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Forget cars, Apple is working on trains, ships, and planes

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You may have already heard about the Apple Car, iCar, or whatever Cupertino decides to name its upcoming automobile. Well, it’s pretty safe to assume that we’re not bound to see this vehicle on the roads any time soon as this is rumored to be an electric car that wants to take on automobiles manufactured by Tesla Motors themselves. Needless to say, in order to pull up such a feat the company will need to work around the clock for at least a couple of years, if not more. That’s not to say they shouldn’t try it tho. In fact, the folks over at Apple seem to have much bigger plans on their mind, with the Apple Car apparently being just the beginning.  According to Swiss blog Apfelblog, the company plans on manufacturing not only cars in the future, but planes, trains, ships, and other vehicles as well.

“Vehicles; Apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water; electronic hardware components for motor vehicles, rail cars and locomotives, ships and aircraft; Anti-theft devices; Theft alarms for vehicles; Bicycles; Golf carts; Wheelchairs; Air pumps; Motorcycles; Aftermarket parts (after-market parts) and accessories for the aforesaid goods,” the blog reads (as translated by The Next Web).

Although these vehicles sound very interesting, I suggest waiting a bit before you get too excited. After all, for the last few years Apple has been mostly know for iteration rather than innovation, so it may take a while until the company remembers how to build a major new product. Actually, the only new major product unveiled ever since 2011 is the Apple Watch and it already looks like the wearable will fall short of expectations. So, can we expect something groundbreaking from Apple when it comes to vehicles? More importantly, will we ever get to fly on an Apple plane, ride an Apple train, or drive an Apple Car? I’m a bit skeptical at the moment, but I guess only time will tell.

Space Exploration

What is the current number of satellites in orbit?

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We need space to live in the modern world. The satellites that fly above us help us communicate and find our exact location. They also keep us safe by predicting the weather and doing many other studies, such as keeping an eye on wildfires, floods, ice, and pollutants that are released into the atmosphere.

However, the number of satellites has (pardon the pun) gone through the roof in the past few years, which has changed what is going on in space. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) says that as of today, June 11, there are 11,780 satellites in orbit around Earth. Most of them are ready to go and are in low-Earth orbit.

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The geostationary orbit (GEO) is 35,786 kilometers (22,236 miles) above the equator of the Earth. It is also called the geosynchronous orbit. As it moves around the Earth at the same speed as the Earth’s spin, the satellite will stay in the same place on the surface of the planet. There are 552 satellites there right now. Satellites that send messages and watch the weather are often put in GEO.

Then there is medium-Earth orbit (MEO), which is a huge area that goes from up to 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) above the Earth. These are great places for navigation satellite systems like Galileo, GLONASS, the Global Positioning System, and BeiDou to be based. At the moment, 199 satellites are in this orbit, but some internet service providers in space are thinking about moving here.

That’s because low-Earth orbit (LEO) is getting crowded. LEO has 8,110 satellites right now, and 6,050 of them are from SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation. The project from Elon Musk’s company wants to get to almost 12,000 satellites, which is twice as many as they are now. It could grow to 34,400 satellites, which is even more.

In low Earth orbit (LEO), putting up so many satellites is causing a lot of worry. One big worry is how it’s changing the night sky, both for advanced astronomy and just for the sake of light pollution, even in places where there are no other lights.

The huge growth of space junk is the other worry. There’s no doubt that space is huge, but interesting and useful orbits are only a small part of it. Satellites’ orbits need to be changed all the time, which means that some of them will cross paths. What do you do when the satellites stop working, though? That kind of thing is found in almost 3,000 places! Their orbits will keep changing, but we won’t be able to stop them (though some countermeasures have been suggested).

A crash in space could mean that things are going to get worse. Because a piece of space junk breaking apart turns into a swarm of space junk, collisions lead to more collisions. Scientists are worried that we might reach a state called Kessler syndrome, in which the number of collisions and space junk increases very quickly. In this case, whole areas of space close to Earth could become dangerous to travel through.

