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mars_one1 Mars One has launched its astronaut selection program for the first humans to set foot on Mars and make it their home. Mars One invites would-be Mars settlers from anywhere in the world to submit an online application — the first of the four rounds in the selection procedure. Round One will run for over five months and end on 31st August 2013. Applicants selected at the end of this round will include the first crew that will land on Mars in 2023. Mars One selection committees will hone the search for the first crew in three subsequent rounds and further training.
We are very excited about launching the selection program. Round One is where we open the doors to Mars for everyone on Earth. This is an international mission and it is very important for the project that anyone anywhere can ask themselves: Do I want this? Am I ready for this? If the answer is yes then we want to hear from you,” said Bas Lansdorp, co-founder of Mars One. In the past year, Mars One has received 10,000 messages from prospective applicants from more than 100 countries. Mars One expects an unprecedented number of applications and even more Internet users visiting the application website to support their favorite candidates. Applicants are given the choice of publicly sharing and promoting their application page. While Mars One experts will choose which candidates progress to Round 2, everyone will have the opportunity to know the aspiring settlers and give them their vote of confidence. Applicants will pay a small administration fee that varies across nations according to their per capita GDP. The variable fee makes the program equally accessible for applicants from all nations and also reduces the number of insincere entries.

Mars One is looking for applicants who are both mature and interesting. Beyond Round Four,in the seven-year period preceding their flight to Mars,all the potential settlers will be given the skills they will need on Mars and on their journey there. No particular academic or professional background is considered a prerequisite for selection. “Gone are the days when bravery and the number of hours flying a supersonic jet were the top criteria,” said Norbert Kraft, Mars One’s Chief Medical Director and former NASA senior researcher. “For this mission of permanent settlement we are more concerned with how well each astronaut lives and works with others and their ability to deal with a lifetime of challenges.” Throughout the astronaut selection program, Mars One will select applicants who have good physical and mental health and show five key character traits: Resilience, Adaptability, Curiosity, Ability to trust others, and Creativity/Resourcefulness. In the last stage when 24-40 candidates have been fully trained and qualified, the final decision of choosing the first settlers will be decided by an audience vote. “In a 1000 years, everyone on Earth will still remember who the first humans on Mars were, just like Neil Armstrong has etched in our memories forever. This makes the selection of the first crew to a different planet a very important election; in my opinion more important than most elections. We hope the whole world will join Mars One in our democratic search of the envoys of mankind to Mars, ” Lansdorp said.

NASA‘s Kepler mission has discovered two new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the “habitable zone,” the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.Two of the newly discovered planets orbit a star smaller and cooler than the sun. Kepler-62f is only 40 percent larger than Earth, making it the exoplanet closest to the size of our planet known in the habitable zone of another star. Kepler-62f is likely to have a rocky composition. Kepler-62e, orbits on the inner edge of the habitable zone and is roughly 60 percent larger than Earth. The third planet, Kepler-69c, is 70 percent larger than the size of Earth, and orbits in the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. Astronomers are uncertain about the composition of Kepler-69c, but its orbit of 242 days around a sun-like star resembles that of our neighboring planet Venus. Scientists do not know whether life could exist on the new-found planets, but their discovery signals we are another step closer to finding a world similar to Earth around a star like our sun.

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has led to a bonanza of millions of new-found supermassive black holes and extreme galaxies called “hot DOGs” — dust-obscured galaxies that burn brightly with infrared light, thought to be among the brightest galaxies ever found. The latest findings are helping astronomers better understand how galaxies and the behemoth black holes at their centers grow and evolve together.

For example, the giant black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, called Sagittarius A*, has 4 million times the mass of our sun and has gone through periodic feeding frenzies where material falls towards the black hole, heats up and irradiates its surroundings. Bigger central black holes, up to a billion times the mass of our sun, may even shut down star formation in galaxies. In one study, astronomers used WISE to identify about 2.5 million actively feeding supermassive black holes across the full sky, stretching back to distances more than 10 billion light-years away. About two-thirds of these objects never had been detected before because dust blocks their visible light. WISE easily sees these monsters because their powerful, accreting black holes warm the dust, causing it to glow in infrared light.

These extreme objects can pour out more than 100 trillion times as much light as our sun. They are so dusty, however, that they appear only in the longest wavelengths of infrared light captured by WISE. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope followed up on the discoveries in more detail and helped show that, in addition to hosting supermassive black holes feverishly snacking on gas and dust, these DOGs are busy churning out new stars.

