Month: September, 2018

The SpaceX Crew Dragon – Elon’s First Step to Mars

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Elon Musk’s plan to get humans to Mars can only be achieved if they first get people to space. For this, they have built the Crew Dragon capsule, which will finally start testing at the end of this year, with the first astronauts scheduled for Spring 2019.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is a manned version of their Dragon cargo capsule. Fully autonomous with room for 7 passengers, this is the most advanced space craft ever built. Along with the new Boeing Starliner, this will give NASA 2 different options to send up astronauts for the first time in their history.

Launching astronauts into space from American soil would be the first time that’s happened since 2011, when the famed Space Shuttle flew its last mission. The first two astronauts to fly on Crew Dragon are Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, two seasoned astronauts with years of experience between them.

World Of Math Aflutter Over New Proof Of 160-Year-Old Hypothesis

The 90-year-old mathematician Michael Atiyah has presented what he referred to as a “simple proof” of the Riemann hypothesis, a problem which has eluded mathematicians for almost 160 years.

The world of maths and the Twitter-sphere have been a frenzy ever since the British-Lebanese mathematician indicated he was to give a lecture on Monday at the Heidelberg Laureates Forum in Germany on what is widely regarded as the most important outstanding problem in maths.

Although it is almost incomprehensible for people without intensive maths training, the hypothesis describes the distribution of prime numbers among positive integers.

Prime numbers, very simple by definition, are the building blocks of modern mathematics, especially number theory. Achievements in prime number theory have been widely applied to computer sciences and telecommunications.

 




However prime numbers are also mysterious and inexplicable – the pattern in which prime numbers emerge in the line of positive integers has remained elusive to generations of mathematicians.

Riemann proposed a theory that can, in a way, shed light on that mystery; but he could not prove it, nor could all the brilliant minds that came after.

If a solution to the Riemann hypothesis is confirmed, it would be big news as mathematicians would be armed with a map to the location of all such prime numbers; a breakthrough with far-reaching repercussions in the field.

Atiyah, who specialises in geometry, is one of the UK’s most eminent mathematical figures, having received the two awards often referred to as the Nobel prizes of mathematics; the Fields Medal and the Abel Prize.

 

$1 million prize

As one of the six unsolved “Clay Millennium Problems”, any solution would be eligible for a $1 million prize. This has tempted many mathematicians over the years, none of which has yet been awarded the prize.

Atiyah is well aware of this history of failure. “Nobody believes any proof of the Riemann hypothesis, let alone a proof by someone who’s 90,” he said, but he hoped his presentation would convince his critics.

In it, he paid tribute to the work of two great 20th century mathematicians, John von Neumann and Friedrich Hirzebruch, whose developments he claims laid the foundations for his own proposed proof.

It fell into my lap, I had to pick it up,” he said in advance of giving his talk.

He has produced a number of papers in recent years making remarkable claims which have so far failed to convince his peers.

The Clay Millennium Prizes, announced in 2000, were conceived to record seven of the most difficult problems with which mathematicians were grappling at the turn of the second millennium.

They were also designed “to elevate in the consciousness of the general public the fact that in mathematics, the frontier is still open and abounds in important unsolved problems; to emphasise the importance of working towards a solution of the deepest, most difficult problems; and to recognise achievement in mathematics of historical magnitude”.

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What Happens When A Plane Loses Cabin Pressure?

Place your own masks before helping others with theirs Credit: Jeff Greenberg

Frequent fliers have heard it dozens of times over: “Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. Place the mask over your mouth and nose.”

The pre-flight safety announcement may give nervous fliers the jitters – that at any point in a flight we might need help breathing – but the importance of such a briefing was highlighted this week after pilots of a domestic flight in India “forgot” to pressurise the cabin, causing passengers to suffer nose bleeds and ear damage.

The suspected error prompted the deployment of oxygen masks in the cabin.

So in what circumstances – and how often – are passengers likely to have to heed the advice to “pull the strap to tighten and continue to breathe normally”? We investigate.




Why do planes pressurise their cabins?

Aircraft cabins are pressurised using cooled and filtered air bled from the engines, keeping the air pressure inside the cabin at the equivalent of an altitude of 8,000 feet – Boeing’s Dreamliner technology has lowered that to 6,000 feet, making the cabin atmosphere more pleasant – even though commercial aircraft often fly at 40,000 feet.

