs 13,043 crore in 2024-25, representing an average yearly growth rate of 12 percent.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the data published in 2022 by Statista, NASA leads the world in space exploration with a substantial budget of $61.97 billion, making it the top space agency. China's CNSA closely follows with a budget of $11.94 billion, showcasing their ambition in space missions. Additionally, Japan's JAXA contributes significantly with $4.90 billion, and Russia's Roscosmos, despite a smaller budget of $3.42 billion, has a rich history of space exploration. The European Space Agency (ESA) brings together multiple European countries with a budget of $2.60 billion, while Germany's DLR, supporting ESA missions, has $2.53 billion to advance space and aeronautic technology. Lastly, India's ISRO has a budget of $1.93 billion, known for its cost-effective and innovative missions.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Interim Space Budget for 2024-25 reflects the Indian government's strategic direction and focus for the space sector, demonstrating its ambitions and acknowledging the obstacles it faces in a competitive global space landscape. “The budget highlights the intent to bolster space technology and infrastructure development and encourages increased involvement from private and non-government entities. However, it also points to deficiencies in funding for space science and research, which are vital for scientific advancement and innovation. Therefore, there is a need for a more inclusive strategy that embraces all facets of space exploration and promotes a synergistic environment for India's space endeavors,” pointed out Linganna.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Indian Space Association has welcomed the increased in fund allocation for the space sector and for technological research. It says that the government's allocation of the Rs 1 lakh crore corpus in the interim budget 2024 for long-term financing of technological research will be beneficial for startups in the rapidly expanding space sector, providing them with support to innovate and conduct further research across various domains of space technology.&nbsp;</p> Mon Feb 05 15:58:54 IST 2024 cosmic-symphony-the-rhythmic-alignment-of-planets-in-orbital-res <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Planets orbit their parent stars while separated by enormous distances in our solar system, planets are like grains of sand in a region the size of a football field. The time that planets take to orbit their suns have no specific relationship to each other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But sometimes, their orbits display striking patterns. For example, astronomers studying six planets orbiting a star 100 light years away have just found that they orbit their star with an almost rhythmic beat, in perfect synchrony. Each pair of planets completes their orbits in times that are the ratios of whole numbers, allowing the planets to align and exert a gravitational push and pull on the other during their orbit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This type of gravitational alignment is called orbital resonance, and it's like a harmony between distant planets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I'm an astronomer who studies and writes about cosmology. Researchers have discovered over 5,600 exoplanets in the past 30 years, and their extraordinary diversity continues to surprise astronomers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Harmony of the spheres</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Greek mathematician Pythagoras discovered the principles of musical harmony 2,500 years ago by analyzing the sounds of blacksmiths' hammers and plucked strings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He believed mathematics was at the heart of the natural world and proposed that the Sun, Moon and planets each emit unique hums based on their orbital properties. He thought this music of the spheres would be imperceptible to the human ear.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Four hundred years ago, Johannes Kepler picked up this idea. He proposed that musical intervals and harmonies described the motions of the six known planets at the time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To Kepler, the solar system had two basses, Jupiter and Saturn; a tenor, Mars; two altos, Venus and Earth; and a soprano, Mercury. These roles reflected how long it took each planet to orbit the Sun, lower speeds for the outer planets and higher speeds for the inner planets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He called the book he wrote on these mathematical relationships The Harmony of the World. While these ideas have some similarities to the concept of orbital resonance, planets don't actually make sounds, since sound can't travel through the vacuum of space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Orbital resonance</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Resonance happens when planets or moons have orbital periods that are ratios of whole numbers. The orbital period is the time taken for a planet to make one complete circuit of the star. So, for example, two planets orbiting a star would be in a 2:1 resonance when one planet takes twice as long as the other to orbit the star. Resonance is seen in only 5% of planetary systems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the solar system, Neptune and Pluto are in a 3:2 resonance. There's also a triple resonance, 4:2:1, among Jupiter's three moons: Ganymede, Europa and Io. In the time it takes Ganymede to orbit Jupiter, Europa orbits twice and Io orbits four times. Resonances occur naturally, when planets happen to have orbital periods that are the ratio of whole numbers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Musical intervals describe the relationship between two musical notes. In the musical analogy, important musical intervals based on ratios of frequencies are the fourth, 4:3, the fifth, 3:2, and the octave, 2:1. Anyone who plays the guitar or the piano might recognize these intervals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Orbital resonances can change how gravity influences two bodies, causing them to speed up, slow down, stabilize on their orbital path and sometimes have their orbits disrupted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Think of pushing a child on a swing. A planet and a swing both have a natural frequency. Give the child a push that matches the swing motion and they'll get a boost. They'll also get a boost if you push them every other time they're in that position, or every third time. But push them at random times, sometimes with the motion of the swing and sometimes against, and they get no boost.