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AAA:  Appropriate Arrangement Agreement.
ATT: Arms Trade Treaty.
HFT: High Frequency Trading.
VVPAT:  Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (system).

Jnanpith Award, 2012
Eminent Telugu novelist, short story writer, poet and critic Ravuri Bharadwaja has been selected for the prestigious Jnanpith award for the year 2012, for his contribution to Telugu literature.

Mr. Bharadwaja is the third Telugu to be chosen for the honour, after the late Viswanatha Satyanarayana for Ramayana Kalpavruksham (1970) and C. Narayana Reddy for Viswambara’(1988). The 86-year-old writer has to his credit 37 collections of short stories, 17 novels, six short novels for children and eight plays.

Topping the galaxy of writers of post-Gopichand era, he was first reckoned as a successor to Chalam. But Bharadwaja made a mark of his own by embellishing his writings with distinct characteristics in his inimitable style, diction, portrayal and narration. If Paakuduraallu is a masterpiece that presents a graphic account of life behind the screen in the film industry, and came to be known for its originality and craftsmanship, another novel, Kadambari, is equally acclaimed as an outstanding work. His other notable works are Jeevana Samaram, Inupu Tera Venuka andKoumudi.

Kalidas Samman, 2013
Veteran actor Anupam Kher, for his contribution in the field of theater. The Kalidas Samman is a prestigious award presented annually by the government of Madhya Pradesh. It is named after Kalidas—a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer of ancient India—widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language with his Meghadutam and Abhigyan Shakuntalam.

Dada Saheb Phalke Award, 2012

Veteran actor Pran Sikand, a Hindi cinema villain loved and feared in equal measure by moviegoers. The award, named after the father of Indian cinema, Dada Saheb Phalke, also marked the 100 years of Indian cinema.

93-year-old Pran, who acted in over 400 films in his six-decade-long career, retired from acting in 1998.Beginning his career as a hero in 1940 with Yamala Jat, Pran went on to achieve fame as a villain in numerous films, including classics like Milan,Madhumati and Kashmir Ki Kali.

Such was the magic of his unique on-screen villainy, that people stopped naming their children ‘Pran’ at the height of his fame as an actor.

He was equally good when he stepped into character roles and won many hearts as loveable Mangal Chacha in Upkar, thoroughly entertained as street-smart fraud inVictoria No.203, and epitomised on-screen friendship in the role of a rough but kind Pathan in Zanjeer.

Pulitzer Prizes, 2013
For Public Service: The Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for its investigation of off-duty police officers who were endangering the lives of citizen.
For National Reporting: Reporters at InsideClimate News, an online site in Brooklyn, New York, for their “rigorous” reports on the flawed regulation of the nation’s oil pipelines.
For International Reporting:  David Barboza of The New York Times, for his exposure of corruption at high levels of the Chinese government, including secret wealth owned by relatives of the Prime Minister.
For Investigative reporting: Two reporters for The New York Times, David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab, for their reports on how Wal-Mart used widespread bribery to dominate the market in Mexico.
For Explanatory Journalism: The staff of The New York Times, for its coverage of business practices by Apple and other technology companies that “illustrates the darker side of a changing global economy for workers and consumers”.
For Feature Writing: John Branch of The New York Times, for his “evocative narrative” about skiers killed in an avalanche.
For Breaking News Reporting: Denver Post, for its coverage of the deadly mass shooting at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.
For Local Reporting: Brad Schrade, Jeremy Olson and Glenn Howatt of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, for their reporting on a spike in infant deaths at poorly regulated day-care homes that resulted in legislative action.
For Commentary: Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal, for his columns on US foreign policy and domestic politics.
For Criticism: Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post, for his “eloquent and passionate” essays on art and social forces.
For Editorial Writing: Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times of St. Petersburg, Florida, for work that helped reverse a decision to end fluoridation of the local water supply.
For Editorial Cartooning: Steve Sack of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.
For photography (Breaking News): Rodrigo Abd, Manu Brabo, Narciso Contreras, Khalil Hamra and Muhammed Muheisen of the Associated Press, for their coverage of the civil war in Syria.
For Feature Photography: Javier Manzano, a freelance photographer for Agence France-Presse, for his picture of Syrian rebel soldiers.
For Fiction: “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson. 
For Drama: “Disgraced” by Ayad Akhtar, a play about a successful corporate lawyer coming to terms with his Pakistani Muslim heritage.
For History: “Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam” by Fredrik Logevall, published by Random House, 
For Biography: “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo” by Tom Reiss, published by Crown.
For Poetry: “Stag’s Leap” by Sharon Olds, published by Alfred A. Knopf.
For general nonfiction: “Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America” by Gilbert King, published by Harper.
For Music: Caroline Shaw, for “Partita for 8 Voices”.

