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From The Editors Science

What Caused the Halley Bay Colony of Emperor Penguins in Antarctica to Disappear Overnight?

Emperor penguin colonies have thrived in Antarctica since time immemorial, as an abundance of sturdy patches of sea-ice serves as ideal breeding grounds for this tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species.

One such colony was in Halley Bay, on the edge of the Brunt Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea, where, on an average, some 14,000 to 25,000 breeding pairs flocked every year to breed and raise their fledglings until they were able to fend for themselves.

The colony was the world’s second-largest, representing 5 to 9 percent of the global population of these flightless beauties.

However, thousands of emperor penguin chicks were lost overnight, in 2016, when the sea-ice they were being raised on collapsed under the onslaught of a severe storm.

The hapless hatchlings drowned in the freezing waters of the Weddell Sea, as their feathers were not developed-enough for swimming.

The mass drowning of the little emperors was first spotted and reported by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists, Dr. Peter Fretwell and Dr. Phil Trathan, who noticed the missing Halley Bay colony while studying satellite images.

The species took a massive hit that fateful day, but what’s even more disturbing is that adult emperors have not returned to the breeding site ever since – probably due to the fact that a huge iceberg is predicted to disrupt the site, anyways.

Another reason that has kept the birds away from the spot is the fact that the sea-ice that broke off from the side of the sturdier Brunt shelf never really formed properly to support breeding.

Dr. Fretwell – who is the lead author of the paper entitled, “Emperors on thin ice: three years of breeding failure at Halley Bay,” published in the journal Antarctic Science, said:

“We have been tracking the population of this, and other colonies in the region, for the last decade using very high resolution satellite imagery.
“These images have clearly shown the catastrophic breeding failure at this site over the last three years.

“Our specialized satellite image analysis can detect individuals and penguin huddles, so we can estimate the population based on the known density of the groups to give reliable estimate of colony size.”

Being the tallest and heaviest of all extant penguin species, emperor populations as large as the doomed Halley Bay colony need strong and firm sea-ice under their feet – strong enough to withstand the forces of nature and last until their babies have developed the right feathers for swimming.

The length of time we’re looking at is about nine months, as the birds arrive in April and stay until their offspring fledge in December; that’s how long the sea-ice needs to stay colony-worthy.

If, for some reason, the sea-ice breaks up too soon, then a repeat of what happened in 2016 is a foregone conclusion.

Here’s how Dr. Fretwell explained the situation:

“The sea-ice that’s formed since 2016 hasn’t been as strong. Storm events that occur in October and November will now blow it out early. So there’s been some sort of regime change. Sea-ice that was previously stable and reliable is now just untenable.”

However, all is not lost, as a majority of the breeding pairs that lost their chicks in 2016, have moved to safer breeding sites across the waters of the Weddell, with one colony near the Dawson-Lambton Glacier witnessing a “ more than tenfold increase in penguin numbers,” say the authors.

They have, however, not been able to explain why the sea-ice did not redevelop on the Brunt Shelf’s edge; they have no reason or evidence to attribute this to climate change or to anomalies in atmospheric and oceanic conditions in the Brunt Shelf region.

“It is impossible to say whether the changes in sea-ice conditions at Halley Bay are specifically related to climate change, but such a complete failure to breed successfully is unprecedented at this site,” said Dr. Trathan.

That said, Dr. Trathan believes that global warming will impact the continent’s, and indeed the world’s, emperor penguin populations, in the long run, as strong sea-ice will become increasingly hard to come by in warmer waters.

If computer models of the effects of global warming are anything to go by, we could well be looking at a 50 to 70 percent depletion in the world’s emperor population by the end of this century.

“Even taking into account levels of ecological uncertainty, published models suggest that emperor penguins numbers are set to fall dramatically, losing 50-70 percent of their numbers before the end of this century as sea-ice conditions change as a result of climate change,” Trathan said.

“They’re an important part of the food web; they’re what we call a mesopredator. They’re both prey for animals like leopard seals but they also prey themselves on fish and krill species. So, they do play an important role in the ecosystem,” Dr. Michelle LaRue, an ecologist at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, told BBC News.

“What’s interesting for me is not that colonies move or that we can have major breeding failures – we know that. It’s that we are talking here about the deep embayment of the Weddell Sea, which is potentially one of the climate change refugia for those cold-adapted species like emperor penguins,” Dr. Trathan said.

“And so if we see major disturbances in these refugia – where we haven’t previously seen changes in 60 years – that’s an important signal,” he added

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From The Editors Health

Researchers Develop ‘Brain Decoder’ That Can Translate Unspoken Thoughts into Speech

A team of researchers led by Dr. Edward Chang at the University of California in San Francisco has developed a ‘brain decoder’ – a kind of mind-reading device that effectively translates your neural activity into recognizable speech, 75% of the time.

The study entitled ‘Speech synthesis from neural decoding of spoken sentences,’ published Wednesday (April 24) in the journal Nature, involved five epileptic volunteers, including four women and one man awaiting neurosurgery for their condition.

The patients had temporary electrodes implanted on their brain surface as a pre-surgery procedure to help identify and map the areas of the brain responsible for their affliction.

For the study, additional sensors were attached to the lips, tongue, and teeth to monitor their movements as the volunteers were made to read out hundreds of sentences, mostly passages from children’s classics like Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, and The Frog Prince.

Electrical activity in the brains related to their vocal tract movement during the reading exercise was decoded and fed to a specially programmed computer system to produce intelligible sentences.

In humans, the vocal tract comprises the oral cavity, which includes the lips, inner cheeks, tongue, upper and lower gums, floor and roof of the mouth, and the small area behind the wisdom teeth, in addition to the nasal cavity, larynx, and the pharynx – all of which work in near-perfect harmony to produce intelligible sentences when we talk.

