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Ford Aims For 22 Electric Vehicles By 2022

January 16, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Ford Motor Co will significantly increase its planned investments in electric vehicles to $11 billion by 2022 and have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup, Chairman Bill Ford announced at the Detroit auto show.

The investment figure is sharply higher than a previously announced target of $4.5 billion by 2020, Ford executives said, and includes the costs of developing dedicated electric vehicle architectures. Ford’s engineering, research and development expenses for 2016, the last full year available, were $7.3 billion, up from $6.7 billion in 2015.

Ford Chief Executive Jim Hackett told investors in October the automaker would slash $14 billion in costs over the next five years and shift capital investment away from sedans and internal combustion engines to develop more trucks and electric and hybrid cars.

Of the 40 electrified vehicles Ford plans for its global lineup by 2022, 16 will be fully electric and the rest will be plug-in hybrids, executives said.

“We’re all in on this and we’re taking our mainstream vehicles, our most iconic vehicles, and we’re electrifying them,” Ford told reporters. “If we want to be successful with electrification, we have to do it with vehicles that are already popular.”

General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG  have already outlined aggressive plans to expand their electric vehicle offerings and target consumers who want luxury, performance and an SUV body style – or all three attributes in the same vehicle.

Mainstream automakers are reacting in part to pressure from regulators in China, Europe and California to slash carbon emissions from fossil fuels. They also are under pressure from

 Tesla Inc’s success in creating electric sedans and SUVs that inspire would-be owners to line up outside showrooms and flood the company with orders.

GM said last year it would add 20 new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles to its global lineup by 2023, financed by robust profits from traditional internal combustion engine vehicles in the United States and China.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra has promised investors the Detroit automaker will make money selling electric cars by 2021.

Volkswagen said in November it would spend $40 billion on electric cars, autonomous driving and new mobility services by the end of 2022 – significantly more than when it announced two months earlier it would invest more than 20 billion euros on electric and self-driving cars through 2030.

Toyota is racing to commercialize a breakthrough battery technology during the first half of the 2020s with the potential to cut the cost of making electric cars.

Ford’s additional investments in electric vehicles contrasted with many of the vehicle launches at the Detroit show which featured trucks and SUVs. On Sunday evening, Daimler AG unveiled its new G-class SUV, a bulky off roader, in an abandoned movie theater in downtown Detroit once used as a set for the movie “8 Mile.”

Samsung Starts Mass Producing 10nm DDR4

January 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Computing

Samsung confirmed that it has started mass production of second generation 10-nanometer class, 8-gigabit (Gb) DDR4 DRAM.

Samsung claims that the new 8Gb DDR4 will offer the highest performance and energy efficiency for a DRAM chip.

Samsung Electronics’ president of Memory Business, Gyoyoung Jin, said in a statement: “By developing innovative technologies in DRAM circuit design and process, we have broken through what has been a major barrier for DRAM scalability. Through a rapid ramp-up of the second-generation 10nm-class DRAM, we will expand our overall 10nm-class DRAM production more aggressively, in order to accommodate strong market demand and continue to strengthen our business competitiveness.”

The fresh 10nm-class 8Gb DDR4 claims to be not only 30 percent more productive over the firm’s first-generation 10nm-class 8Gb DDR4, but boasts 10 percent better performance levels and 15 percent better energy efficiency. This, Samsung claims, is thanks to the use of an advanced, proprietary circuit design technology.

“The new [chip] can operate at 3,600 megabits per second (Mbps) per pin, compared to 3,200 Mbps of the company’s 1x-nm 8Gb DDR4”, the company said.

“To enable these achievements, [we have] applied new technologies, without the use of an EUV process. The innovation here includes use of a high-sensitivity cell data sensing system and a progressive ‘air spacer’ scheme.”

This newly devised data sensing system can be found in the cells of the new DRAM chip enabling “a more accurate determination” of the data stored in each cell, which apparently leads to a considerable increase in the level of circuit integration and manufacturing productivity.

The new 10nm class DRAM uses an air spacer that has been placed around its bit lines to decrease parasitic capacitance.

Samsung said that using the air spacer facilitates not only a higher level of scaling, but also rapid cell operation, advances that the firm plans to use in future chip developments and to accelerate faster introductions of next-generation DRAM chips and systems, including DDR5, HBM3, LPDDR5 and GDDR6.

These would be used in enterprise servers, mobile devices, supercomputers, HPC systems and high speed graphics cards, the firm said.


Astronomers May Soon See Planets Around Alpha Centauri

January 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Technology in development could capture images from an Earth-size planet in the nearby Alpha Centauri system in the 2020s, new research suggests. 

The new technique, presented Dec. 15 at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in New Orleans, could also help researchers see exoplanets in other systems with more than one star.

