Category Archives: Science/Technology

Apophis asteroid: Large space rock flies past Earth

Esa’s Herschel Space Observatory captured Apophis in its
field of view in the far-infrared light in January 2013
A 300m-wide asteroid is making a close pass to the
Earth.
Apophis – named after the Egyptian demon of destruction and
darkness – has been put on a watch list by scientists.
They have calculated that in 2036 there is a very small chance
it could collide with our planet.
However, its current fly-by is at a safe distance of about 14
million km – but this is close enough for astronomers to study
the space rock and assess its future risk.
Apophis will not be visible with the naked eye, but space
enthusiasts can watch it online via the Slooh space camera’s
website.

Collision course?
The large rocky mass was first discovered in 2004. At the
time, it raised alarm when scientists calculated that it had a
one-in-45 chance of smashing into the Earth in 2029.
Later revisions, lifted this threat; instead on the Friday 13
April 2029, it will make a close pass at a distance of about
30,000km.
However, astronomers say there is still a one-in-200,000
chance that it could strike Earth in 2036.
Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen’s
University Belfast, UK, said: “In 2029, it will pass so close to
us that Earth’s gravity will change its orbit.
“Most of the potential orbits it will end up on will mean we are
safe for the next 100 years. But there is a small region of
space – something we call a keyhole – and if it passes through
that keyhole in 2029, it will come back and hit us on 13 April
in 2036.”
If this happened, it would strike the Earth with 100 times the
energy in our largest nuclear bombs, said Prof Fitzsimmons.

Future hazards
Astronomers are using the current close encounter as an
opportunity to study the asteroid, so they can improve their
calculations to predict its future path.
Prof Fitzsimmons said: “While [the asteroid] is relatively close
to the Earth, astronomers can ping it with radar. Radar
measurements are incredibly accurate: we get the distance to
the asteroid very, very precisely, and we can also get its
velocity relative to us. And these two things let us pin its orbit
down very precisely. ”
Researchers are becoming increasingly interested in
potentially hazardous asteroids.
So far they have counted more than 9,000 near-Earth
asteroids, and they spot another 800 new space rocks on
average each year.
Prof Fitzsimmons said learning more about them was vital.
“At some point, we are going to find an asteroid big enough
that it could cause damage at ground level if we let it hit,” he
explained.
“So we should find these objects, we should track them, work
out where they are going – and if they stand a chance of
hitting us, do something about it.”

Source : BBC

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Apple to finally produce a budget iPhone?

With a polycarbonate shell and a less-lovely back.. Don't cry you can still buy the expensive one...
With a polycarbonate shell and a less-lovely back.. Don’t cry you can still buy the expensive one…

Reports are coming in that Apple could be set to renege on another strategy and finally build a cheap iPhone.

The usually-reliable Wall Street Journal reported that Apple has been researching a lower-end iPhone, something it’s been looking at for three years, according to people “briefed in the matter”.

However, the plans are now “progressing”, and would see the aluminium casing of the iPhone 5 shorn and a cheaper polycarbonate exterior used in its place.

Zombie iPhone

In the same manner as the iPad mini, which repurposed a lot of the ipad 2 internals, the cheap iPhone would use bits of older handsets to see it sold at a lower price point in new markets.

The move would be a change in stance for the Cupertino brand, which has previously used its older handsets as the budget alternative to whatever flagship is being sold. However, even the iPhone 4 still costs a horrendously high amount for a handset that’s nearly three years old.

There’s also the issue of catering for the next wave of smartphone users: the emerging markets are now moving to smartphones and can’t afford the high prices Apple charges to preserve its profit margins.

Make it bigger, make it cheaper

Digitimes, that ever reliable news source, is claiming that Apple is building a budget model just for China, which would feature a larger 5-inch screen. Such a move would make sense in a way, given that Apple hasn’t gained as much traction in this key territory as it has in other areas.

It’s reported that Samsung is considered a more popular brand in this region, with models like the Galaxy Note 2 performing well among the youth. Tim Cook has also been spotted headed out to this regio – but then again he could simply be a fan of authentic Chinese cuisine.

The iPad mini showed that Apple was willing to bend on previous stances regarding its products – but would you be willing to buy a cheaper iPhone if it meant you knew you were getting a substandard experience compared to the cooler kids?

