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A new era for CERN-US collaboration in particle physics

Posted 19/12/2015

Collaboration between CERN and the US is nothing new. The American Nobel-Prize winner, Isidor Rabi, was among CERN’s founding fathers, and it was not long after the Laboratory was established that close collaboration between CERN and the Brookhaven National Laboratory took root.

Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto of the United States (left) and CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto of the United States (left) and CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

Since then, the number of US partners for CERN has multiplied, with the arrival of laboratories such as Fermilab and SLAC on the global particle physics scene.

Yesterday, the US is a valued partner in the LHC, contributing to the capital investment in the facility, to the running of LHC experiments and to the globally distributed computing infrastructure necessary to process the vast data volumes produced by the experiments.

Today’s agreements herald a new era in CERN-US collaboration in particle physics. They confirm the US’s commitment to the LHC project, and for the first time, they set down in black and white European participation through CERN in pioneering neutrino research in the US.

They are a significant step towards a fully connected trans-Atlantic research programme.

In anticipation of today’s agreements, CERN no longer runs its own neutrino beams. Instead, it will serve as a platform for European scientists engaged in neutrino detector R&D who will go on to work at neutrino experiments in the US and elsewhere.

Looking further ahead, today’s protocols codify the on-going collaboration between CERN and the US on future facilities that might succeed the LHC around 2040.

These protocols are a significant step on the way towards a truly integrated trans-Atlantic research programme in particle physics.




Guadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del OlmoTo share or not to share your internet connection

Posted 29/11/2015

By Guadalupe del Olmo

Have you ever wondered if somebody is secretly connected to your wifi network? Did your connection suddenly go so slow that you had time to make a cup of tea while uploading your favourite programme or video game?

Have you ever been approached by the students living in your apartment block offering you a deal to use your connection?

If you ever felt this way, this is the article for you. I have been asked for a cigarette in the street many times, and usually I give in and empathise with the guy that needs a nicotine boost, but how on earth to empathise with somebody that asks you to share your internet connection, with the only purpose being to download in a torrent the complete series of Game of Thrones, Sherlock and The Big Bang Theory, plus other less legitimate purposes in exchange of just a few bucks.



If a student approaches you asking to share your wifi connection, it is a strong possibility that:

a) Tried to connect without your permission and failed because he/she is not a computer geek.

b) Is already using your wifi connection, but moral and legal issues prevent him/her from sleeping.

No matter what, all that you will hear after you close the door behind you, would be something similar to mean b**ch, and they will continue on their way to use your precious high speed internet connection, as if their lives depended on it.



So here are the five steps to secure a home wireless network and make the sabotagers’ life more difficult:

1. Login to your wireless router

a) If you've never logged into your wireless router, look up the make and model of the router, and find the default IP Address, username, and password, then login.

b) For example, if your wireless router has a default IP Address of, default username of admin, and default password of blank. Login by doing the following:

1. Open Internet Explorer and type in the address

2. When prompted, the username would be admin, and the password would be blank.

c) If the router's password is still set to the default password, it is important to change this password to something else to keep an intruder from effectively kicking you off of your own network.


2. Enable MAC Filtering

This is probably the easiest way to keep intruders off of your wireless network although the least secure.

You can enable a White-list of MAC Addresses and then only the MAC Addresses that you specifically put into this list will be able to use your Wireless. You'll have to remember this if a friend comes over and tries to use your wireless network.


3. Enable Encryption

It's important to use encryption on your wireless network. Not only does it keep intruders off of the network, it also keeps eavesdroppers from listening in on your network traffic. The two major types of wireless encryption are listed below. Please also note that any encryption enabled on the wireless router must also be enabled on each Wireless Device that needs to connect to the internet.

a) WEP – This is still the most common type of encryption enabled on most wireless routers. Please note that this can be broken by serious hackers in about 2 minutes, but will keep out most neighbors and passerby's.

b) WPA2 – This is becoming the most common type of encryption and is enabled on most new wireless routers. WPA2 is much more secure than WEP and has not been compromised yet, but is not available on some older types of Wireless Devices.

Deciding between WPA2, WEP, or MAC Filtering

WPA2 Encryption is the most secure method for keeping intruders off your network. If you have older devices that will not support WPA2, WEP is encouraged.

If you are unsure how to setup encryption, MAC filtering is least secure, but easiest to setup.


4. Disable SSID Broadcasting

This option decides whether people can or can not see your wireless signal. This is not necessarily recommended because although this will keep your network invisible to the common nosy neighbour, it will not protect your network from any serious hackers. It can also make setting up your own devices on your wireless network more difficult. So, it's good to know how this works, but always use encryption and don't rely on just disabling SSID broadcasts to keep your network secure.


5. Install Who's On My Wifi

Download and Install Who Is On My Wifi Software onto a desktop computer that is always on at your home or office. Who's On My Wifi acts as a detection engine by scanning your network every few minutes to see if anyone has gotten onto your network. People could get in by breaking WEP encryption, faking through a MAC Filter, somehow breaking WPA2, or by good old fashioned hard line plugging into your router directly instead of connecting through the wireless. Monitoring for intruders is the final step in securing a Wireless Network.



Lucy the Australopithecus Turns 41 (Plus 3.2 Million Years)

Posted 25/11/2015

Lucy gets a Google Doodle for the anniversary of her discovery

If you went to Google’s search engine yesterday, you would have found a short animation of a short, brown, ape-like figure walking in between a chimp and a human. This little creature is among the greatest discoveries ever made in the study of our ancestry: Lucy the Australopithecus.

It was 41 years ago yesterday, scientists dug up a skeleton in Ethiopia unlike anything they had ever seen before. A member of the Australopithecus afarensis family, the 3.2 million-year-old fossil belonged to an animal that shared characteristics belonging to both apes and humans. She even appeared to have walked on two legs.

At the time, scientists believed that Lucy was humanity’s oldest direct ancestor after her species diverged from chimpanzees about 4 million years ago. While more recent research has shown that we probably split from chimps around 13 million years ago, Lucy’s discovery brought scientists closer to understanding how our species evolved, Doug Bolton writes for The Independent.

Scientists have known for a while that our genus, Homo, which includes our species as well as our cousins Homo habilis, Denisovans, and the recently-discovered Homo naledi, all evolved from Australopithecus ancestors. However, it’s unclear which Australopithecus species were our direct forerunners.

Though scientists do know that Lucy’s species is out of the running for that position, it’s still possible that they were some kind of distant cousin, Bolton writes.

Lucy’s discovery was incredibly lucky: Most fossils as old as hers are shattered beyond repair. But almost 40 percent of Lucy’s skeleton was found intact, including parts of her spine, which allowed scientists to deduce that her species walked on two legs, James Titcomb reports for The Telegraph.


Based on the fossil’s pelvis, they discovered that it had belonged to a female, who they dubbed “Lucy” after the song playing back at their camp: The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Lucy may not be the ancestral “missing link” in our evolutionary lineage, but the discovery was still suprising. At the time, scientists believed that bipedalism came out of having a larger, more developed brain, Titcomb writes. And despite having a brain about the same size as a chimp's, she could walk on two legs. Also, while she had long arms, lots of hair and a distended belly like a chimp’s, Lucy’s species probably also used basic stone tools at least 1 million years before scientists thought.

"We can now picture Lucy walking around the east African landscape with a stone tool in her hand scavenging and butchering meat," Shannon McPherron, an archeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, tells Titcomb. "With stone tools in hand to quickly pull off flesh and break open bones, animal carcases would have become a more attractive source of food."

These days, Lucy’s bones are on display at Ethiopia’s National Museum in Addis Ababa. But for today, at least, Google users around the world can see the digital nod to our ancient cousin.




Theory Of General Relativity Marks 100th Year

Posted 17/11/2015

A century had passed since Albert Einstein presented his famous theory of general relativity to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in November 1915. After 100 years, the theory has made loud noises and noteworthy impacts, not only to the scientific community, but in history and politics as well.

Saying that Einstein's theory turned out to be a success is a safe statement. However, before it clamoured the huge popularity it has now, it underwent ups and down, garnered believers and non-believers and even affected the political world.


In the 17th century, Isaac Newton developed a series of equations that described the physical features of moving things. One example is having the same equivalent among people, regardless of which so-called "inertial frame" they belong to. Simply put, two individuals moving in different directions could still see things in the same way.

In the 19th century, James Clerk Maxwell released a new set of equations that incorporated Newton's proposals and a new phenomena called electromagnetism. Through this new concept, objects alter its form during movement from one inertial frame to another. With this, a non-moving person can see clearly varied physical events compared to a person constantly moving.

In the 20th century, a group of experts postulated the Lorentz Transformation, which implies that length and time actuallychange, depending on which frame an observing person is in.

ll these theories made Einstein wonder. Among his apprehensions was whether or not Maxwell's equations were just a math trick or something based on a fundamental concept. He also questioned the absolutism of time and space and the supreme importance of invariance principles of the laws of physics.

In 1905, Einstein then decided that the invariance in the laws of physics should be given utmost rankings. He came up with the principle of relativity, which theorizes the following: all inertial frames are equivalent, the movement of an observer, provided that it has constant velocity, has no value, and lastly, all laws of physics should have the same structure from all frames.

Einstein also studied the role of gravity and found that geometry was not absolute and could be affected by physical conditions.
All in all, it took Einstein eight years to formulate all these relationships between physics, time and geometry.


Einstein's theory not only sparked changes and discussions among the scientific community, the political world was also affected.

Einstein's theory was formed at the height of World War I, meaning not many people and experts were made aware of the concepts. Some of the earliest converts failed to spread Einstein's works. Aside from that, Einstein's German nationality became a hindrance for letting his works cross the Western part of the world. Neither German scientific papers nor Einstein's letters were able to cross English borders. The physicist then travelled to neutral nations such as in the Netherlands. He frequently travelled to Leiden, where he met Willem de Sitter, a mathematical physicist, who also tutored him.

De Sitter sent Einstein's works to Arthur Eddington, an astronomer and physicist from Cambridge. Although filled with apprehensions, Eddington studied Einstein's theory, with the hope of healing the wounds left by the war.

After a year, when the war ended, Eddington said that Einstein's predictions were consistent with their team's measurements of stars during a then recent eclipse.

Fast facts

Despite his popularity and success, Einstein appeared to have had some issues with self-confidence. "The theory of gravitation will not find its way into my colleagues' heads for a long time yet, no doubt," he said to a friend back in 1915.

But look at where his theory has put him? Among the ranks of the most respected scientists in history.

In 2014, Russian Soyuz rocket accidentally placed two GPS satellites into the elliptical orbits, rather than in the circular paths. Although it meant an error, physicists looked at it as a great opportunity to test one part of Einstein's theory of relativity: clocks move more slowly when nearer a heavy material due to gravity's warping action over the fabric of space-time. The results are expected towards the end of 2016.


One hundred years have passed but still Einstein's theory of relativity continues to serve humanity with concepts that could help solve the scientific phenomena such as the Big Bang, black holes and supernovae.



Orion’s European module ready for testing

Posted 10/11/2015

A test version of ESA’s service module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft arrived in the US yesterday after leaving its assembly site in Italy last weekend.

