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NASA

US Eyes Robot Moon Missions as it Prepares For Astronauts' Return (reuters.com) 26

The United States wants to send robotic explorers to the moon as soon as next year as a preparatory step toward sending astronauts back there for the first time since 1972, a NASA official said on Monday. From a report: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is planning a series of lunar missions beginning next year aimed at developing the capacity for a return to the moon, said Cheryl Warner, a spokeswoman for NASA's Human Exploration Directorate. NASA will work with private companies, which have not yet been chosen, on the missions, Warner said in a phone interview. U.S. President Donald Trump in December signed a directive that he said would enable astronauts to return to the moon and eventually lead a mission to Mars. Last month he ordered the government to review regulations on commercial space flights.
PlayStation (Games)

Sony's PlayStation 5 Will Launch In 2020 Powered By An AMD Navi GPU, Says Report (theinquirer.net) 82

According to a new report from WCCFtech, citing "sources familiar with the entire situation," Sony's PlayStation 5 (PS5 for short) will launch in 2020 and be powered by AMD's Navi GPU chip. "While it was previously reported that the much-anticipated console will be using AMD's Ryzen CPU tech, it looks like the chip maker will have some involvement in the PS5's graphics chip, too," reports The Inquirer. From the report: The report also suggests this is the reason behind AMD not announcing a new GPU at Computex this year, because it has found custom-applications for consoles a much more financially attractive space. "Here is a fun fact: Vega was designed primarily for Apple and Navi is being designed for Sony - the PS5 to be precise," the report states, right before going on to explain AMD's roadmap for Navi and how it's dependent on Sony.

"This meant that the graphics department had to be tied directly to the roadmap that these semi-custom applications followed. Since Sony needed the Navi GPU to be ready by the time the PS5 would launch (expectedly around 2020) that is the deadline they needed to work on."
It's anyone's guess as to when the successor to the PlayStation 4 will be launched. While the source for this report is seen as reputable in the games industry, last month the head of PlayStation business said the next console is three years off.
Space

NASA's Most Experienced Astronaut Retires, Spent 665 Days In Space (upi.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes UPI: After nearly four decades with NASA, including 22 years as an astronaut, Peggy Whitson is leaving the space agency. Her retirement is effective Friday, NASA announced... Whitson ends her career with multiple records to her name, including most time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut -- 665 days...

The 57-year-old Whitson was a scientist before she was an astronaut, earning graduate degrees in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston before coming to conduct research at NASA's Johnson Space Center in 1989. The NASA scientist began training as an astronaut in 1996. She made her first trip to the International Space Station in 2008. During her time in space, including three long-duration stints aboard International Space Station, she helped carry out 21 science investigation and became the agency's first space station science officer... Whitson took a second turn as commander during Expedition 51, part of her most recent -- and last -- stay on the space station, which spanned from November 2016 to September 2017.

Science

Stephen Hawking's Voice Beamed Into Space as His Ashes Are Interred (cnet.com) 107

The ashes of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking were interred at Westminster Abbey in London on Friday in a memorial ceremony attended by a mixture of celebrities and members of the public. From a report: Astronaut Tim Peake and British actor Benedict Cumberbatch and both gave readings, and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees paid tribute to the Hawking's work. Following the service, Hawking's words, set to an original score by composer Vangelis, will be beamed into space by the European Space Agency.

Hawking died in March aged 76 after a lifetime of studying the science of space and time. His final resting place is situated between the remains of two other great scientists: Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton. It is a rare honor to be interred at the Abbey, and one that has not been afforded to a scientist for almost 80 years. Before Hawking, the last scientists laid to rest at Westminster were atomic physicists Ernest Rutherford in 1937 and Joseph John Thomson in 1940.

