NASA Telescopes Detect Signs of Water on Distant ‘Warm Neptune’

NASA Telescopes Detect Signs of Water on Distant 'Warm Neptune'

Scientists using NASA telescopes have detected “a strong water signature” in the atmosphere of a distant Neptune-sized planet, that could help understand more about the birth and development of planetary systems.

The study, combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, shows that the distant planet HAT-P-26b has a primitive atmosphere composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Located about 437 light-years away, HAT-P-26b orbits a star roughly twice as old as our Sun.

The analysis is one of the most detailed studies to date of a “warm Neptune,” or a planet that is Neptune-sized and close to its star.

The researchers determined that HAT-P-26b’s atmosphere is relatively clear of clouds and has a strong water signature, although the planet is not a water world. This is the best measurement of water to date on an exoplanet of this size.

Compared to Neptune and Uranus, the planets in our solar system with about the same mass, HAT-P-26b likely formed either closer to its host star or later in the development of its planetary system, or both.

“Astronomers have just begun to investigate the atmospheres of these distant Neptune-mass planets, and almost right away, we found an example that goes against the trend in our solar system,” said Hannah Wakeford, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in the US.

To study HAT-P-26b’s atmosphere, the researchers used data from transits – occasions when the planet passed in front of its host star.

During a transit, a fraction of the starlight gets filtered through the planet’s atmosphere, which absorbs some wavelengths of light but not others.

By looking at how the signatures of the starlight change as a result of this filtering, researchers can work backward to figure out the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

Researchers pooled data from four transits measured by Hubble and two seen by Spitzer. Together, those observations covered a wide range of wavelengths from yellow light through the near-infrared region.

“To have so much information about a warm Neptune is still rare, so analysing these data sets simultaneously is an achievement in and of itself,” said Tiffany Kataria of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US.

Researchers were also able to use the water signature to estimate HAT-P-26b’s metallicity – an indication of how rich the planet is in all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. It gives more clues about how a planet formed. They determined its metallicity is only about 4.8 times that of the Sun.

“This analysis shows that there is a lot more diversity in the atmospheres of these exoplanets than we were expecting, which is providing insight into how planets can form and evolve differently than in our solar system,” said David K Sing of the University of Exeter in the UK.

Xiaomi-Backed Yi Technology Partners With Google to Launch VR Rig With 17 Cameras

Xiaomi-Backed Yi Technology Partners With Google to Launch VR Rig With 17 Cameras

Xiaomi-backed Chinese company Yi Technology earlier this year launched its Yi 4K+ action camera, which was claimed by the company to be the first in camera market to capture 4K videos at 60 fps. Now the company has announced two new cameras, Yi Halo and Yi 360 VR, for professional users and consumers, respectively.

Coming first to the Yi Halo, the camera has been developed in partnership with Google and is especially targeted at professionals. The Yi Halo camera comes with 17 camera units in total and allows users to showcase their creativity while creating VR content. The camera has been developed to work with Google’s Jump professional virtual reality platform. Yi Halo comes with support for various image quality settings including ISO, WB, EV, shutter, and flat colour. Further the newly launched VR camera is capable of shooting videos in 8K resolution at 30fps and 5K resolution at 60fps.

“We designed the Yi Halo to be modular and upgradeable. When new firmware is released, you can upgrade all cameras at once with just a few clicks on the control panel. In the unlikely event a Yi Halo unit camera is damaged in the field, simply replace it with one of the two included spare cameras. When new Yi Halo unit camera hardware is released, simply replace the existing unit camera to upgrade the Yi Halo,” the company says on its website.

The Yi Halo camera is powered by an 18 Ambarella A9SE75 chipset. It comes with built-in Wi-Fi, sports a 2.2-inch LCD screen with 640×360 pixel resolution, and can be controlled using an Android smartphone app as well. The camera offers a battery life of 100 minutes in video recording. The Yi Halo has been priced by the company at $16,999 (roughly Rs. 10,93,000) and will be made available late summer this year.

yi 360 story Yi 360 VR

Moving on to the Yi 360 VR, the consumer-centric camera, as the name suggests, it can record videos and pictures in 360-degrees. It is capable of recording videos with 5.7K resolution at 30fps. The camera weighs just around 170 grams and can be easily carried around by users. The Yi 360 VR camera is powered by Ambarella H2V95 chipset and comes with two 12-megapixel Sony CMOS IMX377 sensors. It features Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and offers connectivity options including HDMI, USB 2.0 (Type-C), and micro SD card. Just like Yi Halo, Yi 360 VR can also be operated using a smartphone app as well.