The 97th annual Pulitzer Prizes were awarded by Columbia University and are the most prestigious prizes in US journalism.

Above All Things
Written by Tanis Rideout, the novel tells the story of British climber George Mallory’s wife Ruth as she waits for her husband and tends their children. Mallory may have been one of the first men to make it to the top of Mount Everest before perishing on its slopes. The book is based partly on the couple’s actual letters—including some found on Mallory’s body in 1999, 75 years after his death. Mallory is famed for saying “because it’s there” when asked why he wanted to climb Everest.

It is an open source P2P digital currency, first described in 2009 by a pseudonymous developer (or developers) Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin is a digital currency, a protocol and a software that enables instant peer to peer transactions, allowing worldwide payments at low or zero processing fees.

Bitcoin is one of the first implementations of a concept called “crypto-currency”. Based on this concept, bitcoin is designed around the idea of a new form of money that uses cryptography to control its creation and transactions, rather than relying on central authorities. Managing transactions and issuing Bitcoins are carried out collectively by the network. 

More than $1 billion worth of the digital currency circulates on the web, and interest in the currency is skyrocketing. In many ways, bitcoins function like any other currency. You can buy anything from any company, both online and in the real world, that accepts bitcoins as currency.

Rather than trusting in governments or central banks to secure the value of the currency and guarantee transactions, the founder ensured the bitcoin places its trust in mathematics. At the start 2013, a bitcoin was worth $13.51; the price of a singlebitcoin then blasted through the $100 barrier in April 2013, according to Mt Gox, a site where users can swap bitcoins for more traditional currencies. 

Virtually untraceable bitcoin currency can be swapped anonymously online for almost anything. It is in a sense the digital equivalent of using hard cash and so some have criticised it for facilitating online drug markets. A recent study estimates that $23 million of illicit items are sold for bitcoins every year.

According to the Time magazine, the Internet will offer more access to a growing number of such currencies that are beyond national control, and these “currencies will be no easier to control than Facebook”.

Password stealing virus

A new virus has been found to be “spreading widely” in the Indian cyberspace which cleverly steals bank account details and passwords of the user once it is clicked. It is new and suspected variant of malware family called “Win32/Ramnit”.

Ramnit worm spreads by infecting or modifying files existing on target systems such as (exe, dll or html) and creating a new section so as to modify the entry point to that section. The malware steals credentials like file transfer protocol passwords, bank account logins, infects removable media, changes browser settings and downloads and executes arbitrary files.

The virus is so deadly and potent, cyber sleuths say, that it has ability to hide itself from anti-virus solutions and acquires various aliases to attack a genuine system or Internet-based connection which works to play emails and other user services. It infects the removable media by copying itself to its recycle bin and creates an autorun.inf file. Once the system is infected, the malware injects its code into windows executables, html files or dlls to communicate with its command and control server, thereby compromising the security of the online system.

World Wide Web turns 20
Two decades back, on 30 April 1993, CERN, a European research organisation near Geneva, announced that the World Wide Web would be free, with no fees due. Here are certain interesting facts about the Web:

British engineer and computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, now Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), wrote a proposal in March 1989 for what would finally become the World Wide Web. On 6 August 1991, the first website——went online.

A NeXT Computer was used by Sir Tim Berners-Lee as the world’s first web server and also to write the first web browser—WorldWideWeb—in 1990.

It is believed that a turning point in the history of the the World Wide Web began with the launch of the Mosaic web browser in 1993. It was a graphical browser developed by a team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois. Mosaic is the web browser credited with popularising the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organisation for the World Wide Web, was founded by Tim Berners-Lee after he left CERN in October 1994.

Archie is considered to be the first Internet search engine. It was the first tool for indexing FTP archives, allowing people to find specific files.

Most people tend to treat the Internet and the Web as synonymous. They, in fact while being related, are not. Internet refers to the vast networking infrastructure that connects millions of computers across the world and the World Wide Web is the worldwide collection of text pages, digital photographs, music files, videos, and animations, which users can access over the Internet. The Web uses the HTTP protocol to transmit data and is only a part of the Internet. The Internet includes a lot that is not necessarily the Web.

