Month: January, 2018

Drastic ‘Double Decker’ Space Probe That Could Reveal The Secrets Of Mercury

It is one of the most mysterious planets in the universe – and one we know very little about.

Now European space bosses hope to send two probes stacked on the same craft to the rocky planet in 2018.

BepiColombo will be the European Space Agency’s (ESA) first mission to the closest rock to the Sun.

BepiColombo aims to “follow up on many of the intriguing results of NASA’s Messenger mission, probing deeper into Mercury’s mysteries than ever before,” the ESA said.




BepiColombo will study the peculiarities of Mercury’s internal structure and magnetic field generation, and how it interacts with the Sun and solar wind.

The joint project with the Japanese agency JAXA, which has cost more than 1.3 billion euros ($1.48 billion), involves some 33 companies from 12 EU nations, as well as firms from the US and Japan.

The craft has an unusual design, comprising a ‘stacked aircraft’ carrying two orbiters—one European, the other Japanese—which will separate on arrival to go into different, but complementary orbits around Mercury.

It has been delayed several times, but the mission chiefs are now confident that it is on track to launch in October next year.

Mercury is the ‘most peculiar of all rocky planets,’ Alvaro Gimenez, ESA’s director of science told reporters at the agency’s center in the Dutch coastal town of Noordwijk.

Its surface is wracked by extreme temperatures, ranging from +450 to -180 degrees Celsius (+842 to -292 degrees Fahrenheit).

It also has a magnetic field, the only rocky planet besides Earth to have one.

But Mercury is so weak that the field does not provide a shield against solar radiation.

It orbits just 58 million kilometers (36 million miles) from the Sun, and its surface is blasted by radiation levels that would destroy earthly lifeforms.

Its proximity to the Sun also makes Mercury hard to study from Earth because the brightness impedes the view.

The Sun’s huge gravity also makes it difficult to put a craft into steady orbit around the planet.

So far only two NASA missions have visited Mercury—Mariner 10 in the 1970s and Messenger, which orbited the planet from 2011 until it ran out of fuel in April 2015.

BepiColombo will study the peculiarities of Mercury’s internal structure and magnetic field generation, and how it interacts with the Sun and solar wind.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Inside The Weird World Of Quantum Computers

In a world where we are relying increasingly on computing, to share our information and store our most precious data, the idea of living without computers might baffle most people.

But if we continue to follow the trend that has been in place since computers were introduced, by 2040 we will not have the capability to power all of the machines around the globe, according to a recent report by the Semiconductor Industry Association.




What is quantum computing?

Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time.

Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.

In classical computing, a bit is a single piece of information that can exist in two states – 1 or 0. Quantum computing uses quantum bits, or ‘qubits’ instead.

These are quantum systems with two states. However, unlike a usual bit, they can store much more information than just 1 or 0, because they can exist in any superposition of these values.

A qubit can be thought of like an imaginary sphere. Whereas a classical bit can be in two states – at either of the two poles of the sphere – a qubit can be any point on the sphere.

This means a computer using these bits can store a huge amount more information using less energy than a classical computer.

Last year, a team of Google and NASA scientists found a D-wave quantum computer was 100 million times faster than a conventional computer.

But moving quantum computing to an industrial scale is difficult.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

How To Actually Keep New Year’s Resolutions, According To A Behavioral Scientist

If you plan on becoming a better person in 2015 by exercising more, eating less, or learning a new language, you’re going to need a whole lot more than just good intentions to get you there.

Here’s a little psychological experiment that just might help you stick to your goals.

So, in 2018 we’re all going to go to the gym more regularly, eat better, earn more, and read twice as many books, right?

Wrong – for the majority of us anyway. If you want a good indication for what you’ll be doing in 2018, your best bet is to look at what you did in 2017.

Studies have shown that good intentions alone will only prompt a change in behavior 20 to 30 percent of the time.




In the vast majority of cases, something a little more concrete is going to have to come into play if you want to make a meaningful change to your habits.

So, surprise, surprise, it takes a whole lot more effort to stick to your new year’s resolutions than just writing them down in a fancy list.

And even more discouraging – research has shown that the better we feel about our new year’s resolutions and our ability to stick with them, the less likely we actually will.

But, as Stephen J. Meyer writes at Forbes, it’s not hopeless:

“I’d be a hardened pessimist if not for one thing – there’s a magic bullet that can bridge the gap between goal intentions and goal accomplishment.”

“It’s what behavioural psychologists call “implementation intentions.” Ugly phrase, I know. But it could be the difference between achieving your goals in 2015 and failing miserably.”

So what exactly is this “implementation intentions” concept?

Back in 2002, researchers in the UK gathered together a group of volunteers who had set themselves the goal of taking up regular exercising. The volunteers were split into three groups.

The first group, called the “motivational intervention group”, was given educational materials showing that exercise does amazing things for your cardio-vascular health.

The second group was asked to plan and write down their “implementation intentions”.

For example, exactly where, when, what, they were going to do for exercise, and how frequently, and for how long, each session.

The control group was left to their own with no help from the researchers.

Amazingly, 91 percent of Group 2, who actually thought about and wrote down all the details of their plan, ended up exercising.

According to Meyer, just 29 percent of the control group and 39 percent of the group who learned extensively about the benefits of exercise ended up actually doing it.

So implementation intentions are essentially about fooling ourselves into doing something – you consciously formulate a plan, and then unconsciously execute it.

Gollwitzer mentioned a study in which students were asked to write a paper during the Christmas break.

Of the group that wrote down their implementation intentions – when and where they intended to write their paper – two-thirds of them actually did it.

Exactly zero students who didn’t write their implementation intentions got around to writing the paper.

Apparently similar results can be seen in people trying to lose weight.

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Pass it on: Popular Science