The European Service Module is adapted from Europe’s largest spacecraft, the Automated Transfer Vehicle, which completed its last mission to the International Space Station in February. Just nine months later, prime contractor Airbus Defence & Space in Bremen, Germany, has delivered the first test module.

The module sits directly below Orion’s crew capsule and provides propulsion, power, thermal control, and water and air for four astronauts. The solar array spans 19 m and provides enough to power two households.

A little over 5 m in diameter and 4 m high, it weighs 13.5 tonnes. The 8.6 tonnes of propellant will power one main engine and 32 smaller thrusters.

The structural test article delivered today was built by Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy. Following initial tests in Europe, it will now undergo rigorous vibration tests in NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio to ensure the structure and components can withstand the extreme stresses during launch.

More than 20 companies around Europe are working on the project, most building on their expertise earned from the five Automated Transfer Vehicles that delivered cargo to the Space Station and reboosted its orbit from 2009 to 2015.

The first, uncrewed, launch of the full Orion vehicle is planned for 2018 with the first European Service Module.

It will fly beyond the Moon and back, returning to Earth at higher speeds than any other previous spacecraft.

During the mission, the module will detach shortly before entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

“This is the first major element of the European Service Module to be delivered to the US,” notes Philippe Deloo, ESA’s programme manager, “demonstrating the commitment of ESA to this human exploration endeavour.”




Sierra Leone celebrates end of Ebola epidemic

Posted 08/11/2015

Residents of Sierra Leone's capital held a candlelit vigil and celebrations overnight to mark the end of an Ebola epidemic.

The virus has killed almost 4,000 people including more than 200 health workers since the epidemic began last year.

Following 42 days with no new cases, the West African nation's epidemic will be declared officially over at a ceremony attended by President Ernest Bai Koroma and UN World Health Organization representative Anders Nordstrom. Thousands of people gathered under the Cotton Tree, a massive tree in the centre of the capital, Freetown, overnight for a candlelight vigil organised by women's groups to pay tribute to health workers who died.

Many of the health workers who died were infected due to inadequate protective equipment and training.

The country's first confirmed Ebola survivor, Victoria Yillia, told the crowd she was "happy that this disease which almost killed me has finally ended."

She appealed to authorities not to forget survivors, many of whom have faced social stigma and persistent health problems.

Elsewhere in the city, residents celebrated the end of the epidemic, which forced schools to close, overwhelmed healthcare systems and hurt the local economy.

Ebola has killed more than 11,300 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since the epidemic was announced in March 2014 and about 28,500 were infected, according to WHO data.

Sierra Leone's death toll was 3,955 people. Liberia was declared free of Ebola on 3 September while a handful of cases remain in Guinea.

The 42-day countdown to be declared Ebola-free starts when the last patient tests negative a second time, normally after a 48-hour gap following their first negative test.

Fear of the virus transformed the three countries and hampered efforts in Sierra Leone and Liberia to recover from civil wars.

At the height of the epidemic, the two countries ordered everyone to stay indoors for days at a time in an attempt to identify new cases and slow the disease's spread.



Halloween skies included dead comet flyby

Posted 01/11/2015

The large space rock that zipped past Earth this Halloween is most likely a dead comet that, fittingly, bears an eerie resemblance to a skull.

Scientists observing asteroid 2015 TB145 with NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, have determined that the celestial object is more than likely a dead comet that has shed its volatiles after numerous passes around the sun.

The belated comet has also been observed by optical and radar observatories around the world, providing even more data, including our first close-up views of its surface. Asteroid 2015 TB145 will safely fly by our planet at just under 1.3 lunar distances, or about 302,000 miles (486,000 kilometres), on Halloween (Oct. 31) at 1 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. PDT, 17:00 UTC).

The first radar images of the dead comet were generated by the National Science Foundation's 305-meter (1,000-foot) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The radar images from Arecibo indicate the object is spherical in shape and approximately 2,000 feet (600 meters) in diameter and completes a rotation about once every five hours.   

"The IRTF data may indicate that the object might be a dead comet, but in the Arecibo images it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby," said Kelly Fast, IRTF program scientist at NASA Headquarters and acting program manager for NASA's NEO Observations Program.

Managed by the University of Hawaii for NASA, the IRTF's 3-meter (10 foot) telescope collected infrared data on the object. The data may finally put to rest the debate over whether 2015 TB145, with its unusual orbit, is an asteroid or is of cometary origin.

"We found that the object reflects about six percent of the light it receives from the sun," said Vishnu Reddy, a research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona. "That is similar to fresh asphalt, and while here on Earth we think that is pretty dark, it is brighter than a typical comet which reflects only 3 to 5 percent of the light. That suggests it could be cometary in origin –- but as there is no coma evident, the conclusion is it is a dead comet.”

Asteroid 2015 TB145 was discovered on Oct. 10, 2015, by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS-1 (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) on Haleakala, Maui, part of the NASA-funded Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) Program. The next time the asteroid will be in Earth's neighbourhood will be in September 2018, when it will make a distant pass at about 24 million miles (38 million kilometres), or about a quarter the distance between Earth and the sun.

Radar is a powerful technique for studying an asteroid's size, shape, rotation, surface features and surface roughness, and for improving the calculation of asteroid orbits. Radar measurements of asteroid distances and velocities often enable computation of asteroid orbits much further into the future than would be possible otherwise.

NASA places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them. In fact, the U.S. has the most robust and productive survey and detection program for discovering near-Earth objects (NEOs). To date, U.S.-funded assets have discovered over 98 percent of the known NEOs.

In addition to the resources NASA puts into understanding asteroids, it also partners with other U.S. government agencies, university-based astronomers, and space science institutes across the country, often with grants, interagency transfers and other contracts from NASA, and also with international space agencies and institutions that are working to track and better understand these objects. In addition, NASA values the work of numerous highly skilled amateur astronomers, whose accurate observational data helps improve asteroid orbits after they are found.



TV channels are old-fashioned, says Apple executive

Posted 29/10/2015

Television channels are, according to Eddie Cue, dreadfully old fashioned. They should be apps instead.

Since 2007 and the launch of the iPhone, the Cupertino-based firm has been trying to turn everything into apps, and mostly succeeding.

Now, television is in its sights, with the launch of the new Apple TV.Eddie CueEddie Cue

Cue is a senior Apple executive who has been at the company since 1989 and who heads its software efforts.

He said: "Looking at the world by channels is sort of backwards. The numbers of a TV guide never made much sense."

The new Apple TV turns your screen into a series of tiles.

Users browse with the new remote, which has a touch sensitive panel, or by barking orders at Siri.

It's slick and quick, and Siri works effectively. Ask it to show you the episode of Friends with Brad Pitt in it, and it takes you straight there.

Over the last few months, he has also overseen the launches of Apple News and Apple Music.

That has put Apple even closer in competition with the other tech giants: Facebook (which has its own news effort with Instant Articles), Amazon (with its own video services), and Google (with YouTube).

The battle for your attention is fierce.

Each of these technology companies wants people to spend more time on their services, meaning that they can sell more advertising, devices and subscriptions.

Apple thinks privacy and security is a useful weapon in that war.

Cue said: "Those are things that we are building and thinking about as we're designing the product, building the product and shipping the product, and while we're running the product. It can't be an afterthought."




Curved screen PC the next big thing?

Posted 21/10/2015

HP unveil their next wave of new products in Barcelona.

Next month HP will split into two companies; one focusing on the enterprise and one on PCs and printers.

Yesterday the company, which will be known as HP Inc., invited journalists from around the world to Barcelona to view their latest offerings. During the event the company introduced a new range of Envy, Spectre and Stream devices.

Speaking at the launch Ron Coughlin, ‎Senior Vice President and General Manager of Consumer PC's, services and solutions at HP explained how the "innovation engine is running once again" at the company and that really does seem to be the case.

One of the most eye catching products from the new line up is the Envy Curved All-in-One PC: a Windows 10 machine built into a curved and extremely wide 34-inch display.

The idea is that it provides an utterly immersive experience for the user.

The large screen means multiple windows can be open at once and the user can see it all thanks to the curved screen. Internally the device can have either an Intel Core i5 or i7 Skylake processor, integrated graphics or an Nvidia GTX 960A graphics card, 8GB or 16GB of memory, and either an SSD, an HDD, or both. All options include six speakers and an Intel RealSense camera.

This is another of the eye-catching new releases from HP. This is the HP Envy 8 Note.

This device gives the user an 8-inch tablet, running Windows 10 but with a 10-inch keyboard. The team behind the design explained that typing on an 8-inch keyboard isn't comfortable or practical, so they started with a 10-inch keyboard and made the technology work from there.

The tablet device slides into the back of the keyboard for storage - meaning the user only ever has to carry one device. It's an incredibly clever design. 

This device will be available from November and pricing will start from €499.




Jupiter As You've Never Seen It

Posted 15/10/2015

Scientists using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have produced new maps of Jupiter that show the continuing changes in its famous Great Red Spot. The images also reveal a rare wave structure in the planet’s atmosphere that has not been seen for decades.

The new image is the first in a series of annual portraits of the Solar System’s outer planets, which will give us new glimpses of these remote worlds, and help scientists to study how they change over time.

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest planet in the Solar System. It is a giant planet with a mass one-thousandth that of the Sun, but is two and a half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined. Jupiter is a gas giant, and in its formation, if it had been a few dozen times its current mass, it could well have ignited to become a minor star in itself. Jupiter was known to astronomers of ancient times. The Romans named it after their god Jupiter. When viewed from Earth, Jupiter can reach an apparent magnitude of −2.94, bright enough to cast shadows and making it on average the third-brightest object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus.

Jupiter is primarily composed of hydrogen with a quarter of its mass being helium, although helium only comprises about a tenth of the number of molecules. It may also have a rocky core of heavier elements; but like the other giant planets, Jupiter lacks a well-defined solid surface. Because of its rapid rotation, the planet's shape is that of an oblate spheroid (it has a slight but noticeable bulge around the equator). 

The outer atmosphere is visibly segregated into several bands at different latitudes, resulting in turbulence and storms along their interacting boundaries. A prominent result is the Great Red Spot, a giant storm that is known to have existed since at least the 17th century when it was first seen by telescope.

Surrounding Jupiter is a faint planetary ring system and a powerful magnetosphere. Jupiter has at least 67 moons, including the four large Galilean moons discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. Ganymede, the largest of these, has a diameter greater than that of the planet Mercury.

Jupiter has been explored on several occasions by robotic spacecraft, most notably during the early Pioneer and Voyager flyby missions and later by the Galileo orbiter. Jupiter was most recently visited by a probe in late February 2007, when New Horizons used Jupiter's gravity to increase its speed and bend its trajectory en route to Pluto. The next probe to visit the planet will be Juno, which is expected to arrive in July 2016. Future targets for exploration in the Jupiter system include the probable ice-covered liquid ocean of its moon Europa.



Irish scientist wins Nobel Prize for Medicine

Posted 06/10/2015

An Irish scientist has been jointly awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology.

William C Campbell, who was born in Ramelton, Co Donegal, and colleague Satoshi Omura were jointly awarded half the prize for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites.