Dr. Chang’s team was able to equate the neural signals responsible for the movement of each of the vocal tract components with the participants’ speech.

The decoded neural activity was then converted into synthesized language with the help of a neural network linked to a voice synthesizer.

“Recurrent neural networks first decoded directly recorded cortical activity into representations of articulatory movement, and then transformed these representations into speech acoustics,” wrote the authors of the study.

To put it as simply as possible, it was, basically, a two-step process that involved translating neural activity into vocal movements and then transforming those movements into speech.

Although the reproduced speech sounds pretty much, well, synthetic, it is remarkably intelligible.

Also, considering that this is just the beginning, we can expect to see enhanced speech quality as the technology is further researched and fine-tuned in times to come.

This brief video clip will let you know exactly what we’re talking about here.

What’s amazing is that not only did the breakthrough decoder transform sentences that were read aloud, but it was also able to translate silently mimed sentences into audible speech.

In order to determine the recognizability of the decoded speech, hundreds of volunteers were asked to listen to 101 synthesized sentences and transcribe what they heard.

The results – as varied as they turned out to be – were nevertheless encouraging enough to warrant further research of the technology, as it has the potential to improve the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people suffering from speech impairment due to conditions such as paralysis, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ), throat cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

“Of the 101 synthesized trials, at least one listener was able to provide a perfect transcription for 82 sentences with a 25-word pool and 60 sentences with a 50-word pool,” wrote the authors, adding that the findings “may be an important next step in realizing speech restoration for patients with paralysis.”

Conventional speech-synthesizing technology in use today involves interpreting how speech sounds are represented in the brains – a tedious, time-consuming process that, at best, translates about eight words per minute; far slower than the 100-150 words per minute that natural speech is capable of.

The new technology has the potential to overcome these limitations and make near-normal conversation a reality, hopefully, in the not too distant future.

Dr. Chang’s team followed a different route, targeting those areas of the brain that send signals to the various vocal tract components, discussed earlier, in order for them to move in perfect unison, thereby enabling speech.

“For the first time … we can generate entire spoken sentences based on an individual’s brain activity,” said Chang.

“This is an exhilarating proof of principle that, with technology that is already within reach, we should be able to build a device that is clinically viable in patients with speech loss,” added the lead author of the paper.

Kate Watkins, a cognitive neuroscience professor at the University of Oxford, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that the research was a “huge advance” that could prove to be “really important for providing people who have no means of producing language with a device that could deliver that for them.”

“The brain is the most efficient machine that has evolved over millennia, and speech is one of the hallmarks of behavior of humans that sets us apart from even all the non-human primates,” Gopala Anumanchipalli, one of the co-authors of the study. was quoted by National Geographic as saying.

“And we take it for granted—we don’t even realize how complex this motor behavior is,” Anumanchipalli said.

In an accompanying News and Views article in the journal Nature, Yahia H. Ali and Chethan Pandarinath from Emory University, Atlanta, US, have expressed hope that continued research will go a long way in helping people with speech issues “regain the ability to freely speak their minds and reconnect with the world around them.”

While there’s still a lot of work left to be done before the technology can be perfected, it’s good to know that we’re headed in the right direction.

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From The Editors Science

Images of Giant Spinning Ice Disk in a Maine River Awes People Across the Globe

A huge spinning ice disk that suddenly appeared on the surface of the Presumpscot River in the city of Westbrook, Maine, this week, has generated a lot of interest on social media.

People are having a field day with their own explanations of this gigantic version of a rare natural phenomenon, with comparisons being drawn with crop circles and the surface of the moon, while some have even gone to the extent of calling it the handiwork of aliens.

“Cool! Looks like a moon,” said a certain Candice Dutil.

“Wessie,” wrote Matt Ireland.

“Frozen Crop Circle,” posted David Lawrence.

While sightings of rotating ice disks on water bodies dates as far back as the late nineteenth century, none has been as huge as the one the people of Westbrook have been treated to this week.

The intriguing circle of ice, which measures some 90 meters (300 feet) in diameter, was spinning counter-clockwise at the speed of what locals described as a “brisk walk.”

The disk has apparently stopped spinning and has moved to the other side of the river.

According to Kenneth G. Libbrecht, an ice physics expert and a professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., ice disks are generally twenty to thirty feet across, which effectively makes the Presumpscot River disk 10-15 times larger – a record, indeed.

“It might be a world-record size if anybody were keeping track,” Libbrecht told The New York Times.

Rob Mitchell, a local entrepreneur with business interests at the Presumpscot riverfront alerted Westbrook city’s marketing and communications manager Tina Radel about the somewhat eerie- looking formation on Monday.

“There were ducks sitting on it,” Mitchell said.

“The ducks were rotating on this big Lazy Susan. It was a big duck-go-round,” he added.

The incredible drone footage that Radel released later has gone viral on the internet, generating “an overwhelming reaction,” according to Radel.

“People are loving it,” she said.

According to the Portland Press Herald, the spinning sheet of ice has created almost as much buzz in Westbrook as the spotting of a giant snake devouring a beaver in the same area had done in 2016.

While there are no footages of the snake, which was dubbed “Wessie” by the locals, the rotating sheet of ice is a stark reality and the images and videos will always be there for all to see and marvel at, long after the ice has melted into the waters of Presumpscot.

Watch the drone footage here.

It kind of looks like a crop circle,” Doug Bertlesman, a web developer at Ethos Marketing, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

“It’s pretty wild to look at,” he said, adding: “It’s certainly not every day that you can watch a spinning circle of ice in the river.”

While the disk was certainly rotating, it appeared to be doing so at a fixed spot, without going upstream or downstream at the time.