Cure for HIV/AIDS discovered in UNIBEN

Uniben , Main Gate

Uniben , Main Gate

The university which was founded in 1970 by the military government of Samuel Ogbemudia. It has a student enrollment of approximately 50,000.

It well know for its quality educational system Nationally and even Internationally.

UNIBEN ranked the second best University in Nigeria in the year past. No doubt about the rating, as the quality of graduated students speak for itself.

It also had a recent ranking as one of the best schools in Africa along side the University of Ghana both in West Africa.

The School has no doubt the ‘brains’ to bring about such tremendous break through in the field of science World Wide.

A cure for Human Immune deficiency Virus,( HIV), and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, AIDS, has been discovered, a Professor at the University of Benin said on Tuesday.

Isaiah Ibeh, the Dean of the School of Basic Medical Science of the University, said in Benin that the herbal drug has undergone “series of successful tests”.

“We are at the brink of making history, in the sense that we seem to have the solution to a virus rootless to mankind for ages past

“We are talking about the latest discovery of an oral drug made from plants extraction in Nigeria for the possible cure of the pandemic, HIV and AIDS virus,” he said.

Mr. Ibeh said research on the project started in 2010 and culminated in the development of “Deconcotion X (DX)–Liquid or Bioclean 11 for the cure of HIV and AIDS”.

He said that while the existing retroviral drugs are intervention drugs for the management of AIDS, the new discovery is a possible CURE

“We have tried to look at the product first; its toxicological analysis and discovered that it has a large safety margin. This means that if animals or human beings are exposed to it, they will not suffer any serious harm at all from the exposure.

“It also helped us to know the quantity we can conveniently give to animals and will feel secure that nothing untoward will happen. We have also done the bacteriological analysis on it, after which we looked at its effect on the virus and the result was quite revealing and refreshing.”

Mr. Ibeh also said that the drug had been exposed to series of medical examination both in Nigeria and in the USA.

He added that the drug had performed well on patients with the HIV virus and had shown evidence of total restoration of damaged tissues.

“The result showed an increase in the body weight of the individual administered with DX,” he said. “The body weight was statistically significant when compared with the control group.”

He said that further tests were being conducted to determine the point at which “a patient becomes negative after being administered the drug?”

“This verification is necessary because it is what is used to measure whether infection is still there or not. So we need to know the siro-convention time.

“But preliminary results showed that of the five latest patients orally administered with the drugs, our findings is that up to seven months , three of them were siro negative while two were sill faintly positive,” he said.

Mr. Ibeh appealed for support from the Federal Government and relevant bodies to assist the university with relevant equipment to sustain the research.

This can be the long awaited cure for the HIV/AIDS virus, a major break through to be in the world of sciences GLOBALLY

Sony Unveils Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Xperia Smartphone

Sony's new entrant in the smartphone category distinguishes itself by resisting water and dust, and also jumps on a few mobile-device trends as well. To gain traction, however, it needs a bigger U.S. carrier foothold. "When you have Apple and Samsung owning 90 percent of this market," said ABI Research analyst Michael Morgan, "it's tough."
Sony’s new entrant in the smartphone category distinguishes itself by resisting water and dust, and also jumps on a few mobile-device trends as well. To gain traction, however, it needs a bigger U.S. carrier foothold. “When you have Apple and Samsung owning 90 percent of this market,” said ABI Research analyst Michael Morgan, “it’s tough.”

The 4G LTE device has a 13-MP camera and a five-inch full HD 1080p Reality display powered by Sony’s Bravia Engine 2. It is built around a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, and runs Android Jelly Bean 4.1.

The Xperia Z, which is Sony Mobile’s new flagship device, comes preloaded with the company’s Walkman, Album and Movies apps.

Owners can share music, photos and videos between the Xperia Z and NFC-enabled Sony devices, including speakers, headphones and the new Bravia TV.

“No other smartphone manufacturer can provide consumers with access to the complete ecosystem of entertainment, hardware and connectivity between devices which Sony can,” Stephen Sneeden, Xperia product marketing manager at Sony Mobile, told TechNewsWorld. “With our media applications, we are bringing people a much richer and consistent entertainment experience across a range of Sony devices.”

The Xperia Z Experience

The Xperia Z has a 5-inch capacitive touchscreen display with 1920 x 1080 p resolution that has an on-screen QWERTY keyboard. It has tempered glass and anti-shatter film on the front and back, and is dust- and water-resistant.