The other half of the prize went to Chinese scientist Youyou Tu for her discoveries concerning a new therapy against malaria called Artemisinin.

Prof Campbell and Prof Omura discovered a new drug, Avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.

The drug has also shown efficacy against a growing range of other parasitic diseases.

Prof William C Campbell CentreProf William C Campbell Centre

An expert in parasite biology, Prof Campbell, who was born in 1930, received a BA from Trinity College Dublin in 1952 and was awarded a PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 1957.

From 1957 to 1990 he was with the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research and from 1984 to 1990 worked as Senior Scientist and Director for Assay Research and Development.

Prof Campbell is currently a Research Fellow Emeritus at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey.

In 2012, Prof Campbell was also conferred with an honorary doctorate at Trinity College.

Prof Omura, a microbiologist, was born in Japan in 1935. Since 2007, he has been Professor Emeritus at Kitasato University.

Youyou Tu was born in 1930 in China and is Chief Professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Central and South America, it is estimated that parasitic worms afflict a third of the world's population

River blindness causes inflammation in the cornea and leads to loss of vision.

Lymphatic filariasis causes chronic swelling and leads to life-long stigmatising and disabling clinical symptoms, including elephantiasis and scrotal hydrocele.

Over 100 million people around the world suffer from it.

Prof Omura isolated new strains of a group of bacteria called streptomyces which live in the soil and were known to produce a plethora of agents with antibacterial activities.

He isolated the strains and developed them in the lab, before selecting 50 of the most promising.

Prof Campbell used Prof Omura's streptomyces cultures and showed that a component from one of the cultures was remarkably efficient against parasites in domestic and farm animals.

The bioactive agent was purified and named Avermectin, which was subsequently chemically modified to a more effective compound called Ivermectin.

Ivermectin was later tested in humans with parasitic infections and effectively killed parasite larvae.

Treatment is so successful that these diseases are on the verge of eradication.

Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, is caused by single-cell parasites which attack red blood cells, causing fever, and in severe cases brain damage and death.

Malaria infects close to 200 million individuals yearly, killing more than 450,000 people annually, with more than 3.4 billion of the most vulnerable people at risk of contracting it.

Youyou Tu in China used concepts of traditional herbal medicine to tackle the challenge of developing novel Malaria therapies.

She discovered that an extract from the plant Artemisia annua had promising results during a large-scale screen of herbal remedies in Malaria-infected animals.

She later showed that the component, later called Artemisinin, was highly effective against the malaria parasite, both in infected animals and in humans.

When used with other therapies, it is estimated to reduce deaths by more than 20% overall and by more than 30% in children.




NASA releases stunning new photo of Pluto’s moon Charon

Posted 03/10/2015

New Horizons has put Pluto in its rear-view mirror, but NASA still has many gigabytes of data to download from the probe.    As the images and readings trickle back, we’re gaining a greater understanding of the former ninth planet, but also of its moons.

The latest image to be released by NASA shows Pluto’s largest moon Charon, and it’s much more lumpy and uneven than you probably expected.

During its flyby of the Pluto system, New Horizons got within 17,000 miles (27,000km) of Charon. This object is about 600 miles in diameter and is massive enough that it actually forms a binary system with Pluto — they both orbit around a single barycenter near Pluto.

The images we had of Pluto before the New Horizons mission were not great, but Charon was even more mysterious. The newly released photo reveals a plethora of fascinating geological features, though.

Charon’s surface turns out to be very irregular with mountains, craters, and a giant 1000 mile-long canyon stretching across the middle. It’s four times longer than the grand canyon, and that’s just the part of it we can see.

New Horizons was just doing a flyby of the Pluto system, so it didn’t get a look at the other side of the moon. NASA researchers have entertained the possibility that the network of canyons stretches all the way around the planet.

The plains south of the canyons are remarkably smooth compared to the craggy, pockmarked surface to the north. Scientists say this indicates significant resurfacing of Charon has occurred in the not-too-distant past. So like Pluto, it might be more geologically active than we thought. The likelihood of seeing so much geological activity on a small moon at the edge of the solar system was seen as very unlikely.

The reason for this radical remodeling of the surface could be due to volcanic activity, but NASA seems more interested in the possibility of cryovolcanism.

An internal water ocean may have frozen in the past and resulted in changes in volume and mass distribution could have led to the surface cracking open and the formation of mountainous features.

We might learn more about the nature of Charon in the coming months. There is even higher-resolution Charon data still sitting in New Horizons, but it’s going to take months to get all that data back to Earth.

The data link between NASA and the probe only runs at 1-2Kbps. In the meantime, NASA is looking at where to send New Horizons next. It has enough fuel left to take a closer look at another Kuiper Belt object. Maybe we’ll find more evidence out there to help unravel the mysteries of Charon.



Stargazers observe a blood-red moon

Posted 28/09/2015

Stargazers have observed a blood-red "supermoon" in the sky for the first time in 33 years.

The "supermoon" lunar eclipse, also known as a "blood moon," is one that appears bigger and brighter than usual as it reaches the point in its orbit that is closest to Earth.        

The full moon yesterday was an especially special lunar occasion. In addition to being a traditional "harvest moon," the moon was at its closest point to Earth in its orbit, making it a so-called "supermoon." Plus, skywatchers people across North and South America, Europe and Africa will get to see a lunar eclipse, because the moon will pass into the Earth's shadow.

But why was last night's full moon called a harvest moon? Traditionally, the harvest moon is the name that is assigned to the full moon that falls closest to the autumn equinox, which occurred on the 23rd of September. (Technically speaking, it's autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere).

For more than an hour, Earth's shadow covered the full moon as the planet passed between the sun and the moon.

The brilliant white glow of the moon slowly transformed into a dim red.

The colouring was caused by Earth's atmosphere scattering sunlight into the shadow.


Web Summit to move to Lisbon in 2016

Posted 23/09/2015

The Dublin Web Summit is to move to the Portuguese city of Lisbon from 2016.      It will be held at the MEO Arena and FIL Feira Internacional de Lisboa.

The summit is to leave the Irish capital after five years.

Some 30,000 attendees are expected to attend this year’s summit in Dublin in November.

MEO Arena - LisbonMEO Arena - LisbonWe estimate that more than 50,000 attendees will come to our events over a twelve-month period - more than have come to Web Summit in its history prior to 2015,” CEO Paddy Cosgrave says.

On the decision to move the summit, he says: “We are proud of the fact that we have become an important pillar of the global startup ecosystem. 90% of our attendees come from abroad.”

"That said, we are an Irish company. Our roots are Irish. Our first attendees were all Irish. It was those first attendees who became our greatest champions, spreading the word of Web Summit far and wide. We couldn’t have gotten here without them."

“So it has not been an easy decision to move Web Summit from its Irish home. We are going because we want to take the next step on our journey to international growth,”

“So we leave with some sadness. Our HQ is here in Dublin and will remain here. We employ 130 people here and plan to continue growing fast,” he added.

Organisers are citing transport and hotel infrastructure - as well as a state-of-the-art venue - as reasons for the move.

Mr Cosgrave said they had spoken to a number different cities about hosting the event in the future.

Irish Premier Enda Kenny says he was “disappointed” at the decision – but after harsh criticism from opposition parties, who found his remarks to be a little too passive, the PM protested that the current coalition Government did not fail to meet the demands of the Web Summit.

Meanwhile, the director of public affairs with Dublin Chamber of Commerce, Aebhric McGibney, said that “Ireland has under-invested in infrastructure for years.”

He said Dublin needs to be competitive.


What is Web Summit?

Over the last four years, the Dublin Web Summit has become one of the world’s most influential and international tech events. This year Web Summit 2015 will showcase over 500 world-renowned speakers, 10 stages including the Digital Marketing, Internet of Things, Enterprise, and Builders Summits, 2,000 worldwide startups invited to exhibit their ideas, 200+ satellite events, 1,000 experienced investors, and 800 of the best tech journalists. For three days this November, Dublin will once again become the international tech capital.

Web Summit takes place in various venues across the city of Dublin, Ireland. The main conference venue is the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Ireland.

Last year, 22,119 attendees came from all over the globe including business leaders from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Box and over 60% of the Fortune 500. This year, 30,000+ people interested in new ideas that are changing our daily lives will meet and learn from the people shaping the future of the world, faster and further than any generation in history. You can read more about Web Summit 2015 in our attendee doc.

Web Summit 2015 will take place from the 3rd to the 5th of November 2015. There will be peripheral events and extra networking opportunities scheduled during the days surrounding the main event, so if you are interested in attending they recommend you account for this when booking your flights.



Scientists claim global temperature rise to restart

Posted 14/09/2015

The world is likely to see a return to rapid warming in the next couple of years, scientists said, in what could signal the end of the "pause" in rising global temperatures.

Experts said big changes were under way in the Earth's climate system, with a natural phenomenon known as El Nino combining with the impact of greenhouse gases to push global temperatures to record highs.

But other changes in the Atlantic Ocean over the coming decades could make relatively cooler and possibly drier summers in the UK and northern Europe more likely.

Globally, the Earth's climate system was at a "turning point," with a number of major changes happening at once, the Met Office's Professor Adam Scaife said.

In the run-up to key United Nations talks in Paris, at which it is hoped a new international agreement to tackle climate change can be agreed, "the signal is very clear" that global warming is happening.

The world has witnessed a slowdown or "pause" in rising temperatures in recent years, which sceptics pointed to as contradicting evidence of ongoing climate change.

The new report from the British Met Office, which has been peer-reviewed by the University of Reading's Professor Rowan Sutton, suggests the world is warming again.

Professor Scaife said experts could not be sure it was the end of the slowdown.

However, rates of warming averaged over decades were likely to reach the high levels seen at the end of the 20th century, when the world was warming rapidly, within two years.

The years 2014, 2015 and 2016 are all likely to be at or near record levels, in part due to the influence of the El Nino phenomenon of surface warming in the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists are very confident there is now a major El Nino under way, which is set to peak this winter, on the scale of an El Nino event in 1998 which helped drive global temperatures to record highs.

However Prof Scaife said natural variations such as El Nino were just the "icing on the cake" on top of human activity which is putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and driving climate change.

The El Nino could help break records for global temperature as well as having impacts including making the Indian monsoon weaker and raising the possibility of a break in the Californian drought.

He said: "We believe we are at an important point in the time series of the earth's climate and we'll look back on this period as an important turning point.

"That's why we're emphasising it because we're seeing so many big changes at once.


 "A lot of those things are natural, we've had El Ninos when we were cavemen, that it's been going on a long time, and similarly there is evidence for variations in the Atlantic going back 1,000 years through various proxy measures.

"A lot of these things can occur without the influence of human beings.

"However, they are now occurring on top of the influence coming from man's activity, so when they occur, when an El Nino comes and raises the global temperature, that is the icing on the cake, that is the extra bit that creates a record."

Professor Sutton said natural changes in North Atlantic Ocean temperatures could lead to cooling of the region compared to rising temperatures around the world, and could even see temperatures decrease on current levels.

The fall in temperatures could affect weather patterns in Europe, he said, as "research in the past suggests that when the North Atlantic cools that favours cooler and possibly drier summers in northern Europe."

