Nasa’s Curiosity Rover Captures Petrified Sand Dunes on Mars

Nasa’s Curiosity rover has captured large-scale inclined bedding structures on Mars – characteristic of deposits that formed as sand dunes and then cemented into rock.

This sandstone outcrop – part of a geological layer that Curiosity’s science team calls the Stimson unit – has a structure called crossbedding on a large scale that the team has interpreted as deposits of sand dunes formed by wind.

Similar-looking petrified sand dunes are common in the US southwest.

“Geometry and orientation of the crossbedding give information about the directions of the winds that produced the dunes,” the US space agency said in a statement.

The Stimson unit overlies a layer of mudstone that was deposited in a lake environment.

Curiosity has been examining successively higher and younger layers of Mount Sharp, starting with the mudstone at the mountain’s base, for evidence about changes in the area’s ancient environment.

Outcrops of the Stimson unit sandstone are still accessible to the rover and researchers plan to use the rover to collect and analyse a drilled sample of Stimson unit sandstone this month.

Curiosity has been working on Mars since early August 2012. It reached the base of Mount Sharp last year after fruitfully investigating outcrops closer to its landing site and then trekking to the mountain.

Hardware: Rivals Launching On PS4

Hardware: Rivals

Dan Durnin from SCE Connected Content Group has taken to the PlayStation blog this week to announce the upcoming arrival of the Hardware: Rivals game on PlayStation 4 systems.

Watch the announcement launch trailer for the new PS4 Hardware: Rivals game below which provides gamers with a vehicle-based combat game.

Durnin explains little more :

As some of our veteran readers may recognize, this new game builds upon the legacy of a PS2 title, “Hardware: Online Arena”, a vehicle-based combat game that was one of the very first online gaming experiences for PlayStation back in 2002.

We’re a new internal development group here at Sony Computer Entertainment and we’re all very fond of the original game (and some of the team even worked on it!). Armed with PS4, we leapt at the chance to put a new coat of paint on an old friend.

We’ve taken the opportunity to introduce a truckload of upgrades and new features, but the spirit of the original gameplay remains the same. Bringing back the explosive mayhem and online rivalry of vehicle combat has been an absolute pleasure, and we can’t wait for you to get behind the wheel.

 

For more details on the upcoming Hardware: Rivals release on PlayStation 4 consoles jump over to the official PlayStation blog by the link below.

Underground Magma Ocean Could Explain Io’s Misplaced Volcanoes

Tides flowing in a sub-surface ocean of molten rock or magma could explain why Jupiter’s moon appears to have its volcanoes in the “wrong” place, Nasa research reveals.

It implies that oceans beneath the crusts of tidally stressed moons may be more common and last longer than expected.

The phenomenon applies to oceans made from either magma or water, potentially increasing the odds for life elsewhere in the universe.

Io is the most volcanically active world in the solar system, with hundreds of erupting volcanoes blasting fountains of lava up to about 400 kms high.

“This is the first time the amount and distribution of heat produced by fluid tides in a subterranean magma ocean on Io has been studied in detail,” said Robert Tyler from the University of Maryland-College Park and Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“We found that the pattern of tidal heating predicted by our fluid-tide model is able to produce the surface heat patterns that are actually observed on Io,” he added.

The intense geological activity at Io is the result of heat produced by a gravitational tug-of-war between Jupiter’s massive gravity and other smaller but precisely timed pulls from Europa, a neighbouring moon that orbits further from Jupiter.

Io orbits faster, completing two orbits every time Europa finishes one.

This regular timing means that Io feels the strongest gravitational pull from its neighbour in the same orbital location, which distorts Io’s orbit into an oval shape.

The new work also has implications for the search for extraterrestrial life.

Scientists think life might originate in such oceans if they have other key ingredients thought to be necessary, such as chemically available energy sources and raw materials.

The new work suggests that such subsurface oceans, whether composed of water or of any other liquid, will be more common and last longer than expected, both within our solar system and beyond.

The paper was published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.