Although there’s only one star in Earth’s solar system, previous work found that two-thirds of so-called class G yellow dwarf stars (the group that includes our sun) are in multiple systems, or systems with two or more stars orbiting each other. Some known multiple systems are home to up to seven stars. [What Do We Know About Alpha Centauri?] Because multiple systems are common, they may be rich targets in the hunt for alien planets, according to Ruslan Belikov, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, and his colleagues. For example, the sun’s closest neighbor, the Alpha Centauri system, possesses three stars and potentially multiple planets, such as the Earth-size Proxima Centauri b.

To capture images of an exoplanet, astronomers typically employ an instrument known as a coronagraph, which blocks out its star’s glaring light, thus letting them seeany faint light reflected off or emitted from that world. When researchers want to directly image an exoplanet in a system that has more than one star, light from a star’s companion may drown out their view of the planet even after they block the first star’s light.

Although scientists could conceivably use more than one coronagraph to block out the light from all the stars in a multiple system, tiny imperfections within the components of a telescope would inevitably cause light to leak through a coronagraph, Belikov said. “This light is only a small fraction of the original star’s light but can still overwhelm planets, which are much fainter still,” he told and his colleagues have developed a way to get around that issue and image exoplanets in multiple-star systems. 

“We are developing the technology to search for Earth-like planets around other stars,” Belikov said in an email. “If, when I was a kid, somebody told me that I would be doing this as an adult, I would not have believed it — in my mind, detecting Earth-like planets is ‘Star Trek’ science that rightly belongs in the 23rd century. But we are doing it now.”

The new method the researchers have devised, known as the multi-star wavefront control, relies on deformable mirrors within telescopes that are used to bounce light from stars and planets onto sensors. These mirrors can alter the shape of their surfaces to correct for imperfections within the optical components of telescopes.

The new technique controls a deformable mirror “in a way that allows it to remove light from more than one star,” Belikov said. The mirror can superimpose multiple shapes onto itself, each of which can factor out light from a star.

“It’s a bit like when an audio speaker plays a symphony,” Belikov said. “It uses its lower-frequency range to represent the cellos and the higher-frequency range to represent the violins. In our case, the cello would correspond to one star and the violin to the other.”

A major advantage of this new system “is that it is compatible with many already-designed instruments,” Belikov said. “A deformable mirror is all that’s needed, which is almost always present with modern coronagraphs.”

Ideally, “we hope to infuse our technology into future space telescopes to enable them to target Alpha Centauri and other binaries,” Belikov said. “These range from small telescopes like ACESat or Project Blue that can be launched in the early 2020s, WFIRST in the mid-2020s, and LUVOIR or HabEx in the 2030s. There are also telescopes on the ground that can use this technology.”

Belikov cautioned that any exoplanet pictures that researchers capture in the near future will not resolve details such as continents and oceans. “Rather, an image of another Earth will be a pale blue dot,” he said. “However, there is a lot of information that we can discern from the spectrum of that dot, including signs of life.”


Samsung Starts Producing 10nm 8Gb DDR4 DRAM

January 2, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Samsung is now mass producing what it is calling the “industry’s first” second-generation of 10-nanometer class, 8-gigabit (Gb) DDR4 DRAM.

Intended to power a wide range of next-generation computing systems, the new 8Gb DDR4 is said to feature the highest performance and energy efficiency for a DRAM chip of this calibre, as well as the smallest dimensions.

“By developing innovative technologies in DRAM circuit design and process, we have broken through what has been a major barrier for DRAM scalability,” said Samsung Electronics’ president of Memory Business, Gyoyoung Jin in a statement.

“Through a rapid ramp-up of the second-generation 10nm-class DRAM, we will expand our overall 10nm-class DRAM production more aggressively, in order to accommodate strong market demand and continue to strengthen our business competitiveness.”

The fresh 10nm-class 8Gb DDR4 claims to be not only 30 percent more productive over the firm’s 1st-generation 10nm-class 8Gb DDR4, but boast 10 percent better performance levels and 15 percent better energy efficiency. This, Samsung says, is thanks to the use of an advanced, proprietary circuit design technology.

“The new [chip] can operate at 3,600 megabits per second (Mbps) per pin, compared to 3,200 Mbps of the company’s 1x-nm 8Gb DDR4,” the company said. 

“To enable these achievements, [we have] applied new technologies, without the use of an EUV process. The innovation here includes use of a high-sensitivity cell data sensing system and a progressive ‘air spacer’ scheme.”

This newly devised data sensing system can be found in the cells of the new DRAM chip enabling “a more accurate determination” of the data stored in each cell, which apparently leads to a considerable increase in the level of circuit integration and manufacturing productivity.

The new 10nm-class DRAM is also said to make use of a unique air spacer that has been placed around its bit lines to decrease parasitic capacitance.  Samsung said that using the air spacer facilitates not only a higher level of scaling, but also rapid cell operation, advances that the firm plans to use in future chip developments and to accelerate faster introductions of next-generation DRAM chips and systems, including DDR5, HBM3, LPDDR5 and GDDR6.