But he said northern Europe was "absolutely not" heading for the next ice age, adding that he was not predicting cooler, drier summers for the UK, as other factors such as rising global temperatures would also affect our weather.



Galileo taking flight – Ten satellites now in orbit

Posted 11/09/2015

Europe’s own satellite navigation system has come a step nearer to completion today, with Galileo 9 and 10 which lifted off together at 02:08 GMT on 11 September (04:08 CEST; 23:08 local time, 10 September) from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, atop a Soyuz launcher.

All the Soyuz stages performed as planned, with the Fregat upper stage releasing the satellites into their target orbit close to 23 500 km altitude, around 3 hours and 48 minutes after liftoff.

“The deployment of Europe’s Galileo system is rapidly gathering pace” said Jan Woerner, Director General of ESA.

By steadily boosting the number of satellites in space, together with new stations on the ground across the world, Galileo will soon have a global reach. The day of Galileo’s full operational capability is approaching. It will be a great day for Europe.”

Two further Galileo satellites are still scheduled for launch by end of this year. These satellites have completed testing at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, with the next two satellites also undergoing their own test campaigns.

More Galileo satellites are being manufactured by OHB in Bremen, Germany, with navigation payloads coming from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in the UK, in turn utilising elements sourced from all across Europe.

“Production of the satellites has attained a regular rhythm,” said Didier Faivre, ESA’s Director of Galileo and Navigation-related Activities. “At the same time, all Galileo testing performed up to now – including that of the ground segment – has been returning extremely positive results.

“And while the continuing deployment of Galileo remains our priority, along with exploitation of EGNOS – Europe’s already operational satellite navigation augmentation system – ESA is also looking farther ahead.

“With the European Commission, we are doing the technical work to ensure Galileo goes on ‘forever’ – locking in continuity of Europe’s navigation services into the long term, to meet performance on a par with the other global satellite navigation systems.”

Next year the deployment of the Galileo system will be boosted by the entry into operation of a specially customised Ariane 5 launcher that can double, from two to four, the number of satellites that can be inserted into orbit with a single launch.

About Galileo

Galileo is the Europe’s own global satellite navigation system. It will consist of 30 satellites and their ground infrastructure.

The definition, development and In-Orbit Validation phases were carried out by ESA, and co-funded by ESA and the European Commission. This phase created a mini constellation of four satellites and a reduced ground segment dedicated to validating the overall concept.

The Full Operational Capability phase is fully funded by the European Commission. The Commission and ESA have signed a delegation agreement by which ESA acts as design and procurement agent on behalf of the Commission.



Mission team ready for Galileo launch

Posted 05/09/2015

When the next pair of Galileo satellites is boosted into orbit next Friday, a team of mission control experts in Darmstadt, Germany, will spring into action, working around the clock to bring the duo through their critical first days in space.

Galileo satellites 9 and 10 are scheduled to lift off at 02:08 GMT (04:08 CEST) on 11 September from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on top of a Soyuz rocket.

This will be the fifth Galileo launch, set to bring the number of satellites in space up to 10. Two more satellites are planned to be launched by year end.

The fiery ascent to space will last just over nine minutes, after which the Fregat upper stage will fire twice to place the satellites into their release orbit.

Separation from Fregat, about 3 hours and 48 minutes into flight, marks the start of the critical early orbits for the team at ESA’s European Space Operation Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

Within the combined flight control team from ESA and France’s CNES space agency, each position is paired with its counterpart from the other agency and mixed ‘CNESOC’ shifts will rotate to conduct operations around the clock.

The same team conducts all the Galileo early operations alternately from ESOC and from the CNES control centre in Toulouse, France.

“Upon separation, the team will be very focused, and we’ll be watching for a number of critical events on the satellites to happen automatically at the right time and in the right order,” says ESA’s Liviu Stefanov, lead flight director for this phase.

“The satellite must switch on, go into a basic flight configuration, deploy its solar wings for power, orient them towards the Sun and acquire Sun-pointing attitude.

 “As soon as we get communications, we’ll check its health and start sending commands to configure the satellite after completion of the automatic sequence and prepare it for the next major activity: pointing Galileo towards Earth.”

Intense activity around the clock

The intense activity will begin the 10-day early operations phase, during which the joint team will work 24 hours/day to oversee steps to prepare the satellites for handover to the Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, for routine operations, and ESA’s Redu Centre in Belgium, for detailed payload testing.

“We must conduct three thruster burns to push each satellite towards its final operational orbit,” says Jérémie Benoist, the co-flight firector from CNES.

“Like all of our flight control activities, these will require support from experts working in flight dynamics, ground tracking stations and other specialist areas from both ESA and CNES. It truly does take teamwork to ensure Galileo success.”


Galileo Sat 9-10 Launch VNR

Even after handing over command and control to the Galileo Control Centre around 21 September, flight dynamics specialists at ESOC will continue supporting the new pair.

This will include providing highly accurate orbit determinations and computing orbit manoeuvres, and will continue until the satellites have achieved their operational orbits, around 40 days after launch.

Training, training, training

By launch day, the teams will have completed a very demanding series of joint simulation training sessions at ESOC, complemented by more specific training conducted separately at each control centre.

Joint sessions are especially important to develop team bonds ‘on-console’ – so individuals get to know who will be working beside them and can foster one-on-one teamwork and mutual support.

After Europe's Galileo satellites lift off from here on board Soyuz, they will be controlled by a joint ESA/CNES operations team during the critical LEOP phase


Galileo launch pad

“Now, most of the engineers are very familiar with each other, with the mission control systems and with normal Galileo operations, so that means we have been able to focus our training on ‘off-nominal’ situations,” says Liviu.

“We usually finish our training with several completely normal launch simulations. This helps boost team confidence just before launch day, and it’s good psychology.”

As the Galileo series continues, mission operations teams and engineers are applying lessons learned from previous launches.

Fixes have included updates to flight procedures, integration of real-life flight data into operational procedures and simulation training, and improvements to the mission control systems.

“The entire team is very motivated and we are ready for the next Galileo launch,” says Paolo Ferri, ESA’s Head of Mission Operations.

“We are proud to be working with our colleagues from CNES and the Galileo Control Centre to ensure a smooth entry into orbit for the next pair of European navigation satellites.”



Black holes - gravity gone mad

Posted 29/08/2015

What is a black hole and why should it matter to know about them.

A black hole is exactly as per the title, literally in the simplest terms, gravity, one of the four principle forces of nature, gone completely mad. The concept is incredibly difficult for even the most intelligent of human beings to comprehend, but perfectly logical and we have found the silent monsters.

It is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This happens when a mega giant star is dying. On this occasion, the majority of the mass of the giant star is violently blown outwards whilst in a millionth of a second the core of the star is compressed inwards. It seems very counter intuitive but remember, we are talking of super mega giant stars.

Because no light can get out, people can't see black holes. They are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes.      The special tools can see how stars that are very close to black holes act differently than other stars.

How Big Are Black Holes?

Black holes can be big or small. Scientists think the smallest black holes are as small as just one atom. These black holes are very tiny but have the mass of a large mountain. Mass is the amount of matter, or "stuff," in an object.

Another kind of black hole is called "stellar." Its mass can be up to 20 times more than the mass of the sun. There may be many, many stellar mass black holes in Earth's galaxy. Earth's galaxy is called the Milky Way.

An artist's drawing shows the current view of the Milky Way galaxy. Scientific evidence shows that in the middle of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole.

The largest black holes are called "supermassive." These black holes have masses that are more than one million suns together. Scientists have found proof that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its centre. The supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy is called Sagittarius A. It has a mass equal to about four million suns and would fit inside a very large ball that could hold a few million Earths.

How Do Black Holes Form?

Scientists think the smallest black holes formed when the universe began.

Stellar black holes are made when the centre of a very big star falls in upon itself, or collapses. When this happens, it causes a supernova.           A supernova is an exploding star that blasts part of the star into space.

Scientists think supermassive black holes were made at the same time as the galaxy they are in.


If Black Holes Are "Black," How Do Scientists Know They Are There?

A black hole can’t be seen because strong gravity pulls all of the light into the middle of the black hole. But scientists can see how the strong gravity affects the stars and gas around the black hole. Scientists can study stars to find out if they are flying around, or orbiting, a black hole.

When a black hole and a star are close together, high-energy light is made. This kind of light can’t be seen with human eyes. Scientists use satellites and telescopes in space to see the high-energy light.

Could a Black Hole Destroy Earth?

Black holes do not go around in space eating stars, moons and planets. Earth will not fall into a black hole because no black hole is close enough to the solar system for Earth to do that.

Even if a black hole the same mass as the sun were to take the place of the sun, Earth still would not fall in. The black hole would have the same gravity as the sun. Earth and the other planets would orbit the black hole as they orbit the sun now.

The sun will never turn into a black hole. The sun is not a big enough star to make a black hole.


So now imagine a super massive black hole right at the centre of our own galaxy. Feel the pull of the largest object in our galaxy, a supermassive black hole. Astronomers are discovering its properties by probing the objects that are buzzing around it at mind-boggling speeds.

From a distance, our galaxy would look like a flat spiral, some 100,000 light years across, with pockets of gas, clouds of dust, and about 400 billion stars rotating around the galaxy’s centre. Thick dust and blinding starlight have long obscured our vision into the mysterious inner regions of the galactic centre. And yet, the clues have been piling up, that something important, something strange is going on in there. Astronomers tracking stars in the centre of the galaxy have found the best proof to date that black holes exist. Now, they are shooting for the first direct image of a black hole, as you see in the video.




On National Aviation Day, Spread Your Wings!

Posted 22/08/2015

During the National Aviation Day, August 19th, NASA asked you to "spread your wings" in celebration of Orville Wright's birthdate and of all the things we can do today thanks to flight.

Why is NASA celebrating National Aviation Day?

Because they love everything about flight, whether it's through space or Earth’s atmosphere.

In fact, their experts in all things aviation are dedicated to improving the design of airplanes including winglets, chevrons and glass cockpits, so they are more Earth friendly by using less fuel, generating less pollution and reducing noise to levels far below where they were just a decade or two ago. They are also working with the Federal Aviation Administration to provide air traffic controllers with new tools for safely managing the expected growth in air traffic across the nation.

NASA’s heritage in aviation research goes back more than 100 years. They have helped air travel become a safe, reliable form of transportation. and they are certainly not finished yet in terms of R&D. They are working to transform aviation into something even better by perfecting new technologies, including those that could lead to shape-shifting wings, electric propulsion and the return of commercial supersonic flight.

Every U.S. commercial aircraft and every U.S. air traffic control tower has NASA-developed technology on board.


NASA studies led to development of vertical extensions that can be attached to wing tips in order to reduce aerodynamic drag without having to increase wing span. Winglets help increase an airplane’s range, decrease fuel use, and today can be seen on airplanes everywhere.

Chevron Nozzles

Working with its industry partners, NASA researchers determined an effective way to reduce noise levels on the ground and in the passenger cabin was to add saw tooth-shaped cut outs, or chevrons, to the exhaust nozzles and cowling of jet engines.

Glass Cockpits

NASA created and tested the concept of replacing dial and gauge instruments with flat panel digital displays. The displays present information more efficiently and provide the flight crew with a more easily understood picture of the aircraft’s health and position.