Europe Launches 2 More Galileo Satellites

Europe came a step closer to setting up its own satellite navigation system after successfully launching two Galileo satellites from French Guyana on Friday.

The European Space Agency’s Galileo project is meant as an EU alternative to the U.S. Global Positioning System. Friday’s launch, at 0208 GMT, takes the number of satellites sent up to 10 out of a planned total of 30.

“The day of Galileo’s full operational capability is approaching,” Jan Woerner, Director General of ESA, said in a statement on Friday. “It will be a great day for Europe.”

The Galileo project suffered a setback last year after two satellites were set in an incorrect orbit. They were later nudged into a more viable position.

The satellites were sent up Friday on board a Russian Soyuz launcher and reached their target orbit almost four hours after lift-off.

ESA plans to launch two further Galileo satellites this year.

From next year, Galileo satellites will take off on board a European Ariane rocket launcher that can send up four, rather than two, satellites with a single launch.

Once completed by the end of 2020, the Galileo system will consist of 30 satellites and the necessary ground infrastructure to control the satellites and enable positioning, navigation and timing services.

The Galileo system is fully financed out of the EU budget and the EU will spend EUR 7 billion (roughly Rs. 50,636 crores) on satellite navigation, according to the EC.

Reliance Industries to pump money into startups

Reliance Industries to pump money into startups

MUMBAI: Reliance Industries has expressed its readiness to pump in more money to create an ecosystem to build high-value startups with an objective to put the country on the global map as a startup and innovation hub at par with Israel and the Silicon Valley by 2022.

GenNext Innovation Hub, RIL’s startup accelerator programme run in partnership with Microsoft Ventures, has inducted its second batch of 10 startups this week, which includes two Israeli companies, with a view to bring global exposure to the fledgling startup ecosystem in the country.

“We’ve just taken the first baby steps, and we hope to be on parity with the Silicon Valley and Israel, and put our country on the global startup map by 2022,” Vivek Rai Gupta, managing partner at RIL-controlled venture capital arm GenNext Ventures, told PTI.

But he did not specify how much the company has already set aside or how much more it can spend to realize the objective.

“We are keen to ensure we have global companies in our mix. We can learn a lot from different cultures, which have different investment practices,” he said.

RIL is keen to build a unique platform for startups to engage in its own ecosystem of businesses, and potentially partner for large scale enterprises, which could be worth around $5 billion, and direct consumer opportunities.

Startups have already begun engaging RIL in areas of logistics, supply chain management and corporate security, Gupta said.

“While the first batch was just a pilot, and now that we’ve started actively, the top three or five companies that succeed will work with our business units,” he said.

GenNext Innovation Hub is expanding in significant ways, besides this collaborative accelerator programme with Microsoft, he pointed out.

There are 20-30 other companies that are more mature where the Hub is facilitating them to work directly with the businesses, he said.

Going forward, RIL is also looking at creating localized hubs in other cities to create a wide web of entrepreneurship talent.

“We have not yet taken a decision whether we will do it alone or in partnership with a global accelerator, but we’re moving in that direction,” Gupta said, adding the idea is to create a groundswell of entrepreneurs.

With its second batch, the accelerator programme is looking at companies in the broad areas of instant credit scores and lending, instant bill payment in restaurants, real-time advertising on public screens, operational intelligence for the Internet of Things applications, and audio-video call-based consultation with doctors among others.

“The programme is mutually beneficial as startups need large clients and large companies need startups to fuel innovation,” Gupta said.

GenNext Ventures, which has an “evergreen corpus”, and a global scope, may pick up to 15% stake in some of the companies that make it to the next round of GenNext Innovation Hub. This would validate their idea to get further funding, he said.

Infosys to be global technology services partner for ATP

Infosys to be global technology services partner for ATP

NEW DELHI: Infosys, country’s second-largest software services firm, has said it has partnered with ATP, the governing body for professional men’s tennis for leveraging mobility, cloud and analytics technologies to transform the experience of players and fans globally.

As part of this partnership, Infosys will become the Global Technology Services Partner and Platinum Sponsor of the ATP World Tour, Infosys said in a statement.

