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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: July 4, 2017
Posted: at 8:52 am
Jupiters Great Red Spot is a hurricane-like storm about 10,200 miles (16,500km) wide and at least 150 years old. On July 10, the Juno spacecraft will complete the first ever up-close study of this storm, flying 5,600 miles (9,000km) above the Great Red Spot. In preparation for this landmark opportunity to observe some of our solar systems most extreme weather, the Gemini and Subaru Telescopes on Mauna Kea have taken some stunning images of Jupiter to supplement the data Juno is expected to obtain.
Why are Earth-based observations so important, when Juno is sitting in orbit around the giant planet? Observations with Earth’s most powerful telescopes enhance the spacecraft’s planned observations by providing three types of additional context, Juno science team member Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained in a press release. We get spatial context from seeing the whole planet. We extend and fill in our temporal context from seeing features over a span of time. And we supplement with wavelengths not available from Juno. The combination of Earth-based and spacecraft observations is a powerful one-two punch in exploring Jupiter.
The infrared image obtained with the Gemini North Telescopes Near-InfraRed Imager (NIRI) on May 18 allowed astronomers to probe the uppermost regions of Jupiters atmosphere. As one of the highest-altitude features on the planet, the Great Red Spot appears as a bright white oval with narrow streaks on either side. These streaks are thought to be atmospheric features undergoing stretching by the storms high winds.
On the same night, the Subaru Telescope imaged Jupiter using its Cooled Mid-Infrared Camera and Spectrometer (COMICS). This data revealed structures further down inside the storm, such as its cold and cloudy interior increasing toward its center, with a periphery that was warmer and clearer, said Orton.
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Posted: at 8:52 am
July 4, 2017 by Tim Stephens A false color image shows the spiral galaxy NGC 3359, which is about 50 million light years from us. NGC 3359 appears to be devouring a much smaller gas-rich dwarf galaxy, nicknamed the Little Cub, which contains 10,000 times fewer stars than its larger companion. The contour lines show where the gas is being stripped from the Little Cub, whose stars are located in the central blue circle. Credit: SDSS Collaboration
A primitive galaxy that could provide clues about the early universe has been spotted by astronomers as it begins to be consumed by a gigantic neighboring galaxy.
The Little Cub galaxyso called because it sits in the Ursa Major or Great Bear constellationis being stripped of the gas needed to continue forming stars by its larger companion. The find means scientists now have a rare opportunity to observe a dwarf galaxy as its gas is removed by the effects of a nearby giant galaxy to learn more about how this process happens.
As the Little Cub has remained almost pristine since its formation, scientists also hope its elements will reveal more about the chemical signature of the universe just minutes after the Big Bang.
The research, carried out by UC Santa Cruz and Durham University, UK, is being presented on Tuesday, July 4, at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting.
The Little Cub and its larger neighbor, a spiral galaxy called NGC 3359, are about 200 to 300 thousand light years apart, and approximately 50 million light years from Earth. Gas from the Little Cub is being stripped away by its interaction with NGC 3359, which has up to 10,000 times as many stars as the Little Cub and is similar to our Milky Way. By observing this cosmic feast, scientists hope to understand more about how and when gas is lost from smaller galaxies.
“We may be witnessing the quenching of a near-pristine galaxy as it makes its first passage about a Milky Way-like galaxy,” said lead author Tiffany Hsyu, a graduate student in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “It is rare for such a tiny galaxy to still contain gas and be forming stars when it is in close proximity to a much larger galaxy so this is a great opportunity to see just how this process works. Essentially the larger galaxy is removing the fuel that the Little Cub needs to form stars, which will eventually shut down star formation and lead to the smaller galaxy’s demise.”
The researchers also hope to gain an insight into the make-up of the very early universe by studying the hydrogen and helium atoms that are being illuminated by the small number of very bright stars within the Little Cub (which also has the less romantic name SDSS J1044+6306). Since this galaxy is so primitive, it may still preserve the hydrogen and helium atoms that were created minutes after the Big Bang.