So, remember -- NASA is with you when you fly!


Rosetta's big day in the Sun

Posted 16/08/2015

ESA’s Rosetta this week witnessed Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko making its closest approach to the Sun.

The exact moment of perihelion occurred at 02:03 GMT on the 13th August when the comet came within 186 million km of the Sun.  

In the year that has passed since Rosetta arrived, the comet has travelled some 750 million kilometres along its orbit towards the Sun, the increasing solar radiation heating up the nucleus and causing its frozen ices to escape as gas and stream out into space at an ever greater rate. These gases, and the dust particles that they drag along, build up the comet’s atmosphere – coma – and tail.

The activity reaches its peak intensity around perihelion and in the weeks that follow – and is clearly visible in the spectacular images returned by the spacecraft in the last months. One image taken by Rosetta’s navigation camera was acquired at 01:04 GMT last Thursday, just an hour before the moment of perihelion, from a distance of around 327 km. 

The scientific camera is also taking images today – the most recent available image was taken at 23:31 GMT on 12 August, just a few hours before perihelion. The comet’s activity is clearly seen in the images, with a multitude of jets stemming from the nucleus, including one outburst captured in an image taken at 17:35 GMT the previous day. 

Activity will remain high like this for many weeks, and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing how many more jets and outburst events we catch in the act, as we have already witnessed in the last few weeks,” says Nicolas Altobelli, acting Rosetta project scientist.

Rosetta’s measurements suggest the comet is spewing up to 300 kg of water vapour – roughly the equivalent of two bathtubs – every second. This is a thousand times more than was observed this time last year when Rosetta first approached the comet. Then, it recorded an outflow rate of just 300 g per second, equivalent to two small glasses of water.

Along with gas, the nucleus is also estimated to be shedding up to 1000 kg of dust per second, creating dangerous working conditions for Rosetta.

“In recent days, we have been forced to move even further away from the comet. We’re currently at a distance of between 325 km and 340 km this week, in a region where Rosetta’s startrackers can operate without being confused by excessive dust levels – without them working properly, Rosetta can’t position itself in space,” comments Sylvain Lodiot, ESA’s spacecraft operations manager.



How fragile we are

Posted 09/08/2015

Many years ago, the brilliantly talented English songwriter Sting wrote a hunting and thoughtful song, in a different context that many readers will no-doubt recall called “how fragile we are.” Since I was very young, I have always considered fragility of our species in every regard, but like most people in a very flat earth human-centred sense. Indeed, that is our condition and how it must be.

The immediacy of the challenges we face from economic crisis to humanitarian immigration tragedies will always be front and centre in our perception of life, but when one considers that 99.9% of species which have existed on this planet are now extinct, it is worth remembering indeed how fragile we are. 

Our life giving star, 149.6 million km away, which we enjoy on our summer holidays and which provides the food we eat and nourishes all life on earth is in fact our most lethal enemy. But now with each passing year we are learning more and more about just how dangerous our nearest star is to us.

It is not science fiction, but brutal reality. I suppose most of us do not, indeed, cannot afford to lose too much sleep about deadly solar flares or prominences, however, as we live in a more and more techno-dependent age for global communications and day to day business transactions etc. it is very relevant that we are beginning to learn how that enormous ball of hydrogen that warms our face in the summer can bombard our tiny rock planet with photons storms to cause some serious upset to our modern way of life.

As I have said, there is not much we can do about it, but it is good to be aware that we are constantly under attack from her unimaginable power. As you will see in this video, imagine what happens with a giant solar outburst on the scale of the Great Solar Storm of 1859 hits the Earth. Solar scientists got a taste of such a blast in 2012 when the Sun erupted in a giant coronal mass ejection. In one of the largest solar computer simulations ever performed, scientists tracked the impact of a massive wave of solar plasma as it slammed into Earth.



Trillion-euro global high-tech trade deal agreed

Posted 05/08/2015

The European Union, the United States, China and the vast majority of the World Trade Organization (WTO) members that were participating in the negotiations agreed at the end of last month to eliminate custom duties on 201 high-tech products.

The extension of the 1996 Information Technology Agreement (ITA) is the biggest tariff-cutting deal in the WTO in almost two decades.

The agreement initiated and brokered by the EU, will benefit both consumers and firms alike by removing customs duties on a wide range of goods, including medical equipment, video games and consoles, home hi-fi systems, headphones, blue-ray/DVR players, semi-conductors, and GPS devices. All in all, the deal will cover €1 trillion in global trade, covering close to 90% of world trade in the products concerned. A total of 54 WTO members negotiated the expansion of the ITA. A limited group of countries is expected to confirm its participation in the coming days.

"This is a great deal for consumers, and for companies big and small" said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. "We’ve worked hard to broker this compromise between different countries and to find the best solutions for Europe. This deal will cut costs for consumers and business – in particular for smaller firms, which have been hit especially hard by excessive tariffs in the past. Just as important, this deal shows how we can use the EU’s trade policy to encourage innovation in the IT sector – a part of our economy that is crucial for Europe's growth and for creating jobs."

The Commissioner added: "This major achievement adds much-needed momentum to the World Trade Organization. It clearly shows that countries around the world can work together to achieve solutions that benefit everyone. I count on other countries joining soon. And looking ahead, this agreement is an inspiration to step up our efforts in the run-up to the WTO ministerial in Nairobi in December. That will be the 'make or break' meeting for the Doha development round – it will be the last chance to conclude it."

The new, expanded ITA agreement concluded today will reduce the costs for consumers and for manufacturing IT products in Europe. It will offer new market access for many of Europe's high tech companies – some of which are leaders in their fields – and encourage innovation by simplifying access to state-of-the-art technology. As such, it will contribute to the further development of the digital economy in the EU.

The role of the EU

The EU made the original proposal back in 2008 to review and expand the ITA. Other WTO members finally took up the proposal in 2012, when negotiations started. From the outset, the EU proposed liberalising a wide range of goods, including consumer goods with relatively high tariffs in the EU (up to 14%), such as set top boxes, video cameras and cathode ray tube monitors. The EU then played a key role in brokering compromises throughout the negotiations, and chaired the last three negotiating rounds.

Background on ITA expansion

Tariffs will be eliminated within 3 years from the date of application of the agreement, which is foreseen for 1st July 2016. For sensitive products longer phase-out periods will be negotiated to give industry time to adapt to a zero-tariff environment The EU has a trade surplus in the products covered of around € 15 billion. The deal will not cover certain electronic products subject to duties in the EU, such as certain monitors, projectors, non-digital car radios as well as TVs.

The extension of the ITA aimed at broadening the original Information Technology Agreement between Members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which came into force in 1997. A total of 54 WTO members negotiated the expansion of the ITA.


Under the original ITA, participants eliminated all customs duties on IT products such as computers, telephones, digital cameras and their parts. Since the ITA was completed and entered into force in 1997, trade in the sector has quadrupled. In May 2012 a number of participants started negotiations to expand ITA to new products. The new agreement will substantially expand the range of products covered, that include consumer and other finished products, parts and components, and machinery used in the manufacturing of IT products (enclosed a summary of the products covered by the ITA expansion).



A brand new Windows 10 released todayRaquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez

Posted 29/07/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

As a frequent desktop user, I use Windows every day, but I must confess that I am not nerdy enough to change my operating system (OS) every time Windows decides to launch the ultimate version of one of the most used OS.

Basically because my usage of devices is limited to write documents, get statistics, making charts and of course sending and receiving e-mails and messages, far from a proficiency user.

Nowadays Windows have lost much of its market share in favour of Android. Thus far, Android has the largest installed base of all general-purpose operating systems; as of 2013, devices running it also sell more than Windows, iOS and Mac OS X devices combined. That makes Android the most popular smartphone operating system, while on tablets, the iPad tablet still makes iOS more popular in that category.

In certain categories, one family of operating systems dominates, for example, most desktop and laptop computers use Microsoft Windows, while most supercomputers use Linux. In the servers category, there is more diversity. Data about operating system share is difficult to obtain, since in most categories there are few reliable primary sources or agreed methodologies for its collection.


Having said all that, let me get down to business, the brand new Windows 10, which I must confess I resisted to use as it is usual to find a few bugs here and there that will need some immediate fixing before any Windows, or as a matter of fact, any software is settled. Therefore, I echoed here a few real experts’ reviews of the new version of this popular OS:   

Wall Street Journal/Geoffrey A. Fowler

The biggest problem with Windows 10 is that I have little reason to use it outside of work. At home, I rely on a smartphone, mobile apps and websites that don’t require Windows—and sometimes fit awkwardly in a Windows world.

Windows 10 is a reminder that computer software alone doesn’t equal digital happiness anymore. Among the first things it will ask you to do is log in to a Microsoft account. But it feels like a ham-handed attempt to make us use Microsoft’s own less popular (and inferior) services like OneDrive and Bing.

The Verge/Tom Warren

Windows 10 is hugely exciting. I rarely touch my MacBook Air anymore as I find the combination of some good hardware (like the Dell XPS 13) and Windows 10 is a joy to use. I like the direction Microsoft is taking with Windows 10, accepting feedback and ideas from its customers along the way. It feels like the best way to shape Windows into something people enjoy using, rather than something they have to use.

That’s the nature of the Windows cycle: bad version, then a good version. Windows 10 is a great fix to the problems of Windows 8, and that’s exactly what we all expected.



Yahoo Tech/David Pogue

You really are going to love Windows 10. You’ll almost certainly want to upgrade your computers to it, especially since it’s free.

But you might not want to do that tomorrow. I’d suggest you wait six weeks. By then, Microsoft will have swatted most of the bugs, and many of your favorite software companies will have released Windows 10-compatible versions.


Recode/Walt Mossberg

The near-final build I’ve been testing proved surprisingly buggy. In particular, I had trouble with Windows 10’s sexiest new feature, the voice-controlled Cortana intelligent assistant — Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri — which has migrated from Windows Phones to the PC.

Still, some of the new features are promising, the balance between old and new styles seems right this time, and — if the bugs get erased — Windows 10 would be a good choice for Windows devotees.

However, it’s just okay, not disruptive. It’s perhaps what Windows 8 might have looked like if it had been evolutionary, not revolutionary. I doubt it will convert many Mac owners, spur a shopping spree in new PCs, bring in droves of new developers, or save the Windows Phone.

And I advise would-be upgraders who aren’t enthusiasts to wait to upgrade at least for a few months, until the product is more stable and reliable.


Wired/David Pierce

Before we go any further, let’s get this out of the way: You should upgrade to Windows 10. If you’re using Windows 8, 7, XP, ME, or 3.1, you should upgrade. Maybe wait a couple of weeks for the biggest bugs to be squashed, but do it. Why wouldn’t you? It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s a huge improvement on whatever version you’re using.


The Guardian/Jack Schofield

It is the Start menu is Windows 10’s most obvious feature and it will please Windows 7 users. It combines a list of programs similar to Windows 7 with one or two panels of live tiles pulled from Windows 8. Selecting “all programs” shows them in alphabetical order, but the search box is familiar to users of Vista and Windows 7 has been moved to the taskbar, where it is more obviously accessible.