The dry cabin air might cause passengers to become a little dehydrated, but happily they are able to breathe unassisted, and continue watching the in-flight film, quaffing a tomato juice, or browsing the duty-free catalogue.

But this changes when there is a loss of cabin pressure – either slow or sudden. This can happen for a number of reasons.

Technical problems with the pressurisation system are one cause, but cracks in windows or the fuselage, incorrectly sealed doors, and breaches in the aircraft due to an explosion are also all potential triggers, allowing cabin air to escape.

Small air leaks would likely cause a slow loss of pressurisation, in which case the pilot would have time to make an emergency descent to a safe altitude, of between 8-10,000 ft. Bumpy, yes, but hopefully not fatal.

The controlled descent taken by the Southwest plane after its window smashed Credit: Flightradar24.com

How do oxygen masks work?

Is it about safety, or is it just an elaborate way of intoxicating passengers to keep them pliant while their stricken plane plummets to Earth?

That, in case you’re scratching your head, is the verdict of Brad Pitt’s character Tyler Durden in the film Fight Club:

“You know why they put oxygen masks on planes? Oxygen gets you high. In a catastrophic emergency, you’re taking giant panicked breaths.

“Suddenly you become euphoric, docile. You accept your fate. It’s all right here [points at an emergency instruction manual on a plane]. Emergency water landing – 600 miles an hour. Blank faces, calm as Hindu cows.”

Crashes or fatalities from pressure problems are extremely uncommon, even with a fairly rapid decompression brought on by a hole or puncture,” explains Patrick Smith, a pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential.

If cabin pressure falls below a certain threshold, the masks will deploy from the ceiling, exposing everybody to the so-called ‘rubber jungle’. Should you be confronted by this spectacle, strap your mask on and try to relax.

“The plane will be at a safe altitude shortly, and there are several minutes of backup oxygen for everybody.

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NASA’s New Planet Hunter Has Already Spotted Two Candidates For Earth-Like Alien Worlds

 

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has only been on the job less than two months, and already it’s ponying up the planet goods.

The exoplanet-hunting space telescope has found two candidate planets, and there are plenty more on the horizon.

The two candidate planets are called Pi Mensae c, orbiting bright yellow dwarf star Pi Mensae, just under 60 light-years from Earth; and LHS 3844 b, orbiting red dwarf star LHS 3844, just under 49 light-years away.

TESS took its first test observations on July 25 (and managed to get some pretty great snaps of a passing comet), and its first official science observations began on August 7.

However, it was observing a large swathe of sky from the moment it opened its eyes – four optical cameras – and both discoveries are based on data from July 25 to August 22.

So far, they are only candidate planets, yet to be validated by the final review process. If they pass that test, they’ll go down in history as TESS’s first two discoveries. Here’s what we know so far about them.

Both planets appear to be Earth-like and rocky, but neither is habitable according to our guidelines – both are too close to their stars for liquid water.

Pi Mensae c, the first planet announced, is a super-Earth, clocking in at just over twice the size of Earth. It’s really close to Pi Mensae – it orbits the star in just 6.27 days.




A preliminary analysis indicates that the planet has a rocky iron core, and also contains a substantial proportion of lighter materials such as water, methane, hydrogen and helium – although we’ll need a more detailed survey to confirm that.

It also has a sibling – it’s not the first object to be found orbiting Pi Mensae. That honour goes to Pi Mensae b, an enormous planet with 10 times the mass of Jupiter discovered in 2001.

It’s much farther out than Pi Mensae c, on an orbit of 2,083 days. LHS 3844 b is a little bit smaller, classified as a “hot Earth“.

It’s just over 1.3 times the size of Earth, and on an incredibly tight orbit of just 11 hours. Since the two are so close together, it’s highly likely the planet is blasted with too much stellar radiation to retain an atmosphere.

TESS does need a bit of time to collect enough data for identifying an exoplanet.

Like its predecessor Kepler, it uses what is known as the transit method for detection – scanning and photographing a region of the sky multiple times, looking for changes in the brightness of stars in its field of view.

When a star dims repeatedly and regularly, that is a good indication that a planet is passing between it and TESS.