“It’s stuck right there. It’s not going anywhere,” Mitchell said. “I think it will continue to gain in thickness as long as it keeps spinning.”

However, as mentioned, the disk has shifted to the opposite bank of the river and appears to have stopped rotating.

The initial explanation for these ice disks was that swirling eddies caused circles of ice to form and rotate on rivers.

“Since the water in the eddy is flowing more slowly than the main current, it’s more likely to freeze, creating the icy disc,” The Boston Globe quoted John Huth – an experimental physicist at Harvard University, as saying

“The icy disc retains the rotation of the eddy, as it’s caught in it,” he explained.

However, this explanation is not entirely correct because if eddies were the sole cause for these spinning mysteries then smaller disks would spin faster than larger ones, but the fact is that these circles of ice are known to rotate at roughly the same speed regardless of their size.

Also, if eddies were the reason, ice disks would not have spun on still water which they are also known to do.

Subsequent experiments, however, suggested that the water melting off the disks sank straight down because of being colder and, hence, denser than the surrounding waters of the river.

Just like the water in your kitchen sink spins before draining out, the sinking cold water from the melting disk also swirls like an eddy as it goes down, causing the ice to spin on the surface.

https://twitter.com/daisandconfused/status/1085022237986615296

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From The Editors Science

China’s Chang’e-4 Mission Witnesses the First Seeds Germinate on Moon

Update: The lunar cottonseed sprouts died after mission scientists were forced to cut the power supply to the batteries that kept them alive.

The news came two days after it was announced that cottonseeds had sprouted on the moon.

The extreme conditions on the inhospitable far side of the moon also caused other seeds, yeast and fruit fly eggs to die too.

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China’s Chang’e-4 mission has literally sown the first seeds for future lunar living by managing to sprout cotton seeds it carried with it to the far side of the moon.

Images beamed back by Chang’e-4 and released by the Advanced Technology Research Institute at Chongqing University clearly show small green shoots that have sprouted through a grid-like structure inside a canister in which the experimental cotton seeds are housed.

Although the probe has also carried with it seeds for potato, rockcress, and rape plant, these were the only seeds that have sprouted so far; it remains to be seen when, or if, the others follow suit.

The lunar lander has also carried with it some experimental silkworm eggs, fruit fly pupae, and yeast.

While similar experiments have been successfully carried out on the International Space Station, this is the first time seed of any kind has sprouted on the moon, which is being seen as a significant step towards sustaining extended space missions where the ability to grow plants will come in super handy.

“This is the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface,” said Xie Gengxin, who led the design of the experiment, on Tuesday (Jan 15).

Earlier this year, in a never-before-attempted mission, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) soft-landed a robotic probe, the Chang’e-4, in a crater within a crater on the far side of the moon.

The spacecraft made a picture-perfect touch down in the Von Karman Crater – a huge southern hemisphere impact crater, measuring about 112 miles (180 kilometers) in diameter, located within an even bigger impact crater – the 1,600-mile (2,500-kilometer) South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Although Chang’e-4 had made it to the Moon’s orbit four days after launch, it began its final descent about three weeks later from an elliptical landing orbit almost 10 miles above the lunar surface.

When it was 100 meters above the landing site, the spacecraft briefly paused in its vertical approach, hovering over the landing zone to survey the topography below and selecting a relatively flat spot before resuming its descent.

The impeccable touchdown was appreciated by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who congratulated the mission team on “a successful landing on the far side of the Moon,” calling it “a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment.”

The final approach phases were achieved autonomously by the spacecraft, as remote intervention from mission control in China was not possible during this stage of the mission.

“This is a great technological accomplishment as it was out of sight of Earth, so signals are relayed back by their orbiter, and most of the landing was actually done autonomously in difficult terrain,” Prof. Andrew Coates of UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) in Surrey, England, was quoted by The Guardian as saying.

“The landing was almost vertical because of the surrounding hills,” Prof. Coates added.

Soon after landing, Chang’e-4 deployed its lunar rover named “Yutu-2” – Chinese for “Jade Rabbit-2” – which sent back the first ever close-up shot of the mysterious far side of our only known natural satellite.

The Chinese space agency also shared an image of Yutu-2’s deployment, along with pre- and post-landing images, all of which were relayed through the Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) satellite orbiting at the Earth-moon Lagrange point 2 beyond the far side.

Queqiao was, in fact, launched in May last year for the exact same purpose because direct communication with the far side of the Moon is impossible, what with the Moon’s entire mass blocking the exchange of direct signals to and from Earth.

While humans have glimpsed, and even mapped, the lunar far side in the past – thanks to NASA’s Apollo 8 mission half a century ago and the Soviet Luna 3 mission a decade prior to that – no spacecraft had ever touched down on the untrodden ground, until Chang’e-4 changed all of that.

In the past decade. or so, China has made rapid advances in space technology and is the only country in the world to have soft-landed a space vehicle on the Moon since the then Soviet Union’s 1976 Luna 24 mission to retrieve samples Moon soil.

China achieved the feat in December 2013, landing its Chang’e-3 rover on Mare Imbrium –  a vast lava plain within the Imbrium Basin on the near side of the Moon, becoming only the third country after Russia and the United States to achieve a lunar touchdown.

Encouraged by Chang’e-3’s success, China stepped up its lunar program for an even bigger mission, the first phase of which came to a successful conclusion with Chang’e-4’s Thursday landing on the targeted far side.

Comprising of a lander and a small rover, Chang’e-4 was, in fact, a backup spacecraft manufactured with the Chang’e-3.

It was only in 2015 that China announced its plans of using the spare space vehicle to launch something so complex that it had never been attempted before.