You can run your traditional desktop programs from either side of the Start menu, from the taskbar, or from XP-style icons on the desktop. If you really don’t want to change the way you work, Windows 10 won’t force you.

NYTimes/Brian X. Chen

Combine the early bugs with the spottiness of Cortana and the fact that third-party app developers are still updating their Windows apps for Windows 10, and the operating system still has a little ways to go before it becomes a solid all-around upgrade. But the improvements to security, along with the familiar user interface, should be reasons to grab this upgrade sooner than later (especially if you’re on Windows 7 and lacking up-to-date security tools).


Ars Technica/Peter Bright

I am dismayed at some of the changes, especially in tablet mode. Windows 8 did some bold things in the tablet space, and I think it advanced the way we work with those devices. Windows 10 feels lesser as a tablet platform. But simultaneously with that, Continuum is smart and overall enhances the use of hybrid devices. On balance, we’ve gained more than we’ve lost—but I wish we didn’t have to lose anything at all.

Windows 10 is the best Windows yet. I think almost everyone upgrading from both Windows 7 and Windows 8 will be upgrading to a better operating system that is less annoying and more effective. I think that everyone who is eligible to upgrade should do so; I can see little reason to stick with those older operating systems unless one has very specific compatibility or regulatory concerns. Windows 10 is without a doubt better, and with each passing month it’s going to stretch that lead and become better still.

But I’d also wait a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months, before making the move.


Engadget/Devindra Hardawar

After spending the past few years with Windows 8, using Windows 10 felt like being thrown back into the past — but in a good way. I never quite got used to the way the last OS treated keyboards and mice as an afterthought, and I’ve heard the same from plenty of other Windows power users. So you can imagine how satisfying it was to feel a return to Windows 7 levels of desktop productivity. For example, when you tap the Windows key on your keyboard, the Start menu pops up immediately. In Windows 8, it took a bit longer for the Start screen to appear. So now the simple task of hitting the Windows key and immediately typing to search for something — one of the things I do most often — feels significantly improved.



The Wall Street Journal/Joanna Stern

Ironically, I found my MacBook Air to be the best Windows 10 laptop. It may not have a touchscreen, but it was snappier, and beat the Dell and Surface for normal scrolling and navigating. (The three-finger swipe wasn’t enabled during my tests, however.) Windows 10 is in desperate need of a worthy PC laptop.

Another thing that’s made me a master Windows 10 multitasker is the ability to easily snap email to one side of the screen and a Web browser to the other. Microsoft included app-snapping in previous Windows versions, but now it suggests other open apps or windows to place next to it. It also lets you tile up to four windows on the screen. It’s a huge time saver, especially when helping herd the stray windows on my external monitor. The feature is so great, Apple put it in its next version of OS X and iOS for the iPad. But Microsoft’s implementation is better, in part because it has addictive keyboard shortcuts.


Summit of Conscience for Climate

Posted 26/07/2015

From a meeting in Paris for a “Summit of Conscience for Climate,” initiated by Nicolas Hulot, the French President’s Special Envoy for the protection of the planet, took this opportunity to speak to us in person.

By their nature, COPs (Conference of the Parties) offer an opportunity to meet and talk at the highest level. They also offer an opportunity to undertake decisive steps to tackle climate change; but as we all know that opportunity is beset by challenges.

President Hollande said “2015 is a dramatic year for making key choices for Humanity: we need to reinvent how we tackle the major challenges that face us and our planet. This calls for new ways of living and acting.”

The conference framed the discussion by way of an open question: Why should I care?

The response might be very personal – the influence of a parent, child or grandparent; the influence of culture or personal beliefs; the influence of a transformative experience of the wonder and beauty of nature; a crisis in your life which brought you back to core values.

In our contemporary world it is very rare that we are asked to talk about what lies at the heart of our actions. Instead we hide behind statistics, data, policy statements etc, few of which actually touch other people’s hearts and minds.

To consolidate the movement behind asking this question, several public and private institutions hosted The Summit of Conscience, in Paris, July 2015. They invited thinkers, faith leaders, artists, cultural figures, thinkers and others to explore the idea of individual conscience as a way to finding a real solution to climate change and the destruction of the environment.

Many of the Summit attendees support this action, and each has gone through the thoughtful, sometimes tough, often revealing process of trying to find an honest answer, rather than just an obvious one. 

In telling the story of Why do I care, you will be joining millions around the world, including the example set recently by His Holiness The Pope, in making climate change and the protection of our beautiful planet a personal issue of our own beliefs and values.

Irish President Higgins spoke in Paris for Climate Conference

President Michael D Higgins arrived in Paris on Monday to attend the “Summit of Consciences for the Climate” organised by President François Hollande.

The purpose of the day-long conference was to raise consciousness of the threat posed by global warming, in the run-up to the COP 21 UN conference on climate change, which will be held in Paris next December.

Mr Higgins was accorded the honour of a one-to-one meeting with Mr Hollande at the Elysée Palace prior to the dinner for the main conference speakers.

Speakers at Tuesday’s conference were an eclectic and colourful mix ranging from an astro-physicist to the former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. They include religious leaders from all the world’s main faiths.

Mr Hollande was eager to show that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) is about more than mathematical commitments to reducing greenhouse emissions; that there is a human, ethical, and philosophical dimension to the problem.

Mr Higgins spoke about “The Power of Ideas for Climate; Making a New Beginning.”

Other speakers included the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Prince Albert of Monaco and the former president of Ireland and UN special envoy for climate change Mary Robinson.

Mr Higgins was expected to stress linkage between fighting climate change and the UN Millennium Development Goals, the heavy weight of European responsibility, and the need for solidarity.

A related video on this theme

He decried what he sees as the selfishness of state-led policies and negotiations, and calls for a return to the post-World War II belief in multilateralism and the common interest.


The Irish president delivered addresses at the Sorbonne and Unesco during an official visit in 2013. He was guest of honour at the Festival Interceltique in Lorient last summer, and maintains close friendships with several French socialist politicians.




EU to probe Sky and major movie studios over content restrictions

Posted 23/07/2015

Anti-trust case against Sky and US film studios

The European Union’s competition commissioner has accused six major Hollywood studios and Britain's Sky TV pay channel of using movie licenses to block access to their content in other EU countries.

Under investigation along with Sky’s British and Irish pay TV network are Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros.

"European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channels of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU. Our EU economy Internet antitrust investigation shows that they cannot do this today," Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

"We believe that this may be in breach of EU competition rules," she said.

Digital media in the EU is sharply divided across national lines and the European Commission has made breaking those barriers a top priority.

The Commission's accusation "takes the preliminary view that each of the six studios and Sky UK have bilaterally agreed to put in place contractual restrictions that prevent Sky UK from allowing EU consumers located elsewhere to access pay-TV services available in the UK and Ireland."

Specifically, subscribers to the Sky TV's network of channels are blocked from accessing its offerings of films and TV series once outside Britain and Ireland.

The commission also said it was still examining similar cases involving Canal Plus of France, Sky Italia of Italy, Sky Deutschland of Germany and DTS of Spain.

Companies respond:

Sky: The European Commission is examining cross-border access to pay-TV services across a number of member states. As part of its ongoing enquiry, we have received a statement setting out the Commission's preliminary views. We will consider this and respond in due course.

Walt Disney Company: Our approach is one that supports local creative industries, local digital and broadcast partners and most importantly consumers in every country across the EU. The impact of the Commission's analysis is destructive of consumer value and we will oppose the proposed action vigorously.

Source: AFP


Responsibilities of DG Competition

  • Mobilising competition policy tools and market expertise to contribute, where appropriate, to creating jobs and promoting growth.
  • Developing the economic and legal approach of assessing competition issues and monitoring the market.
  • Effectively enforcing competition rules in the areas of antitrust, cartels, mergers and state aid.
  • Strengthening the Commission's reputation worldwide and promoting international cooperation in competition issues.



Marie Curie: restless source of energy…and inspirationRaquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez

Posted 19/07/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

In the 19th century physicists and chemists were at the edge of new discoveries, the basic laws were able to explain almost everything. However, a final surprise was to be unleashed in the field of science before the turn of the century.

A young 24-year old Marie Curie (then Marie Skłodowska), was confronted in 1896, with a topic which the French physicist Becquerel had lost interest in.

Becquerel accidentally left a package of uranium salts on top of a roll of photographic plate in a drawer, and days later found that the plate had darkened as if it had been exposed to light; he thought that these salts had emitted penetrating rays that were able to pass through metal.   

A Polish national, Marie, who did not have any other choice but to emigrate to France in order to pursue her university studies, needed to choose a subject for her doctoral thesis. Taking Becquerel’s findings, she decided to investigate more thoroughly these stones that constantly emitted so much energy and didn’t seem to be consumed, and baptized this phenomenon as radioactivity.

In the Sorbonne, the most famous university in France, Marie devoured one subject after another, hardly eating and living in an unheated attic. She was first in her class and at the end of her studies she met her husband, physicist Pierre Curie, who also became her scientific partner.

Marie discovered that Becquerel rays came from the interior of uranium atoms and that only one other element, thorium, emitted similar rays. She then studied the uranium minerals and was astonished that one of them, pitchblende (or uraninite), was more radioactive than pure uranium; her hypothesis was that the rock contained a small amount of something unknown and highly radioactive.

Her husband, Pierre excited about the new findings abandoned his own research to focus on helping Marie and, together, they soon discovered in pitchblende two new elements: polonium and radium, each one more radioactive than the other. To obtain them in quantity and to be able to study them, they invested their savings in tons of pitchblende and stored it in a leaky borrowed shed. There, the couple would be found at the end of their workday as teachers, crushing and dissolving the ore with acids. It was hard work, amid toxic gases and increasingly pure radioactive products. Five years later, the tons of ore had been reduced to 0.1 grams of radium salt, so radioactive that it glowed in the dark and produced burns on their skin.

Marie Curie was then able to present her thesis, enabling her to obtain not only her doctorate title but also being honoured with two Nobel prizes: the first one that same year (1903), shared with Becquerel and her husband; the second one was awarded to her alone (1911) as Pierre had died five years earlier, struck by a horse drawn vehicle.

The Curies’ history had everything: romance, idealism, sacrifice, tragedy and a new source of heat —radium, which seemed inexhaustible. Thanks to her discovery, science jumped from specialized journals to make newspaper headlines. Meanwhile, Rutherford had discovered that radioactive materials did waste away and disintegrated, transforming themselves into other elements: it was the alchemists’ dream come true. For Vassily Kandinsky, who in those years created the first works of abstract painting, “that radioactivity thing” was the symbol of the disintegration of the entire world.

After all, Marie Curie helped to create a new corp of physics able to explain this and other phenomena. Marie Curie died at age 67 of leukemia, an illness probably caused by all the radiation she received. In fact, her laboratory notebooks remain highly radioactive: 1,600 years will have to pass before half the radium that fell on them is consumed.

In honour of the celebrated scientist, the European Commission created the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) to provide grants for all stages of researchers' careers - be they doctoral candidates or highly experienced researchers - and encourage transnational, intersectoral and interdisciplinary mobility.

