Connect with us

Science

Japanese Startup Creates ‘Connected’ Face Mask for Coronavirus New Normal

Published

on

As face coverings become the norm amid the coronavirus pandemic, Japanese startup Donut Robotics has developed an internet-connected ‘smart mask’ that can transmit messages and translate from Japanese into eight other languages.

The white plastic ‘c-mask’ fits over standard face masks and connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone and tablet application that can transcribe speech into text messages, make calls, or amplify the mask wearer’s voice.

“We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society,” said Taisuke Ono, the chief executive of Donut Robotics.

Donut Robotics’ engineers came up with the idea for the mask as they searched for a product to help the company survive the pandemic. When the coronavirus struck, it had just secured a contract to supply robot guides and translators to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, a product that faces an uncertain future after the collapse of air travel.

Donut Robotics’ first 5,000 c-masks will be shipped to buyers in Japan starting in September, with Ono looking to sell in China, the United States and Europe too. There has been strong interest, he said.

At about $40 (roughly Rs. 3,000) per mask, Donut Robotics is aiming at a mass market that did not exist until a few months ago. One aim, he said, is to generate revenue from subscriber services offered via an app that users will download.

Donut Robotics built a prototype connected mask within a month by adapting translation software developed for its robot and a mask design that one of the company’s engineers, Shunsuke Fujibayashi, created four years ago for a student project to interpret speech by mapping face muscles.

Ono raised JPY 28 million (roughly Rs. 1.98 crores) for development by selling Donut Robotics shares through Japanese crowdfunding site Fundinno.

“We raised our initial target of 7 million yen within three minutes and stopped after 37 minutes when we had reached 28 million yen,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

Science

Footprints of UK’s Last Dinosaurs From 110 Million Years Ago Found in Kent

Published

on

By Press Trust of India | Updated: 21 June 2021

Footprints from at least six different species of dinosaur – the very last dinosaurs to walk on UK soil 110 million years ago – have been found in Kent, a new report by researchers has claimed.

The discovery of dinosaur footprints by a curator from Hastings Museum and Art Gallery and a scientist from the University of Portsmouth is the last record of dinosaurs in Britain.

The footprints were discovered in the cliffs and on the foreshore in Folkestone, Kent, where stormy conditions affect the cliff and coastal waters, and are constantly revealing new fossils.

“This is the first time dinosaur footprints have been found in strata known as the ‘Folkestone Formation” and it’s quite an extraordinary discovery because these dinosaurs would have been the last to roam in this country before becoming extinct,” said David Martill, Professor of Palaeobiology, at the University of Portsmouth.

“They were walking around close to where the White Cliffs of Dover are now – next time you’re on a ferry and you see those magnificent cliffs just imagine that,” he said.

The findings have been published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association” this week and some of the footprints are on display at Folkestone Museum.

The footprint fossils are formed by sediment filling the impression left behind when a dinosaur’s foot pushes into the ground, which then preserves it.

The footprints are from a variety of dinosaurs, which shows there was a relatively high diversity of dinosaurs in southern England at the end of the Early Cretaceous period, 110 million years ago.

They are thought to be from ankylosaurs, rugged-looking armoured dinosaurs which were like living tanks; theropods, three-toed flesh-eating dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus rex; and ornithopods, plant-eating ‘bird-hipped” dinosaurs so-called because of their pelvic structure being a little bit similar to birds.

Philip Hadland, Collections and Engagement Curator, at the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery is lead author on the paper.

“Back in 2011, I came across unusual impressions in the rock formation at Folkestone. They seemed to be repeating and all I could think was they might be footprints,” said Hadland.

“This was at odds with what most geologists say about the rocks here, but I went looking for more footprints and as the tides revealed more by erosion, I found even better ones. More work was needed to convince the scientific community of their validity, so I teamed up with experts at the University of Portsmouth to verify what I’d found,” he said.

Most of the findings are isolated footprints, but one discovery comprises six footprints – making a “trackway”, which is more than one consecutive print from the same animal.