The nearly four-metric-ton Chang’e-4 has carried with it eight scientific instruments – four each on the lander and the rover.

The lander is equipped with the Landing Camera (LCAM), the Terrain Camera (TCAM), the Low-Frequency Spectrometer (LFS), and the Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND).

And, the rover is carrying the Panoramic Camera (PCAM), the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS), and the Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals (ASAN).

As mentioned, Chang’e-4 also carried with it a small experimental payload of silkworm eggs, fruit fly pupae and yeast, in addition to seeds for potato, rockcress, rape plant, and cotton to check how they develop in the inhospitable lunar environment.

The huge amounts of scientific data and information that the spacecraft’s state-of-the-art instruments are capable of garnering will go a long way in helping researchers understand why the far side of our Moon is so vastly different from the side we’re familiar with.

For example, the lunar terrain on the tidally-locked near side is largely dark basaltic plains called the lunar maria, while the far side is mountainous and rugged and, hence, difficult to land anything on.

Since the Moon takes the same amount of time (28 days) to orbit our planet as it does to rotate once on its axis, we always get to see the same side of the natural satellite, with the opposite side forever hidden from view.

“Since the far side of the moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it’s an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can ‘listen’ to the deeper reaches of the cosmos,” CNSA’s deputy director for the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center, Tongjie Liu, was quoted by CNN as saying.

China’s next lunar run will be the Chang’e-5 sample-retrieval mission, which CNSA started preparing for in October 2014 when it launched the Chang’e-5T1 mission to run atmospheric re-entry tests on the -4Chang’e-5 capsule.

“Experts are still discussing and verifying the feasibility of subsequent projects, but it’s confirmed that there will be another three missions after Chang’e 5,” said Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), at a press conference.

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From The Editors Technology

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500: The Beast is Unleashed

U.S. automaker Ford took the cover of its new 700-plus-horsepower beast, the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, at the Detroit Auto Show on Monday (Jan 14), which the company claims is the quickest street legal Mustang ever to roll out of a Ford facility.

The monster of a car features the iconic cobra logo in all its glory and uses further development and supercharged versions of the Mustang GT350’s 5.2-liter V8 engine.

Power is delivered to the rear wheels through a carbon fiber driveshaft, and in pursuit of set and move to improve drag and lap time, the new GT500 has been given a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, perfect for those 100-millisecond gear shifts.

The different drive-modes include Normal, Weather, Sport, Drag and Track.

Unfortunately, the GT500 hundred doesn’t come in a manual transmission option but the company might just give in to public demand and introduce a manual version sometime in the future.

Ford predicts a 0 to 60mph time in the mid-three-second range and a quarter mile in under eleven seconds, which, as mentioned, makes it the fastest ever Mustang.

The Detroit carmaker has also said that it isn’t just for the quarter mile, as it will be able to handle all the corners and hammering around big road courses, too.

The new GT500 will be a lot faster around the track than the previous GT350R, although there’s no official track time, yet.

Apparently, this 2020 model is going to be more refined and more friendly; so, does that mean there’s going to be no more crowd killers? We’ll see.

As mentioned, it borrows technology from the Ford GT Supercar as well as the race-tuned Mustang GT 4.

As for changes, the all-aluminum hand-built engine requires a much larger airflow, so the grille is much larger than before.

There is also a new hood (with hood pins) covering the engine of the new GT500 and there’s also a huge vent; in fact, it’s one of the biggest vents that’s been put on a production Ford.

The large front grille and louvered bonnet vents create fifty percent more airflow than the GT350 and help generate more downforce than any of the factory Mustang.

The GT500 also features magnetic ride control and 16.5-inch front disks which Ford claims are the largest on any domestic production coupe.

The car has a set of six-piston Brembo calipers in the wheels up front and four-piston units at the back.

The GT500 gets its own unique rear diffuser with four 5-inch exhaust tips sticking out at the back.

It sits on four performance-specific Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer tires for the Carbon Fiber Track Pack option.

The Carbon Fiber Track Pack also includes 20-inch carbon fiber wheels and adjustable rear wing and deletes the rear seats to reduce wear.

As for the interior of the new GT500, it has only slightly changed from the GT350, including a nice carbon fiber dash, unique magnesium gear shifters for the automatic, a 12-speaker B&O Play audio system, power-adjustable seats with optional swede fabric or Recaro bucket seats that are safety harness-compatible.

The car does, however, retain the 12-inch instrument cluster and 8-inch Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The gearshift lever has been replaced with a rotary dial and instead of a regular handbrake the GT500 has an automatic electric handbrake – so, it’s just a little switch.

The GT500’s massive 700 HP engine is supposed to rival that of the 707 HP Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

To give an even better perspective, the previous 2007 GT500 model, which was revealed at the 2005 New York Auto Show, used a supercharged and Intercool modular 5.4-liter V8 engine rated at 500 HP and 480 lb-ft of torque.

The GT500 is essentially a street track car for the Mustangs.

There are claims that the new GT500 Shelby will surprise Supercar owners with its Ford performance racing track and supercharged engine.

The GT500 has been in development for over a year, now, with Ford having previously confirmed the car’s wide longitudinal body stripes in a teaser video released before the Detroit Auto Show last year.

The car will go on sale in the US later this year, replacing the GT350 as a flagship of the Mustang line-up.

The price hasn’t been announced yet.

The car will be made available in five color options, including Lime Green, Iconic Silver, Twister Orange, Red Hot.

The Blue on display at the Detroit event didn’t look any less stunning, too.

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From The Editors Technology

Nubia X: Nubia’s New Flagship Phone Has a Dedicated Selfie Screen on the Back

The general perception that recent smartphones have all been pretty much the same with only a few small points of differentiation is all going to change with the new Nubia X – a truly one-of-a-kind smartphone.