These would be used in enterprise servers, mobile devices, supercomputers, HPC systems and high-speed graphics cards, the firm said.


Astronomers Discover Massive Black Hole With A Weak Magnetic Field

December 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The region around a black hole is a playground of immense forces and energies. Now, astronomers have measured the magnetic field surrounding a black hole located roughly 8,000 light-years away, and found it was thousands of times weaker than they had thought it would be. The results confirmed decades-old models of black holes and revealed new puzzles in need of explanation.

The black hole V404 Cygni is relatively small, only 10 times the mass of our sun. Black holes can reach millions or billions of solar masses.  The object is also located relatively close to Earth. “If you think of the galaxy as a metropolitan area, it’s not in our neighborhood, but it’s in our suburb,” University of Florida astronomer Steve Eikenberry, who led the study with his doctoral student Yigit Dallilar, told The team of scientists discovered that the magnetic field surrounding V404 Cygni measures only 500 gauss. They were expecting field strengths four orders of magnitude larger. For reference, the Earth’s magnetic field is around 0.5 gauss, and a typical refrigerator magnet ranges from 50 to 100 gauss. The research is detailed in the journal Science today (Dec. 7).

V404 Cygni is siphoning material from a companion star that is slightly smaller than Earth’s sun. The material forms what scientists call an accretion disk, which rotates around the black hole at high speeds and temperatures of millions of degrees. At these energies, the atoms lose their electrons and form a vortex of charged particles, a dynamo that generates strong magnetic fields.

Similar to the processes at work in our sun, this magnetic field supercharges particles in the wispy corona that surrounds the black hole. This essentially turns the system into a cosmic particle accelerator, whipping particles in the corona to relativistic energies, Eikenberry said. These are speeds so fast that mass and energy begin blurring. The corona serves as the base for huge jets of matterthat shoot away along the black hole’s axis of rotation.

“We think that it’s all really part and parcel of the same phenomenon — that a magnetized corona, we think, is necessary to make a jet,” Eikenberry said.

In 1989, V404 Cygni erupted with X-ray activity for several weeks, leading to a flurry of research. Chris Done, at Durham University in England, came up with a model of the system that predicted the black hole would flare again in 25 to 30 years. This would happen when built-up material in the outer part of the accretion disk flooded inward, her model said. And in June 2015, she was proven right.

“She did a very rare thing for theorists and actually made a prediction, and it came true,” said Eikenberry.

Based on Done’s predictions, scientists were ready when V404 Cygni reawakened. They aimed a litany of instruments toward the black hole, including NASA’s NuSTAR space telescope, the William Herschel Telescope and the 34-foot Gran Telescopio Canarias in the Canary Islands, using the Canarias InfraRed Camera Experiment, which was designed and built by the university’s graduate students and postdocs.

On June 25, about one day into the two-week event, the process energizing the corona abruptly stopped for a few minutes, and the particles in the corona began to lose energy. Dallilar noted to Eikenberry that the light emissions were fading at the same rate they would in a powered-down particle accelerator here on Earth. Namely, higher-energy particles lost their energy more quickly, doing so by emitting higher-energy light, Eikenberry said.

Inside scientists’ largest particle accelerators, called synchrotrons, a strong magnetic field keeps charged particles whizzing around the circular machines. The strength of this field determines how quickly the particles radiate energy. So, when V404 Cygni suddenly quieted down, Eikenberry and Dallilar used these same equations to determine the black hole’s magnetic field. They used the time it took for light in different parts of the spectrum to fade away to calculate the strength of the black holes’ magnetic field. The precision was astounding, the researchers said.

“Over a factor of 100,000 in energy, and [across] five different bands, [the measurements] give you exactly the same number every time,” Eikenberry said. “I’ve never seen anything that clean in my life.”

Ultimately, this finding confirms that the model scientists have used for decades is accurate, Eikenberry said. The accretion disk and corona function as a synchrotron, with the disk energizing the corona. And this all contributes to the formation of jets.

But scientists still don’t understand the exact mechanism by which this happens, Eikenberry said. What’s more, he and Dallilar discovered that V404 Cygni’s magnetic field measures a mere 500 gauss overall. “Most of the theories that I know of invoke magnetic fields of a million gauss, or 10 million or 100 million gauss,” Eikenberry said.

The energy of a black hole’s jet is proportional to its magnetic field squared, so even a small error in the strength of the field would lead to a huge discrepancy between the power scientists observe in the jets and the numbers they calculate, Eikenberry said. He added that he speculates something is amplifying the corona’s magnetic field in the center, right at the base of the jets, raising it to the strengths that scientists expect are required for the jets to launch.