This trackway of prints are similar in size to an elephant footprint and have been identified as likely to be an Ornithopodichnus, of which similar, but smaller-sized footprints have also been found in China from the same time period.

The largest footprint found – measuring 80 cm in width and 65 cm in length – has been identified as belonging to an Iguanodon-like dinosaur.

Iguanodons were also plant-eaters, grew up to 10 metres long and walked on both two legs or on all fours.

Continue Reading

Science

Hubble Space Telescope Down for Past Few Days, Says NASA

Published

on

By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 19 June 2021

The Hubble Space Telescope, which has been peering into the universe for more than 30 years, has been down for the past few days, NASA said Friday.

The problem is a payload computer that stopped working last Sunday, the US space agency said.

It insisted the telescope itself and scientific instruments that accompany it are “in good health.”

“The payload computer’s purpose is to control and coordinate the science instruments and monitor them for health and safety purposes,” NASA said.

An attempt to restart it on Monday failed.

NASA said initial evidence pointed to a degrading computer memory module as the source of the computer problem.

An attempt to switch to a back-up memory module also failed.

The technology for the payload computer dates back to the 1980s, and it was replaced during maintenance work in 2009.

Launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionised the world of astronomy and changed our vision of the universe as it sent back images of the solar system, the Milky Way and distant galaxies.

A new and more powerful one, called the James Webb Space Telescope, is scheduled to be deployed late this year. It is designed to peer deeper into the cosmos than ever before.

Continue Reading

Science

China’s Space Station Welcomes First Astronauts as Shenzhou-12 Docks Successfully

Published

on

By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 17 June 2021

The first astronauts arrived at China’s new space station on Thursday in the country’s longest crewed mission to date, a landmark step in establishing Beijing as a major space power.

The trio blasted off on a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan launch centre in northwest China’s Gobi desert, and their craft docked at the Tiangong station around seven hours later, where they will spend the next three months.

State broadcaster CCTV showed a live feed from inside the spacecraft during the journey, with the three astronauts lifting their helmet visors after it reached orbit as one smiled and waved at the camera.

Another floated a pen just off his lap in zero-gravity as he browsed the flight manual.

Around seven hours after lift-off, space officials confirmed that the craft had docked with Tianhe, the core module of the country’s new space station.

The Shenzhou-12 craft has “successfully docked with the forward port of the core module” of the Tiangong station, said the China Manned Space Agency, as state TV showed live footage.

At a ceremony before blast-off, the three astronauts, already wearing their space suits, greeted a crowd of supporters and space workers, who sang the patriotic song “Without the Chinese Communist Party, there would be no new China”.

The mission’s commander is Nie Haisheng, a decorated air force pilot in the People’s Liberation Army who has already participated in two space missions.

The two other members are also members of the military.

Space life
The Tianhe module of the space station has separate living spaces for each of the astronauts, a “space treadmill” and bike for exercise, and a communication centre for emails and video calls with ground control.

It is China’s first crewed mission in nearly five years.

Huang Weifen of the China Manned Space Program said the astronauts will perform two spacewalks during the mission, both lasting around six or seven hours.

She also said the trio will wear newly-developed spacewalk suits.

The launch represents a matter of huge prestige in China, as Beijing prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party on July 1 with a massive propaganda campaign.

To prepare for the mission, the crew underwent more than 6,000 hours of training, including hundreds of underwater somersaults in full space gear.

The Chinese space agency is planning a total of 11 launches through to the end of next year, including three more manned missions that will deliver two lab modules to expand the 70-tonne station, along with supplies and crew members.

China’s space ambitions have been fuelled in part by a US ban on its astronauts on the International Space Station, a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe, and Japan.

It is due for retirement after 2024, even though NASA has said it could potentially remain functional beyond 2028.

Tiangong will be much smaller than the ISS, and is expected to have a lifespan of at least 10 years.