In case you didn’t know, Nubia Technology started off as a fully-owned subsidiary of Chinese company ZTE in 2012, becoming independent in 2015.

This review will, therefore, be slightly different from the run-of-the-mill reviews of newly released devices, as we’re going to focus mainly on the two-screen aspect of the phone, with a brief general spec overview.

What makes the Nubia X a unique device is the fact that it comes with not one but two screens and because of it, it has altogether eliminated the front-facing camera, giving us full-fledged notch-less display with a 96 percent screen-to-body ratio.

The phone is shipped with a SIM tray ejector tool, some paperwork, a fast charger with a USB-C cable and a USB-C 3 to 3.55mm audio jack.

While the front of the Nubia X looks like a fairly generic black phone, the absence of the otherwise ubiquitous notch is the first thing that should strike you and, to be honest, this single feature knocks out quite a few phones that we know of.

Looking at the sides and top you will find no sliders or pop-up cameras, making you wonder where the selfie camera is, just in case you didn’t know.

The phone has very rounded-off sides and back edges and there’s something else that’s unusual, there are two side fingerprint readers – one each on each on either side of the phone.

Just above the right-side FP reader is the all-important power button, while on the left side you have the volume rocker and the SIM tray.

The top of the device has an IR blaster – for those of you who want to have a little fun with your friends TV – and has an assist mike and two antenna lines.

The bottom of the phone has the main microphone, USB-C port and the lone speaker.

Flipping the phone over, the back has a dual-camera module on the top left along with a flash and some sensors, while the bottom has the Nubia logo and, yes, Nubia has stuck a second screen on to the back as well.

By including a second screen Nubia has, basically, accomplished two things – one, it has managed to do away with the notch on the front, allowing for a beautiful full-screen viewing experience, and two, it has got rid of the front-facing camera for selfies.

First, the 6.26-inch IPS LCD on the front looks fantastic but, as is the case with any LCD panel, has relatively bigger bezels than many other top phones on the market today.

You can’t help but feel that Nubia could have likely used some of the bezel space for a standard front-facing camera; but, then, it wouldn’t make this phone any different from some of the other phones you know, would it?

This is the real differentiation with only a few designs currently going notch-less, with a near-edge-to-edge screen on the front.

Secondly, removing the additional camera tech on the front opened up space both inside and out; also, having a screen on the rear of the phone means you can take your selfies with the best camera on the phone and still know what’s going on in the photo.

Now, let’s look at the rear screen and see what it has to offer.

To start with, in addition to serving as a dedicated selfie display, the 5.1-inch high-definition OLED screen can also be used like the front-facing screen, as it has got multi-touch capability too.

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That’s about all there is to the additional screen on the back, which makes you wonder if that second screen is really worth having just for the sake of selfies and to get rid of the notch.

Well, it’s a subjective matter, as there are many out there who would be thrilled with the unique selfie experience the second screen brings to the table, while others may find it a gimmicky waste of space on an otherwise fine flagship with some killer specs.

Under the hood, the Nubia X packs the stellar Snapdragon 845 chipset, with up to 8GB of RAM but, sadly, the phone is still stuck on Android 8.1 Oreo with the Nubia UI 6.0 heavy skin on top.

You can unlock the phone using either of the fingerprint sensors on the sides, and to switch over to selfie mode you will have to press both sensors simultaneously and flip the phone over to access the second screen.

Despite an additional display, the battery life is pretty decent, as you can get through most of the day with heavy use without dropping below10 percent battery life.

There’s some fun to be had with the main 16 MP camera on this phone and not just with taking selfies – in fact, this offers some fun camera modes you haven’t seen in a while.

While you have the standard photo, video, portrait and pro modes, the Nubia X has what the company calls a camera family of apps, which is a colorfully-labeled group of camera icons that are full of fun, especially for those who like to get a little creative with their photography.

The image quality is good and the videos look clean enough.

There’s no optical image stabilization (OIS); so, it’s all up to the phone to digitally stabilize your actions and although it does pretty well, it is far from the quality of a Gimbal or an OIS.

While some of you might be highly impressed with the second screen option, there are others that might feel it offers only a cosmetic difference.

The phone has internal hardware and some software options that are far more useful and unique in an important way than the second screen.

But, again, without that second screen many people might not give the phone a second look.

Main features and specs of the Nubia X

  • Front display: 6.3-inch LCD, 2,280×1,080-pixel resolution
  • Rear display: 5.1-inch OLED, 1,520×720-pixel resolution
  • Nubia’s own UI, based on Android 8.1 Oreo
  • In-screen fingerprint scanner
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
  • Adreno 630 GPU
  • 6GB or 8GB of RAM
  • Up to 128GB of storage
  • 3,800-mAh battery
  • Dimensions (HWD): 6 x 2.9 x 0.33 inches (152 x 74 x 8.4 mm)
  • Weighs 6.4 ounces (181 grams)
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From The Editors Science

Scientists Detect Thirteen Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) from 1.5 Light Years Away

Using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME)/FRB radio telescope at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical

Observatory in British Columbia, scientists have detected thirteen fast radio bursts, or FRBs, including one that repeated as many as six times.
Fast Radio Bursts, or FRBs, which are basically highly dispersed radio signals from outside the Milky Way that last for a few milliseconds, have been baffling scientists for years, now.

What’s different about these thirteen FRBs, though, is the fact that they are brighter and have the lowest radio frequency compared to previous detections, which the researchers think has something to do with their source of origin roughly 1.5 billion lightyears away.

“It doesn’t mean that they’re traveling from further away,” study author Shriharsh Tendulkar, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of physics at McGill University, was quoted by National Geographic as saying.