“That’s exactly what we’re in the middle of [testing] right now,” said Eikenberry. “Stay tuned to that in another six months.”


Scientists Offering Different Perspective On Dark Matter

December 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Dark matter is the elusive, invisible substance that appears to make up more than 80 percent of the total mass in the universe — far more than accounted for by the “regular” matter that makes up things like stars, planets and everything astronomers can directly observe. A new study makes the bold claim, however, that perhaps dark matter doesn’t exist at all. 

But scientists aren’t convinced that the study holds water.

Hints of the existence of dark matter appeared as early as the 1930s, but the real discovery took place in 1978, when astrophysicist Vera Rubin concluded that the observable motions of galaxies couldn’t be explained by the laws of Newtonian physics alone. Due to the speed of the galaxies’ rotation, the stars on their edges would fly away if the only thing holding them in place were the visible matter. 

Rubin estimated that the galaxies must contain about six times more mass than what could be observed with existing instruments. Forty years later, despite extensive efforts, scientists haven’t found a fundamental dark-matter particle or any evidence of what makes up the mysterious substance. Swiss astrophysicist André Maeder, author of the new study, has proposed that the mysterious effects attributed to dark matter could have another explanation.

The hypothesis at the heart of the new theory s that “empty space is scale-invariant,” Maeder, a researcher and honorary professor at the Department of Astronomy of the University of Geneva, told “That means that if we make dilatation of [empty space] or contraction of it, its properties should not change, which seems rather reasonable.”

“When [scale invariance] is introduced into the equations, this leads to a new small force, which is opposed to gravitation. But this force only appears at very low densities,” he said.

On Earth, such a force would be a million or billion times smaller than the force of gravity, so it’s not something that could be easily measured, he said. On the galactic scale, however, this force would be powerful enough to help hold the rotating galaxies together even without the presence of dark matter.

But the scale invariance of space is not part of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which introduced the concept of a universal fabric called space-time, and provides the most precise description of gravity available. Time after time, general relativity has stood up to new tests, and new observations have confirmed the theory. 

Rather than modifying that well-accepted theory, Maeder works with an alternative concept called the cotensor analysis, which, unlike general relativity, allows him to work with scale invariance.

“There are many observations which would better fit with this theory,” said Maeder. “I have about 10 positive observational facts, and this is satisfactory. But there is still more work to do to fully confirm that.”

Among those 10 items, which are cited in the new paper, Maeder said that his model provides an explanation for the rotation rate of individual galaxies, which has previously been attributed to dark matter. His model also fits with observations of the surprisingly high velocities of galaxies in galaxy clusters, he said.

Scale invariance of empty space and the resulting effects, Maeder said, could also account for the accelerating expansion of the universe, which scientists can’t yet explain. This acceleration is generally attributed to a mysterious effect called dark energy.

However, other experts who talked with said they don’t find Maeder’s conclusions persuasive. 

“Any model that will replace general relativity will have to fit all of our observational cosmology data,” said David Spergel, professor of astrophysics at Princeton University. And Maeder’s hypothesis fails to explain some important observations as well as dark matter does, Spergel said. 

In particular, the “cleanest” evidence for the existence of dark matter, Spergel said, comes from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), a faint glow that fills the entire universe and can be observed in every direction. The CMB is cooled-down radiation that is left over from the very early universe, shortly after the Big Bang. 

According to Pat Scott, an astroparticle phenomenologist at Imperial College London, the temperature fluctuations observed in the cosmic microwave background can’t be explained without the existence of dark matter. 

“You need to have some additional component of matter that doesn’t interact with regular matter via the electromagnetic force,” he said (meaning dark matter has no interaction with light). Scott said observations suggest that “there must be a lot of matter in the universe that is dark.”

Maeder’s ideas fail to offer an alternative explanation for those observations, Spergel said.

“While the cold dark matter models fit the microwave background data remarkably well, Maeder’s alternative theory does not fit the data,” Spergel said. (There are multiple models that attempt to explain what dark matter is and how it behaves, and the cold dark matter models constitute one category of those.)

Scott also said that Maeder’s hypothesis would likely be unable to explain gravitational lensing — the bending of light in the vicinity of massive objects such as large galaxies and black holes. Observations have shown that the strength of gravitational lensing around some galaxies and clusters cannot be explained without the presence of additional, dark mass.  

“The fact that the lensing happens at all means that there is some additional mass there, which has to be dark matter,” said Scott. 

Maeder said he plans to continue his research and hopes to provide further observational data to support his model in the near future. The paper was published on Nov. 22 in the Astrophysical Journal.


Telsa Electric Trucks Gets Vote Of Confidence From PepsiCo

December 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

PepsiCo Inc has reserved 100 of Tesla Inc’s new electric Semi trucks, the biggest known order of the big rig, as the maker of Mountain Dew soda and Doritos chips seeks to reduce fuel costs and fleet emissions, a company executive said on Tuesday.