National Defence University to be set-up near Gurgaon
Decks have been cleared for setting up the Indian National Defence University (INDU). The Kargil Review Committee, under K. Subrahmanyam, had recommended setting up of such a university to build a strategic culture in the country. 

INDU will be a fully autonomous institution and will be located at Binola, near Gurgaon, Haryana. The university will have a mandate to provide knowledge-based higher education for management of defence of the country keeping its participants abreast of emerging security challenges through scholarly research and training.

The university will be headed by a Lieutenant General rank or equivalent ranks in Navy and IAF officer. As many as 66 per cent of students would be from the armed forces, whereas 33 per cent of students would be drawn from other government agencies, police and civilians. The teaching faculty will comprise both military personnel and civilians in the ratio of 1:1.

Vedanta group firm Cairn India announced on April 9, 2013, that it had made the 26th oil discovery in its RJ-ON-90/1 block in Rajasthan’s Barmer district. Technical evaluations indicate nearly 10 metres of gross oil column within Dharvi Dungar sands in Raageshwari-Tukaram area.

Boston was in news when, in a major terror strike on the United States of America, two explosions rocked the Boston Marathon, killing at least three people and injuring over 144 others. 

Boston Marathon is always held on Patriots’ Day, on the third Monday in April, which commemorates the earliest battles of the American war for independence. It was first held in 1897 with 18 participants, making it the world’s oldest annual marathon. Women were not officially allowed to participate until 1972. Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to unofficially complete the race in 1966. 

Iran’s only nuclear power plant is located in this port city. On April 9, 2013, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, with epicentre lying 90 km south of the town, had killed more than 30 people.

Chabahar Port

India is working on an arrangement with Iran to develop this Port, which will provide India a vital link to transport its goods to war-ravaged Afghanistan.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Commission’s conference on Sustainable Tourism Development was held here in April 2013.

Mount Fuji
The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a consultative body to UNESCO, has found the almost perfectly conical Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 metres, appropriate for registering as a World Heritage site. Mt. Fuji covers roughly 172,900 acres in Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, including five major lakes and the Shiraito Falls, as well as eight Shinto shrines.

It is being considered as a “cultural” heritage site, rather than a “natural” heritage site. The mountain “has nurtured Japan's unique art and culture” as it has been depicted in “ukiyoe” woodblock prints and represents the tradition of mountain worship in Japan. The volcano had last erupted around 300 years ago.

Niyamgiri Hills
In Odisha, the hills have been in news due to protest by locals on bauxite mining by Vedanta Aluminium and subsequent ban on mining by the Supreme Court of India.  The hills are home to more than 8,000 of the Dongria Kondh people, whose lifestyle and religion have helped nurture the area’s dense forests and unusually rich wildlife.  At the centre of the struggle is the Dongria’s sacred mountain, the ‘mountain of law’. The Dongrias worship the top of the mountain as the seat of their god and protect the forests there.  Vedanta want to mine the bauxite from the top of the same mountain, that could result in the Dongria Kondh losing their livelihood, their identity and the sanctity of their most religious site, according to the people opposing mining in the area.

A province of China, this place was hit by a powerful earthquake on 20 April 2013 that killed more than 200 people. The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake, which had a 6.6 magnitude, was centred 50km west of the town of Linqiong.  In 2008 an earthquake in Sichuan had left five million people homeless.

Siddheshwar Dhaam

The four revered Dhaam of the Hindu’s—Jagannaath Puri, Dwaraka Puri, Rameshawaram  and Badrinath—have been replicated in this complex, located at Solophok, Namchi, South Sikkim. President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the complex on April 16, 2014.

Siddheshwar Dhaam has a 33 m tall statue of Shiv, replicas of 12 Jyotirling, models of sacred “chaar dhaam” temples and a 5.5 m statue of Kirateshwar—the hunter incarnation of Shiv. It is believed that Lord Shiv, after losing “satee” in “agni kund” of Daksh’s “Yagya”, had gone into seclusion and became a hunter in the forests of Sikkim.

South Sudan
Five Indian army personnel, including a Lieutenant Colonel, serving on a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, were killed on April 9, 2013, when armed rebels launched an audacious attack on a convoy they were escorting. The 37-member convoy which was heading to Bor town, came under attack near Gumuruk.