Microsoft

Microsoft To Give Office 365, Office.com Apps a Makeover (zdnet.com) 88

On the heels of recent redesigns by Google and Apple, Microsoft is giving its Office apps a facelift over the coming months. From a report: Over the coming months, Microsoft will begin rolling out changes to the interface of Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Office 365 and Office Online (Office.com) users. Key to the Office app redesign are an updated Ribbon, icon refreshes and new ways to more easily see changes coming to the Office suite. There's a simplified version of the Office Ribbon, which allows users to collapse it so it takes up less space and hides many options, or keep it expanded into the current three-line view. Microsoft is starting to roll out this new Ribbon in the web version of Word to "select consumer users today in Office.com." In July, Microsoft will also make this new Ribbon design available in Outlook for Windows. "We've found that the same ten commands are used 95% of the time by everybody," said Jon Friedman, General Manager of Design Management and Operations. In Outlook such as "Reply," "Reply All" and "Forward" are basically universal. But that other five percent is different for every person, so Microsoft is adding an option to remove commands from the Ribbon, such as Archive, for example, and pin others to it, such as "Reply by IM."
KDE

KDE Plasma 5.13 Released (kde.org) 94

jrepin writes: KDE unveils the final release of Plasma 5.13, the free and open-source desktop environment. Members of the Plasma team have focused on optimizing startup and minimizing memory usage. Plasma Browser Integration is a suite of new features which make Firefox, Chrome and Chromium-based browsers work with your desktop. For example, downloads are now displayed in the Plasma notification popup, and the Media Controls Plasmoid can mute and skip videos and music playing from within the browser. Browser tabs can be opened directly using KRunner via the Alt-Space keyboard shortcut. System Settings design has been improved further. Window manager gained much-improved effects for blur and desktop switching. Wayland work continued, with the return of window rules, and initial support for screencasts and desktop sharing. You can view the changelog here.
Communications

Mars Opportunity Rover Is In Danger of Dying From a Dust Storm (engadget.com) 105

According to NASA, the Mars Opportunity rover is currently trying to survive an intensifying dust storm on the red planet. "The storm's atmospheric opacity -- the veil of dust blowing around, which can blot out sunlight -- is now much worse than a 2007 storm that Opportunity weathered," reports NASA. "The previous storm had an opacity level, or tau, somewhere above 5.5; this new storm had an estimated tau of 10.8 as of Sunday morning." Engadget reports: The storm was first detected on Friday June 1st by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at which point the rover's team was notified because of the weather event's proximity to Opportunity. The rover uses solar panels, so a dust storm could have an extremely negative impact on Opportunity's power levels and its batteries. By Wednesday June 6th, Opportunity was in minimal operations mode because of sharply decreasing power levels. The brave little rover is continuing to weather the storm; it sent a transmission back to Earth Sunday morning, which is a good sign. It means there's still enough charge left in the batteries to communicate with home, despite the fact that the storm is continuing to worsen.
The Internet

Vint Cert Warns IPv4 Users: 'Time To Get With the Program' (zdnet.com) 274

An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: Vint Cerf notes that the world ran out of IPv4 address space around 2011, some 13 years after internet engineers started sketching out IPv6, under the belief back then that IPv4 addresses would run out imminently. Since 'World IPv6 Launch' on June 6, 2012, significant progress has been made. Back then just one percent of users accessed Google services over IPv6. Now roughly a quarter of users access Google over IPv6. But Cerf noted that "it's certainly been a long time since the standards were put in place, and it's time to get with the program"...

The Internet Society's snapshot of IPv6 in 2018 notes that Google reports that 49 countries deliver more than five percent of traffic over IPv6. There are also 24 countries where IPv6 traffic is greater than 15 percent, including the US, Canada, Brazil, Finland, India, and Belgium. Additionally, 17 percent of the top million Alexa sites work with IPv6, while 28 percent of the top 1,000 Alexa sites do. Enterprise operations are IPv6's "elephant in the room", according to the Internet Society. Around 25 percent of all internet-connected networks advertise IPv6 connectivity, and the Internet Society suspects that most of the networks that don't are enterprise networks.

Space

New Horizons Spacecraft Wakes Up To Prepare For Historic Flyby of Distant Object (space.com) 36

jwhyche writes: The New Horizons space probe has been in hibernation mode since Dec. 21. On June 5th, the spacecraft exited hibernation mode and began preparing for its next encounter. The spacecraft is currently 3.7 billion miles from Earth and will be spending the next few months preparing for its flyby of a small Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule (officially 2014 MU69). The craft is expected to pass by Ultima Thule during the New Year's holiday.
Mars

