2020-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-11-23 01:37:00 UTC --Fnord666
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Long ago and far across the universe, an enormous burst of gamma rays unleashed more energy in a half-second than the Sun will produce over its entire 10-billion-year lifetime. In May of 2020, light from the flash finally reached Earth and was first detected by NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. Scientists quickly enlisted other telescopes — including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Array radio observatory, the W. M. Keck Observatory, and the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope network — to study the explosion's aftermath and the host galaxy. It was Hubble that provided the surprise.
Yes, a kilonova, a merger of neutron stars.
Based on X-ray and radio observations from the other observatories, astronomers were baffled by what they saw with Hubble: the near-infrared emission was 10 times brighter than predicted. These results challenge conventional theories of what happens in the aftermath of a short gamma-ray burst. One possibility is that the observations might point to the birth of a massive, highly magnetized neutron star called a magnetar.
"These observations do not fit traditional explanations for short gamma-ray bursts," said study leader Wen-fai Fong of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. "Given what we know about the radio and X-rays from this blast, it just doesn't match up. The near-infrared emission that we're finding with Hubble is way too bright. In terms of trying to fit the puzzle pieces of this gamma-ray burst together, one puzzle piece is not fitting correctly."
Without Hubble, the gamma-ray burst would have appeared like many others, and Fong and her team would not have known about the bizarre infrared behavior. "It's amazing to me that after 10 years of studying the same type of phenomenon, we can discover unprecedented behavior like this," said Fong. "It just reveals the diversity of explosions that the universe is capable of producing, which is very exciting."
"There are more things in the heavens than are dreamt of in your astrophysics."
Neutron star mergers are very rare but are extremely important because scientists think that they are one of the main sources of heavy elements in the universe, such as gold and uranium.
Accompanying a short gamma-ray burst, scientists expect to see a "kilonova" whose peak brightness typically reaches 1,000 times that of a classical nova. Kilonovae are an optical and infrared glow from the radioactive decay of heavy elements and are unique to the merger of two neutron stars, or the merger of a neutron star with a small black hole.
Fong and her team have discussed several possibilities to explain the unusual brightness that Hubble saw. While most short gamma-ray bursts probably result in a black hole, the two neutron stars that merged in this case may have combined to form a magnetar, a supermassive neutron star with a very powerful magnetic field.
If the extra brightness came from a magnetar that deposited energy into the kilonova material, then within a few years, the team expects the ejecta from the burst to produce light that shows up at radio wavelengths. Follow-up radio observations may ultimately prove that this was a magnetar, and this may explain the origin of such objects.
"With its amazing sensitivity at near-infrared wavelengths, Hubble really sealed the deal with this burst," explained Fong. "Amazingly, Hubble was able to take an image only three days after the burst. Through a series of later images, Hubble showed that a source faded in the aftermath of the explosion. This is as opposed to being a static source that remains unchanged. With these observations, we knew we had not only nabbed the source, but we had also discovered something extremely bright and very unusual. Hubble's angular resolution was also key in pinpointing the position of the burst and precisely measuring the light coming from the merger."
Not bad for a satellite telescope that should be retired.
The team's findings appear in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
In many places already, picking the Smithsonian Magazine one for the high density of links, arxiv included.
This year, astronomers witnessed a cosmic spectacle when two neutron stars—the dense remains of collapsing stars—crashed into each other billions of lightyears away. Their gargantuan collision lit up the galaxy with a flash and gave rise to a magnetar—a supermassive star with a hyper-powerful magnetic field. Astronomers have known about magnetars, but this event marks the first time they've ever witnessed one being born...
Using remarkably powerful equipment, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Swift Observatory, the scientists observed a quick flash of light on May 22. The stars' collision certainly didn't occur that night—instead, it occurred 5.47 billion years ago, and its light had just reached Earth, according to a press release.
The team observed a quick flash of gamma radiation, the result of the stars crashing and sending space matter blasting through the galaxy to settle among the stars. Then came the long-burning glow of a kilonova—a colossal explosion that produces heavy elements like gold and platinum—as the space dust swirled around the newly formed magnetar, reports Live Science.
The explosion released more energy in half a second than the sun emits over ten billion years, according to another press release.
But the scientists noticed something even more bewildering: The flash emitted ten times the average amount of infrared light, reports Meghan Bartels for Space.com. The findings will be published in The Astrophysical Journal and are currently available on the pre-print server arXiv.org.