World’s Lightest Material developed
Chinese scientists at Zhejiang University have developed the world’s lightest substance—carbon aerogel—with a density only one sixth of that of the air. The solid material has a density of only 0.16 mg/cubic centimeter, breaking the previous record of the world’s lightest material held by graphite aerogel.

The graphite aerogel was developed by German scientists in 2012, with a density of 0.18 mg/cubic centimeter.

Aerogel is a material produced with semi-solid gel dried and solvent removed. It appears in a solid state with many internal pores filled with air, and thus it’s of minimal density.

Despite its fragile appearance, carbon aerogel is excellent in elasticity. It can bounce back when compressed. In addition, it’s one of the materials with biggest oil absorption capacity. Current oil absorbing products can usually absorb organic solvent of about 10 times of their own weight. The carbon aerogel can absorb up to 900 times its own weight.

Carbon aerogel is expected to play an important role in pollution control, in addition to becoming an ideal material for energy storage insulation, catalytic carrier and sound-absorption.

New camera that can take 3-D pictures from a km away
Researchers have developed a new laser powered camera system that creates high-resolution 3-D images of objects from up to a kilometre away.

A standard camera takes flat, 2-D pictures. To get 3-D information, such as the distance to a far-away object, scientists can bounce a laser beam off the object and measure how long it takes the light to travel back to a detector. The technique is called time-of-flight (ToF) navigation systems for autonomous vehicles.

The new system works by sweeping a low-power infrared laser beam rapidly over an object. It records, pixel-by-pixel, the round-trip flight time of the photons in the beam as they bounce off the object and arrive back at the source. The system can resolve depth on the millimeter scale over long distances, using a detector that can “count” individual photons.

The ability of the new system to image objects like items of clothing that do not easily reflect laser pulses makes it useful in a wider variety of field situations. The primary use of the system is likely to be scanning static, human-made targets, such as vehicles. With some modifications to the image-processing software, it could also determine their speed and direction.

World’s Smallest Antenna
Professor Srikanta Pal, who is with the Birla Institute of Technology in Mesra, and his research scholar Mrinmoy Chakraborty claim to have invented the world’s smallest super compact ultra-wideband (UWB) planar antenna that can find application in homes and the military among other domains. The antenna is just 14 mm X 11 mm, with much more than a 10:1 bandwidth. The antenna is cheap and the goal is to reduce the size so that it can be pasted on any curved surface. The UWB technology brings mobility of wireless communications with high data rates.

See-through Brain to help clear mental mysteries
Dr Karl Deisseroth has invented a technique to make brains transparent, a breakthrough that should give researchers a truer picture of the pathways underlying both normal mental function and neurological illnesses, from autism to Alzheimer’s. In fact, the first human brain the scientists clarified came from someone with autism.

Deisseroth and his colleagues reported in the online edition of the journal Nature that they had developed a way to replace the opaque tissue in brains (harvested from lab mice or donated by people for research) with “hydrogel”, a substance similar to that used for contact lenses.

The result is see-through brains, their innards revealed in a way no current technique can: Large structures such as the hippocampus show up with the clarity of organs in a transparent fish, and even neural circuits and individual cells are visible.

Until now, the only way to trace neural connections was by cutting a brain into ultra-thin slices, examining each slide under a microscope to map the cells and then using a computer to virtually reassemble the slices to reveal the entire circuit. But, slicing deforms the tissue and makes it difficult to work out long-range connections, like those between such far-flung regions as the prefrontal cortex and the amygdale.

Deisseroth’s process, dubbed CLARITY (an anagram for the technique), works by a delicate feat of biochemical engineering. It turns out that what makes the brain opaque are the fatty membranes that surround and support its cells. Removing these layers by brute force, however, would make the brain tissue collapse in a puddle of neuro-glop. Instead, Deisseroth and his colleagues immersed the brains of a three-month-old mice in a vat of soft, jelly-like hydrogel. Molecules of the hydrogel seeped into the brain and took the place of the lipid bilayers, which were then removed through an electro-chemical process.

Once the hydrogel was in place, the scientists heated it to just above body temperature, causing the molecules to connect to one another and form a sturdy mesh that acted like a shell holding in the contents of each brain. After eight days, the scientists had just what they had hoped for: an intact, see-through mouse brain.

The hydrogel is not only transparent but also permeable. That allows scientists to infuse into the brain special fluorescent dyes and other molecules that attach to just one of the thousands of different kinds of brain cells, and even to individual proteins and other molecules, turning the circuitry a neuroscientist wants to study into can’t-miss hues when viewed in special light.