Research coauthor Ryan Cooke, Royal Society University Research Fellow in Durham University’s Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, said, “We know by studying the chemistry of the Little Cub that it is one of the most primitive objects currently known in our cosmic neighborhood. Such galaxies, which have remained dormant for most of their lives, are believed to contain the chemical elements forged a few minutes after the Big Bang. By measuring the relative number of hydrogen and helium atoms in the Little Cub we might be able to learn more about what made up the Universe in the moments after it began 13.7 billion years ago.”
The researchers hope further observations will find more pristine galaxies where the chemical signature of the early universe might be found.
The Little Cub was initially identified as a potentially pristine dwarf galaxy in data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Follow-up observations were conducted using the 3-meter Shane Telescope at Lick Observatory and the 10-meter Keck II telescope at the W.M. Keck Observatory.
“The Little Cub’s discovery is a terrific example of using the smaller 3-meter-class Lick Observatory to scan through hundreds of candidates before focusing on the best sources with UC’s 10-meter Keck telescope,” said coauthor J. Xavier Prochaska, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.
A paper describing the discovery of Little Cub has been submitted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Explore further: Hubble scopes out a galaxy of stellar birth
This image displays a galaxy known as ESO 486-21 (with several other background galaxies and foreground stars visible in the field as well). ESO 486-21 is a spiral galaxyalbeit with a somewhat irregular and ill-defined …
This dramatic image shows the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s view of dwarf galaxy known asNGC 1140, which lies 60 million light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus. As can be seen in this image NGC 1140 has an …
Galaxies today fall roughly into two categories: elliptically-shaped collections of reddish, old stars that formed predominantly during a period early in the history of the universe, and spiral shaped objects dominated by …
The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy, pictured in this new image from the Wide Field Imager camera, installed on the 2.2-metre MPG/ESO telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, is a close neighbour of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Despite …
Despite being less famous than their elliptical and spiral galactic cousins, irregular dwarf galaxies, such as the one captured in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, are actually one of the most common types of galaxy …
The drizzle of stars scattered across this image forms a galaxy known as UGC 4879. UGC 4879 is an irregular dwarf galaxyas the name suggests, galaxies of this type are a little smaller and messier than their cosmic cousins, …
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Posted: at 8:52 am
Microsoft reorganized its global sales force today to heighten its focus on selling cloud services instead of standalone pieces of software, according to The Wall Street Journal. The reorganization, just the latest in a series of structural changes the company has undergone since former CEO Steve Ballmer resigned and Satya Nadella took over in 2014, wont immediately result in layoffs. Yet the WSJ reports that thousands of jobs could be cut down the line as a result of the sales shuffle.
This doesnt appear like it will have a huge impact on how Microsoft does business on a day-to-day basis. Since the appointment of Nadella, the former head of Microsofts cloud division, the company has put more and more resources toward building out its Azure cloud computing platform and selling software subscriptions to businesses. This is all part of a steady shift away from one-time software licenses for products like Windows and Office. Microsoft is still playing catch up against Amazon, with the massive success of its AWS business, and now trying to stave off competition from Google and its growing cloud division.
Microsoft says it will now focus on two distinct areas: big enterprise customers, and then small to medium-sized businesses. Its not exactly clear what changes are in the pipeline, but an email from Judson Althoff, Microsofts executive vice president of worldwide commercial business, says sales reorganization is designed to align the right resources for the right customer at the right time. The magnitude of the potential layoffs is unclear, but the WSJ says they will likely occur in offices all around the globe.
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Posted: at 8:51 am
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Researchers in Canada have found a way make a key building block for quantum computing from a custom photonics chip and off-the-shelf components intended for use in telecommunications equipment.
They have built a chip that can create entangled pairs of multicolored photons. The result is that they can be manipulated as two “qudits,” quantum computing digits, that can each hold 10 possible values.
Where classical computers operate on values in sequence, quantum computers are able to express all possible values of a variable simultaneously, collapsing to the “right” answer at the end of the calculation. Not all computing problems benefit from this treatment, but it is particularly useful in the factorization of large numbers, necessary for cracking many forms of encryption.
The storage elements quantum computers are made from are inherently unstable, and must be linked in a process known as entanglement in order to work together. The more of them there are, the harder it is to keep them all entangled and functioning for long enough to perform a calculation.
The simplest quantum element is the two-dimensional qubit, a quantum bit, which can simultaneously hold two values (0 and 1). With six qubits, a quantum computer could hold any or all of 64 (2 to the power 6) possible values.