"When two neutron stars merge, the most common predicted outcome is that they form a heavy neutron star that collapses into a black hole within milliseconds or less," lead author Wen-fai Fong, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University, says in a press release.
"Our study shows that it's possible that, for this particular short gamma-ray burst, the heavy object survived," Fong says. "Instead of collapsing into a black hole, it became a magnetar: A rapidly spinning neutron star that has large magnetic fields, dumping energy into its surrounding environment and creating the very bright glow that we see."
The spinning magnetar transferred a remarkable amount of energy to the debris created by the collision, heating the material up and generating a bright glow, Richard A. Lovett for Cosmos.
Artist rendition on youtube.
General Motors is launching an insurance service, returning to a business that it abandoned more than a decade ago, but this time more in step with the connected-car era.
The service, called OnStar Insurance, will offer bundled auto, home and renters' insurance, starting this year with GM employees in Arizona. GM's new insurance agency, OnStar Insurance Services, will be the exclusive agent for OnStar Insurance. Homesite Insurance Group, an affiliate of American Family Insurance, will underwrite the program.
The services will be available to the public nationwide by the end of 2022, including people who drive vehicles outside of GM's portfolio of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC branded cars, trucks and SUVs. The aim, however, is to leverage the vast amounts of data captured through its OnStar connected car service, which today has more than 16 million members in the United States.
GM's pitch is that this data can be an asset to drivers and help them cash in on lower insurance rates based on safe driving habits.
"Our goal is really to create greater transparency and greater control for our customers in influencing what they pay for insurance and their total cost of ownership on the vehicles," Russell Page, GM's head of business intelligence said in a recent interview.
The data play is substantial. The company has logged more than 121 million GB of data usage across the Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC brands since the launch of 4G LTE in 2014.
A recent collaborative study between the UAB, Georgetown University, HZDR Dresden, CNM's Madrid and Barcelona, University of Grenoble, and ICN2, and published in the journal Nature Communications has shown that it is possible to switch magnetism ON and OFF in metals containing nitrogen (that is, to generate or remove all magnetic features of this material) with voltage. One simple analogy would be that we are able to increase or completely remove the strength with which a magnet attracts to, for example, the door of a fridge, simply by connecting it to a battery and applying a certain voltage polarity. In this project, cobalt-nitride is shown to be non-magnetic on its own, but when nitrogen is removed with voltage, it forms a cobalt-rich structure which is magnetic (and vice versa). This process is shown to be repeatable and durable, suggesting that such a system is a promising means to write and store data in a cyclable manner. Interestingly, it is also shown to require less energy and it is faster than systems using alternative non-magnetic atoms, such as oxygen, elevating the possible energy savings.
Julius de Rojas, Alberto Quintana, Aitor Lopeandía, et al. Voltage-driven motion of nitrogen ions: a new paradigm for magneto-ionics [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-19758-x)
The Guardian has a story detailing the firing of Christopher Krebs, who served as the director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Cisa)
President Trump made the announcement on Twitter on Tuesday, saying Krebs "has been terminated" and that his recent statement defending the security of the election was "highly inaccurate".
CISA last week released a statement refuting claims of widespread voter fraud. "The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history," the statement read. "There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised."
Krebs, is a former Microsoft executive, and was appointed by President Trump after allegations of Russian interference with the 2016 election.
The United Kingdom will ban the sale of new combustion-engine vehicles by 2030, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today. It will also ban the sale of new hybrid cars by 2035. Johnson made the announcement tonight as part of a new ten-point plan for a "green industrial revolution."
This is the second time Johnson has moved up the deadline. The original plan was to stop sales of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040. Back in February, Johnson moved the target to 2035. He's come under increasing pressure to crack down on gas-guzzling cars in order to meet the UK's broader goal of eliminating emissions contributing to climate change by 2050.
"Although this year has taken a very different path to the one we expected, the UK is looking to the future and seizing the opportunity to build back greener," Johnson said in an emailed statement released to the press. "The recovery of our planet and of our economies can and must go hand-in-hand."
Emergency approval was granted for the single-use All-In-One Test Kit made by Lucira Health on Tuesday.
The rapid testing kit uses nucleic acid amplification technology, considered more accurate than antigen tests.
"In 30 minutes or less, the results can be read directly from the test unit's light-up display that shows whether a person is positive or negative for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Positive results indicate the presence of SARS-CoV-2," the agency said.
It can be used on anyone aged 14 or older who is suspected of having Covid-19, and works simply by swirling the nasal swab in a vial that is then placed in the test unit.
