Month: March, 2018

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station Will Fall From The Sky Within Weeks

China’s first space station is expected to come crashing down to Earth within weeks, but scientists have not been able to predict where the 8.5-tonne module will hit.

The US-funded Aerospace Corporation estimates Tiangong-1 will re-enter the atmosphere during the first week of April, give or take a week.

The European Space Agency says the module will come down between 24 March and 19 April.

In 2016 China admitted it had lost control of Tiangong-1 and would be unable to perform a controlled re-entry.

The statement from Aerospace said there was “a chance that a small amount of debris” from the module will survive re-entry and hit the Earth.




Aerospace warned that the space station might be carrying a highly toxic and corrosive fuel called hydrazine on board.

The report includes a map showing the module is expected to re-enter somewhere between 43° north and 43° south latitudes.

The chances of re-entry are slightly higher in northern China, the Middle East, central Italy, northern Spain and the northern states of the US, New Zealand, Tasmania, parts of South America and southern Africa.

However, Aerospace insisted the chance of debris hitting anyone living in these nations was tiny.

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Astronomers Found Evidence For A ‘Dark’ Gravitational Force That Might Fix Einstein’s Most Famous Theory

Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicts so much about the universe at large, including the existence of gravitational lenses or “Einstein rings.”

And yet his famous equations struggle to fully explain such objects.

While general relativity says a strong source of gravity — like the sun— will warp the fabric of space, bend light from a distant object, and magnify it to an observer, very big objects like galaxies and galaxy clusters make gravitational lenses that are theoretically too strong.




General relativity also can’t fully explain the spinning motions of galaxies and their stars.

That’s why most physicists think as much as 80% of the mass in the universe is dark matter: invisible mass that hangs out at the edges of galaxies.

Dark matter might be made of hard-to-detect particles, or perhaps an unfathomable number of tiny black holes. But we have yet to find smoking-gun evidence of either.

However, a contentious theory by Erik Verlinde at the University of Amsterdam suggests dark matter may not be matter at all.

What’s more, astronomers say his idea “is remarkable” in its ability to explain the behavior of more than 33,000 galaxies that they studied.

This does not mean we can completely exclude dark matter, because there are still many observations that Verlinde’s theory cannot yet explain,” study leader and physicist Margot Brouwer said in a YouTube video about the research.

However it is a very exciting and promising first step.”

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The Formula For The Perfect Free-Throw

Improving your free-throw percentage is a simple matter of mathematics, according to researchers Drs. Chau Tran and Larry Silverberg of North Carolina State University.

Using three-dimensional computer simulations of hundreds of thousands of basketball trajectories, the two engineers determined the ideal characteristics of a free-throw shot.

They based their data on the assumption of a 6’6” player who would release the ball (assumed to be a men’s basketball) at a height of 7 feet.




The first variable Tran and Silverberg examined was spin. According to them, you should release the ball with about three hertz of backspin – or, so that the ball makes roughly three full backwards rotations before reaching the hoop.

This slows the ball upon contact with the backboard or rim, making it more likely that the shot will go in.

The ball should also be released at 52 degrees to the horizontal, making the peak of its arc only a few inches higher than the top of the backboard.

For aiming, they found the most successful methods put the ball towards the back of the rim, either two inches to the left or two inches to the right of the place where the rim meets the backboard.

How a mathematician sees a free throw.

Their simulation data showed that aiming straight for the center of the backboard decreases the success rate by almost three percent.

Tran and Silverberg also recommend free-throw shooters should release the ball as high above the ground as possible with a smooth, consistent release speed for best results.

Our recommendations might make even the worst free-throw shooters – you know who you are, Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace – break 60 percent from the free-throw line,” Silverberg joked.

Their work is just another example of how mathematical questions can crop up in the most unexpected areas.

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The Last Male Northern White Rhino Could Save His Species After From Beyond The Grave

Sudan was 45 when he died in Kenya after a degenerative age-related condition left him unable to stand.

With his death the world pronounced the end of the northern white rhinos after attempts to mate with the two remaining females of his species failed.

But beloved Sudan – who had a massive human fanbase – could still give father to the first IVF rhino after his death.

According to The Times, scientists have made “remarkable” progress with rhino IVFs and in just a few years have successfully harvested female eggs and fertilised them in laboratories.




The last hurdle to overcome is to get the embryos to a stage where they can be frozen and revived.

If that happens, vets will harvest eggs from the last two existing northern white rhinos, Najin, 27 and Fatu, 17.

But because the pair, who are Sudan’s daughter and granddaughter respectively, are too old to become pregnant, scientists would use a female southern white rhino as a surrogate – in a staggering double first for rhino reproduction.

Heartbreaking photos show Sudan’s final days at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, after he was euthanised on Monday after age-related complications meant he had dramatically deteriorated.

The rhinoceros had previously lived at the Dver Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic before being transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, about 155 miles north of Nairobi, where he lived with Najin and Fatu.