But that requires maintaining the quantum state of six elements.
In July 2016, Russian scientists suggested that, instead of building quantum computers with qubits, it would be easier to maintaina smaller number of qudits, each able to hold a greater range of values. They showed how to make a five-dimensional qudit, which would have greater computing power than a quantum computer with two qubits.
Now the Canadian researchers have demonstrated that their photonic chip can entangle two 10-dimensional qudits, storing a greater range of values than a six-qubit quantum computer, but requiring the stabilization of only two elements.
Using the same chip, they say, it should be possible to generate two entangled qudits able to hold 9,000 or more values — the equivalent of a 12-qubit computer.
By way of comparison, IBM hitched up a 16-qubit computer to its computing cloud back in May, inviting scientists to share time on it to test quantum computing algorithims.
Google, meanwhile, hopes to have an operational 49-qubit quantum computer by the end of the year.
It’s not enough merely to generate these qudits: To turn them into a quantum computer it must also be possible to manipulate them.
That can be accomplished using standard telecommunications components such as modulators and filters, according to the researchers, making the system relatively accessible.
Being able to generate multidimensional quantum computing systems in this way will open the door to faster and more robust quantum communication protocols, and more efficient and error-tolerant quantum computation, the researchers said in a paper detailing their research in the journal Nature in June.
Peter Sayer covers European public policy, artificial intelligence, the blockchain, and other technology breaking news for the IDG News Service.
Posted: at 8:51 am
More than five months into Donald Trump’s presidency, American adversaries and allies alike are adjusting to a new era in which Washington seeks its own idiosyncratic and unpredictable “America First” path.
In Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, governments are assessing shifting US priorities and in some cases seeking alternative sources of leadership and partnership in the belief that America has stepped back.
Trump’s unpopularity abroad is forcing leaders to consider their own political positions, before getting too close to the American President — even if they seek to preserve Washington’s still vital global role as the guarantor of liberal market economics and democracy.
That dynamic will be on display during Trump’s second visit to Europe this week, just weeks after his first transcontinental trip opened new gaps between Washington and some longtime allies.
Trump starts in Poland, which is hoping for his strongest affirmation yet of NATO security guarantees. Then he will head to the G20 summit in Germany, where he may confront hostility deepened by his decision to exit the Paris climate accord.
The Trump administration refutes the notion that it has downgraded American leadership, arguing that Trump’s foreign trips, flurry of meetings and frequent calls with foreign presidents and prime ministers shows intense engagement.
But increasingly, top foreign policymakers from Germany to Iraq and Canada to Asia are contemplating a period when US leadership that many took for granted may be less evident in global affairs, after Trump turned his back on multilateral trade deals and downplayed multinational institutions and agreements.
“Whoever believes the problems of this world can be solved by isolationism and protectionism is making a tremendous error,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament last week, in a clear shot across Trump’s bow.
It was not the first time the German leader, running for a fourth term in September’s election, had rebuked the President.
After Trump visited Europe in May, and declined to reaffirm NATO’s Article 5 principle of mutual self defense during a visit to the Western alliance headquarters, Merkel said US allies needed to rethink their place in the world.
“We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands,” she said.
Canada, America’s closest geographical ally, is also watching.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland profoundly thanked the United States for being “truly the indispensable nation” that had ensured 70 years of peace and prosperity in a speech to parliament last month.
But she acknowledged that halcyon period was ending.
“The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course,” Freeland said.
“For Canada that course must be the renewal, indeed the strengthening, of the postwar multilateral order.”
It is not just America’s most traditional allies that sense that America is pulling back from the world, amid a perception that diplomacy has been de-emphasized and the State Department downgraded in a Trump administration more respectful of military leadership.
Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last week that the United States was “absent” in maintaining global security and that there was a “vacuum in the overall leadership in the world.”
“The Americans need to … get back to their role as an international power, an important international power.” Allawi said.
Despite an impending victory over ISIS by Iraqi forces in western Mosul, with US support, Allawi argued that Washington lacked “clear cut policies” for tackling extremism and a future strategy for the Middle East.
Some American competitors see an opening.
At the Global Economic Forum in Davos, a few days before Trump was inaugurated, China’s President Xi Jinping, offered a vision of a world turned on its head when he offered his own nation as a guardian of free trade, globalization and efforts to combat climate change — areas where the United States had formerly taken the leadership role.