China has said it would be open to international collaboration on its space station although it has yet to give specific details.

Zhou Jianping, chief designer for the space programme, said “foreign astronauts are certainly going to enter the Chinese space station one day”.

“There are a number of countries that have expressed a desire to do that and we will be open to that in future,” he said.

Beijing said in March it was also planning to build a separate lunar space station with Russia, and this week the two countries issued a “roadmap” for potential collaboration opportunities.

Continue Reading

Science

China Launches First Crew Aboard Shenzhou-12 to Live on New Tianhe Space Station

Published

on

By Associated Press | Updated: 17 June 2021

Under bright-blue morning skies, China launched its first crewed space mission in five years Thursday, sending three science-minded military pilots rocketing to a new orbiting station they’re expected to reach around midafternoon.

The astronauts, already wearing their spacesuits, were seen off by space officials, other uniformed military personnel and a crowd of children waving flowers and flags and singing patriotic songs. The three gave final waves to a crowd of people waving flags, then entered the elevator to take them to the spaceship at the Jiuquan launch center in northwestern China.

The astronauts are traveling in the Shenzhou-12 spaceship launched by a Long March-2F Y12 rocket that blasted off shortly after the target time of 9:22am (6:52am IST) with near-perfect visibility at the launch center on the edge of the Gobi Desert.

The two veteran astronauts and a newcomer making his first space flight are scheduled to stay three months in the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, conducting experiments, testing equipment, and preparing the station for expansion before two laboratory modules are launched next year.

The rocket dropped its boosters about two minutes into the flight followed by the coiling surrounding Shenzhou-12 at the top of the rocket. After about 10 minutes it separated from the rocket’s upper section, extended its solar panels and shortly afterward entered orbit.

About a half-dozen adjustments will take place over the next four to six hours to line up the spaceship for docking with the Tianhe at about 4pm (1:30pm IST), the mission’s deputy chief designer, Gao Xu, told state broadcaster CCTV.

The travel time is down from the two days it took to reach China’s earlier experimental space stations, a result of a “great many breakthroughs and innovations” Gao said.

“So the astronauts can a have a good rest in the space which should make them less tired,” Gao said.

Other improvements include an increase in the number of automated and remote-controlled systems that should “significantly lessen the pressure on the astronauts,” Gao said.

The mission brings to 14 the number of astronauts China has launched into space since its first crewed mission in 2003, becoming only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to do so on its own. Two astronauts on those past missions were women, and while this first station crew is all male, women are expected to be part of future station crews.

The mission is the third of 11 planned through next year to add the additional sections to the station and send up crews and supplies. A fresh three-member crew and a cargo ship with supplies will be sent in three months.

China is not a participant in the International Space Station, largely as a result of US objections to the Chinese programs secrecy and close military ties. However, China has been stepping up cooperation with Russia and a host of other countries, and its station may continue operating beyond the International Space Station, which is reaching the end of its functional life.

China landed a probe on Mars last month that carried a rover, the Zhurong, and earlier landed a probe and rover on the moon’s less explored far side and brought back the first lunar samples by any country’s space programme since the 1970s.

After the Tianhe was launched in April, the rocket that carried it into space made an uncontrolled reentry to Earth, though China dismissed criticism of the potential safety hazard. Usually, discarded rocket stages reenter the atmosphere soon after liftoff, normally over water, and don’t go into orbit.

The rocket used Thursday is of a different type and the components that will reenter are expected to burn up long before they could be a danger, said Ji Qiming, assistant director of the China Manned Space Agency.

Continue Reading

Science

Shenzhou-12: China Ready to Launch First Crew to New Space Station

Published

on

By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 15 June 2021

The first crew for China’s new space station prepared to blast off this week for the latest step in Beijing’s ambitious programme to establish itself as a space power.

The mission is China’s first crewed spaceflight in nearly five years, and a matter of prestige for the government as it prepares to mark the 100th birthday of the ruling Communist Party on July 1 with a propaganda blitz.