CLARITY has the potential to unmask fine details of brains from people with brain disorders, without losing larger-scale circuit perspective.

Ants can sense earthquakes a day in advance
Ants can sense earthquakes before they strike and the tiny insects suspend their normal activity till a day after the quake, according to a research by German scientists. 

Researchers have discovered that red wood ants prefer to build their colonies along active faults, fractures where the Earth ruptures during earthquakes. Gabriele Berberich of the University Duisburg-Essen in Germany has counted more than 15,000 red wood ant mounds lined up along Germany’s faults. 

Berberich and her colleagues, for three years, tracked the ants round the clock with video cameras, using special software to catalogue their behavioural changes. 

During the study period, 2009 to 2012, there were 10 earthquakes between magnitude 2.0 and 3.2 and many smaller temblors. The ants changed their behaviour only for quakes larger than magnitude 2.0, which also happens to be the smallest quakes that humans can feel. 

While during the day, ants busily went about their daily activity, at night the colony rested inside the mound, mirroring human diurnal patterns.  However, before an earthquake, the ants were awake throughout the night, outside their mound, vulnerable to predators, the researchers found. Normal ant behaviour did not resume until a day after the earthquake. 

Berberich suspects the insects pick up changing gas emissions or local shifts in the Earth’s magnetic field. “Red wood ants have chemo-receptors for carbon dioxide gradients and magneto-receptors for electromagnetic fields,” she said. 

The research was presented at the European Geosciences Union annual meeting in Vienna.

Kolkata scientists achieve a breakthrough in developing hydrogen-based energy source
Abhishek Dey and his team at the IACS Kolkata’s department of inorganic chemistry have achieved a breakthrough in developing an efficient and bankable hydrogen-based energy source. The scientists hope hydrogen could be used as a source of clean and sustainable fuel to meet ever-increasing global energy needs.

The scientists have shown in two different studies that hydrogen can be generated from water in a considerable amount, using two different metals, cobalt and iron, to speed up the reaction. Hydrogen can be produced from natural gas, alcohol, biomass and other non- renewable material. Splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen currently remains the core method of hydrogen generation.

Goodbye QWERTY, hello faster typing with KALQ

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, and their colleagues from the University of St Andrews and Montana Tech claim to have developed a new keyboard for touch-screens that allows superfast thumb-typing, enabling you to type 34 percent faster than on a QWERTY layout. 

Typing on today’s mobile phones and tablets is needlessly slow. One limitation is that the QWERTY layout is ill-suited for tablets and other touch-screen devices when typing with the thumbs. Thumb typing is also ergonomically very different from typing on a physical keyboard. 

Researchers said it has been established that normal users using a QWERTY on a touch-screen device are limited to typing at a rate of around 20 words per minute, which is slow compared to the rates achieved on physical keyboards. 

The computational optimisation process had two goals: To minimise the moving time of the thumbs and to approximate alternating sides as well as possible. In the new keyboard KALQ, all vowels, with the exception of the letter “y” are placed in the area for the right thumb, whereas the left thumb gets assigned more keys. To fully benefit from this layout, the users are trained to move their thumbs simultaneously. While one thumb is typing, the other one can move to its next target. 

Finally, researchers developed probabilistic error correction methods that took into account how thumbs move and also statistical knowledge about how the texts users type. 

KALQ is expected is to be made available as a free app for Android-based smart-phones.


Breakthrough discovery to help locate neutron stars faster
Scientists at National Center for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), Pune, through its Giant Meterwave Radio Telescope (GMRT), have developed a novel technique of “gated imaging” to find the location of neutron stars or pulsars in the galaxy. This will help them to find accurate positions of neutron stars in the galaxy, which will go a long way in discovering the existence of gravitational waves, helpful in tracing the evolution of the universe and the existence of extreme events like merging of two super-massive black-holes. The breakthrough technique gives scientists immediate knowledge of the positions of these stars and is said to be a thousand times more accurate and faster than the traditional technique.

Sun’s “magnetic heartbeat” discovered

Scientists claim to have discovered a magnetic “solar heartbeat” in the Sun’s deep interior that generates energy which leads to solar flares and sunspots.

Researchers developed a new supercomputer simulation to probe the Sun’s periodic magnetic field reversals. According to the model, every 40 years the Sun’s zonal magnetic field bands switch their polarity. That cycle is about four times longer than the 11-year sunspot cycle that governs the level of solar activity. 