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For planets, the boost can keep them continuing on their orbital paths, but it's much more likely to disrupt their orbits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Exoplanet resonance</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Exoplanets, or planets outside the solar system, show striking examples of resonance, not just between two objects but also between resonant chains involving three or more objects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The star Gliese 876 has three planets with orbit period ratios of 4:2:1, just like Jupiter's three moons. Kepler 223 has four planets with ratios of 8:6:4:3.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The red dwarf Kepler 80 has five planets with ratios of 9:6:4:3:2, and TOI 178 has six planets, of which five are in a resonant chain with ratios of 18:9:6:4:3.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>TRAPPIST-1 is the record holder. It has seven Earth-like planets, two of which might be habitable, with orbit ratios of 24:15:9:6:4:3:2.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The newest example of a resonant chain is the HD 110067 system. It's about 100 light years away and has six sub-Neptune planets, a common type of exoplanet, with orbit ratios of 54:36:24:16:12:9. The discovery is interesting because most resonance chains are unstable and disappear over time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite these examples, resonant chains are rare, and only 1% of all planetary systems display them. Astronomers think that planets form in resonance, but small gravitational nudges from passing stars and wandering planets erase the resonance over time. With HD 110067, the resonant chain has survived for billions of years, offering a rare and pristine view of the system as it was when it formed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Orbit sonification</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Astronomers use a technique called sonification to translate complex visual data into sound. It gives people a different way to appreciate the beautiful images from the Hubble Space Telescope, and it has been applied to X-ray data and gravitational waves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With exoplanets, sonification can convey the mathematical relationships of their orbits. Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory created what they call music of the spheres for the TOI 178 system by associating a sound on a pentatonic scale to each of the five planets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A similar musical translation has been done for the TRAPPIST-1 system, with the orbital frequencies scaled up by a factor of 212 million to bring them into audible range.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Astronomers have also created a sonification for the HD 110067 system. People may not agree on whether these renditions sound like actual music, but it's inspiring to see Pythagoras' ideas realized after 2,500 years.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(The Conversation: By Chris ImpeyUniversity Distinguished Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona)&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Mon Feb 05 14:20:31 IST 2024 ai-models-unlock-the-secrets-of-language-learning <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Imagine if an artificial intelligence (AI) model could learn language just like a child does—by seeing and hearing the world through their eyes and ears. Well, that's precisely what a group of scientists has done in a groundbreaking new study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Using headcam video recordings, researchers trained an AI model to learn words and concepts from the experiences of a single child. These recordings, captured from when the child was only six months old until their second birthday, provided a mere one percent glimpse into the child's waking hours. Surprisingly, this limited dataset proved to be sufficient for genuine language learning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By studying the real language-learning process that children go through, the researchers aimed to shed light on the mysteries surrounding word acquisition. Do children rely on language-specific biases, innate knowledge, or just associative learning to grasp new words? These were the questions they sought to answer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To develop the AI model, the scientists meticulously analyzed the child's learning process using weekly video footage from a head-mounted camera. Over the course of 60 hours, they identified a staggering quarter of a million word instances, capturing the words spoken to the child and associating them with corresponding video frames of what the child saw.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The video footage showcased the child engaging in various activities throughout their development, such as mealtimes, reading books, and playtime. This diversity allowed the researchers to train a multimodal neural network with two separate modules. One module processed single frames of the video, while the other module processed the transcribed speech directed at the child.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Using an algorithm called contrastive learning, which learns by making associations within the input data, the researchers combined and trained these modules. The AI model was then able to link visual and linguistic cues, understanding that certain words referred to objects visible in the child's view. This process enabled the gradual association of words with visuals, mimicking a child's language learning journey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Once the model was trained, it was put to the test. The researchers presented the model with a target word and four different image options, challenging it to select the image that matched the word. Astoundingly, the AI model learned a substantial number of words and concepts from the child's everyday experiences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Notably, the model displayed an ability to generalize learned words to visuals that were different from those encountered during training. This observation mirrored the concept of generalization seen in children studied in laboratories.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This study opens up new avenues for understanding how children acquire language and provides fascinating insights into the potential of AI. By training AI models to learn language through a child's eyes and ears, scientists can unlock the secrets of language acquisition and further explore the intricate processes that shape our ability to communicate.</p> Sat Feb 03 14:57:49 IST 2024