Sudan could still become a father after his death at 45After all attempts at getting him to mate naturally failed conservationists last year put Sudan on dating app Tinder hoping to raise enough money to pay for a $9 million fertility treatment.

The link took people to a fundraising page.

Conservancy CEO Richard Vigne said: “He was a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity.

High-profile supporters have shared their devastation at the news of his death.

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Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk Unveils Autonomous Flying Taxis

Autonomous flying taxis just took one big step forward to leaping off the pages of science fiction and into the real world, thanks to Google co-founder Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk.

The billionaire-backed firm has announced that it will begin the regulatory approval process required for launching its autonomous passenger-drone system in New Zealand, after conducting secret testing under the cover of another company called Zephyr Airworks.

The firm’s two-person craft, called Cora, is a 12-rotor plane-drone hybrid that can take off vertically like a drone, but then uses a propeller at the back to fly at up to 110 miles an hour for around 62 miles at a time.




The all-electric Cora flies autonomously up to 914 metres (3,000ft) above ground, has a wingspan of 11 metres, and has been eight years in the making.

Kitty Hawk is personally financed by Page and is being run by former Google autonomous car director Sebastian Thrun. The company is trying to beat Uber and others to launching an autonomous flying taxi service.

The company hopes to have official certification and to have launched a commercial service within three years, which will make it the first to do so.

But its achievement will also propel New Zealand to the front of the pack as the first country to devise a certification process.

The country’s aviation authority is well respected in the industry, and is seen as pioneering.

Kitty Hawk is already working on an app and technology to allow customers to hail flying taxis as they would an Uber, but whether Page, Thrun and their team will actually be able to deliver within three years remains to be seen.

Many companies have promised great leaps but failed to deliver meaningful progress towards a Jetsons-like future, from Uber’s Elevate to China’s Ehang.

Even if Kitty Hawk hits all its projected milestones and launches commercially, there’s then the matter of persuading people to actually use it.

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Apple Announces A March 27th Event Focusing On Education

Apple has announced an event on March 27th that will focus on “creative new ideas for teachers and students,” according to an invitation that just went out.

There’s not a lot to go by in terms of hints from the invitation — just a stylized Apple logo and the phrase “Let’s take a field trip,” which fits in with the education theme.

But it’s been rumored that Apple has been working on cheaper MacBooks and iPads, which would make sense given this event’s context.

Interestingly, the event won’t be held in Apple’s newly opened Apple Park campus in Cupertino, but at a high school in Chicago.




Chicago’s Board of Education recently added computer science as a graduation requirement for all public schools in the city, making it a fitting pairing for an Apple event.

Apple has also been working to transition the iPad into a classroom tool for educators for the past several years.

With recent rumors claiming that the company could release an entry-level 9.7-inch iPad priced around $259, which is even cheaper than the current $329 model.

Additionally, if you’re prone to reading into Apple’s invitations, it’s easy to see how the company could be hinting at something related to the iPad or Apple Pencil with this seemingly hand-drawn Apple logo.

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A Self-driving Uber In Arizona Kills A Woman In First Fatal Crash Involving Pedestrian

An autonomous Uber car killed a woman in the street in Arizona, police said, in what appears to be the first reported fatal crash involving a self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian in the US.

Tempe police said the self-driving car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash and that the vehicle hit a woman, who was walking outside of the crosswalk and later died at a hospital.

There was a vehicle operator inside the car at the time of the crash.

Uber said in a statement on Twitter: “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.” A spokesman declined to comment further on the crash.

The company said it was pausing its self-driving car operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.




Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, tweeted: “Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.

Uber has been testing its self-driving cars in numerous states and temporarily suspended its vehicles in Arizona last year after a crash involving one of its vehicles, a Volvo SUV.

When the company first began testing its self-driving cars in California in 2016, the vehicles were caught running red lights, leading to a high-profile dispute between state regulators and the San Francisco-based corporation.

Police identified the victim as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg and said she was walking outside of the crosswalk with a bicycle when she was hit at around 10pm on Sunday. Images from the scene showed a damaged bike.

The 2017 Volvo SUV was traveling at roughly 40 miles an hour, and it did not appear that the car slowed down as it approached the woman, said Tempe sergeant Ronald Elcock.

Elcock said he had watched footage of the collision, which has not been released to the public. He also identified the operator of the car as Rafael Vasquez, 44, and said he was cooperative and there were no signs of impairment.

The self-driving technology is supposed to detect pedestrians, cyclists and others and prevent crashes.

John M Simpson, privacy and technology project director with Consumer Watchdog, said the collision highlighted the need for tighter regulations of the nascent technology.

The robot cars cannot accurately predict human behavior, and the real problem comes in the interaction between humans and the robot vehicles,” said Simpson, whose advocacy group called for a national moratorium on autonomous car testing in the wake of the deadly collision.

Simpson said he was unaware of any previous fatal crashes involving an autonomous vehicle and a pedestrian.

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Did Quick Construction Technique Lead To FIU Pedestrian Bridge Collapse?