Turbulence happens at both large and small scales. When energy from turbulence dissipates, the turbulence flows into smaller and smaller whirlpool shapes, called vortices.

On the Sun, dissipation takes place at a scale of tens of yards. That is extremely minute, compared with the huge size of the Sun. 

NASA approves planet hunting project
NASA has approved a $200 million mission to search for Earth-size planets orbiting the nearby stars, and the project will come into full swing within the next four years. The space observatory, called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is scheduled for a 2017 launch.

The project, led by principal investigator George Ricker, a senior research scientist at MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research (MKI), will use an array of wide-field cameras to perform an all-sky survey to discover transiting exoplanets, ranging from Earth-sized planets to gas giants, in orbit around the brightest stars in the Sun’s neighbourhood.

TESS relies upon a number of innovations developed by the MIT team over the past seven years, among which is the special new ‘Goldilocks’ orbit for the spacecraft – one which is not too close, and not too far, from both the Earth and the moon. As a result, every two weeks TESS approaches close enough to the Earth for high data-downlink rates, while remaining above the planet’s harmful radiation belts. This special orbit will keep TESS’s sensitive cameras in a very stable temperature range.

With TESS, it will be possible to study the masses, sizes, densities, orbits and atmospheres of a large cohort of small planets, including a sample of rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars.

Proba-3 mission will call on satellites to fly in sub-millimeter precision
The European Space Agency (ESA) wants to bring the sort of precision normally associated with Swiss watch making to satellite navigation. When it launches in 2017, ESA’s Proba-3 mission will incorporate the first satellite pair capable of flying in formation to within a tolerance of a millimetre to one another. It’s part of a demonstration technology that could one day be used to build space telescopes using formation-flying satellites as a “rigid structure” that would be impossibly large to achieve in a single spacecraft.

Led by SENER of Spain, the “Proba” project stands for PRoject for OnBoard Autonomy – a name that highlights the fact that the ground control team, based in Redu, Belgium, only need to monitor the spacecraft during working hours. The mission’s basic task is flying in formation to form a 150-meter long solar corona-graph to study the Sun, with the size of the “instrument” and the vacuum of space providing enough clarity and resolution to allow Proba-3 to see closer to the solar rim than ever before.

To carry out such a task, the two Proba-3 craft must fly in tighter formation than satellites have managed until now – to within a millimeter and one second of arc in precision over a distance of 150 meters. This sort of precision is needed because space-based instruments will need to be ever larger if they are to increase their ability to study the universe. 

Proba-3 will consist of two solar-powered spacecraft based on ESA’s standard Proba platform. The larger of the two will be the Coronagraph. Weighing 340 kilograms and measuring 1.1 x 1.8 x 1.7 meters, it will be the active member of the pair that carries out most of the manoeuvres. As the name suggests, it contains the corona-graph for observing the Sun, and optical meteorology sensors. For maneuvering, there will be reaction motors using cold gas thrusters, three gyroscopes, a three-headed star tracker, six sun sensors and two GPS receivers.

The other satellite will be the Occulter. This one will be smaller at 200 kilograms and a more compact 0.9 x 1.4 x 0.9 meters. Its job will be to block the Sun for the Corona-graph with a 1.4-meter disk.

The planned Proba-3 mission is scheduled for launch in 2017 when the pair will be set in a highly elliptical orbit at a 60-degree inclination, where they will separate and fly in tandem, circling the earth every 19.7 hours. As they fly in formation, the pair will line up with the Sun, with the Occulter forming artificial eclipses.

Because of the need to conserve fuel, the satellites won’t fly in formation all the time. Instead, they will go into formation while approaching apogee (60,530 km), when they’re travelling slowest, to carry out corona-graph observations. They will then manoeuvre to avoid colliding with each other as they break formation, while approaching perigee (600 km).

Using two spacecraft as a corona-graph isn’t a first for Proba-3. That honour goes to the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975, when the Apollo spacecraft blocked the Sun for observation by the Soyuz capsule. What is new is the increase in precision from being able to observe the Solar corona out to three solar radii down to 1.04 radii.

Russian becomes oldest person in the world to spacewalk
Pavel Vinogradov, 59-year-old Russian cosmonaut, became the world’s oldest spacewalker on 19 April 2013, when he emerged from the hatch for a little maintenance work outside the International Space Station. Previously, the record was held by retired NASA astronaut Story Musgrave, who was 58 when he helped fix the Hubble Space Telescope in 1993.