Dominar To Diavel? Sure. Yours For INR 16500

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The Ducati Diavel must’ve been the poster boy for the Bajaj designers as they penned the Dominar. There’s no denying that some of the Italian power cruiser’s visual essence has trickled down to the Indian one. The Dominar’s beefy silhouette, its hulking stance and its LED eyes are all a subtle nod to the Diavel.

Autologue Design, the same guys who can make your Avenger Street look like a Harley Davidson, will make one for you. As the name suggests, the Bajaj Domivel is a Dominar body-kit inspired from the Diavel. The kit’s tank shrouds (available in either matte black or body colour), belly cover, seat cowl and tail tidy setup will cost you INR 16,500.  The tyre hugger is additionally available. All the aforementioned parts will be fabricated in-house at Autologue Design.

Mind you, that price holds true ONLY if you pre-order the kit. Bookings are limited to only 50 kits; post that you have to shell out INR 20,000 for your Domivel.

The mechanical bits have been left untouched, so it’ll be a bit hard to play catch up with the Diavel on road.

The KTM dervied, 373.3 triple spark, 4-valve, DTS-i engine in the Bajaj Dominar good for 35 PS of maximum power and 35 Nm of peak torque. Notable hardware include a slipper clutch, a fully digital instrument cluster, meaty front forks and twin-channel ABS.

ISRO to launch South Asia Satellite on May 5

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India plans to launch on May 5 the ‘South Asia Satellite’ that will benefit all the countries in the region, except Pakistan which is not a part of the project.

India plans to launch on May 5 the ‘South Asia Satellite’ that will benefit all the countries in the region, except Pakistan which is not a part of the project. “It’s going up in the first week of May,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman A S Kiran Kumar told PTI in a telephonic interview.

According to ISRO sources, the launch of this communication satellite (GSAT-9) is scheduled for May 5 on board the space agency’s rocket GSLV-09 from Sriharikota spaceport. Kiran Kumar said the satellite, with a lift-off mass of 2,195 kg, would carry 12 ku-band transponders. “Pakistan is not included in that. They did not want (to be part of the project),” he said. Sources said the satellite is designed for a mission life of more than 12 years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made an announcement about this satellite during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in 2014 calling it a “gift to India’s neighbours.””It (name) was changed to this (South Asia Satellite) because of that only (Pakistan not being part of it),” Kiran Kumar said. Earlier, it was named as ‘SAARC Satellite.’

“Basically, it (the satellite) is meant for providing communication and disaster support, connectivity among States (countries of South Asia region). It will provide a significant capability to each of these participating States in terms of DTH, certain VSAT capacity plus linking among the states for both disaster information transfer and also in terms of library type of things,” he said.

“So, there is a significant amount of inter-linking possible among the States (these countries),” Kiran Kumar said.According to ISRO officials, there is a potential for each participating country to use a dedicated transponder with a capacity of 36 to 54 Mhz for its own internal use. Each country would be responsible for content generation and its use, they said.

New camera may capture distant images without long lens

 SAVI system, SAVI prototype, Matrix Special effect, SAVI camera array, remove aberrations, SAVI's "synthetic aperture", computer programme replaces long lens, Science, Science news

Scientists develop a unique camera that can capture detailed images of distant objects without using a long lens, may lead to less bulky telescopes.

Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have developed a unique camera that can capture detailed images of distant objects without using a long lens, an advance that could lead to telescopes that are less bulky. The system known as SAVI – for “Synthetic Apertures for long-range, subdiffraction-limited Visible Imaging” – does not need a long lens to take a picture of a faraway object, researchers said.The prototype built by researchers reads a spot illuminated by a laser and captures the “speckle” pattern with a camera sensor.

Raw data from dozens of camera positions is fed to a computer programme that interprets it and constructs a high-resolution image.Researchers including those from Rice University in the US, built and tested the device that compares interference pat terns between multiple speckled images. Like the technique used to achieve the “Matrix” special effect, the images are taken from slightly different angles, but with one camera that is moved between shots instead of many fired in sequence. The prototype only works with coherent illumination sources such as lasers.

However, it is a step toward a SAVI camera array for use in visible light, researchers said. The speckles serve as reference beams and essentially replace one of the two beams used to create holograms, researchers said. When a laser illuminates a rough surface, the viewer sees grain-like speckles in the dot, as some of the returning light scattered from points on the surface has to go farther and throws the collective wave out of phase. The texture of a piece of paper – or even a fingerprint -is enough to cause the effect.