By using the amount the light dims, and Doppler spectroscopy – that is, changes in the star’s light as it moves ever-so-slightly backwards and forwards due to the gravitational tug on the planet – astronomers can infer details about the planet, such as its size and mass.

 

Using this method, Kepler has discovered 2,652 confirmed planets to date between its first and second missions, located between 300 to 3,000 light-years away.

Kepler is still operational, but barely; it’s only a matter of time until it completely runs out of fuel.

TESS’s search is happening a lot closer, with targets between 30 and 300 light-years away – stars brighter than those observed by Kepler.

Thus, the exoplanets it identifies will be strong candidates to observe using spectroscopy, the analysis of light.

When a planet passes in front of a star, it has an effect on the light from the star, changing it based on the composition of its atmosphere (if it has one).

Ground-based observatories and the James Webb Space Telescope (once it launches in 2021) will have to make those follow-up observations.

Both papers are available on preprint resource arXiv. Pi Mensa c can be found here, and LHS 3844 b can be found here.

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A Japanese Spacecraft Just Landed Two Rovers On An Asteroid

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Minerva-II1 rover captured this view of asteroid Ryugu (bottom) and the Hayabusa2 spacecraft (at top right) just after the rover separated from the spacecraft on Sept. 21, 2018.

The suspense is over: Two tiny hopping robots have successfully landed on an asteroid called Ryugu — and they’ve even sent back some wild postcards from their new home.

The tiny rovers are part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return mission.

Engineers with the agency deployed the robots early Friday (Sept. 21), but JAXA waited until today (Sept. 22) to confirm the operation was successful and both rovers made the landing safely.

The rovers are part of the MINERVA-II1 program, and are designed to hop along the asteroid’s surface, taking photographs and gathering data.

In fact, one of the initial images sent home by the hoppers is awfully blurry, since the robot snapped it while still on the go.




In order to complete the deployment, the main spacecraft of the Hayabusa2 mission lowered itself carefully down toward the surface until it was just 180 feet (55 meters) up.

After the rovers were on their way, the spacecraft raised itself back up to its typical altitude of about 12.5 miles above the asteroid’s surface (20 kilometers).

The MINERVA-II1B rover captured this view of asteroid Ryugu on Sept. 21, 2018 shortly after separating from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The asteroid appears at lower right.

The agency still has two more deployments yet to accomplish before it can rest easy: Hayabusa2 is scheduled to deploy a larger rover called MASCOT in October and another tiny hopper next year.

And of course, the main spacecraft has a host of other tasks to accomplish during its stay at Ryugu — most notably, to collect a sample of the primitive world to bring home to Earth for laboratory analysis.

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My Tesla Model 3 Delivery!

After 2 1/2 years of waiting, my Tesla Model 3 is finally here!
Today’s video is a little bit different, more of a vlog-style where I document the delivery and my first impressions of the Tesla Model 3.

Lie Detectors Don’t Work As Advertised And They Never Did

Lie detector.” The name has a promising ring, but in reality the polygraph test that we know under that name is anything but.

Leonarde Keeler administered the first lie detector test in a court on this day in 1935. That’s 82 years ago. They’re still used today in a variety of places, but they’ve never been proven to work.

In that 1935 case, writes Brandy Zadrozny for The Daily Beast,  the machine’s readout was considered admissible evidence in court and both prosecutor and defense had agreed to its use.

On the stand Keeler was measured in his statements,” she writes. “‘I wouldn’t want to convict a man on the grounds of the records alone,’ he told the judge.

But outside the courthouse, Keeler beamed when the jury returned with a guilty verdict. ‘It means the findings of the lie detector are as acceptable in court as fingerprint testimony,’ he told the press.

But even then, she writes, an earlier Supreme Court case had already said decided that the lie detector, which didn’t have approval from the scientific community, wasn’t able to give admissible evidence.




In almost every instance since, the polygraph has been “barred from federal and most state courts.” But elsewhere in the legal system, they still use it—mostly, it seems, to intimidate.

Here’s what a lie detector does, in the words of the American Psychological Association:

“So-called ‘lie detection’ involves inferring deception through analysis of physiological responses to a structured, but unstandardized, series of questions.”

We all know what it looks like when a lie detector is used: the machine provides polygraph readouts of a person’s physical responses to the questions that are asked.

It usually measures heart rate/blood pressure, breathing and skin conductivity, writes the APA.