The unfinished pedestrian overpass that toppled onto the Tamiami Trail on Thursday was being built under a relatively novel approach called accelerated bridge construction.

A fast, tested method that carries some risks if not rigorously carried out.

Until it’s fully secured, a quick-build structure is unstable and requires the utmost precision as construction continues.

Properly shoring up the bridge can take weeks, a period during which even small mistakes can compound and cause a partial or total collapse, said Amjad Aref, a researcher at University at Buffalo’s Institute of Bridge Engineering.

Just before the bridge’s concrete main span abruptly gave way on Thursday, crushing four people in cars to death and injuring others, a contractor’s crews were conducting stress tests on the incomplete structure, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said.

The 950-ton span, assembled by the side of the road over a period of months, was hoisted into place in a matter of hours on Saturday morning.

That stress testing typically involves placing carefully calibrated weights on the span and measuring how the structure responds to ensure it’s within safe parameters, Aref said.




Crews may also have been adjusting tension cables that provide structural strength for the span’s concrete slabs.

In almost all bridge or building collapses, though, construction errors are to blame, not design, said Ralph Verrastro, a Cornell-trained engineer and principal of Naples-based Bridging Solutions, which is not involved in the FIU project.

Determining what exactly went wrong will likely take months. The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation.

Over the coming weeks, forensic engineers will try to unravel what happened in a complicated analysis that involves picking through debris, looking at designs, and piecing together inspections, said Princeton University civil engineering professor Maria Moreyra Garlock.

The construction phase, she noted, is often the most dangerous point in the life of the bridge.

Engineers could sample material at the site to test for strength, she said, and look at the sequence of inspections to determine what happened when.

Site inspections might also reveal what caused the sudden collapse.

Thursday’s tragic accident is sure to raise questions over the decision by Florida International University to take the quick-build approach, adopted in large part to minimize the need to interrupt traffic on the busy highway.

The decision by its contractors to undertake testing while traffic flowed along the busy roadway below will also be scrutinzed. FIU was running the project under an agreement with the state.

Accelerated bridge construction has become more common in the past decade, especially in urban areas with heavy traffic, Verrastro said.

FIU’s engineering school has become a hub for accelerated bridge construction training and research in recent years.

The bridge was devised to provide FIU students and others a safe way to cross multi-lane Southwest Eighth Street, also known as the Trail, to the small town of Sweetwater, where the school estimates some 4,000 students live.

At least one student was hit and killed by a car at that busy crossing, at 109th Avenue, which leads to new apartments built by private developers designed to cater to the university.

FIU selected the contracting team in a competitive process. It consists of MCM Construction, a family owned contractor based in Miami, and Figg Bridge Group, a design and engineering firm based in Tallahassee.

MCM is one of the most influential contractors in Miami-Dade, and a top contributor to county races. Gimenez said he spoke to co-principal Pedro Munilla by telephone from Hong Kong, where the county mayor is leading a county trade mission.

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According To Scientists, Winged Archaeopteryx Dinosaur Flew In Short Bursts Like A Pheasant

Archaeopteryx flapped its wings but was not capable of long distance flight. Nor could it soar like birds of prey.

Instead, the feathered Jurassic creature probably made short bursts of ­limited low-level flight to escape danger, say experts in Grenoble, France, after X-ray analysis of fossil bones.

Pheasants fly in a similar way to avoid predators or human hunters.




Archaeopteryx – which means “ancient wing” – lived in the Late Jurassic period in what is now southern Germany.

The first fossil skeleton of one of the creatures, known as the London Specimen, was unearthed in 1861 near Langenaltheim and is housed at London’s Natural History Museum.

Similar in size to a magpie, it shared characteristics of Earth-bound dinosaurs and modern birds, including winged feathers, sharp teeth, three fingers with claws, and a long bony tail.

However despite being thought of as the first bird, experts now view Archeopteryx as a flying dinosaur.

Nor was it a direct ancestor of modern birds. Despite sharing a common dinosaur ancestor with birds, Archaeopteryx represents a “dead end” side branch on the evolutionary tree.

Present day birds are generally believed to have evolved from a group of small meat-eating dinosaurs known as maniraptoran theropods.

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Chips That Mimic Organs Could Be More Powerful Than Animal Testing

Each year, millions of rats and mice die for the sake of human safety. Scientists studying toxicity in chemicals feed, inject, or spray them on animals to suss out potential ill effects.

But Congress is now finally updating the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976, which will among other things encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to find alternatives to animal testing.




The updated act, which is expected to pass both houses of Congress soon, asks the EPA to consider a suite of new testing technologies.

Such as high-throughput robots that apply chemicals to cells in petri dishes and algorithms that predict toxicity based on the effects of similar chemicals.

The most ambitious, the most sci-fi of all these technologies, though, is a human body on a chip.

Think mini organs the size of matchboxes—each mimicking a patch of heart muscle or alveoli in the lungs—all connected together by a tiny circulatory system of microfluidic tubes. An entire human body in miniature.

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