This will also include the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals for the next three years, it added.

No financial details of the partnership were disclosed.

Like most popular sports, tennis fans are increasingly consuming more content about the sport across multiple channels. Active fan engagement today demands contextual, real-time information and insights about the game across a variety of channels, the statement said.

Infosys will manage, analyze and interpret large volumes of tennis data (both historical and current) and present insights and predictions through interactive platforms for ATP fans, players, partners and the media, it added.

It will also create an exclusive Infosys ATP Scores and Stats Centre to provide insights and predictions about tournaments, matches and every point.

It will also work on the ATP Player Zone, a player engagement platform and mobile app to elevate the experience for players and enable them to register for tournaments, review travel information, connect with other players, and stay up-to-date on all ATP World Tour news.

Infosys will manage the infrastructure, applications and data of ATP World Tour.

“Great experiences for tennis fans is what ATP has always stood for, and we can now take this to even greater heights with our work together. This partnership will enable us to bring new experiences in new ways to fans worldwide,” Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka said.

With 62 tournaments in 31 countries, the ATP World Tour showcases the finest male athletes competing across venues.

Indian IT firms are increasingly focussing on sports vertical across infrastructure and digital services management.

Last week, Infosys rivals HCL Technologies and Wipro had announced their partnerships with football clubs Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively.

Tata Consultancy Services, country’s largest software services firm, is a sponsor of several marathons, including those in New York, Amsterdam and Bengaluru.

NASA Created A Material That Can Heal Itself In Less Than A Second From Hurtling Space Debris

Scientists at NASA’s Langley Research Center are studying new materials that can self-heal in seconds under extreme temperatures and from flying space junk.

The research is a combination of work from a student on fellowship at NASA from the University of Michigan and nearly a decade-and-a-half of study on self-healing materials for both aircrafts and spacecrafts.

NASA scientists said it works much like a puncture healing in the body, but faster. The organically designed polymers respond to energetic events such as space debris – or bullets – rapidly hitting the material. The material’s chemistry activates on impact to help plug a hole or leak to repair the craft potentially within less than a second.

It was gratifying to see as we actually test this material on the field it actually works.

— Mia Siochi, NASA

Testing actually involves shooting a bullet through the material to see how it reacts after penetration. The small molecules of the polymer substance the material is made of flows around the bullet when it hits the matter, but the structural integrity of the material stays intact.

This is because the polymer reacts to heating. “As the bullet goes in it actually raises the temperature around the region,” NASA scientists Mia Siochi explained in a video about the project. “It was gratifying to see as we actually test this material on the field it actually works.”

This substance not only has life-saving applications for astronauts, but also future use in consumer products as well. Imagine getting a dent in your car and it immediately popping back to its original structure.

NASA told TechCrunch this is still early days and it is working to improve on the tensile strength of these polymers, but there is progress here. The material works well enough that it could be used on the next human space mission.

NOTIFYOU iBeacon Reminder System Launches On Kickstarter

Reminder Tool

Grant Adams has taken to Kickstarter this month to promote his new reminder tool which he has designed to provide a way of alerting you to tasks using a companion smartphone application and iBeacon hardware.

To learn more about the NOTIFYOU reminder system, watch the video below to see the system demonstrated and how it may be to help you remind you of those tasks you sometimes forget to do.

The Kickstarter project is aiming to raise $25,000 to make the jump from concept into production. Adams its inventor explains a little more about the inspiration behind the new reminder system and hardware.

When we started drafting ideas for Notifyou, it was because we wanted a better way to be reminded of tasks without having to rely only on time based or fickle GPS reminders. We all live in a world where we need to remember things, yet the current options are not as helpful as they could be.

Notifyou is a combination of a purpose built phone app that allows you to set reminders for yourself and others. The app allows you to create networks which can include your family, friends & colleagues. You invite people to join each network, and then users within the network can set reminders for each other. The Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacon, which is the hardware part of Notifyou, provides the location based alerts to the App on the phone.