“Today, the technology can be applied only to coherent (laser) light,” said Ashok Veeraraghavan of Rice University.”That means you cannot apply these techniques to take pictures outdoors and improve resolution for sunlit images -as yet,” Veeraraghavan said.”With a traditional camera, the larger the physical size of the aperture, the better the resolution,” he said.

“If you want an aperture that is half a foot, you may need 30 glass surfaces to remove aberrations and create a focused spot. This makes your lens very big and bulky,” he added. SAVI’s “synthetic aperture” sidesteps the problem by replacing a long lens with a computer programme the resolves the speckle data into an image, researchers said.
“You can capture interference patterns from a fair distance,” Veeraraghavan said. The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

Poker AI Again Trounces Human Challengers – This Time From China

Alan Du’s never met a poker adversary with such a stone-cold demeanor. It’s the fifth day that the venture capitalist and World Series of Poker veteran has gone up against this opponent – and the losses are stacking up.

His rival is literally inhuman, Du conceded after repeatedly keying bets into a computer and eliciting nary a hint of emotion. That’s because he went up against “Lengpudashi:” an updated version of the Libratus artificial intelligence program that achieved a major milestone by besting four of the world’s best poker pros in January.

Housed within a supercomputing center near Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, its name, intended to resemble its English moniker, fittingly translates into “cold poker master.”

Du and five team members played 36,000 hands against the machine over the course of five days. On Monday, at a resort conference center on China’s Hainan island, the final point-based score was announced: the AI won by a landslide.

Poker is a popular game among venture capitalists because “every hand you play is like a venture, trying to assess risk and ROI,” said Du, a seed investor who became the first mainland Chinese to win a WSOP gold bracelet in Las Vegas last year. “We held ourselves very well when playing against this world-class opponent.”

Poker’s complex betting strategies and the element of bluffing make it particularly intriguing to AI researchers. A player also decides to bet, bluff or fold without ever seeing the opponent’s full hand – a different kind of challenge than games like chess or Go, in which all the pieces are clearly visible on a playing board.

Du had tried to prevail where the pros had fallen short by employing an understanding of AI. Unlike the players in the January match-up who drew upon years of professional experience, Du’s Chinese team, which included a former Oracle engineer and startup entrepreneurs, attempted to apply their knowledge of machine intelligence and game theory to counter the machine’s moves. It wasn’t enough.

The latest AI exhibition, organised by Sinovation Ventures and Hainan’s government, didn’t generate quite the same buzz as last year’s match-up between Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo and Korean master Lee Sedol in Seoul. Perhaps that’s because even casual observers are becoming accustomed to seeing AI software upstage humans.

Tuomas Sandholm, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, has been honing the research underlying Libratus since 2004, honing its ability to make decisions in situations with imperfect information. The point of training AI to win at games like chess, Go, and poker isn’t for the sake of games themselves, but because controlled environments help computers hone strategic decision-making. Those reasoning skills can then be applied to real-world problems such as business, finance, and cybersecurity, he said.

“People have a misunderstanding of what computers and people are each good at. People think that bluffing is very human – it turns out that’s not true,” said Noam Brown, Sandholm’s PhD student and a co-developer of Libratus. “A computer can learn from experience that if it has a weak hand and it bluffs, it can make more money.”

The AI didn’t learn to bluff from mimicking successful human poker players, but from game theory. “Its strategies were computed from just the rules of the game,” not from analysing historical data, Sandholm said.

Venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee, founder of Sinovation and an event organizer, said the rapid acceleration of AI technology over the past five years wasn’t possible before the advent of big data analysis. His fund has invested $120 million (roughly Rs. 775 crores) in AI-related companies in China – including facial recognition and loan-application startups – and he plans to devote a significant chunk of the money he’s currently raising to other AI ventures.

Also evident in the Hainan exhibition was the possibility of AI’s gradual democratisation. Brown said the computing power on display over the competition could be had for under $20,000 (roughly Rs. 12.9 lakhs).

“It’s surprisingly affordable,” he said. “Within 5 years, this could be running on smartphones.”

Pokemon Go Will Soon Get Co-Op Multiplayer; Update Brings Other New Features

Pokemon Go has struggled to remain relevant after becoming hugely successful last year but seems like Niantic, the game developer behind the app, is pulling up its socks to get some of its users back. Niantic has announced that the company will soon be adding “all new cooperative social gameplay experiences” to the augmented-reality mobile game going ahead. The company has also pushed out the version 0.61.0 update on Google Play and version 1.31.0 update on App Store respectively, with new features.