The questioner—in fiction, usually a cop—asks the person hooked up—in fiction, usually a suspect—a series of questions, beginning with simple questions designed to establish a baseline of what readouts are “normal” for the person in the chair.

What is your name,” is a common one.

In real life, the APA writes, the most common method of questioning uses broader-based questions about “misdeeds that are similar to those being investigated, but refer to the subject’s past and are usually broad in scope.

An example: “Have you ever betrayed anyone who trusted you?

The two biggest problems, writes the APA, are these: there’s no way to know if the symptoms of “bodily arousal” (like an elevated pulse) that the machine measures are caused by lies, and there’s no way to know if someone’s results are affected by the fact that they believe in the polygraph machine.

If this second view is correct, they write, “the lie detector might be better called a fear detector.

The lie detector, Bennett writes, is “today’s most widely trusted lie-detection device.” Even though its evidence cannot be used in a court of law, it helps determine how those in positions of trust—the CIA, the FBI, police departments—get hired.

Police detectives use it as an investigative tool, intelligence officers use it to assess the credibility of sources, and exams are commonly required as a condition of parole and probation for sex offenders,” he writes.

Lives and livelihoods can hang on its readouts, but it’s not a reliable test of any one thing.

What distinguishes a culture is how it copes with deceit,” writes historian Ken Alder in Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession: “the sort of lies it denounces, the sort of institutions it fashions to expose them.”

America, he writes, is the only country that has produced the polygraph test.

We know that lie detectors lie. But we still use them. What does that say about us?

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Sony Announces The PlayStation Classic, Its Own Mini Retro Console

If you’re the kind of person who has two beers and regularly launches into the same 20 minute-long ode to the original PlayStation for playing a seminal role in the maturation of gaming as an art form, well, do we have some news for you.

Sony just announced its intentions to give the PlayStation the (winning) Nintendo Classic treatment with a tiny to-scale version of the PS1 called the PlayStation Classic.

The teeniest new console is scheduled to hit shelves on December 3, retailing for $99.99.

Like Nintendo’s wildly popular SNES and NES Classics that paved the way, Sony’s PlayStation Classic will come pre-loaded with a cache of well-loved games.

The PlayStation Classic’s lineup will feature 20 classic games, including Final Fantasy VII [editor’s note: hell yeah], Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms. 

Almost 25 years ago, the original PlayStation was introduced to the world. Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment, it was the first home console in video game history to ship 100 million units worldwide, offering consumers a chance to play games with real-time 3D rendered graphics in their homes for the first time,” Sony said, waxing nostalgic in a blog post announcing the console.




We’re here for it.

According to Sony, the new mini PlayStation will be 45% smaller than a real PlayStation, complete with smaller controllers that also mimic their forebears.

Each unit will ship with an HDMI and USB cable and two controllers for couch multiplayer.

The consoles will be available to pre-order at some retailers in Canada and the U.S and more details (including the 15 other games) so keep an eye out — Sony will be sharing more details in the next month or two.

All games “will be playable in their original format” so expect them to look and feel just like they did in the dark ages, when things were simple and good.

Most of us can agree that this particular nostalgia baiting tactic is awesome, take our money, but have you seen this thing? It’s extra cute.

Maybe it’s because the PS1 had those iconic circular buttons that echoed its game discs and round things are cute like Kirby is cute (Toad, on the other hand, is over).

If you spent significant time marveling over the PS1 when it made waves in 1995, you too likely retain a proprioceptive kind of intimacy with its then cutting-edge form.

Do you remember precisely how much give the buttons had when you depressed them, how the disc hood yawned open gracefully, almost suspensefully?

Of course you do.

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Astronomers Just Found a Planet Where Star Trek’s Vulcan Was Predicted to Exist

So far, astronomers have identified thousands of exoplanets out there beyond the reaches of the Solar System, but only a rare few are the stuff of legend.

Such is the case with an Earth-like exoplanet, found orbiting a star called 40 Eridani A – Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s preferred location for Vulcan, the home planet of Mr Spock.

Located around 16 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Eridanus, 40 Eridani A is part of a triple-star system.

Although it was never mentioned in the original TV series of Star Trek, it had been put forward as a proposed location for the planet by related literature.