“These dusty, cataclysmically forming galaxies are so rare WISE had to scan the entire sky to find them,” said Peter Eisenhardt, lead author of the paper on the first of these bright, dusty galaxies, and project scientist for WISE at JPL. “We are also seeing evidence that these record setters may have formed their black holes before the bulk of their stars. The ‘eggs’ may have come before the ‘chickens.’” More than 100 of these objects, located about 10 billion light-years away, have been confirmed using the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, as well as the Gemini Observatory in Chile, Palomar’s 200-inch Hale telescope near San Diego, and the Multiple Mirror Telescope Observatory near Tucson, Ariz. The WISE observations, combined with data at even longer infrared wavelengths from Caltech’s Submillimeter Observatory atop Mauna Kea, revealed that these extreme galaxies are more than twice as hot as other infrared-bright galaxies. One theory is their dust is being heated by an extremely powerful burst of activity from the supermassive black hole.

“We may be seeing a new, rare phase in the evolution of galaxies,” said Jingwen Wu of JPL, lead author of the study on the submillimeter observations.


First picture. This is the first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater landing site taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover. The panorama was made from thumbnail versions of images taken by the Mast Camera. Scientists will take a closer look at several splotches in the foreground that appear gray. These areas show the effects of the descent stage’s rocket engines blasting the ground.

Second picture. These are the first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the Navigation cameras on NASA’s Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover’s “head” or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground. The topography of the rim is very mountainous due to erosion. The ground seen in the middle shows low-relief scarps and plains. The foreground shows two distinct zones of excavation likely carved out by blasts from the rover’s descent stage thrusters.

New data suggests the exoplanet Gliese 581g is the best candidate so far of a potential habitable exoplanet. The nearby star Gliese 581 — located about 20 light years away from Earth in the constellation Libra — has four planets; the outermost planet, Gliese 581d, was already suspected habitable. This will be the first evidence for any two potential habitable exoplanets that are orbiting the same star. Based on the new data, Gliese 581g probably has a radius not larger than 1.5 times Earth radii. It receives about the same light flux as Earth does from the Sun due to its closer orbital position around a dim red dwarf star. These factors combine to make Gliese 581g the most Earth-like planet known with an Earth Similarity Index, a measure of Earth-likeness from zero to one, of 0.92 and higher than the previously top candidate Gliese 667Cc, discovered last year.
(Caption: Artistic representation of all the five known potential habitable worlds including now Gliese 581g, the best candidate for an Earth-like exoplanet so far. All of these planets are superterrans (aka Super-Earths) with masses estimated between two and ten Earth masses. Numbers below the planet names correspond to their similarity with Earth as measured in a scale from zero to one with the Earth Similarity Index, one being identical to Earth.)

John Moravec of Education Futures interviewed mathematician and science-fiction writer Vernor Vinge, noted for his foundational 1993 essay, “The Coming Technological Singularity.

“I’m still where I was in my 1993 essay that I gave at a NASA meeting, and that is that I define the Technological Singularity as being our developing, through technology, superhuman intelligence — or becoming, ourselves, superhuman intelligent through technology,” said Vinge. “And, I think calling that the Singularity is actually a very good term in the sense of vast and unknowable change. A qualitatively different sort of change than technological progress in the past.”

He still believes four pathways could lead to the development of the Singularity by 2030:
1.The development of computers that are “awake” and superhumanly intelligent.
2.Large computer networks (and their associated users) may “wake up” as a superhumanly intelligent entity.
3.Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.
4.Biological science may find ways to improve upon the natural human intellect.

When asked which one is more likely, he hinted that he sees a digital Gaia of networks plus people emerging: The networked sum of all the embedded microprocessors in all our devices becomes a kind of digital Gaia. That qualifies, as an ensemble, as a superhuman entity. That is probably the weirdest of all possibilities because, if anything, it looks like animism. And, sometimes I point to it when I want to make the issue that this can be very strange. I think that actually the networking of embedded microprocessors is going like gangbusters. The network that is the Internet plus humanity, that is also going with extraordinarily surprises, if you just look at the successes in the various schemes that go by names like crowdsourcing. To me, those have been astounding, and should give people real pause with how to use the intellectual resources actually that we have out there. So far, we do not have a single computer that is really of human-level intelligence, and I think that is going to happen. But, it is a kind of an amazing thing that we have an installed base of seven billion of these devices out there.