Apart from the mention of the upcoming co-op multiplayer element, Niantic also shared that the game is currently enjoying a user base of over 65 million monthly active users.

“Yesterday, Pokemon Go won the Best Mobile and Handheld Game at the British Academy of Film, Television and Arts Game Awards. We are surprised and grateful to be awarded this honour. We owe the continued momentum and recognition to the dedicated players exploring the world and creating adventures together in Pokemon Go. Each and every award Pokemon Go has won is a testament to the game’s awesome and supportive community,” the company said in a blog post.

Moving to the latest update to the game, it brings along support for traditional Chinese language, updates the Pokemon collection screen scroll bar, and carries various bug fixes, as per the change-log on Google Play.

We will have to wait for Niantic to provide additional details about the co-op element of the game but as the latest update doesn’t bring any remarkable improvement to the game, it seems unlikely that players will be returning to the game any time soon.

Microsoft’s Cortana comes to the top of your Android lock screen

No stranger to new platforms after hitting iOS and Android last year, Microsoft’s Cortana AI is coming to another atypical location: on top of your Android’s lock screen.

Cortana on Android has been updated to allow access to the Halo-inspired digital assistant and its feature over your smartphone’s lock screen — meaning information such as your schedule, reminders, and weather forecast can be pulled up in a snap without having to input an unlock code or fingerprint scan.

In addition to placement on top of the Android lock screen, Cortana is also getting a slight design tweak to make the service’s apps and widgets more streamlined on mobile devices.

While Cortana is mostly synonymous with Windows 10 PCs, Android and iOS devices aren’t the only branching-out points planned by the Microsoft-powered assistant.

BMW and Nissan both plan on bringing Cortana to their vehicles, providing drivers with some digital assistance from behind the steering wheel and also giving healthy competition to the likes of Apple’s long-standing Siri, Amazon’s ever-growing Alexa, and Samsung’s freshly announced Bixby.

Yamaha YZF-R3 and Cygnus Ray-ZR Win the India Design Mark (I Mark) Certification

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India Yamaha Motor has received the India Design Mark (I Mark) certification by the India Design Council for the YZF-R3 and the Cygnus Ray-ZR. This is the sixth consecutive year that Yamaha has received this esteemed certification. Since 2012, Yamaha has received the I Mark certification for products like YZF-R15 version 2.0 (2012), Cygnus Ray (2013), Cygnus Ray Z (2014), Cygnus Alpha (2015), FZ-S FI version 2.0 (2015), Yamaha Fascino scooter and Saluto 125 bike

India Design Council is an autonomous body of Government of India established under the aegis of Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry comprising of eminent people in academia, design and industry organizations. The India Design Council has initiated India Design Mark in cooperation with Japan Institute of Design Promotion (JDP). India Design Mark symbol is a trustworthy indicator of excellence. The symbol can be used in a wide range of ways, such as advertisements, catalogues, product packaging, and other promotional mediums.

Speaking about the achievement, Roy Kurian, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Yamaha Motor India Sales Pvt. Ltd. said that Yamaha is postulated to come up with exciting products along with excellence in design, style and comfort that revs heart. The certification will induce trust among its customers and will also generate the desired brand worth in terms of winning new customers. Customers accepted YZF-R3 and Cygnus Ray ZR with incredible gusto and the certification by India Design Mark will further manifest its overall impression.a

Manufacturers Asked to Furnish Details of Unsold BS-III Vehicles by the Supreme Court

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Automakers in India would soon have to furnish a detailed report about their unsold, BS-III rated vehicles to the Apex Court. Based on the report, the Supreme Count will then decide whether to allow the sales of those products post March 31, 2017. The Court further summoned Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to number of BS-III vehicles produced from December 31, 2015-till date.

As you must already know, the new BS-IV emission norms are scheduled to kick-in from April 1, 2017. Manufacturers are currently clearing the existing stock of vehicles and offering their BS-III products at heavy discount. Earlier this month, we saw Honda and Kawasaki offer their products at heavy discounts of upto INR 1 lakh on some of their BS-III rated vehicles.

According to SIAM, there are 20,000 passenger vehicles, 75,000 commercial vehicles, 47,000 three-wheelers and about 7,50,000 two-wheelers – all of BS-III stage – that remain to be sold as of April 1.

With the BS-IV norms just around the corner, this might be a good time to keep an eye on the stock clearance sales. You might just find yourself a really good deal.