In 1991, Roddenberry and three astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics wrote a letter to Sky & Telescope magazine laying out their choice for Vulcan’s location, and why.

Based on the history of life on Earth, life on any planet around Epsilon Eridani would not have had time to evolve beyond the level of bacteria.




“On the other hand, an intelligent civilisation could have evolved over the aeons on a planet circling 40 Eridani. So the latter is the more likely Vulcan sun.

Epsilon Eridani does have one planet – an uninhabitable gas giant. Now astronomers on the University of Florida-led Dharma Planet Survey have found something that seems a bit more habitable orbiting 40 Eridani A.

More precisely, it’s an object known as a super-Earth – a rocky planet around twice the size of Earth, orbiting 40 Eridani A just inside the system’s habitable zone – not too hot and not too cold. It completes one orbit every 42 (Earth) days.

So life on the planet isn’t unfeasible.

The aim of the Dharma Planet Survey, using the 50-inch Dharma Endowment Foundation Telescope (DEFT) on Mount Lemmon in Arizona, is a dedicated survey to find low-mass planets orbiting bright, nearby stars.

It uses the radial velocity method – detecting the very slight wobble in a star’s position due to the gravitational pull of an exoplanet.

The candidate exoplanet, named HD 26965b (but we’ll probably call it Vulcan, obviously), is the first super-Earth found in the survey.

And if you’re in the southern hemisphere, you can even go outside and look for it.

“Now anyone can see 40 Eridani on a clear night and be proud to point out Spock’s home.”

The research has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Can Eating Too Much Make Your Stomach Burst?

I ate so much I’m about to burst!

Someone at your Thanksgiving table likely said this, after you’ve all stuffed your faces with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and the rest.

But how much would you have to eat in order for your stomach to actually burst? Is that even possible?

Interestingly enough, you can rupture your stomach if you eat too much,” says Dr. Rachel Vreeman, co-author of “Don’t Cross Your Eyes … They’ll Get Stuck That Way!” and assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine.

It is possible, but it’s very, very rare.

A handful of reports over the years document the tales of people who literally ate themselves to death, or at least came dangerously close.

Japanese doctors wrote in a 2003 case report that they believed it was a 49-year-old man’s “excessive over-eating” that caused his stomach to rupture, killing him.




And this 1991 case report describes a similar “spontaneous rupture” in an adult’s stomach “after overindulgence in food and drink.

Normally, your stomach can hold about one or one-and-a-half liters, Vreeman says — this is the point you may reach if you overdo it tomorrow, when you feel full to the point of nausea.

Pathologists’ reports seem to suggest the stomach is able to do OK handling up to about three liters, but most cases of rupture seem to occur when a person has attempted to stuff their stomach with about five liters of food or fluid.

It takes a certain amount of misguided determination to manage to override your natural gag reflex and continue to eat.

Which is, not surprisingly, reports of ruptured stomachs caused by overeating are most common in people with some sort of disordered eating, or limited mental capacity, Vreeman says.

Speaking of strong stomachs, you’d best have one in order to read this next paragraph. If vomiting isn’t happening, all that food and fluid still has to go somewhere.

The increasing volume of stuff in the gut puts pressure on the stomach’s walls, so much so that the tissue weakens and tears, sending the stomach contents into the body and causing infection and pain, Vreeman says.

Surgical intervention is necessary to repair a ruptured stomach and save the patient’s life.

In particular, she says, anorexics or bulimics may be at risk. In fact, Cedars-Sinai, the non-profit hospital in Los Angeles, actually lists this as a “symptom” of bulimia.

In rare cases, a person may eat so much during a binge that the stomach bursts or the esophagus tears. This can be life-threatening.

Other reported cases of spontaneous stomach rupture happen in individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome, a congenital disease that is characterized by, among other things, a kind of disordered eating.

An “intense craving for food,” resulting in “uncontrollable weight gain and morbid obesity.” according to the National Institutes of Health.

In a 2007 study examining the deaths of 152 individuals with the condition, 3 percent of those deaths were the result of gastric rupture and necrosis.

The takeaway here: This really happens, sometimes! Also: This is probably not going to happen to you.

Even if you’re starting to feel a bit sick or tired and overwhelmed from eating so much at Thanksgiving, you’re still far, far away from the scenario where you’re going to make your stomach actually explode,” Vreeman assures.

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