The test is authorised only for prescription use at the moment. Apart from home use, the product is also authorised to be used in hospitals and at doctor's clinics.
"This new testing option is an important diagnostic advancement to address the pandemic and reduce the public burden of disease transmission," FDA Commissioner Stephen M Hahn said.
The entry level to the list moved up to 1.32 petaflops on the High Performance Linpack (HPL) benchmark, a small increase from 1.23 petaflops recorded in the June 2020 rankings. In a similar vein, the aggregate performance of all 500 systems grew from 2.22 exaflops in June to just 2.43 exaflops on the latest list. Likewise, average concurrency per system barely increased at all, growing from 145,363 cores six months ago to 145,465 cores in the current list.
There were, however, a few notable developments in the top 10, including two new systems, as well as a new highwater mark set by the top-ranked Fugaku supercomputer. Thanks to additional hardware, Fugaku grew its HPL performance to 442 petaflops, a modest increase from the 416 petaflops the system achieved when it debuted in June 2020. More significantly, Fugaku increased its performance on the new mixed precision HPC-AI benchmark to 2.0 exaflops, besting its 1.4 exaflops mark recorded six months ago. These represents the first benchmark measurements above one exaflop for any precision on any type of hardware.
[...] At number five is Selene, an NVIDIA DGX A100 SuperPOD installed in-house at NVIDIA Corp. It was listed as number seven in June but has doubled in size, allowing it to move up the list by two positions. The system is based on AMD EPYC processors with NVIDIA's new A100 GPUs for acceleration. Selene achieved 63.4 petaflops on HPL as a result of the upgrade.
[...] A new supercomputer, known as the JUWELS Booster Module, debuts at number seven on the list. The Atos-built BullSequana machine was recently installed at the Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) in Germany. It is part of a modular system architecture and a second Xeon based JUWELS Module is listed separately on the TOP500 at position 44. These modules are integrated by using the ParTec Modulo Cluster Software Suite. The Booster Module uses AMD EPYC processors with NVIDIA A100 GPUs for acceleration similar to the number five Selene system. Running by itself the JUWELS Booster Module was able to achieve 44.1 HPL petaflops, which makes it the most powerful system in Europe.
[...] The second new system at the top of the list is Dammam-7, which is ranked 10th. It is installed at Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia and is the second commercial supercomputer in the current top 10. The HPE Cray CS-Storm systems uses Intel Gold Xeon CPUs and NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs. It reached 22.4 petaflops on the HPL benchmark.
The Green500 list is led by a smaller NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD system at 26.2 gigaflops/Watt (ranked #171 on the TOP500).
#1 system: 415.5 petaflops Rmax (June 2020), 442 petaflops (November 2020)
#10 system: 21.2 petaflops (June), 22.4 petaflops (Nov)
#100 system: 2.8 petaflops (June), 3.15 petaflops (Nov)
#500 system: 1.23 petaflops (June), 1.32 petaflops (Nov)
The coastal edges of O‘ahu were historically marshes and agricultural wetlands, situated above underground springs. When Westerners arrived in the late 18th century, they overturned the agricultural practices of the native Hawaiians who had taken advantage of the area’s fluctuating water levels, raising fish along the shore and growing crops like taro in flooded fields bordering the ocean. By the mid-1800s, the Hawaiian government, in part encouraged by American trade interests, started dredging what is now Honolulu Harbor, facilitating easy passage of trans-Pacific deepwater sailing vessels. The dredged sediment was dumped in the tidelands and the nearshore area, forming new land just high enough to not flood. Today, this fill undergirds significant tracts of Honolulu’s urban fabric, and areas built on the dredged fill are especially at risk of rising groundwater.
The article refers to the Hawaiʻi Sea Level Rise Viewer which is an interactive tool funded by NOAA to examine sea level rise impacts.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday cleared the Boeing's 737 Max to fly again after a nearly two-year ban, a turning point in a protracted crisis for the aircraft giant stemming from two crashes of its top-selling plane that killed 346 people.
"The design and certification of this aircraft included an unprecedented level of collaborative and independent reviews by aviation authorities around the world," the FAA said in a statement. "Those regulators have indicated that Boeing's design changes, together with the changes to crew procedures and training enhancements, will give them the confidence to validate the aircraft as safe to fly in their respective countries and regions."
Boeing shares were up 6% in premarket trading after the FAA ungrounded the jets.