“As light propagates through the hot gas and plasma in the intergalactic medium and the interstellar medium, it has a bunch of different effects on the signal,” Tendulkar said.

The fact that at least seven of the thirteen blasts detected by the CHIME/FRB instrument were as low as 400 MHz points towards the possibility of even lower frequency signals out there – too low for CHIME to pick up.

“[We now know] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth,” explained Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member from the National Research Council of Canada.

“That tells us something about the environments and the sources,” he said, adding: “We haven’t solved the problem, but it’s several more pieces in the puzzle.”

“Whatever the source of these radio waves is, it’s interesting to see how wide a range of frequencies it can produce,” said Arun Naidu, another CHIME team member from McGill University.

“There are some models where intrinsically the source can’t produce anything below a certain frequency,” Naidu added.

While this astrophysical phenomenon is not an uncommon occurrence, repeating series of FRBs definitely is, as this is only the second instance in sixteen years that scientists have detected a “repeater.”

FRBs never seemed to repeat themselves until FRB 121102 was first discovered on November 2, 2012, at precisely 06:35:53.244 (Date and Time [UTC] for 1581.804688 MHz) by the Peurto Rico-Arecibo Observatory radio telescope.

In 2015, Shami Chatterjee, a senior researcher at the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science and an international team of astronomers were able to accurately pinpoint the source of FRB 121102, which they said was a dwarf galaxy some 3 billion lightyears away from Earth – twice the distance of the latest repeater – FRB 180814.

By the way, fast radio bursts are named according to the date the signal is first detected – in the YYMMDD format prefixed by the letters FRB; which means FRB 180814 was detected on Aug 14, 2018, and the first repeater FRB 121102 was picked up on Nov 2, 2012.

“The host galaxy for this FRB appears to be a very humble and unassuming dwarf galaxy, which is less than 1 percent of the mass of our Milky Way galaxy,” Tendulkar said in a statement at the time.

“That’s surprising. One would generally expect most FRBs to come from large galaxies which have the largest numbers of stars and neutron stars — remnants of massive stars,” he added.

Although the origins of the two repeaters are 1.5 billion light years apart, there are striking structural similarities between them, notes Tendulkar.

“The fact that we see these multiple structures in the burst was very similar to the first repeating fast radio burst. This is very uncommon,” he said.

“Now there is this tantalizing evidence that these bursts’ structures are seen only in repeaters,” he concluded.

This basically means that FRBs sharing the same structure are possibly repeaters even if they don’t repeat when detected.

Determined to find more conclusive evidence, the researchers are continuing their hunt for more FRBs, keeping the CHIME/FRB instrument trained on the region of the sky where the high-speed radio bursts came from, in addition to following up on already detected FRBs with other radio telescopes.

“We are trying to build up clues and trying to understand whether the repeating fast radio bursts and single fast radio bursts are different populations,” Tendulkar said.

“Do they come from different objects? Or are they related in some way to each other? We are trying to figure these things out, so that’s really exciting,” he added.

“The CHIME discovery points to a huge potential,” said Chatterjee.

“I’m intensely curious how many [fast radio bursts] they are sitting on now. They must have dozens or hundreds,” he added.

Another pertinent question that Tendulkar and the CHIME team would probably be trying to find an answer to would be:

What cosmic event creates these millisecond-duration bursts of radio signals that reach Earth from distances of 1.5 and 3 billion lightyears and has the capacity of generating more energy than 500 million Suns?

“There is a lot of fun in the not knowing,” says Tendulkar.

“You keep adding more information, but as in all sciences, whenever you solve one mystery, it always opens up three more.”

So, are we talking about aliens here?

Unlikely, but you never know!

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From The Editors Technology

IBM Q System One: World’s First Quantum Computer for Scientific and Commercial Use

In what IBM says “is a major step forward in the commercialization of quantum computing,” the company unveiled the world’s first quantum computer on day one of the ongoing CES 2019.

Named IBM Q System One, the 20-qubit system is a bold attempt by the Armonk, New York-based company to find commercial applications for quantum computing, which until now had been confined to research labs and occasional demos.

“This new system is critical in expanding quantum computing beyond the walls of the research lab as we work to develop practical quantum applications for business and science,” said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research and senior vice president of Hybrid Cloud.

While IBM claims that its Q System One is the “world’s first integrated universal approximate quantum computing system designed for scientific and commercial use,” it also acknowledges that a lot of work still remains to be done in order to make it worthy of real-world commercial applications.

“IBM Q systems are designed to one day tackle problems that are currently seen as too complex and exponential in nature for classical systems to handle,” says the company.

Winfried Hensinger, a quantum technologies professor at the University of Sussex in the U.K. couldn’t have explained the experimental system’s current limitations better when he told The Verge that it was more of a “stepping stone’ than a practical system for quantum computing.

“Don’t think of this as a quantum computer that can solve all of the problems quantum computing is known for,” the professor was quoted by the technology news network as saying.

“Think of it as a prototype machine that allows you to test and further develop some of the programming that might be useful in the future,” Hensinger added.

One of the applications that the company foresees for quantum computing in times to come is financial data modeling and identifying key global risk factors to allow for more prudent investment decisions.

It can also prove its worth in “finding the optimal path across global systems for ultra-efficient logistics and optimizing fleet operations for deliveries,” says IBM.

The IBM system could also find itself playing a significant role in areas such as artificial intelligence, or materials and drug discovery, to cite a couple more examples.

In fact, quantum computing can effectively tackle many other complex issues that are way beyond the capabilities of today’s classical computers; it’s just a matter of developing the technology to a level where its full potential can truly be tapped.