Tesla has been trying to convince the trucking community that it can build an affordable electric big rig with the range and cargo capacity to compete with relatively low-cost, time-tested diesel trucks.

 Early orders reflect uncertainty over how the market for electric commercial vehicles will develop. About 260,000 heavy-duty Class-8 trucks are produced in North America annually, according to FTR, an industry economics research firm.

PepsiCo intends to deploy Tesla Semis for shipments of snack foods and beverages between manufacturing and distribution facilities and direct to retailers within the 500-mile (800-km) range promised by Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk.

The semi-trucks will complement PepsiCo’s U.S. fleet of nearly 10,000 big rigs and are a key part of its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across its supply chain by a total of at least 20 percent by 2030, said Mike O‘Connell, the senior director of North American supply chain for PepsiCo subsidiary Frito-Lay.

PepsiCo is analyzing what routes are best for its Tesla trucks in North America but sees a wide range of uses for lighter loads like snacks or shorter shipments of heavier beverages, O‘Connell said.

Tesla did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

 Tesla unveiled the Semi last month and expects the truck to be in production by 2019.

Astronomers Find Oldest Supermassive Black Hole To Date

December 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Astronomers have discovered the oldest supermassive black hole ever found — a behemoth that grew to 800 million times the mass of the sun when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age, a new study finds.

This newfound giant black hole, which formed just 690 million years after the Big Bang, could one day help shed light on a number of cosmic mysteries, such as how black holes could have reached gargantuan sizes quickly after the Big Bang and how the universe got cleared of the murky fog that once filled the entire cosmos, the researchers said in the new study.

Supermassive black holes with masses millions to billions of times that of the sun are thought to lurk at the hearts of most, if not all, galaxies. Previous research suggested these giants release extraordinarily large amounts of light when they rip apart stars and devour matter, and likely are the driving force behind quasars, which are among the brightest objects in the universe.

Astronomers can detect quasars from the farthest corners of the cosmos, making quasars among the most distant objects known. The farthest quasars are also the earliest known quasars — the more distant one is, the more time its light took to reach Earth.

The previous record for the earliest, most distant quasar was set by ULAS J1120+0641. That quasar is located 13.04 billion light-years from Earth and existed about 750 million years after the Big Bang. The newfound quasar (and its black hole), named ULAS J1342+0928, is 13.1 billion light-years away.

Explaining how black holes could have gobbled up enough matter to reach supermassive sizes early in cosmic history has proved extraordinarily challenging for scientists. As such, researchers want to look at as many early supermassive black holes as possible to learn more about their growth and their effects on the rest of the cosmos.

“The most distant quasars can provide key insights to outstanding questions in astrophysics,” said study lead author Eduardo Bañados, an astrophysicist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.

The researchers predicted that only 20 to 100 quasars as bright and as distant as the newfound quasar exist in the whole sky visible from Earth.

“This particular quasar is so bright that it will become a gold mine for follow-up studies and will be a crucial laboratory to study the early universe,” Bañados told “We have already secured observations for this object with a number of the most powerful telescopes in the world. More surprises may arise.”

The researchers detected and analyzed quasar ULAS J1342+0928 using one of the Magellan Telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, as well as the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona and the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. Its central black hole has a mass about 800 million times that of the sun and existed when the universe was just 690 million years old, or just 5 percent of its current age. 

“All that mass — almost 1 billion times the mass of the sun — needs to be gathered in less than 690 million years,” Bañados said. “That is extremely difficult to achieve and is something that theorists will need to explain in their models.”

Quasars like J1342+0928 are rare. The researchers searched one-tenth of the entire sky visible from Earth and found just one quasar from this early epoch.

Only about 60 million years separate this newfound quasar from the previous record holder. Still, this span of time was “about 10 percent of the age of the universe at those early cosmic epochs, when things were evolving very rapidly,” Bañados said. That means this difference in time could yield important clues about the evolution of the early universe.

This new quasar is also of interest to scientists because it comes from a time known as “the epoch of reionization,” when the universe emerged from its dark ages. “It was the universe’s last major transition and one of the current frontiers of astrophysics,” Bañados said in a statement.

Right after the Big Bang, the universe was a rapidly expanding hot soup of ions, or electrically charged particles. About 380,000 years later, these ions cooled and coalesced into neutral hydrogen gas. The universe stayed dark until gravity pulled matter together into the first stars. The intense ultraviolet light from this era caused this murky neutral hydrogen to get excited and ionize, or gain electric charge, and the gas has remained in that state since that time. Once the universe became reionized, light could travel freely through space.