A couple of features — the Bravia Engine tie-in to the screen and the Fast Capture feature in the smartphone’s 13-MP rear camera — were introduced in the Xperia Ion last year.

The rear camera has the back-illuminated Exmor RS sensor, HDR video and noise reduction. It also has face detection, auto focus, burst mode and offers 16x digital zoom.

There is a front-facing 2.2-MP 1080p camera with geotagging and the ability to record HD video.

The Xperia Z’s processor runs at 1.5 GHz, and the device has a Battery Stamina mode that improves standby time at least 400 percent by turning off background data use when the screen is turned off — if it’s enabled. The camera also has a whitelist that lets select apps remain active.

The smartphone will run Android 4.1 at launch, and will be upgraded to Android 4.2 shortly after that.

Connectivity includes LTE, HSPA+, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC.

Pre-loaded applications include the Walkman app, which provides access to a user’s downloaded music and a library of 18 million songs, and various Google applications, among which are Play, search, voice search and maps.

The Xperia Z has a microSD card slot that can take cards with up to 32-GB capacity.

Marketing Issues

Sony’s Xperia line “is good for Sony … but they’re having trouble breaking into the U.S. market,” Michael Morgan, a senior analyst at ABI Research told TechNewsWorld. “They have spoken to me about gaining a greater presence in the U.S., but when you have Apple and Samsung owning 90 percent of this market, it’s tough.”

Google turns off China censorship warning

Google has stopped
notifying users in China
that they may be
searching for censored
keywords.

A Google feature that
warned users about
banned or sensitive
words was dropped after
a protracted battle with
Chinese authorities over
search.
Google confirmed on Monday that it had turned off the
function, citing concerns over user experience.
Campaigners described Google’s decision to remove the
feature as “self-censorship”.
Cat and mouse
The instigation of the feature in May last year sparked a cat
and mouse game between the company and the Chinese
authorities. Within 24 hours of the launch of the feature,
technology known as the ” Great Firewall of China” was
blocking the function, according to campaign organisation
Greatfire.org.
Google responded with countermeasures, but found that some
users were being completely blocked from search, a source
told the BBC.
Google scrubbed the search suggestion function in early
December, and has also removed “help” documentation that
explained how to use the feature, Greatfire.org said in a blog
post.
Keyword service
Google began to offer suggestions about possible sensitive or
banned keywords in China at the end of May last year, after
complaints that its service was erratic. Google engineers
found that certain queries by users led to error messages or
website disconnection.
For example, search on the Chinese character “jiang”, which
means “river”, but is also a common surname, was blocked
after erroneous rumours about the death of former president
Jiang Zemin.
Google has had a rocky relationship with the Chinese
authorities since January 2010, when the company said it may
shut down Chinese operations due to a “sophisticated and
targeted” cyber attack. Google said at the time that it was no
longer willing to censor its Chinese search engine.
The company began to redirect search queries from mainland
China to its Hong Kong website

Source:BBC

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The upcoming BlackBerry Z10 gets its internals revealed

BB 10

BB 10

RIM’s upcoming BlackBerry Z10 flagship
smartphone has leaked yet again. This time,
though, it’s not just posing for the camera, but
also having its internals exposed, revealing some
interesting details.

For starters, BusinessInsiders has acquired two
photos of the BlackBerry Z10 being compared to
the iPhone 4S. According to their source, the
build quality is really solid with the back cover
sporting a nice rubbery grip.

Additionally, the 4.3″ screen looks really good.
The person familiar with the matter also shares
that the newly redesigned AppWorld looks a lot
like Google’s Play Store.

The leaks continue with smartphone parts
company ETrade Supply, who also got hold of
some components of the BlackBerry Z10 and in
their usual fashion decided to showcase them.
Their investigation reveals a microSD card slot
and an HDMI port. Rather peculiarly, the SIM
card slot’s position varies on the different
prototypes, suggesting they are from different
stages of the smartphone’s design cycle. The
smartphone will reportedly be about 10mm
thick, which isn’t too bad, but far from record-
breaking either.
RIM will announce the BlackBerry Z10 alongside
its redesigned BB10 OS on January 30 at a special
event, so stay tuned

Side view

Side view

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Science news highlights of 2012

The year in science news was dominated by the discovery of the Higgs boson, ending a 50-year search for the keystone in our best theory of physics.
But 2012 was also marked by the arrival of a one-tonne rover on the surface of Mars, a record low for Arctic sea ice and – of course – a crab called Hasselhoff.