The MSCA enable research-focused organisations (universities, research centres, and companies) to host talented foreign researchers and to create strategic partnerships with leading institutions worldwide. 

For scientists and the public, Marie Curie’s radium was a key to a basic change in our understanding of matter and energy. Her work not only influenced the development of fundamental science but also led to a new era in medical research and treatment.

Nowadays, with the Cold World a distant memory and the renewed hopes brought by the new Iranian nuclear deal, one can conclude that Kandisky’s fears may belong to the past.



Nasa weekly update & Cosmic journeys

Posted 12/07/2015

NASA has selected four astronauts to work closely with two U.S. commercial companies that will return human spaceflight launches to Florida’s Space Coast.

NASA named veteran astronauts and experienced test pilots Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams to work closely with Boeing and SpaceX.

NASA contracted with Boeing and SpaceX to develop crew transportation systems and provide crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station. The agency will select the commercial crew astronauts from this group of four for the first test, which is scheduled for 2017. Also, NASA’s newest astronauts, New Horizons still on track.

Benefits for Humanity, Cargo ship arrives at space station, Training continues for next ISS crew and more!

Where do you look to glimpse the birth of a solar system like ours? Our sun is thought to have formed along with a range of stellar siblings.

This star cluster likely moved out on its own, bound by gravity, in what astronomers call a "Moving Group." 

This video explores two nearby moving groups. M67, also known as the King Cobra Cluster, was once pegged as the birth place of our solar system.

The evidence now says it's not, but astronomers have now detected planets there. The other is the Beta Pictoris group, with the most famous of all solar systems in formation... Beta Pictoris. Find out how a solar system is taking shape within the fold of this hot star.



Happy 4th of July...from Space!

Posted 04/07/2015

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly took a moment from his duties on board the International Space Station, to send greetings and wishes for a safe and happy 4th of July!

Kelly is in the fourth month of his year-long mission on the complex with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), gathering valuable biomedical data that will be used in crafting a mission to Mars in the future.

The unpiloted Russian ISS Progress 60 cargo craft launched to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan July 3, filled with more than three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 44 crew members aboard the orbital outpost.


Raquel JimenezRaquel JimenezSix-year-old boy dies from diphtheria in Spain after parents shun vaccination

Posted 28/06/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

It was the first recorded case of diphtheria since 1986, a six-year-old boy from the Catalan city of Olot was placed in intensive care at the beginning of June.

The child had not been vaccinated against the disease amid controversy over the potential side-effects of the jab, and had been fighting the bacterial infection for a month. One out of every 10 patients dies from complications of the disease's early symptoms.

He had not received anti-diphtheria vaccinations.

The young boy was admitted to hospital a month ago after it was confirmed he was suffering from the first case of diphtheria recorded in Spain since 1986.

An anti-toxin treatment was rushed to Barcelona from Russia but proved ineffective.

The boy’s parents felt “terribly guilty” and that they had been “tricked” by anti-vaccine groups who convinced them not to vaccinate their son, the public health secretary in Catalonia said during a press conference on the 5th of June.

By June the 8th, it was reported the boy was being kept alive on life support machines in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

During a screening process following the boy’s infection, health authorities in Catalonia discovered eight more children were carrying diphtheria bacteria, but had not developed the disease because they had been vaccinated.

Caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae, diphtheria most frequently infects adults over 60 and children under five. It is spread both through the air and via direct contact and can cause heart problems, nerve damage and severe respiratory distress.

The so-called “anti-vaxxer” movement has gained widespread attention in the U.S. recently. Although, according to the Spanish Vaccine Society, 90% of the population is covered by systematic vaccination programs, similar campaigns have gained popularity in Europe. Moreno called these campaigns “irresponsible,” saying, “The consequences of not vaccinating a child can be dramatic.”

“The right to vaccination is for children, not for the parents to decide.”

Spain is no stranger to diphtheria: the country survived several epidemics in the 16th and 17th centuries, including a year so deadly that it was nicknamed “The Year of Strangulations,” after the disease’s symptoms.



The curvature of the Earth


A new take on an old classic. Once again, experience the glorious curvature of Earth. This time, however, the fluttering aurorae and city lights can now be seen in 4K Resolution at 60 frames per second.

Here are some of the best images captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.


Philae probe 'wakes up' on comet

Posted 14/06/2015

The European space probe Philae woke up overnight after a months-long sleep as it hurtled towards the Sun on the back of a comet, the French space chief said this afternoon.

"We received new signals from [Philae] for a period of two minutes, as well as 40 seconds' worth of data," Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), told AFP.

"Hello Earth! Can you hear me?" the tiny robot lab tweeted under the hashtag #WakeUpPhilae.

Europe launched a new bid in May to communicate with Philae via its mothership Rosetta, which is in orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Their exploration aims at unveiling secrets of comets - pristine bodies of ice and dust - that are believed to explain how the Solar System was formed.

The 100kg robot lab touched down on "67P" on 12 November after a ten-year trek piggybacking on Rosetta.

But instead of harpooning itself onto the dusty iceball's surface, Philae bounced several times before settling at an angle in a dark ditch.

The lander had enough stored battery power for around 60 hours of experiments, and sent home reams of data before going into standby mode on 15 November.

As "67P" drew closer to the Sun, scientists hoped better light would recharge Philae's batteries enough for it to reboot, then make contact, and ultimately carry out a new series of experiments.

"Philae has woken up at 13 June 2228 Central European Time," the European Space Agency (ESA) spokesman Pal Hvistendahl told AFP.

Comet 67 is currently 215 million kilometres from the Sun and 305 million kilometres from Earth, racing at 31.24 kilometres a second, according to ESA's website.

Rosetta and Philae have travelled an accumulated distance of 6.9 billion kilometres, it said.

By 13 August the comet will reach its closest point to the Sun, or perihelion, before veering off again into the deeper reaches of space.


Source: AFP


Expedition 43 Hands Over the Space Station to Expedition 44

Posted 11/06/2015

The reins of the International Space Station were passed from NASA’s Terry Virts to Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) during a ceremony on the orbital outpost on June 10.

Virts will return to Earth on June 11 in the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) to wrap up more than six months in orbit.

Padalka, who became the first four-time commander of the station, remains on board with Scott Kelly of NASA, and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos, who are in the midst of a year-long mission on the complex.


50 Years of Spacewalks

Posted 06/06/2015

On the 3rd of June 1965, NASA astronaut Edward White became the first American to walk in space when he spent about 23 minutes outside the Gemini 4 spacecraft, maneuvering around with a hand-held oxygen-jet gun.

That mission also was the first time the agency’s famed Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center was used.

NASA’s celebration of the first U.S. spacewalk, also known as an extravehicular activity or EVA – included a documentary narrated by actor Jon Cryer and featuring NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, Deputy Administrator Dava Newman and others.

The film, titled Suit Up, focused on the five decade history of spacewalks and the future of humans working on a tether in space. Also, U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame induction, Pluto’s moons tumbling about, 2015 Atlantic hurricane season begins, Agency Honor Awards and A ringing endorsement for space!

Source: NASA



International Space Station Module Moved to New Location

Posted 30/05/2015

At the International Space Station, the large Permanent Multipurpose Module was robotically relocated from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module to the forward port of the Tranquility module on May the 27th in the next step to reconfigure the complex for the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew vehicles.

Robotic flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to maneuver the 11-ton module a short distance to its new location.

The operation opened the Earth-facing port of Unity as another berthing location for U.S. commercial cargo vehicles, while future U.S. commercial crew vehicles will arrive at new International Docking Adapters to be installed on hardware on the Harmony module.


Because Science is a lot of fun...Raquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez

FameLab International Final @ Cheltenham Science Festival

Posted 26/05/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

The 2015 FameLab International Final will feature the winners of FameLab competitions held in over twenty countries across five continents.

FameLab is a communications competition designed to engage and entertain by breaking down science, technology and engineering concepts into three minute presentations. Contestants from around the world take part armed only with their wits and a few props that they can carry onto stage – the result is an unpredictable, enlightening and exciting way to encourage your curiosity and find out about the latest research.

FameLab was started in 2005 in the UK by Cheltenham Science Festival and has quickly become established as a diamond model for successfully identifying, training and mentoring scientists and engineers to share their enthusiasm for their subjects with the public.

Ten of these international finalists were shortlisted in the semi-finals and go on to compete in the International Grand Final on Thursday 4th June in the EDF Energy Arena.

Together Cheltenham Festivals and the British Council co-produce the FameLab International Grand Final held at the Cheltenham Science Festival each June.

The 2015 edition sees competitors from Australia, Benelux, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom competing to be FameLab International Winner 2015.

A flavour of FameLab International Final from 2014

This contest gives you a snapshot into the world of science and engineering and is dedicated to answering both bizarre and pertinent questions from ‘Why do men have nipples?’ to ‘Is nuclear energy a good or bad thing?’

The audience is also involved in the show, with the power to judge the contestants along with an esteemed panel of scientists, journalists, writers and public figures. Winners will be decided based on accurate and well-balanced content, the clarity of their communication and the presence of charisma. By engaging with the public, contestants have the chance to further their careers and open up future communication possibilities, enabling them to tear down barriers between science and the rest of society.

For more information about FameLab International visit the British Council’s website, the Facebook page or contact Tim Slingsby.


By Raquel Jimenez for EU Spectator


Facebook 'tramples on European law', says privacy body

Posted 19/05/2015

Facebook "tramples" on European privacy law by tracking people without consent, Belgium's privacy watchdog has said.

The country's Privacy Protection Commission accused Facebook of dodging questions from European regulators.

Internet users were also urged to install privacy software to stop Facebook tracking them, regardless of whether they had accounts with it.

The social network said it complied with data protection law and questioned the Belgian watchdog's authority.

The Commission attacked Facebook after trying to find out more about its practices.

"Facebook tramples on European and Belgian privacy laws," it said after publishing a report analysing changes that the company made to its privacy policies in January.

In a statement, it said that Facebook has refused to recognise Belgian and other EU national jurisdictions, insisting it was subject only to the law in Ireland, the site of its European headquarters.

"Facebook has shown itself particularly miserly in giving precise answers," the watchdog said, adding that the results of its study were "disconcerting".

The body, which was working with its German, Dutch, French and Spanish counterparts, said that Facebook would not explain in detail how it used data it collected.



A Facebook spokeswoman questioned the Belgians' authority but said it would review the study's recommendations with the Irish data protection commissioner.

"We work hard to make sure people have control over what they share and with whom. Facebook is already regulated in Europe and complies with European data protection law, so the applicability of the [commission's] efforts is unclear," she said.

This is the second damning report this year on Facebook's use of data from the Belgian Privacy Commission. In February, it said it placed "too much burden" on users to navigate its complex settings.


Complicated collection

The report was drawn up in response to Facebook's announcement it was updating its privacy policy and its terms and conditions. The updated terms were implemented on 30 January.

The report, written by academics from the University of Leuven, said the changes were not "drastic" but instead clarified what Facebook had been doing for some time.

The clarification led the report's authors to conclude that Facebook was "acting in violation of European law" governing:

  • how data is gathered about people
  • what is done with the information
  • how people are informed about these practices

Facebook had a very complicated collection of settings which made it difficult for people to make an informed choice or be sure they were not surrendering data they wanted to keep private, said the report.