Much remains unknown about the epoch of reionization, such as what sources of light caused reionization. Some prior work suggested that massive stars were mostly responsible for reionization, but other research hinted that black holes were a significant, and potentially dominant, culprit behind this event

“How and when the reionization of the universe occurred has fundamental implications on how the universe evolved,” Bañados said.

The new findings revealed that a large fraction of the hydrogen in the immediate vicinity of the newfound quasar was neutrally charged. This suggests that this quasar comes from well within the epoch of reionization, and further analysis of it could yield insight into what happened during this pivotal time.

However, to really learn more about the epoch of reionization, scientists need more than just one or two early, distant quasars to look at. “We need to find more of these quasars at similar or larger distances,” Bañados said. “This is extremely difficult, as they are very rare. This is really like finding the needle in a haystack.”

Still, the fact that this newfound quasar is so bright and large suggests that “it’s probably not the first quasar ever formed, so we need to keep searching,” Bañados said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the Dec. 7 issue of the journal Nature. The researchers also released a companion paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.


Shell Teaming Up With Carmakers For Ultra-fast EV Charging Stations

November 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Royal Dutch Shell has teamed up with top automakers to deploy ultra-fast chargers on Europe’s highways, stealing a march on rivals in the race to remove one of the biggest obstacles facing the electric car sector.

Shell’s agreement with IONITY – a joint venture between BMW, Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen  – will initially bring high-powered docks to 80 highway sites in 2019, it said in a statement.

Power giants including France’s Engie and Germany’s E.ON, as well as niche players such as U.S. start-up ChargePoint, are all building vehicle-charging networks in Europe, but Shell says the IONITY technology is key to addressing the problem of journey distances.

 While electric vehicles still account for only a small fraction of the global car market, the pace of growth and a sustained period of low crude prices is prompting oil companies to reassess century-old business models as the world move towards cleaner modes of transportation.

Under Shell’s most aggressive projections the company expects the global electric vehicle fleet to grow from about 1 percent of the entire auto fleet today to 10 percent by 2025, displacing oil demand equating to about 800,000 barrels per day.

Volkswagen Ramps Up Electric Cars Ambitions

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Volkswagen has approved a 34 billion euro ($40 bln) spending plan that speeds up its efforts to become a global leader in electric cars.

The world’s largest carmaker by unit sales will spend the money on electric cars, autonomous driving and new mobility services by the end of 2022, it said after a meeting of its supervisory board.

“With the planning round now approved, we are laying the foundation for making Volkswagen the world’s No. 1 player in electric mobility by 2025,” Chief Executive Matthias Mueller told a press conference.

The carmaker’s projected spending is significantly bigger than its pledge two months ago that it would invest more than 20 billion euros on electric and self-driving cars through 2030.

 Electric and autonomous vehicles are widely seen as the keystones of future transport, but pioneers such as Tesla Inc and other manufacturers are still working out how to make money on them as poor charging infrastructure, high battery costs and electric vehicles’ still limited driving range weigh on customer demand.

Until it admitted two years ago to cheating on U.S. diesel emissions tests, Volkswagen had been slow to embrace electric cars and self-driving technology.

The group said its total investments in electric vehicles capacity and projects will amount to about 72 billion euros by 2022, confirming an earlier Reuters story.

To fund greater spending on electric vehicles, it will draw on cost savings in all areas of operations, including vehicle development, administration and manufacturing, as well as strong cash reserves.

Its net liquidity still stood at around 24 billion euros after nine months even though about 17 billion euros of funds have been paid out to cover costs for its dieselgate scandal. VW’s core autos division has made cost savings of about 1.9 billion euros since the start of this year, nearly meeting budgeted cost cuts for the full year.

Mueller said VW will maintain spending discipline in order to shoulder the increased investments in new technologies while it grapples with billions of dollars of costs for its emissions scandal.

Is Normal Matter Missing From The Universe

October 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Astronomers and cosmologists have an inventory problem: They haven’t been able to account for a fair amount of the stuff that makes up our universe.

There are the longstanding challenges with pinpointing dark energy and dark matter, two invisible components that together make up more than 95 percent of the cosmos. But there is also the lesser-known problem of missing baryon particles.

Baryons are subatomic particles that include protons and neutrons, which form the nuclei of atoms. Baryonic matter — part of what we consider “normal matter” in the universe — makes up everything we are familiar with: stars, planets, the chair you are sitting on, the device you are using to read this, and you.

Blastoff! Progress 68 Space Station Resupply Mission Launches

An uncrewed Progress 68 cargo ship carrying supplies for the International Space Station launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 14, 2017. credit: NASA

So there was understandable excitement this week when it emerged that two separate teams of researchers may have found this “missing” baryonic matter.

When astronomers observe the universe, they find just 10 percent of normal baryonic matter as easily observable matter in stars and nebulae, and another 40 percent has been found in diffuse clouds within galaxies.