The end of the 20-month flight ban gives Boeing the chance to start handing over the roughly 450 Max jetliners it has produced but has been unable to deliver to customers after regulators ordered airlines to stop flying them in March 2019.
An overnight launch of Arianespace's Vega rocket failed after reaching space, costing France and Spain an Earth-observing satellite each. The failure represents the second in two years after Vega had built up a spotless record over its first six years of service.
[...] Something went wrong with the liquid-fueled [fourth] stage after it had reached an altitude of over 200km. While it's not entirely clear at the time what had failed, in the words of Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël, "The speed was not nominal anymore." This caused the upper stage and satellites to veer off the planned trajectory, and Arianespace lost control of the vehicle shortly afterward. The spacecraft returned to Earth near where the upper stage was expected to fall in an area that's completely uninhabited.
The failure happened at a stage of the launch where Arianespace is able to obtain detailed telemetry data from tracking stations in North America.
[...] The company's initial investigation focused on the engine of the liquid-fueled fourth stage, specifically "a problem related to the integration of the fourth-stage AVUM nozzle activation system," which was "the most likely cause of the loss of control of the launcher." Arianespace has already named a European Space Agency official who will head the inquiry into the failure, which will focus on why the problem wasn't caught and corrected prior to launch.
The European Space Agency said the Vega carrier rocket deviated from its trajectory eight minutes after liftoff from Kourou, in French Guiana, late Monday.
France-based Arianespace said an initial investigation showed the first [three] stages of the Vega launch vehicle had functioned as planned. When the final stage of the rocket—known as AVUM—ignited, the spacecraft tumbled off course, leading to a "loss of mission," it said.
"A problem related to the integration of the fourth-stage AVUM nozzle activation system is the most likely cause of the loss of control of the launcher," Arianespace said.
The company's chief technical officer, Roland Lagier, said data indicated the issue was down to wrongly installed cables in a system controlling the thrusters.
He blamed quality control and "a series of human errors," for the problem.
An Arianespace Vega rocket carrying two satellites failed to reach orbit yesterday after experiencing a catastrophic failure eight minutes into the launch. Officials are attributing the loss of the rocket to a “series of human errors.”
Last week, Apple released the much-awaited macOS Big Sur update for everyone. While everyone rushed to get a new update, folks who didn't update at that moment faced a peculiar problem: they couldn't open their apps.
It's a frustrating situation when you rely on your computer for work, but can't do anything because a server is messed up. That's right, as developer Jeff Johnson noted, the issue was caused by Apple's Online Certificate Service Protocol (OCSP) server crashed — largely due to many users downloading the new update simultaneously.
The OCSP server is responsible for authenticating digital certificates of all apps — both Apple and third-party. Apple calls this feature Gatekeeper, and the company claims it helps to prevent apps without valid certificates from opening to maintain user security.
It doesn't matter if you've downloaded your app from the App Store or not. So when users were trying to just open their apps, they had to wait for the OCSP server to authenticate the app for them, but they weren't getting any response. The easiest solution was to turn off the internet to launch apps. Apple evidently fixed the problem in a few hours.
[2020-11-19 00:50:34 UTC; Updated to add the following. --martyb]
Ars Technica breaks down OCSP in more detail and also summarizes Apple's response in: Mac certificate check stokes fears that Apple logs every app you run:
In an attempt to further assure Mac users, Apple on Monday published this post. It explains what the company does and doesn’t do with the information collected through Gatekeeper and a separate feature known as notarization, which checks the security even of non-App Store apps. The post states:
Gatekeeper performs online checks to verify if an app contains known malware and whether the developer’s signing certificate is revoked. We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices. We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their devices.
Notarization checks if the app contains known malware using an encrypted connection that is resilient to server failures.
These security checks have never included the user’s Apple ID or the identity of their device. To further protect privacy, we have stopped logging IP addresses associated with Developer ID certificate checks, and we will ensure that any collected IP addresses are removed from logs.
The post went on to say that in the next year, Apple will provide a new protocol to check if developer certificates have been revoked, provide “strong protections against server failure,” and present a new OS setting for users who want to opt out of all of this.
Firefox 83 also ships with an option for an HTTPS-only mode whereby every Firefox connection aims to be secure and will warn the user should HTTPS not be supported.
Mozilla and the Linux Foundation are jointly announcing this morning that the Servo web engine development will now be hosted by the Linux Foundation.
The Rust-written code-base that's served as a long in development "next-gen" web engine at Mozilla will now be developed under the Linux Foundation umbrella. Besides Mozilla, this move has the support of other industry stakeholders like Samsung and Let's Encrypt.