Users should get more information about which information was being shared with and which organisations saw it, added the report.

In response, Facebook said its updated terms and policies were much clearer and concise and helped "expand" the control people had over advertising.

It said its privacy policies and terms were overseen by the Irish data protection commissioner, which made sure they both complied with broader European laws on how data was gathered and used for advertising.

"We're confident the updates comply with applicable laws," it added.

The report comes as European law makers are grappling with a significant update to the region's data-protection regime. The updated laws are expected to be in force from 2017 onwards.



EU to form new 7-member science advice panel

Posted 14/05/2015

The EU aims to create a science advice panel next Autumn with the objective of ending a Brussels dispute over who gives scientific advice on controversial issues like GMOs.

An all-star cast of award-winning European scientists – including Sir Paul Nurse, Jules Hoffmann, Serge Haroche, László Lovász, Jean Tirole and Edvard Ingjald Moser – were invited to a working lunch yesterday in Brussels.  


Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness; and Commissioner Moedas, responsible for Research, Science and Innovation were also in the meeting.

The exchange of views focused on how to ensure Europe remains a centre of excellence for science, foster innovative ideas that are brought to market, and ensure that EU policy benefits from the best scientific advice.

This move happened after that Juncker’s European Commission decided to abolish last November the post of chief scientific adviser just three years after creating it. Former president José Manuel Barroso had pledged in late 2009 to create the post. It was not filled until two years later, when Anne Glover, a molecular and cell biologist who was then chief scientific adviser (CSA) for Scotland, was appointed. Glover's term of office as CSA for Europe ended last November, along with that of the rest of the outgoing commission, following European Union (EU) elections earlier in May 2014.

At the time various research leaders protested against the move, which they interpreted as downgrading the value of science advice at the highest levels of the commission. They argued that the position should instead have been reinforced, in particular by allocating it more resources.

Yesterday’s meeting was also an opportunity to discuss how to best institutionalize independent scientific advice in the European Commission. After the mandate of the Chief Scientific Advisor came to an end with the conclusion of the previous Commission, President Juncker asked Commissioner Moedas to reflect on possible ways to ensure that the Commission draws on the best scientific advice, complementing existing in-house services and external expertise. While international experience shows that there is no single model for providing such advice, the overall objective is to ensure that scientific advice:

  • is independent of institutional or political interests;
  • brings together evidence and insights from different disciplines and approaches;
  • is transparent.

President Juncker said: "The thirst for discovery is what has helped move society from the Stone Ages. The world has changed, but for our society to continue advancing and our economy to grow, we need the highest ambition in pursuing knowledge, breakthroughs, innovations. For that to happen, a formidable brain alone doesn't always suffice. We need additional sources of finance and investment for research and innovation. The Investment Plan for Europe will play a fundamental role in achieving that. Investing in research is a priority for Europe.

We are currently in the last miles of negotiations with the European Parliament and the Council to get the European Fund for Strategic Investments up and running. I am actively working with the co-legislators to make sure that the potential short-term impact on fundamental research - which I know has been a concern in the research community - is minimised."

To meet these objectives, the President endorsed Commissioner Moedas' recommendation to set up a mechanism for high quality, timely, independent scientific advice. The future mechanism will draw on the wide range of scientific expertise in Europe through a close relationship with national academies and other bodies, coordinated by a High-Level Group of Independent Scientists. Commissioner Moedas has now been tasked to implement this new arrangement over the coming months, involving other Commissioners and making the most of effective cooperation between Commission services.

Commissioner Moedas said: "In combination with the forthcoming proposals on better regulation, the new model for independent scientific advice will contribute to the Commission's continued pursuit of the best possible evidence-based policy. This will be a significant step forward for an effective European Commission that delivers for citizens, and addresses the major societal challenges which Europe faces."


But, who will be on the panel?

The process of picking members for the panel has yet to begin. “It’s not up to politicians [to do this],” said Moedas. Instead, a selection committee – comprising three or four people – will “go around the world” to find the right candidates, according to the Commissioner.


The European Research Council (ERC), a frontier research funder in Europe which also has an independent, high-level committee, has been a clear inspiration for Moedas’ design. “We’ll copy the model for how the ERC chooses the best people,” he confirmed. He may also have cast an eye to places like Finland, Denmark and Greece or his own country Portugal: all have governments that rely on advisory committees for science advice.

Selected scientists will retain their day jobs and sit on Moedas’ new panel part-time, although it’s not known how frequently they’ll meet. “They will not be employees of the Commission,” said Moedas.

They will however be compensated for the days they meet in Brussels.


No budget for the new panel was announced but up to 25 civil servants from the Commission’s research directorate could help staff the panel, Moedas said. By comparison, a staff of two, eventually rising to five, served Glover during her three year term.

A key part of the new system will be drawing on expertise housed in national academies around Europe, the Commission added.

Moedas didn’t comment on whether any of this distinguished group would be joining the new panel – or have a hand in selecting it.

A source close to the discussions said the invitation served as symbolic gesture, if nothing else. “Among them were those who vocally opposed the Commission’s decision to abolish Glover’s office.”




NASA Captures Biggest Solar Flare Burst This YearGuadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del Olmo

Posted 10/05/2015

By Guadalupe del Olmo

Our nearest star brings the light and warmth that is responsible for all life on Earth, but it has a nasty temper too.

Solar flares, eruptions and other sun storms can have serious effects to satellites and other systems around or on Earth.

Though the sun lies 93 million miles (149 million km) from Earth, its unceasing activity assures an impact on our planet far beyond the obvious light and heat. From a constant stream of particles in the form of solar wind to the unpredictable bombardment from solar flares and coronal mass ejections, Earth often feels the effects of its stellar companions. Less noticeable are the sunspots crossing the solar surface, though they are related to the more violent interactions. All of these fall under the definition of "space weather."

This week the sun blew off a powerful solar flare, its biggest burst in 2015 and one that temporarily knocked out radio communications in the Pacific region, according to NASA. It was an intense X2.7-class flare, erupting Tuesday around 6 p.m. EDT. The U.S. space agency’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which has been hurtling through space and studying the sun since 2010, captured the event on camera.

Solar flares are brief, rapid bursts of high-energy radiation emitted by the sun. They happen when magnetic energy that has accumulated in the solar atmosphere suddenly escapes with the power of 10 million volcanic eruptions, as described by NASA. Such cosmic events can send electromagnetic waves hurtling toward Earth and significantly influence the space around the planet.

However, that won’t be the case this time, scientists said. “We are not expecting a radiation storm at Earth,” researchers noted. However, the blast did result in short-term radio blackouts.

“Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground,” NASA scientists said in a statement. “However -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.” This week’s solar flare lasted for several hours. Scientists said they’d be keeping a close eye on the solar region where the flare erupted to monitor for any future bursts.

Temperatures in the outer layer of the sun, known as the corona, typically fall around a few million kelvins. As solar flares push through the corona, they heat its gas to anywhere from 10 to 20 million K, occasionally reaching as high as a hundred million.

According to NASA, the energy released in a solar flare "is the equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time."

Because solar flares form in the same active regions as sunspots, they are connected to these smaller, less violent events. Flares tend to follow the same 11-year cycle. At the peak of the cycle, several flares may occur each day, with an average lifetime of only 10 minutes. The enormous sunspot of 2014 fired off several powerful solar flares.


By Guadalupe del Olmo for EU Spectator



Earlier this year...


Unmanned space station supply craft 'plunges back to Earth'

Posted 30/04/2015

The Progress resupply craft was to carry three tonnes of cargo to the ISS

An unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft ferrying supplies to the International Space Station plunged back to Earth and apparently out of control.

"It has started descending. It has nowhere else to go," an official familiar with the situation said on condition of anonymity.

An official Russian space agency statement is expected later.

"It is clear that absolutely uncontrollable reactions have begun," a flight controller more...


Google €150m digital media investment

Posted 28/04/2015

Google's project brings together a number of European media organisations

Google is set to announce a €150 million programme to support innovative online journalism in partnership with eight European publications.

In a statement, Google said the Digital News Initiative would "support quality journalism (through) technology and innovation."

The initiative brings together Les Echos in France, Germany's FAZ, the Financial Times, The Guardian, NRC Media in The Netherlands, El Pais in Spain, La Stampa in Italy and Die Zeit in Germany as well as European media more...


Earth Day 2015: NASA celebrates Earth’s splendid beauty

Posted 22/04/2015

Today is Earth Day, on which events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.

Celebrating the Earth Day, NASA has released some of the most gorgeous images and a stunning video of planet Earth as captured from the International Space Station (ISS).

As part of its Earth Day programme, the US space agency is asking people for videos, messages, Instagram pictures celebrating our world, with the hashtag more...


Hubble, a window to the cosmos opened 25 years ago

Posted 19/04/2015

By Randall Calvin

The Space telescope has revolutionized astronomy and has helped us to disclose the mysteries of the universe.

The Hubble is a living legend not only for astronomers, but also for millions of people around the world, who have admired the beautiful images of the universe. The telescope is celebrating 25 years since it was launched into space on 24 April 1990.

Hubble’s images are already part of the cultural heritage of the past two generations, from the collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter, amazing nebulae, protoplanetary systems to colliding galaxies. more...


So, what colour Apple Watch is everyone buying?

Posted 14/04/2015

Early trends have emerged in preorders for Apple's newest offering

Apple Watch pre-orders are off to a solid start - the company received one million pre-orders in the US during the first day of sales - this easily surpassed the 720,000 Android Wear devices that were sold throughout all of 2014 - but it's nowhere near the four million orders received for the two iPhone 6 models during their first 24 hours of pre-sales. more... 


CERN Hadron Collider Is Back In Action

Posted 07/04/2015

Last Sunday, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider successfully turned it on, injecting two proton beams moving in opposite directions into the massive particle accelerator.

The particles will be travelling at a relatively low energy at first of 450 GeV so that the operators of the can ensure that everything’s working as it should be. Once all systems are cleared, proton beams will be accelerated to 13 TeV, nearly twice the energy used to find the Higgs Boson.

And that’s where the fun will more...


First year-long stay on the ISS about to begin

Posted 26/03/2015

Two astronauts are set to get extra comfy on the International Space Station when they launch on Friday for the ISS's first ever year-long mission, double the length of the normal stay. The mission will help the US and Russia study the long-term effects of space flight, which is essential if humans are ever to fly to Mars.

 NASA's Scott Kelly will join Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka, from Russia's space agency Roscosmos, on a Soyuz spacecraft due to launch on 28 March from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Kelly and Kornienko will spend a year on the more...


Lots of light and little shadow on 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Posted 08/03/2015

On 14 February 2015, the Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) on the Rosetta spacecraft observed the surface of comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko with the Sun directly behind it, so the only shadow seen in the image is that of the photographer, the orbiter itself.

"An image with this arrangement of the light source and camera really reveals the differences in brightness on the comet's surface. As there are no shadows, this difference must be due to the scattering of the light by the dust particles across the comet's surface," explains Ekkehard Kührt, a cometary researcher at the German Aerospace Centre (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and a scientist on the OSIRIS more...


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