Meanwhile, the IT behemoth plans to launch a new IBM Q Quantum Computation Center for commercial clients in Poughkeepsie, New York, sometime later this year.

The new center will add to the existing IBM Q Network of commercial quantum computing program with systems at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, New York.

“This new center will house some of the world’s most advanced cloud-based quantum computing systems, which will be accessible to members of the IBM Q Network, a worldwide community of leading Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions, and national research labs working with IBM to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for business and science,” says IBM.

However, the company is yet to take a decision on the number of quantum systems the new center will eventually house, according to the vice president for IBM Q Strategy & Ecosystems, Bob Sutor.

This stunning piece of computing art on display at CES 2019 is a testimony to the skills and perseverance of a world-class team of industrial designers, architects, and manufacturers, who worked alongside IBM Research scientists and systems engineers to make it a reality, albeit a limited one.

The companies involved in this collaborative endeavour include U.K.-based industrial and interior design studios Map Project Office and Universal Design Studio, as well as a Milan-based Italian company called Goppion which is known for manufacturing high-end museum display cases, including the ones that house the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, and the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, U.K.

The computing unit itself is housed inside a nine-foot-tall and nine-foot-wide airtight box made of half-inch thick borosilicate glass, together making up the IBM Q System One.

The “sophisticated, modular and compact design,” as the company describes it, has been optimized for stability, reliability and continuous commercial use.

IBM says it’s the “first quantum system to consolidate thousands of components into a glass-enclosed, air-tight environment built specifically for business use, a milestone in the evolution of commercial quantum computers.”

In the lab versions of quantum computers, replacing a qubit chip would take up as many as three full days: 36 hours for warming up the room before the swap out and another 36 hours to cool the room back down.

“If you only had one system 4 days is a long time,” said Sutor, adding, “Now with the new design we can shorten it to hours.”

Here’s a short video of the world’s first integrated quantum computing system – the IBM Q System One.

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From The Editors Science

NASA to Crash 13,500mph Spacecraft into an Asteroid Moon in Experimental Earth-Saving Mission

With some 20,000 near-Earth asteroids and comets orbiting the Sun, NASA and other space agencies have been constantly tracking these near-Earth objects (NEOs) since the 1990s in a joint initiative called ‘Spaceguard.”

However, merely chasing these potential threats is not going to save Earth from another mass extinction and, probably, thousands of years of ice age, should one of them slam into us.

The good news is that NASA has been working on a planetary-defense mission called DART, an acronym for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, to save us from exactly such an eventuality.

DART is essentially an impactor spacecraft that NASA plans to crash into an asteroid satellite at 13,500 miles per hour in an effort to change its course.

The idea is to find out how much the car-sized impactor can change the trajectory of the flying space rock and whether it’s enough to redirect an Earth-bound asteroid safely away from us.

The space rock that NASA has in its crosshairs for the planned Oct 2022 smash-up is, in fact, a satellite moonlet nicknamed Didymoon, about seven million miles away from Earth.

The moonlet, which is about 150 meters across, orbits an 800-meter-wide asteroid called Didymos, from where it gets its nickname.

While Didymoon is not on a collision course with Earth and poses no threat to us whatsoever, a detailed study of the space object and then slamming into it to bump it off its bearings should provide the DART team with useful data that can come in handy in averting a real asteroid threat if ever it comes to that.

Speaking to Space.com at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Nancy Chabot – a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and project scientist for DART – said that “science-driven” space missions were largely focused on understanding the origins of our solar system and its building blocks, but planetary defense was all “about the present solar system and what are we going to do in the present.”

Chabot says that tracking the moonlet and knowing its exact location, instead of having a ballpark idea of its whereabouts, is going to be crucial to the mission because the DART team wants to hit it head-on for maximum impact.

“It’s interesting because it’s a space mission, but the telescopes are such a huge, important part of the mission succeeding,” Chabot told space news website.

“We have to know where this moon is in order to impact it, to make this maximum deflection,” she said.

“We kind of take for granted that we know where everything is at all times,” she continued

“We understand where the system is as a whole, but specifically where that moon’s gonna be [requires tracking] because we want to try to hit it head-on,” Chabot added.

However, at least ten to twenty years’ advance warning will be needed to pull off something like redirecting a huge asteroid in a real-threat scenario, according to Chabot.

She says that “the idea of a kinetic impactor is definitely not like [the movie] ‘Armageddon,’ where you go up at the last hour and you know, save the Earth.”

She adds: “This is something that you would do five, 10, 15, 20 years in advance — gently nudge the asteroid so it just sails merrily on its way and doesn’t impact the Earth.”

The 14 radar images below, captured by the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico in November 2003, show Didymos (65803) and its moonlet.

 (Credit: NASA)

If all goes according to plan, the mission will launch as early as June 2021, with an expected collision date in Oct 2022, as mentioned earlier.

While ground telescopes will track the new course of the twin objects post-impact, an Italian Space Agency CubeSat called Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids will accompany DART on its mission to keep an eye on proceedings.

Additionally, as part of an international Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch two CubeSats, APEX (Asteroid Prospection Explorer) and Juventas, onboard the agency’s Hera spacecraft, in time to reach the binary asteroid system sometime in 2026 to record the effects of the DART collision, according to NASA.

“To test potential techniques in “deflecting” an asteroid – one of the preferred methods for mitigating a threat – DART will travel to the Didymos binary asteroid system via its a xenon-based electric propulsion system, steering with an onboard camera and sophisticated autonomous navigation software,” says the U.S. space agency.

DART is expected to send back a close-up shot of the Didymoon surface – its last transmission to Earth – before it is pulverized into space dust.

For any Solar System body to qualify as a near-Earth object, its closest approach to the Sun has to be less than 1.3 astronomical units (AU), the equivalent of nearly 121 million miles.