“Whether you like it or not, the global economy is the big ocean you cannot escape from,” Xi told delegates at the Swiss mountain resort.
Over the last few days, Trump has spoken to leaders of US allies in the Gulf, amid a showdown over terrorist financing that has led to the isolation of Qatar, and has also had conversations with counterparts in Germany and Italy.
In contrast to the way Trump’s first trip to Europe was seen across the Atlantic, national security adviser H.R. McMaster argued that the President had reinvigorated US alliances which Republicans believed eroded under the Obama administration.
“America First … does not mean America alone. President Trump has demonstrated a commitment to American alliances because strong alliances further American security and American interests,” McMaster told reporters last week.
While much of America’s future foreign policy course remains uncertain to foreign states, Washington has made some clear moves.
It significantly stiffened resistance to Iran in the Middle East, a reorientation that was the underlying theme of Trump’s first stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel.
But at the same time, there is no real clarity on the Trump administration’s strategy on Syria following the apparently imminent eradication of ISIS strongholds. Iran envisages a future Shiite crescent of influence, that would stretch from Tehran through Iraq, Syria and into Lebanon, backed by Russia, and would change the balance of power in the region.
It is unclear how actively the Trump administration plans to resist such a scenario, in concert with allies like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt and Jordan.
In Afghanistan, the Pentagon dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS targets and plans to use its new autonomy under Trump to send more troops to train and assist Afghan soldiers.
But the administration has yet to lay out a detailed vision of how it sees Afghanistan’s future or long-term US war aims.
In Asia, Trump dropped his hostility toward China in an effort to convince Beijing to do more to rein in its volatile ally North Korea amid a nuclear and missile crisis. But he now seems to have concluded the effort failed, and imposed sanctions against a Chinese bank with links to the pariah state, and approved a $1.4 billion arms package to Taiwan, heightening tensions with Beijing.
But Trump, despite saber rattling, has yet to explain to Americans any new approaches on how he will thwart Pyongyang’s bid to put a nuclear warhead onto a weapon that could reach the US mainland.
It’s not just uncertainty about American global strategy that is convincing some allied leaders to look past the United States.
Trump’s unpopularity makes it much more difficult for them politically to support him. The recent Pew Global Attitudes poll showed Trump with rock bottom approval ratings across the world. Only in Russia and Israel did more people trust him to do the right thing than former President Barack Obama.
The former President, meanwhile, has stayed mostly out of the limelight. But Monday, Obama couldn’t resist during a Seoul conference organized by South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo media group, saying the Paris climate accord won’t vanish despite the “temporary absence” of American leadership.
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Posted: at 8:51 am
Trump, beginning around 2011, seized on the issue — which had been percolating in the fever swamps on the far right since Obama won — and used it to cast himself as the lone voice among conservatives willing to stand up to Obama (and political correctness).
That the whole thing was, wait for it, a totally false conspiracy theory was beside the point for Trump. It proved useful to him, so he used it.
Given that origin story, we shouldn’t be terribly surprised that Trump’s willingness to engage in conspiracy theories as a candidate has continued since he entered the White House.
Take Trump’s tweets on Saturday alone. They amounted to a conspiracy theorist’s dream.
Let’s take these one by one.
The first tweet deals with MSNBC parting ways with host Greta van Susteren. Van Susteren, in a series of tweets, offered no evidence that she left because of any pressure from the bosses that she be more anti-Trump.
In each of these examples, what Trump does is similar: He takes something that’s happened and insists (or insinuates) that there’s something more to the story. Something people aren’t telling you. Something the “elites” are covering up.
He, of course, provides no evidence to back up those claims. That’s because there isn’t any evidence. What Trump is doing in each of these three tweets is throwing just enough red meat to the conspiracy-minded to keep them coming back for more (and more)(and more).
What Trump is relying on is the self-fulfilling prophecy that drives all good conspiracy theorists. He knows more than “they” will let him say! Anyone who doubts Trump is part of the conspiracy! And so on and so forth.