What does this mean for education?
Vinge believes talking about post-Singularity situations in education are impractical. In theory, is impossible for us to predict or comprehend what will happen, so we should not focus our attention on worrying about post-Singularity futures. Rather, we should focus on the ramp-up the the Singularity, our unique talents, and how we can network together to utilize them in imaginative ways:
When dealing with unknown futures, it remains unknown how to prepare people best for these futures. He states that the best pathway involves teaching children “to learn how to learn” (a key theme in Fast Times at Fairmont High) is the best way we can encourage the development of positive futures is to attend to diversity in our learning systems. We need to not facilitate the formation of diverse students, but we also need to abandon a monoculture approach to education and attend to a diverse ecology of options in teaching and evaluation.

By synchronizing 98 tiny cameras in a single device, electrical engineers from Duke University and the University of Arizona have developed a prototype camera that can create images with unprecedented detail. The camera’s resolution is five times better than 20/20 human vision over a 120 degree horizontal field. The new camera has the potential to capture up to 50 gigapixels of data, which is 50,000 megapixels. By comparison, most consumer cameras are capable of taking photographs with sizes ranging from 8 to 40 megapixels. Pixels are individual “dots” of data – the higher the number of pixels, the better resolution of the image. The researchers believe that within five years, as the electronic components of the cameras become miniaturized and more efficient, the next generation of gigapixel cameras should be available to the general public. Details of the new camera were published online in the journal Nature. The team’s research was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Klas Tybrandt, doctoral student in Organic Electronics at Linköping University, Sweden, has developed an integrated chemical chip. The results have just been published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications. The Organic Electronics research group at Linköping University previously developed ion transistors for transport of both positive and negative ions, as well as biomolecules. Tybrandt has now succeeded in combining both transistor types into complementary circuits, in a similar way to traditional silicon-based electronics.

An advantage of chemical circuits is that the charge carrier consists of chemical substances with various functions. This means that we now have new opportunities to control and regulate the signal paths of cells in the human body. “We can, for example, send out signals to muscle synapses where the signalling system may not work for some reason. We know our chip works with common signalling substances, for example acetylcholine,” says Magnus Berggren, Professor of Organic Electronics and leader of the research group.

The development of ion transistors, which can control and transport ions and charged biomolecules, was begun three years ago by Tybrandt and Berggren, respectively a doctoral student and professor in Organic Electronics at the Department of Science and Technology at Linköping University. The transistors were then used by researchers at Karolinska Institutet to control the delivery of the signalling substance acetylcholine to individual cells. The results were published in the well-known interdisciplinary journal PNAS. In conjunction with Robert Forchheimer, Professor of Information Coding at LiU, Tybrandt has now taken the next step by developing chemical chips that also contain logic gates, such as NAND gates that allow for the construction of all logical functions. His breakthrough creates the basis for an entirely new circuit technology based on ions and molecules instead of electrons and holes.

This video features a series of time lapse sequences photographed by the Expedition 30 crew aboard the International Space Station. Set to the song “Walking in the Air,” by Howard Blake, the video takes viewers around the world, through auroras, and over dazzling lightning displays. The sequences are as follows: :01 – Stars over southern United States :08 – US west coast to Canada :21 – Central Europe to the Middle East :36 – Aurora Australis over the Indian Ocean :54 – Storms over Africa 1:08 – Central United States 1:20 – Midwest United States 1:33 – United Kingdom to Baltic Sea 1:46 – Moonset 1:55 – Northern United States to Eastern Canada 2:12 – Aurora Australis over the Indian Ocean 2:32 – Comet Lovejoy 2:53 – Aurora Borealis over Hudson Bay 3:06 – United Kingdom to Central Europe

DARPA is planning to announce a new Grand Challenge for a teleoperated humanoid robot.

The specific tasks are:

1) The robot will maneuver to a open frame utility vehicle, such as a John Deere Gator or a Polaris Ranger. The robot is to get into the driver’s seat and drive it to a specified location.

2) The robot is to get out of the vehicle, maneuver to a locked door, unlock it with a key, open the door, and go inside.

3) The robot will traverse a 100 meter, rubble strewn hallway.

4) At the end of the hallway, the robot will climb an ladder.

5) The robot will locate a pipe that is leaking a yellow-colored gas (non-toxic, non-corrosive). The robot will then identify a valve that will seal the pipe and actuate that valve, sealing the pipe.

6) The robot will locate a broken pump and replace it.


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