NASA Mars Rover Finds Organic Matter in Ancient Lake Bed (theguardian.com) 148

NASA's veteran Curiosity rover has found complex organic matter buried and preserved in ancient sediments that formed a vast lake bed on Mars more than 3bn years ago. From a report: The discovery is the most compelling evidence yet that long before the planet became the parched world it is today, Martian lakes were a rich soup of carbon-based compounds that are necessary for life, at least as we know it. Researchers cannot tell how the organic material formed and so leave open the crucial question: are the compounds remnants of past organisms; the product of chemical reactions with rocks; or were they brought to Mars in comets or other falling debris that slammed into the surface? All look the same in the tests performed. But whatever the ultimate source of the material, if microbial life did find a foothold on Mars, the presence of organics meant it would not have gone hungry. "We know that on Earth microorganisms eat all sorts of organics. It's a valuable food source for them," said Jennifer Eigenbrode, a biogeochemist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The Curiosity rover also discovered that methane on the red planet changes with the seasons. The Verge: Where the methane is coming from is still a mystery, but scientists have some ideas, including that microbes may be the source of the gas. Researchers at NASA and other US universities analyzed five years' worth of methane measurements Curiosity took at Gale Crater, where the rover landed in 2012. Curiosity detected background levels of methane of about 0.4 parts per billion, which is a tiny amount. (In comparison, Earth's atmosphere has about 1,800 parts per billion of methane.) Those levels of methane, however, were found to range from 0.2 to about 0.7 parts per billion, with concentrations peaking near the end of the summer in the northern hemisphere, according to a study published today in Science. This seasonal cycle repeated through time and could come from an underground reservoir of methane, the study says. Whether that reservoir is a sign that there is or was life on Mars, however, is impossible to say for now.
Science

Why a Group of Physicists Watched a Clock Tick For 14 Years Straight (wired.com) 106

An anonymous reader writes: If you drop your phone today and it falls to the ground, you can be fairly certain that if it slips from your grip again tomorrow (butterfingers!), it won't suddenly soar into the sky. That's thanks to one of the basic ideas in Einstein's theory of general relativity, which posits that the laws of physics don't change over space and time. But to actually know that for a fact, you'd have to perform the same task over and over again, in as many locations as possible, and watch closely for any change in outcome. That's why, as Sophia Chen reports, a group of physicists has spent the past 14 years -- or 450 million seconds -- watching clocks tick.

Their results would have made Einstein heave a sigh of relief. The physicists were observing the 12 atomic clocks to see whether their subatomic particles' behavior changed over those 14 years -- but it was completely consistent, even as the clocks moved with the Earth around the sun. Now, these findings don't necessarily mean that the laws of physics are absolutely not changing across time and space. They only definitively show that the laws of physics stayed constant over the 14 years of the experiment. "Still, they can now say this with five times more certainty than they could a decade ago," Chen writes. "And if it holds true for Earth's location in the universe, it's not too much of a leap to imagine it's true elsewhere."

Space

Majority of Americans Believe It Is Essential That the US Remain a Global Leader in Space (pewinternet.org) 286

Pew Research: Sixty years after the founding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), most Americans believe the United States should be at the forefront of global leadership in space exploration. Majorities say the International Space Station has been a good investment for the country and that, on balance, NASA is still vital to the future of U.S. space exploration even as private space companies emerge as increasingly important players. Roughly seven-in-ten Americans (72%) say it is essential for the U.S. to continue to be a world leader in space exploration, and eight-in-ten (80%) say the space station has been a good investment for the country, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted March 27-April 9, 2018. These survey results come at a time when NASA finds itself in a much different world from the one that existed when the Apollo astronauts first set foot on the moon nearly half a century ago. The Cold War space race has receded into history, but other countries (including China, Japan and India) have emerged as significant international players in space exploration. Another finding in the report: Most Americans would like NASA to focus on Earth, instead of Mars.
Programming

Company Takes Over Well-Known OSS Developer's Name Because the Domain Was Free 99

New submitter Fatalis writes: Substack is a venture capital funded startup for subscription-based newsletters, and it admittedly chose its name following the advice from a Paul Graham (co-founder of Y Combinator) article to prefer names not registered in the .com zone. The same name has also been the user handle for a prolific open-source developer who now finds themselves competing for recognition in the tech space with a capital backed company. The lesson seems to be for developers to protect their personal brand by registering a domain name with the .com extension due to it being perceived as the default.
Operating Systems

tvOS 12 Brings Dolby Atmos Support, Zero Sign-In, and TV App Improvements (macworld.com) 47