SpaceShipTwo makes history with first rocket-powered flight
On 29 April 2013, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, a private spaceship designed to carry space tourists, made its first rocket-powered test flight, reaching supersonic speeds as it paved the way toward commercial flights in the near future.

The vehicle was carried aloft by the mothership WhiteKnightTwo, and then released in midair at an altitude of about 46,000 feet. At that point, SpaceShipTwo test fired its rocket engine, designed to propel the craft the rest of the way up to space.

After a short 16-second burn, SpaceShipTwo reached a maximum altitude of 56,000 feet before it flew back to Earth. The trip marked the 26th test flight of the vehicle and the first “powered flight”, which propelled the ship to Mach 1.2, fast enough to beat the speed of sound, which is 761 miles an hour. 

Virgin Galactic is backed by British billionaire Richard Branson.

If test flights continue to go well, SpaceShipTwo may carry passengers as soon as 2013-end or 2014. Already, more than 500 people have signed up for the flights, which will be run out of Spaceport America in New Mexico once testing is complete.

Herschel space observatory stops working
Europe’s Herschel space observatory–the largest infrared telescope ever launched–has stopped working after exhausting its supply of liquid helium coolant, ending more than three years of pioneering observations of the cool Universe.

Instruments on The European Space Agency’s (ESA) billion-euro flagship observatory had warmed to levels resulting in the observatory closing its eyes on the Universe.

The mission began with over 2300 litres of liquid helium, which had been slowly evaporating since the final top-up the day before Herschel’s launch on 14 May 2009. The liquid helium was essential to cool the observatory’s instruments to close to absolute zero, allowing Herschel to make highly sensitive observations of the cold Universe.

Herschel made over 35,000 scientific observations, amassing more than 25,000 hours worth of science data from about 600 observing programmes. A further 2000 hours of calibration observations also contributed to the rich dataset, which is based at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Center, near Madrid in Spain.

The archive will become the legacy of the mission. It is expected to provide even more discoveries than have been made during the lifetime of the Herschel mission.

These unique far-infrared observations had given astronomers a new insight into how turbulence stirs up gas in the interstellar medium, giving rise to a filamentary, web-like structure within cold molecular clouds.

UN World Tourism Organization
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide. 

UNWTO encourages the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, to maximize tourism’s socio-economic contribution while minimizing its possible negative impacts, and is committed to promoting tourism as an instrument in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), geared towards reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development.

The headquarters of UNWTO are located in Madrid, Spain.

High Frequency Trading
HFT is a program trading platform that uses powerful computers to transact a large number of orders at very fast speeds. High-frequency trading uses complex algorithms to analyze multiple markets and execute orders based on market conditions. Typically, the traders with the fastest execution speeds will be more profitable than traders with slower execution speeds. It is estimated more than 50% of exchange volume comes from high-frequency trading orders.

Aiming to capture just a fraction of a cent per share or currency unit on every trade, high-frequency traders move in and out of such short-term positions several times each day. Fractions of a cent accumulate fast to produce significantly positive results at the end of every day.

All portfolio-allocation decisions are made by computerized quantitative models. Specific algorithms are closely guarded by their owners and are known as “algos”.

Many high-frequency traders provide liquidity and price discovery to the markets through market-making and arbitrage trading.

World’s Fastest Data Storage
In November 2012, Cray’s Titan Supercomputer, which is being used at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, earned the crown of World’s Fastest Supercomputer. Now Oak Ridge hopes to bolster the performance of that supercomputer by building the world’s fastest data storage system.

After a competitive bid process, the Laboratory has selected DataDirect Networks to build the file system. The system, which will be named Spider II, will have a capacity of 40 petabytes. If you have a 1 terabyte hard-drive in your computer now, it would take 40,960 of them to have the same memory capacity. And it will transfer that data within Titan at a rate of about 1 terabyte per second. Those specs will give Titan’s new storage system six times the speed and three times the capacity of its current data storage system.

The building blocks of the storage system will be 36 of DDN’s SFA12K-40 systems. These systems have a pretty small footprint–a rack apiece, which means that Titan will be able to store all that data on just 36 racks. That’s even though the total storage system will comprise over 20,000 hard drives.

CURRENT AFFAIRS --APRIL 2013 Reviewed by sambasivan srinivasan on 9:47:00 PM Rating: 5

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