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Space Exploration

There is finally a “alien” signal from Mars that has been decoded after a year

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A little more than a year ago, the stars sent a message to everyone on Earth with a challenge: decode it. Daniela de Paulis, who is an Artist in Residence at the SETI Institute, made the message. The goal was to fake an alien signal, and even though it was made on Earth, it really did come from another world.

The project, called A Sign in Space, was sent from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of the European Space Agency on May 24 at 7 p.m. UTC. The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the Green Bank Observatory, the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station, and the Allen Telescope Array of the SETI Institute all picked it up 16 minutes later. Over 4,000 people from all over the world joined the search to figure out what the message meant.

On June 7, the right answer was finally given to De Paulis by a father and daughter named John and Sarah (made-up names). They looked at the encrypted message because they thought it might be related to the cellular automaton, which is a well-known way to model computation. A well-known example of this model is Conway’s Game of Life.

Pixels can be “alive” or “dead” in this model, and they change based on certain rules. The model can create complicated situations that develop from simple rules. It was used to find something meaningful in a message that seemed to be made up of only ones and zeros (alive or dead pixels).

They used the Unity game engine to change the message 6,625 times so that it could be understood.

It was a picture of five amino acids, as it turned out.

Blocks with various numbers of pixels display these crucial molecules for life. Eight is for oxygen, one is for hydrogen, six is for carbon, seven is for nitrogen, and so on.

This is not the end of the science-art experiment. De Paulis planned the challenge as a way to show what people will have to go through if they receive a signal from aliens. People will understand what communication is in the first place, which is what John and Sarah did. The next step is to figure out what the signal means. Just why are these five amino acids important?

De Paulis is extending an invitation to additional individuals to join the Discord server, which serves as a central platform for deciphering and discussing the signal. Since the previous year, there have been more than 54,000 messages pertaining to the project. The project team anticipates the participation of additional individuals to join the existing thousands in engaging in discussions, expressing opinions, and suggesting potential interpretations of the extraterrestrial signal.

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Technology

The head of the UN warns the world not to let AI control nuclear weapons

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The head of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres, has told everyone not to let artificial intelligence (AI) play a part in the decision to use nuclear weapons.

“Humanity is on a knife’s edge,” Guterres said at a meeting of the Arms Control Association (ACA). He said that the risk of nuclear war was at “heights not seen since the Cold War.”

In his speech, Guterres said, “States are in a qualitative arms race.” “Technologies like artificial intelligence are making things more dangerous, and recklessly threatening a nuclear disaster has come back as nuclear blackmail. At the same time, the rules that are supposed to stop people from using, testing, and spreading nuclear weapons are getting weaker.” “Dear friends, we need to stop having weapons now.”

The Secretary-General told all countries to give up their weapons, and those that already have nuclear weapons should lead the way.

“I also urge the United States and the Russian Federation to get back to the negotiating table, fully implement the new START treaty, and agree on its successor,” he said. “Until these weapons are eliminated, all countries must agree that any decision on nuclear use is made by humans, not machines or algorithms.”

That last part might sound like a threat from a long way off, but automation did play a role in the Cold War.

A “dead hand” system that made sure the Soviet Union would be completely destroyed by a nuclear blast watched for signs that a nuclear weapon had been fired at the superpower by checking for earthquakes, radiation levels, and changes in air pressure. If the system picked up on such a strike, it would check to see if there were open lines of communication between top Soviet officials.

If they were, it would shut down after 15 minutes because there would still be people alive who could decide to launch a strike. If the lines were down, lower-level operators of the dead-hand system would be given the power to launch nuclear weapons. They would be kept safe in a bunker, and the fate of the world would be in the hands of a lower-level officer and a computer system.

You can tell this was never turned on because you’re still alive. On September 26, 1983, however, a system for finding missiles seemed to have picked up five nuclear missiles heading toward the Soviet Union. Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet military officer, didn’t believe that the attack had been found and wouldn’t tell the Soviet command to launch a response. The detection was actually caused by the sun’s glare reflecting off of clouds high in the sky. From satellite data, it looked like there might have been a strike.

It might not be a good idea to use algorithms or AI to make decisions that could wipe out all of humanity. They might have already killed everyone if they had had their way with clouds.

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