Among the 20,000 near-Earth asteroids and comets orbiting the Sun is a 500-meter-wide asteroid called Bennu, which has a 1-in-2,700 chance of smashing into Earth sometime between 2175 and 2196, say scientists.

The potentially hazardous object (PHO), “listed on the Sentry Risk Table with the second-highest cumulative rating on the Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale,” is currently 54 million miles from Earth.

The Sun-orbiting asteroid has been in NASA’s crosshairs ever since its discovery by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project in 1999.

So focussed has the space agency been on Bennu that in 2016 it sent its ORISIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) spacecraft to the asteroid on a sample-return mission.

After traveling through space for more than two years, the spacecraft finally reached the proximity of Bennu last month.

Over the coming months, the NASA spaceship will map the asteroid to identify the best possible sample-collection site before making a slow descent to the surface to collect samples using its robotic arm.

OSIRIS-REx will begin its return journey after it has safely tucked away its precious cargo of Bennu samples inside a Sample-Return Capsule (SRC).

The SRC is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and land at the U.S.

Air Force Utah Test and Training Range on Sep 24, 2023 – about a year after DART smashes into Didymoon, hopefully, achieving the desired results.

For all we know, Bennu might just turn out be the asteroid that NASA has to knock off-course to save the planet in the future; that’s when the knowledge gained from the DART mission will come in handy – unless the 500-meter flying rock hits us sooner.

Time will tell.

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From The Editors Technology

Trump Tells Apple to Withdraw From China and Start Making iPhones at Home

Last week, a day after Apple lost $57 billion in market value, resulting from the plunge the company’s stocks took after it slashed its revenue forecast, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters at a White House press conference that he was not really worried about it.

No, I’m not,” he said when a reporter asked him if he was concerned about the tech giant’s stock debacle.

“I mean, look, they’ve gone up a lot,” Trump said, adding, “You know, they’ve gone up hundreds of percent since [I’ve become] president.”
He also said: “Apple was at a number that was incredible, and they’re going to be fine.”

However, he did express his dissatisfaction with the fact that Apple continues to manufacture its products in China when making them at home was a better option, he thought, for the Cupertino-based company.

The US president probably doesn’t realize that moving iPhone production out of China is easier said than done.

Here’s what Dan Ives, Wedbush Managing Director of equity research, told CNN Business.

“Man could be on Mars before Apple is producing more of its iPhones in the United States, just from a supply chain cost perspective.”

In a letter to Apple investors, company CEO Tim Cook cited a number of reasons for the company’s modest projection for the last quarter, including, but not limited to, below par iPhone sales, US-China trade war, and its own reduced-price iPhone battery replacement scheme.

Although emerging markets, including China, were largely responsible for the year-over-year decline in iPhone revenue, iPhone upgrades in developed markets were also “not as strong as we thought they would be,” Cook wrote.

He added: “While macroeconomic challenges in some markets were a key contributor to this trend, we believe there are other factors broadly impacting our iPhone performance, including consumers adapting to a world with fewer carrier subsidies, US dollar strength-related price increases, and some customers taking advantage of significantly reduced pricing for iPhone battery replacements.”

Back to Trump and his soft Apple-bashing, the US president said that the Apple’s stock would have no bearing on the US economy because the iPhone company makes its products in China, something that the company has refuted.

“Apple is a great company. Look, I have to worry about our country,” he said at the press conference, adding, “Don’t forget, Apple makes the product in China.”

He wasn’t done yet, as he went on to say, “I told Tim Cook, who’s a friend of mine who I like a lot, make your product in the United States.”

If you are wondering whether or not his friendship with Cook is on a reciprocal basis, you’re not alone.

He added: “Build those big beautiful plants that go on for miles. Build those plants in the United States. I’d like that even better. Apple makes its product in China. China is the biggest beneficiary of Apple … because they build their product mostly in China.”

He had more to say.

“But now, [Cook is] investing $350 billion — because of what we did with taxes and the incentives that we created — in the United States,” Trump said. “He’s going to build a campus and lots of other places.”

He said his focus was on the nation and that he wanted Apple to make its iPhones and all of its other products in the United States, asserting that it “will take place.”

However, the $350 billion investment Trump is talking about is mostly going towards tax repatriation and to Apple suppliers, with a likelihood of less than ten percent of the amount ending up in investments in the country, according to a Politifact report last year after Trump first bragged about it.

As far as building campuses in the country is concerned, Apple did announce in December that it was planning to spend $1 billion to build a brand new campus in Austin, Texas, that would eventually employ 15,000 workers.

It is part of the company’s three-year expansion drive to build new facilities in Seattle, San Diego, Culver City, Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado, with a strong likelihood of more such facilities coming up in other US cities in the longer term.

“Apple is proud to bring new investment, jobs and opportunity to cities across the United States and to significantly deepen our quarter-century partnership with the city and people of Austin,” company CEO, Tim Cook said in a Dec 13 press release.

“Talent, creativity and tomorrow’s breakthrough ideas aren’t limited by region or zip code, and, with this new expansion, we’re redoubling our commitment to cultivating the high-tech sector and workforce nationwide,” said the Apple CEO.

Apple was apparently living up to its January 2018 promise of generating employment for at least 20,000 people across the nation by 2023, having already created 6,000 jobs in the U.S. last year.

The Steve Jobs-founded company is looking to invest a whopping $10 billion in data centers across the country over the next five years, with plans of spending nearly half of it by the end of 2019.

Work is already underway to expand the company’s existing data centers in North Carolina, Arizona, and Nevada, in addition to a new 400,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art data center being planned for Waukee, Iowa, to boost its iMessage, Siri, the App Store, and other services in the country.