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Mar 27, 2018

Alphabet will operate a fleet of 20,000 Jaguar cars for its driverless ride-hail service by 2022

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, transportation

Alphabet’s self-driving arm Waymo is introducing a new vehicle into its fleet of driverless rides, an all-electric car produced by Jaguar Land Rover.

Waymo unveiled the new vehicle, called the Jaguar I-Pace, at a press event in New York City on Tuesday and said it expected to begin production on the cars equipped with its technology in 2020. In the first two years, the companies expect to manufacture 20,000 cars.

The vehicles will first be available in a ride-hail service in Phoenix, Ariz., where the company will begin testing prototypes this year. Waymo currently has a fleet of driverless Chrysler Pacifica vans as part of its ongoing agreement with Fiat Chrysler.

Continue reading “Alphabet will operate a fleet of 20,000 Jaguar cars for its driverless ride-hail service by 2022” »

Mar 27, 2018

Alphabet Research Arm X Wants to Apply Artificial Intelligence to Farming

Posted by in categories: food, robotics/AI

Alphabet’s Moonshot and research arm X wants to use AI, artificial intelligence, to improve farming and agriculture.

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Mar 27, 2018

Protein Engineering May Be the Future of Science

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, food, neuroscience, science

Scientists are increasingly betting their time and effort that the way to control the world is through proteins. Proteins are what makes life animated. They take information encoded in DNA and turn it into intricate three-dimensional structures, many of which act as tiny machines. Proteins work to ferry oxygen through the bloodstream, extract energy from food, fire neurons, and attack invaders. One can think of DNA as working in the service of the proteins, carrying the information on how, when and in what quantities to make them.

Living things make thousands of different proteins, but soon there could be many more, as scientists are starting to learn to design new ones from scratch with specific purposes in mind. Some are looking to design new proteins for drugs and vaccines, while others are seeking cleaner catalysts for the chemical industry and new materials.

David Baker, director for the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington, compares protein design to the advent of custom tool-making. At some point, proto-humans went beyond merely finding uses for pieces of wood, rock or bone, and started designing tools to suit specific needs — from screwdrivers to sports cars.

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Mar 27, 2018

Fiber Lasers Mean Ray Guns Are Coming

Posted by in category: military

A clever configuration of industrial lasers is set to finally make laser weapons practical.

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Mar 27, 2018

A space junk disaster is a real possibility — here’s how the US government is preventing a chain of collisions that’d threaten human access to space

Posted by in categories: government, space

Tiangong-1, China’s modular space station, is crashing to Earth. With so much junk in space, the chance of a “Kessler Syndrome” catastrophe may be increasing.

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Mar 27, 2018

The James Webb Space Telescope will be delayed for at least a year

Posted by in categories: government, space

Today, NASA held a press conference on the status of the James Webb Space Telescope, the organization’s successor to Hubble, and the news was grim. The observatory was supposed to launch between March and June of 2019. JWST will miss that window; while a specific launch time frame hasn’t been established, NASA is currently targeting May 2020.

While the telescope’s individual components meet their requirements, contractor Northrop Grumman needs more time to test them, integrate them together and do environmental testing. In order to monitor the telescope’s schedule, NASA is creating a Independent Review Board (IRB) to monitor this testing and NASA will take its recommendations into account when determining a specific launch window. That will occur sometime this summer.

Many suspected this announcement was coming after a report from the US Government Accountability Office earlier this month. The GAO found that ongoing technical issues with the telescope meant that launch delays were likely, and that the project was at risk of breaching the $8 billion cap set by Congress, which would mean it would need to be reauthorized. The telescope has already encountered delays, and it’s safe to say that more will follow. It’s an incredibly complex, detailed and delicate device, after all.

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Mar 27, 2018

Rare Type of Supernova Extinguishes Star at Unprecedented Speed

Posted by in categories: cosmology, materials

Supernovae produce some of the most powerful explosions in the cosmos, expelling a doomed star’s contents at velocities reaching 10 percent the speed of light. It usually takes a few weeks or months for a supernova to fade into nothingness, but astronomers have now documented a record-setting case in which a star was extinguished in just a few days.

They’re called Fast-Evolving Luminous Transients (FELTs), an exotic type of supernova discovered only a few years ago. As the name implies, these supernovae develop quickly, they’re very bright, and then they disappear. Unlike more “conventional” supernovae, such as Type Ia supernovae, the duration of these explosions can be measured in days rather than weeks or months. These celestial events are rare, and only a handful of FELTs have ever been documented.

The perplexing thing about FELTs, however, isn’t so much that they’re short lived—it’s that they’re also very bright. Scientists have subsequently theorized that they’re the glowing remnant of a gamma-ray burst (a massive explosion produced by a collapsing star that gives birth to a black hole), a supernova fueled by a magnetar (a neutron star with a powerful magnetic field), or a failed Type Ia supernova (in which a white dwarf star sucks up material from a nearby star, eventually causing it to explode). New research published today in Nature Astronomy suggests it’s none of the above.

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Mar 27, 2018

Here Is FEMA’s Plan If the Falling Chinese Satellite Takes Aim at a US City

Posted by in categories: climatology, space

China’s defunct space station Tiangong-1 will soon plummet toward Earth, likely this weekend. You will almost certainly not be harmed in any way by it—the odds of it striking an individual person are worse than winning the lottery or being struck by lightning. You should not worry about it.

But we’re humans. We’re all probably wondering, what happens if it becomes clear that pieces of the debris will strike a populated area? This is a long discussion that far predates Tiangong-1.

China launched the house-sized Tiangong-1 space station in 2011. It was a prototype that could only hold a three-person crew, and the plan was for it to fall back to Earth in a controlled reentry, meaning scientists would get to pick where it lands. In 2016, China informed the UN that the satellite was no longer functioning, but denied that it lost control of the ship in some more recent reports. Tiangong-1’s orbit is decaying as the craft slowly succumbs to Earth’s gravity.

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Mar 27, 2018

The ‘alien megastructure’ is acting weird again

Posted by in category: alien life

Tabby’s Star has dimmed by 5% – the lowest dip seen since it was first observed in 2013.


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Mar 27, 2018

Study overturns age-old theory of brain learning

Posted by in category: neuroscience

A new study challenges the traditional view that learning in the brain is synaptic, or link-based, proposing instead that it is dendritic, or node-based.

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