It has been theorized that the remaining regular matter must exist as a diffuse gas between galaxies. And now the two new research papers indicate that baryonic matter does indeed exist in the form of filaments of gas between galaxies, making up the missing percentage.

Hideki Tanimura is from the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Orsay, France, and led one of the teams.

“The half of baryons (missing baryons) are considered to exist in filamentary structures between dark matter halos as a diffuse gas, WHIM ( warm hot intergalactic medium),” he told Seeker in an email. “We show that most of our detection is due to unbound diffuse gas in filaments between dark matter halos, not bound gas in dark matter halos.”

Tanimura’s team and another team led by Anna de Graaff at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland looked at data from the Planck satellite for a thermal signal called the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect. This effect allows for the detection of very faint objects, and looks for photons from the Cosmic Microwave Background as it travels through hot gas.

The interaction, which only the Planck satellite so far has been able to detect, allows astronomers to spot the presence of matter, even if it is very faint at high redshifts.

In 2015, Planck data was used to create a map of this effect throughout the observable universe. But because the filaments of gas between galaxies are so diffuse, it is very difficult to detect them directly on Planck’s map without using points of reference.

Both of the teams of researchers used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to look at galaxies that were predicted to be connected by filaments of faint gas. They stacked the Planck data to look in the areas between the galaxies.

Tanimura’s group stacked data on 260,000 pairs of galaxies, and de Graaff’s team used over a million pairs. Both teams found conclusive evidence of the baryonic gas filaments between the galaxies.

Tanimura said the results between the two groups are consistent within margins.

“The biggest surprise is that the gas we detected is very low-dense, lower than expected,” Tanimura said. “It is very surprising and very important because we prove that we can detect it now! It means that we can now start to make an entire map of the universe, including filaments as well as galaxies.”

Tanimura said that the total amount of baryons has been measured by other observations such as the CMB observations and Lyman Alpha observations, and their results are consistent within margins with cosmological simulations.

“There is already a consensus about it and we prove that it is true,” he said. “But we know more than that. We estimate the distribution and physical states of the (missing) baryons. By comparing the result (which was unknown) with current models such as cosmological simulations, we can make [a] more precise picture of the current universe and constrain the evolution of the universe.”

Tanimura noted that this finding is analogous to the first maps made of the world.

“When people went out to the ocean and started making a map of our world, it was not used by most of the people then, but we use the world map now to travel abroad,” he said. “In the same way, the map of the entire universe may not be valuable now because we do not have a technology to go far out to the space. However, it could be valuable 500 years later.”

He added, “We are in the first stage of making [a] ‘map of the entire universe.'”


Will RISC-V Finally Hit Linux Next Year

October 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Linux fanboys tend to announce a lot of “year of” events. There is the year of the desktop which appears to be every year and still never happens and now there is the year of RISC V Linux processor.

SiFive has declared that 2018 will be the year of RISC V Linux processor, so mark your penguin diaries accordingly.  In the UK there will be all sorts of events planned, including guess the weight of Linus Torvalds competitions, there will be penguin tossing at Slough, The over 80s Linux nudist club will be holding a bring and buy sale and there will be the open sauce bob sleigh event down the escalators of Covent Garden tube station.

SiFive released its first open-source system on a chip, the Freeform Everywhere 310, last year. At the time it said it was aiming to push the RISC-V architecture to transform the hardware industry in the way that Linux transformed the software industry.

This year it released its U54-MC Coreplex, the first RISC-V-based chip that supports Linux, Unix, and FreeBSD. This latest opens up a whole new world of use cases for the architecture and paves the way for RISC-V processors to compete with ARM cores and similar offerings in the enterprise and consumer space.

The outfit claims that next year companies looking to build SoC’s around RISC-V will throng to the new developments.

Andrew Waterman co-founder and chief engineer at SiFive said the forthcoming silicon is going to enable much better software development for RISC-V.

Waterman said that, while SiFive had developed low-level software such as compilers for RISC-V the company really hopes that the open-source community will be taking a much broader role going forward and really pushing the technology forward.

“No matter how big of a role we would want to have we can’t make a dent. But what we can do is make sure the army of engineers out there are empowered.”


Samsung Goes 28nm With MRAM Chips

October 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Samsung Foundry will soon mass produce magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) chips using 28nm fully depleted silicon-on-insulator (FD-SOI) process technology.

Samsung is reportedly teaming up with NXP and has completed the tape-out of its 28nm FD-SOI embedded MRAM, which will be first applied to NXP’s new low-power i.  The memory will be aimed at the automotive, multimedia and display panel applications.

Synopsys announced its Design Platform has been fully certified for use on Samsung Foundry’s 28nm FD-SOI process technology. It said that a PDK and a comprehensive reference flow, compatible with Synopsys’ Lynx Design System, containing scripts, design methodologies and best practices is now available.