See also: Firefox 84 Beta Begins Enabling WebRender By Default On Linux
Chrome 87 Released With More Performance Improvements
Google Is Already Experimenting With WebP2 As Successor To WebP Image Format
Mechanoluminescence, also known as triboluminescence, is the production of light as the result of mechanical action taken on a solid, such as by squeezing or bending it. It was first discovered in 1605 by Sir Francis Bacon when he saw light given off as he was scraping a lump of sugar with a knife (and you may have seen it yourself if you've seen the green spark given off when biting into a Wint-O-Green Lifesaver in the dark). If you stress a solid elastically, meaning that it recovers its original shape when you remove the stress, and it gives off light, this is known as elasto-mechanoluminescence. There are very few materials known with this behavior and they are a topic of interest because there are some useful things one could imagine making with such a material, such as visual stress sensors and other specialty lighting.
Researchers in France found that a certain kind of glass containing mechanoluminescent crystalline particles not only gives off light when subject to mechanical stress, but it behaves in a manner suggestive of a photonic sponge. If the glass is initially charged with exposure to UV light, it emits green light as a stress is applied to it. When the applied pressure stops changing and reaches a steady-state, the light disappears. The authors call this a photonic sponge because it is analogous to after one fills a sponge with water, the water only comes out while you are squeezing it to wring it out. What was also surprising in their results was that as they removed the stress, additional light was emitted as the stress was released. The total amount of light emitted didn't depend upon the total static force applied, but rather on the change in the force, known as the deviatoric part of the stress. They used a Li,Na metaphosphate glass embedded with SrAl2O4 particles. Provided with the paper is a video showing the experiment in action.
Dubernet, M., Bruyer, E., Gueguen, Y. et al. Mechanics and physics of a glass/particles photonic sponge. Sci Rep 10, 19495 (2020). (DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-75504-9)
Teslas are now more expensive to recharge than it is to fuel an equivalent petrol-powered car – at least if you're using the Tesla Supercharger network.
A recent price increase to use the fast-charging Tesla Superchargers and incorrect fuel figures on the Tesla website mean claims that recharging using a Supercharger is "less than the cost of petrol" are incorrect.
[...] While EVs have always cost more than their rival internal combustion engine cars, the promise of lower running costs has been a key part of the appeal.
Tesla used its Supercharging network as a lure for buyers, particularly in the early days after the brand arrived in Australia, in many cases offering free charging.
But those purchasing the more affordable Model 3 – believed to be the top-selling EV in Australia - are forced to pay the full 52c/kWh, making Supercharging more costly than refuelling with premium unleaded.
[...] He says most EV drivers will use home charging or destination chargers – including at shopping centres and in public areas – which are much cheaper or free.
"EVs are cheaper to run because you can locally charge them at home and you can use solar."
Most Tesla destination chargers are also free and many households only pay 25-30c/kWh for electricity, making it much cheaper to recharge at home. Off-peak rates can be half that.
But it doesn't excuse the blatantly incorrect figures on the Tesla website in claiming Supercharging is cheaper than paying for petrol.
Tesla has not provided a comment.
Ed Note - The analysis in the article is based on a particular use case and is tied to local pricing for petrol and electricity. As the article points out, owners are going to charge at home most of the time. This bring me to a different question though. What is the "average" price in your location for petrol per liter/gallon and electricity per kWh? --Fnord666
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that launched from Florida's Kennedy Space Center with four astronauts on board Sunday night safely docked with the International Space Station around 11 p.m. ET Monday.
The spacecraft glided toward the station, closing the gap before latching onto a port on the ISS's center module. The event appeared to be a slow burn to those watching NASA's livestream, but that's because the spacecraft and the ISS were traveling at roughly the same speed — more than 17,000 miles per hour, the speed necessary to keep objects orbiting the Earth.
[...] The safe docking marks the end of the first leg of a landmark mission for NASA and SpaceX, which have been working together for a decade to return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States and ensure the multibillion-dollar ISS stays fully staffed.
[...] This also marks the first fully operational crewed mission for SpaceX, following up a test mission in May that carried NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, both test pilots, to the space station for a brief stay.
[...] The Crew-1 astronauts are expected to spend about six months on board the ISS, where they'll work on a variety of science experiments and conduct space walks to continue updates and repairs on the space station's exterior.
Before returning home, they'll be joined by yet another group of astronauts on a mission dubbed Crew-2 that's due to launch in the spring.