And setting reminders is super easy! All you have to do is pick the user, pick the beacon, and then create the reminder. When the person is close to the beacon, it will send out a signal to their phone and the reminder will pop up on their screen.

New Pluto Images Show Staggeringly Diverse Surface Features

New sharp images of Pluto have revealed a bewildering variety of surface features that have left scientists reeling because of their range and complexity.

Taken from Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft, the images reveal new features as diverse as possible dunes, nitrogen ice flows that apparently oozed out of mountainous regions onto plains, and even networks of valleys that may have been carved by material flowing over Pluto’s surface.

“Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we have seen in the solar system,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado.

New Horizons has begun its year-long download of new images and other data.

They show large regions that display chaotically jumbled mountains reminiscent of disrupted terrains on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

“The surface of Pluto is every bit as complex as that of Mars,” added Jeff Moore from Nasa’s Ames Research Center in California.

The randomly jumbled mountains might be huge blocks of hard water ice floating within a vast, denser, softer deposit of frozen nitrogen within the region informally named Sputnik Planum, he explained.

New images also show the most heavily cratered and thus oldest terrain yet seen by New Horizons onPluto next to the youngest, most crater-free icy plains.

There might even be a field of dark wind-blown dunes, among other possibilities.

“Seeing dunes on Pluto if that is what they are would be completely wild, because Pluto’s atmosphere today is so thin,” noted William B. McKinnon from Washington University-St Louis.

Images returned in the past days have also revealed that Pluto’s global atmospheric haze has many more layers than scientists realised.

The haze actually creates a twilight effect that softly illuminates night-side terrain near sunset, making them visible to the cameras aboard New Horizons.

The New Horizons spacecraft is now more than five billion kilometres from Earth and more than 69 million kilometres beyond Pluto.

The spacecraft is healthy and all systems are operating normally, Nasa reported.

Elon Musk Tells Stephen Colbert He Wants to Nuke Mars

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and chairman of SolarCity, stands out from other tech billionaires because he isn’t just talking about saving the planet, but actually taking steps to do it with electric cars and batteries, and plans for a human colony on Mars. But when someone starts talking about using nuclear bombs for terraforming, you’ve got to ask if they’ve tripped across some line from hero to villain, like Ozymandias from Watchmen.

Yet that’s exactly what Musk said, during an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show. The segment, which you can see for yourself below, starts off with Colbert comparing Musk to Tony Stark, Iron Man from the Marvel universe.

Musk starts off tamely enough, saying only that he’s “trying to do good things.” They then talked about the Tesla “power arm”, a snakelike charger that automatically moves to connect a Tesla to a power source, to recharge the car’s battery.

 

Things took a turn for the unexpected when the discussion moved to Musk’s idea of establishing a colony on Mars. Colbert used the word uninhabitable, and Musk quickly corrected him, saying, “it’s very inhospitable.”

He also admitted that while initially you might need atmospheric domes, terraforming Mars could make it more habitable, describing it as a “fixer-upper of a planet”.

“At first, you’re going to have to live in transparent domes, but eventually, you can transport Mars into an Earth-like planet,” Musk said.

“Just warm it up. There’s a fast way, and the slow way,” he added. “The fast way is just drop thermonuclear weapons on the poles.”

Colbert then summed up what everyone was thinking, as he exclaimed, “You’re a super-villain, that’s what the villain does!”

The slow way, which Colbert did not want to find out more about, involves warming up Mars to melt frozen carbon dioxide, which will in turn make the atmosphere of the Red Planet thicker. Doing that makes the planet even warmer; and the process can continue in a cycle until it reaches an equilibrium point. Of course, that’s a very slow process, but would nuking the planet be enough to make it “Earthlike”.

The average temperature on Mars is similar to that of Antarctica in the winter, said Brian Toon, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who co-wrote a paper in 1991 about making the Red Planet habitable, told the Los Angeles Times.

“It seems possible to make it earthlike, but there’s a lot of barriers to overcome,” Toon said to the LA Times. “Blowing up bombs is not a good one.”