Samsung’s foundry solutions team senior VP Jaehong Park said Samsung Foundry’s 28FD-SOI technology allows designs to operate both at high and low voltage making it ideal for IoT and mobile applications.

“The FD-SOI technology exhibits the best soft error immunity, and, therefore, is well suited for applications that require high reliability such as automotive,” Park said.


Astronomers Find Powerful Cosmic Rays Original Are Not From Our Galaxy

October 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The highest-energy cosmic rays to bombard Earth apparently come from galaxies far, far away, a new study finds.

Cosmic rays are made of atomic nuclei of elements ranging from hydrogen to iron, and zip through outer space at speeds approaching that of light. Analyzing them gives scientists a way to examine matter from outside the solar system, and potentially outside the galaxy.

The sun emits relatively low-energy cosmic rays. However, for more than 50 years, scientists have also detected ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, ones far beyond the capability of any particle accelerator on Earth to generate.

“Earth sees a constant rain of these particles, but we had no idea where they come from,” study co-author Karl-Heinz Kampert, a particle astrophysicist at the University of Wuppertal in Germany and spokesman for the Pierre Auger Collaboration, told

“The particles we detect are so energetic they have to come from astrophysical phenomena that are extremely violent,” study co-author Gregory Snow at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who serves as the education and outreach coordinator for the Pierre Auger Observatory project, said in a statement. “Some galaxies have an explosive, massive black hole in their centers and there are theories that these very violent centers accelerate particles of very high energy that eventually reach Earth.”

“By understanding the origins of these particles, we hope to understand more about the origin of the universe, the Big Bang, how galaxies and black holes formed and things like that,” Snow said in the statement. “These are some of the most important questions in astrophysics.”

One way to discover the origins of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays is to study their directions of travel. However, ultra-high-energy cosmic rays only rarely strike Earth’s atmosphere, with one hitting any given area about the size of a soccer field about once per century, the researchers said.

In order to detect ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, scientists look for the spray of electrons, photons and other particles that result when ultra-high-energy cosmic rays hit the top of Earth’s atmosphere. Each of these showers contains more than 10 billion particles, which fly downward in a disk shaped like a giant plate miles wide, according to the statement.

Scientists examined the sprays from ultra-high-energy cosmic rays using the largest cosmic-ray observatory yet: the Pierre Auger Observatory built in the western plains of Argentina in 2001. It consists of an array of 1,600 particle detectors deployed in a hexagonal grid over 1,160 square miles (3,000 square kilometers), an area comparable in size to Rhode Island. A connected set of telescopes is also used to see the dim fluorescent light the particles in the sprays emit at night.

The researchers analyzed data collected between 2004 and 2016. During these 12 years, the scientists detected more than 30,000 ultra-high-energy cosmic rays.

If ultra-high-energy cosmic rays came from the Milky Way, one might perhaps expect them to come from all across the sky, or perhaps mostly from the direction of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center. However, the researchers saw that ultra-high-energy cosmic rays mostly came from a broad area of sky about 90 degrees away from the direction of the Milky Way’s core. 

“This is the first clear observation that ultra-high-energy cosmic rays come from outside our galaxy,” Kampert said.

This direction where most of the ultra-high-energy cosmic rays came from is a place “with an increased density of nearby galaxies,” Kampert added. “These galaxies, or some subset of these galaxies, contain the sources of these cosmic rays.”

Future research to pinpoint the exact sources of these cosmic rays will focus on the ones with the very highest energy. These are the most likely to have gotten deflected the least by intervening magnetic fields, and so their arrival directions should point closer to their birthplaces, Kampert said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the Sept. 22 issue of the journal Science.


Will VW Have All Electric Cars By 2030

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

In a move which will see it never have to face another emissions scandal,  Adolf Hitler’s favorite car company has announced it will be all electric by 2030.

Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller announced sweeping plans to build electric versions of all 300 models in the group’s lineup as the world’s largest automaker accelerates the shift away from combustion engines.

Speaking on the eve of the Frankfurt auto show, the CEO laid out the enormity of the task ahead, vowing to spend 20 billion euros to develop and bring the models to market by 2030 and promising to plow another 50 billion euros into the batteries needed to power the cars.

All 12 of Volkswagen’s 12 brands are behind the push, which has the aim of catching up with the likes of Tesla and transform from a battery-vehicle laggard into a leader.

Mueller said VW will need the equivalent of at least four gigafactories for battery cells by 2025 just to meet its own vehicle production.

At 50 billion euros, the CEO announced one of the largest tenders in the industry’s history for the procurement of batteries.

By 2025, VW aims to have 50 purely battery-powered vehicles and 30 hybrid models in its lineup, with a goal of selling as many as three million purely battery-powered cars by then. The transformation will pick up speed after that to reach the 2030 goal as economies of scale and better infrastructure help bring down prices and accelerate sales.


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