If you're using an Apple TV as your main streaming box, you will be happy to know several big improvements are coming to the platform. Macworld reports of what's new in tvOS 12: With tvOS 12, Dolby Atmos comes to the Apple TV 4K. All you need for full 3D immersive audio is an Atmos-supporting sound bar or receiver. This makes Apple TV 4K the only streaming media box to be certified for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

One of the best features of tvOS 11 is called Single Sign-on. You add your TV provider's login information to your Apple TV device. If an app supports Single Sign-on, you can log in with your TV provider with just a few taps. It's a big step forward, but still a little bit of a pain. With tvOS 12, Apple makes the whole process totally seamless with Zero Sign-on. Here's how it works: If your TV provider is your Internet provider (a very common occurrence here in the United States), and your Apple TV is connected to the Internet through that provider, you sign in automatically to any Apple TV app your provider gives you access to. Just launch the app, and you're signed in, no passwords or configuration needed at all.

Apple's breathtaking 4K video screensavers, called "Aerials," is one of those minor delights that Apple TV 4K users can't get enough of. In tvOS 12, they get better. You can tap the remote to see the location at which the Aerial was filmed. A new set of Aerials is the star of the show, however. Called "Earth," these are stunning videos from space, taken by astronauts at the International Space Station.
Furthermore, the TV app will provide live content from select TV providers; Charter Spectrum will support the app with live channels and content later this year. Apple is also now allowing third-party home control systems' remotes to control your Apple TV (including Siri).
NASA

NASA Extends Juno Jupiter Mission By Three Years (gizmodo.com) 21

The Juno spacecraft currently orbiting Jupiter was supposed to end its mission by crashing into the gas giant next month. Not anymore! From a report: It turns out the scientific mission will be extended through at least 2021 so it can meet its goals, as Business Insider first reported yesterday. This will delay the probe's dramatic demise for at least a few years. "NASA has approved Juno to continue through 2022 to finish all of our originally planned science," Scott Bolton, Juno's principle investigator from the Southwest Research Institute, told Gizmodo in an email. "The orbits are longer than planned, and that is why Juno needs more time to gather our planned scientific measurements." Juno departed Earth for Jupiter in 2011 and arrived at the gas giant on July 4, 2016. Since then, it's sent back a host of valuable data that has revealed new insights into Jupiter, like the depth of the red spot, three-dimensional views of the gas below its surface, and how its auroras work.
Businesses

No More 'Miracles From Molecules': Monsanto's Name Is Being Retired (reuters.com) 236

Flexagon writes: Germany's Bayer announced today that in its link-up with Monsanto, it's retiring the "Monsanto" name, and with it the name of the company that originally sponsored Disneyland's "Adventure Thru Inner Space" attraction. The $63 billion takeover will wrap up on Thursday. "Bayer will remain the company name. Monsanto will no longer be a company name. The acquired products will retain their brand names and become part of the Bayer portfolio," it said.

The decision to retire the name is a smart business move. "These days Monsanto is shorthand for, as NPR's Dan Charles has put it, 'lots of things that some people love to hate': Genetically modified crops, which Monsanto invented," reports NPR. "Seed patents, which Monsanto has fought to defend. Herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup, which protesters have sharply criticized for its possible health risks. Big agriculture in general, of which Monsanto was the reviled figurehead."
Moon

SpaceX Delays Plans To Send Space Tourists To Circle Moon (cnet.com) 124

SpaceX will reportedly no longer be sending a pair of space tourists to circle the moon this year. The flight was scheduled for late 2018, but has been delayed, according to The Wall Street Journal. The reason for the delay is unclear. CNET reports: The flight was announced in February 2017, with SpaceX saying that two unidentified private citizens had put down a "significant deposit" for the trip and that other flight teams had expressed interest in taking a similar journey. The plan was for the tourists to fly on a Dragon Crew spacecraft launched from Earth by a Falcon Heavy rocket.

"SpaceX is still planning to fly private individuals on a trip around the moon and there is growing interest from many customers," company spokesman James Gleeson wrote in a statement. "Private spaceflight missions, including a trip around the moon, present an opportunity for humans to return to deep space and to travel faster and farther into the solar system than any before them, which is of course an important milestone as we work toward our ultimate goal to help make humanity multi-planetary."