A Long March-2F rocket carrying three astronauts in the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft is slated to lift off from a base in northwest China’s Gobi desert on Thursday, according to experts with knowledge of the matter.

They plan to spend three months on the Tiangong station, China’s longest crewed space mission to date, with spacewalks among their tasks.

The astronauts will aim to “get their new home in space kitted out and ready to use,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

“It’s a practical goal rather than a groundbreaking one.”

The Long March rocket, with the Shenzhou craft attached, was moved to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center last week, according to the Chinese space agency.

Shenzhou-12 will dock with the main section of the Tiangong station, named Tianhe, which was placed in orbit on April 29. A cargo craft last month transported fuel, food and equipment for the crewed mission.

Another 11 missions are planned over the next year and a half to complete the construction of Tiangong in orbit, including the attachment of solar panels and two laboratory modules.

Three of those missions will carry astronauts for crew rotation.

“Keeping the station up and running smoothly involves much detailed and complicated work, as we saw on the International Space Station during its early days,” said Chen Lan, an analyst at GoTaikonauts, which specialises in China’s space programme.

“In fact, ISS construction was much slower” than the Chinese station.

Once completed, Tiangong will have a mass of around 90 tonnes and is expected to have at least a 10-year lifespan, according to the Chinese space agency.

It will be much smaller than the ISS, and similar to the Soviet space station Mir, which was launched in 1986 and decommissioned in 2001.

Continue Reading

Science

Blue Origin: Bid of $28 Million Wins a Rocket Trip to Space With Jeff Bezos

Published

on

By Reuters | Updated: 14 June 2021

A seat on a spaceship ride with billionaire Jeff Bezos went for $28 million (roughly Rs. 205 crores) during a live auction on Saturday, concluding the month-long bidding process for the sightseeing trip on the Blue Origin’s maiden voyage next month.

Within four minutes of the open of Saturday’s live phone auction, bids reached beyond $20 million (roughly Rs. 150 crores). The bidding closed seven minutes after the auction began. The identity of the winner – presumably an ultra-wealthy space aficionado – was not immediately disclosed.

The July 20 launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard booster from West Texas would be a landmark moment as US firms strive toward a new era of private commercial space travel.

Blue Origin’s founder and Amazon executive Bezos, the world’s wealthiest man and a lifelong space enthusiast, has been racing against fellow aspiring billionaire aeronauts Richard Branson and Elon Musk to be the first of the three to travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

“To see the earth from space, changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity,” Bezos said in a video before the final bidding took place, adding that his brother Mark will join him on the trip.

As the month-long bidding process leading up to the live auction closed on Thursday, the winning figure stood at $4.8 million (roughly Rs. 38 crores), fueled by entries from more than 6,000 people from at least 143 countries, Blue Origin said.

“Putting the world’s richest man and one of the most recognised figures in business into space is a massive advertisement for space as a domain for exploration, industrialisation, and investment,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas told clients earlier this month.

While the funds raised from the event are earmarked for charity, Blue Origin is hoping to galvanise enthusiasm for its nascent suborbital tourism business.

However, Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic, may attempt to steal Bezos’ thunder by joining a possible test flight to the edge of space over the July 4 weekend aboard Virgin’s VSS Unity spaceplane, one person familiar with the matter said.

The race is fueled by optimism that space travel will become mainstream as nascent technology is proven and costs fall, fueling what UBS estimates could be a $3 billion (roughly Rs. 21,950 crores) annual tourism market by 2030.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, as well as Musk’s SpaceX, have also discussed using their rockets to link far-flung global cities. UBS says that long-haul travel market could be worth more than $20 billion (roughly Rs. 150 crores), though several barriers such as air-safety certification could derail the plans.

Blue Origin has not divulged its pricing strategy for future trips.

Reuters reported in 2018 that Blue Origin was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 (roughly Rs. 1.5 crores) for the ride, based on a market study and other considerations, though its thinking may have changed.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

Continue Reading

Trending