Now, Trump didn’t create conspiracy theories. He is just taking advantage of their rise, a rise fueled by the NSA’s massive program of personal data collection exposed by Edward Snowden, Trump backer Alex Jones and a thousand and one Reddit sub-Reddits that bring together like-minded conspiracy theorists to prove that they can’t all be wrong.
What Trump has done is mainstream conspiracy theories for his own political purposes. Much more so than any other past presidential candidate or president, Trump is willing to indulge conspiracy theories that fit his political purposes.
There’s LOTS more examples. (Millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election! Muslims were celebrating on the rooftops in New Jersey on 9/11! Etc. Etc. Etc.)
The point here is that Trump knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s not important whether he believes all the conspiracy theories he helps churn up and push into the mainstream. What’s important is that by doing so he benefits politically.
The result? Conspiracy theories — and the people who spout them — have never been more prevalent.
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Posted: at 8:51 am
This story was updated on Monday, July 3 at 12:53pm.
Charlie Gard was born with a rare genetic condition and has suffered from brain damage and loss of muscle function. After British doctors advised his parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, that they should end life support for the terminally ill 10-month-old, they raised nearly 2 million dollars to transfer Charlie to the U.S. for experimental treatment. But three separate British courts intervened, siding with medical specialists who said that further prolonging treatment would cause the baby significant harm. In June, the European Court of Human Rights weighed in on the parents final appeal. They lost. Charlie would be taken off of life support.
Since then, the global reaction has been chaotic, with leaders from the pope to the president of the United States weighing in on the case.
First, the Vaticans Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement, seeming to side with the European courts. We must also accept the limits of medicine and avoid aggressive medical procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results or excessively burdensome to the patient or the family, wrote Vincenzo Paglia, the bodys president. While people should never deliberately end a human life, he added, sometimes we … have to recognize the limitations of what can be done.
Then the pope weighed inand said almost exactly the opposite. Francis is following with affection and sadness the case of little Charlie Gard and expresses his closeness to his parents, a Vatican press office statement said. For this he prays that their wish to accompany and treat their child until the end is not neglected.
On Monday, President Trump added his support with a tweet supporting Charlie and his family.
Charlies case touches on some of the most sensitive moral and political questions about the role of the state at the end of life. The decisions of the European courts represented the final word on whether Charlies parents could pursue treatment in the U.S., and after the ruling, Yates and Gard claimed the hospital had denied permission for them to take Charlie back to their home to die. Yates and Gard have framed the medical dispute as Charlies fight, developing a large social-media following as they chronicled their effort to pursue further treatment for their son. The case also has religious dimensions: On their instagram page, Yates and Gard documented their celebration of their sons baptism and showed him clutching a pendant of St. Jude, the Catholic figure most often associated with hospitals and medical care. Media in the U.K. have followed the Gard familys case closely and the court orders to end Charlies life have been fiercely criticized by conservatives in the U.S. and abroad.
With the Church weighing in, the case took on a whole new dimension. The competing statements seemed to reveal an internal dispute over end-of-life issues within the Vatican. But they also teed up Trumps intervention. Religious conservatives in the U.S. were outraged over the Pontifical Academy for Lifes original statement: Besides being patronizing, the Vaticans statement is a gross distortion of the situation, wrote Michael Brendan Dougherty at National Review. It portrays the Gards as acting alongside the doctors, but subject to outside manipulation. The Gards are resisting the doctors. The Gards are not facing their decisions. They are facing authorities that have overridden them.
Trump, who has consistently expressed his verbal support for religious freedom, has now stepped in, cementing the issue as an international cause for conservatives. Upon learning of baby Charlie Gard’s situation, President Trump has offered to help the family in this heartbreaking situation, the White House said in a statement issued on Monday afternoon. Although the President himself has not spoken to the family, he does not want to pressure them in any way, members of the administration have spoken to the family in calls facilitated by the British government. The President is just trying to be helpful if at all possible.
Its not clear how the presidents statement would change the Gard familys situation: They already had the money for Charlies treatment and had sought to bring him to the U.S. The American president cant change the way European courts work, or annul their authority. But Trump has marked a difference in orientation between at least one part of Europe and the United States. While the high courts of Europe have asserted their authority and doctors right to decide when and how Charlie dies, the president of the United States has decided he will champion the familys choice to decideno matter whether or not he actually has the ability to intervene in one British babys life.
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