AI

Nvidia Launches AI Computer To Give Autonomous Robots Better Brains (theverge.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: At Computex 2018, Nvidia unveiled two new products: Nvidia Isaac, a new developer platform, and the Jetson Xavier, an AI computer, both built to power autonomous robots. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said Isaac and Jetson Xavier were designed to capture the next stage of AI innovation as it moves from software running in the cloud to robots that navigate the real world. The Isaac platform is a set of software tools that will make it simpler for companies to develop and train robots. It includes a collection of APIs to connect to 3D cameras and sensors; a library of AI accelerators to keep algorithms running smoothly and without lag; and a new simulation environment, Isaac Sim, for training and testing bots in a virtual space. Doing so is quicker and safer than IRL testing, but it can't match the complexity of the real world.

But the heart of the Isaac platform is Nvidia's new Jetson Xavier computer, an incredibly compact piece of hardware that's comprised of a number of processing components. These include a Volta Tensor Core GPU, an eight-core ARM64 CPU, two NVDLA deep learning accelerators, and processors for static images and video. In total, Jetson Xavier contains more than 9 billion transistors and delivers over 30 TOPS (trillion operations per second) of compute. And it consumes just 30 watts of power, which is half of the electricity used by the average light bulb. The cost of one Jetson Xavier (along with access to the Isaac platform) is $1,299, and Huang claims the computer provides the same processing power as a $10,000 workstation
"AI, in combination with sensors and actuators, will be the brain of a new generation of autonomous machines," said Huang. "Someday, there will be billions of intelligent machines in manufacturing, home delivery, warehouse logistics and much more."
Space

How Microbes Survive Clean Rooms and Contaminate Spacecraft (phys.org) 24

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Rakesh Mogul, a Cal Poly Pomona professor of biological chemistry, was the lead author of an article in the journal Astrobiology that offers the first biochemical evidence explaining the reason the contamination persists. To figure out how the spacecraft microbiome survives in the cleanroom facilities, the research team analyzed several Acinetobacter strains that were originally isolated from the Mars Odyssey and Phoenix spacecraft facilities. They found that under very nutrient-restricted conditions, most of the tested strains grew on and biodegraded the cleaning agents used during spacecraft assembly. The work showed that cultures grew on ethyl alcohol as a sole carbon source while displaying reasonable tolerances towards oxidative stress. This is important since oxidative stress is associated with desiccating and high radiation environments similar to Mars. The tested strains were also able to biodegrade isopropyl alcohol and Kleenol 30, two other cleaning agents commonly used, with these products potentially serving as energy sources for the microbiome.
Books

New York's Last Remaining Independent Bookshops (theguardian.com) 71

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via The Guardian, written by Hermione Hoby: Michael Seidenberg, pictured kingly in his throne of a wicker chair, feet spread, pipe in mouth, is one of around 50 New York indie booksellers featured in a series of portraits by Philippe Ungar and Franck Bohbot, a pair of bibliophilic Frenchmen who met and befriended each other in Brooklyn. The two, writer and photographer respectively, have taken great pleasure in traveling across the city, to neighborhoods in every borough, to meet and photograph booksellers in their habitats. Despite their diversity, the way their distinct personalities and passions are reflected and amplified in their shops, they are all, says Ungar, "looking for the same thing -- a generous vision of sharing culture". Ungar mentions Corey Farach, owner of the scruffy, adored and longstanding feminist bookshop Bluestockings. Farach, as Ungar recounts with admiration, encourages those people who can't afford to buy a $40 book to take a seat, make themselves comfortable, and just read it in the shop. "That is to me," says Ungar, "the spirit of the indie booksellers." Because, as he sees it, "a bookstore is much more than a bookstore, it's much more than selling books. It's a public shelter. Whoever you are, you don't have to buy anything, they won't ask you for your ID. You're free -- you can stay for hours and browse. There's a generosity, an optimism. And that's what we wanted to enhance." "[I]ndie bookshops are outposts of idealism," writes Hoby. "And if they seem like the most romantic places in the city, it might be down to this -- to the way their owners and customers might all be engaged in the same project, a kind of sanctuary building in the unsheltered world."

She goes on to mention Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, "a small space crammed with vintage titles," as well several closed bookshops "which have fallen to astronomically rising rents." "Three Lives & Company [...] narrowly escaped closure in 2016 after an upswell of neighborhood support," writes Hoby. The group that owns the building decided to "provide it with stability," given how well-loved it is in the West Village.

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