BBC News website science editor Paul Rincon looks back at an eventful year in science and the environment.

January

The monkeys’ cells are derived from more than one embryo
Chimero, Roku (pictured right) and Hex, were unveiled by scientists as the first monkeys composed of cells taken from separate embryos. Such animals, which contain genetically distinct groups of cells from more than one organism, are called “chimeras”. They could help the effort to move stem cell therapies from the lab into clinics.

January also saw the discovery by UK scientists of a hairy-chested crab species dubbed “The Hoff” in honour of frequently shirtless US actor David Hasselhoff. The Baywatch star seemed to approve, tweeting: “It used to be a bad thing to have crabs!” He was not the only public figure to receive such an honour in 2012: a new species of fish and an extinct lizard were both named after President Barack Obama.

February

In late 2011, the Opera experiment in Italy reported what might have been the biggest physics story of the past century: it had witnessed particles called neutrinos apparently travelling faster than the speed of light.

But in February, the team found two problems that could have affected their test, eventually narrowing the culprit down to a faulty cable. The affair led to the resignation of Opera’s chief scientist several months later.

March

Anti-GM protesters were met by a police line when they gathered at the site of wheat trials
Nasa’s Messenger probe found tantalising evidence for the existence of water-ice at the poles of Mercury. Despite surface temperatures that can soar above 400C, some craters at Mercury’s poles are permanently in shadow, creating cold traps where water could stay frozen.

The UK also saw its first experiments with wheat genetically modified to repel aphids get underway. However, the trials in Hertfordshire became a target for anti-GM protestors who marched on the site in May.

April

In a year when physicists were focussed on the search for the Higgs, scientists announced that they had possibly glimpsed another elusive building block of the Universe known as the Majorana fermion – which is its own antimatter particle.

It has been suggested that these particles might play a role in the mystery of the Universe’s “missing mass”, which is known to exist because of its gravitational influence on the “stuff” we can see.

May

A piece of space history was made in May, as the Dragon capsule, built by California-based firm SpaceX, made the first cargo delivery to the space station by a private company.

Meanwhile, researchers in Switzerland were able to get paralysed laboratory rats to walk again by injecting chemicals into their spinal cords and then stimulating them with electricity. And scientists behind the sequencing of the tomato genome said their work could lead to tastier varieties within five years.

June

We won’t see an event like this for another 105 years
The planet Venus made a rare trek across the face of the Sun as seen from our planet. Skywatchers across the world turned out to witness the astronomical event, which will not be repeated for another 105 years.

It had been just 20 years since the last Rio summit, but the gap between ambition and reality at the UN’s 2012 sustainable development meeting was unbridgeable. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on governments to eliminate world hunger and there were pledges on issues such as clean energy. But other politicians and campaigners branded the summit declaration “a failure of leadership”.

July

Almost half a century after the idea was conceived, physicists at the Large Hadron Collider announced the discovery of a particle consistent with the elusive Higgs boson, which explains why all other particles have mass. Peter Higgs, after whom the particle was named, was at Cern to hear the announcement. He commented: “It’s really an incredible thing that it’s happened in my lifetime.”

London staged the Olympics in July, with a declaration that its Olympic doping lab was the most high-tech ever. But some questioned whether it was time to redefine what’s meant by doping and performance enhancement. There was also the revelation that a third of paralympic athletes with spinal injuries could be harming themselves to boost performance.

August

Mr Armstrong’s family paid tribute to his “boyhood wonder” at the pursuits of aviation and spaceflight
Nasa’s huge Curiosity rover survived the seven minutes of terror it takes to land on Mars. The agency used a hovering, rocket-powered crane to lower Curiosity to the ground on nylon cords.

August was also the month that a towering figure in spaceflight was mourned. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, died from complications following heart surgery several weeks earlier. After touching down on the lunar surface on 20 July 1969, Armstrong famously described the event as “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. President Obama paid tribute to one of the great American heroes “not just of his time, but of all time”.

September

In September, Curiosity turned up evidence of an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater
After breaking the previous record low in August, sea ice in the Arctic reached its minimum extent since satellite records began in September. The ice bottomed out at 3.41 million sq km (1.32 million sq mi) – 50% lower than the 1979-2000 average.

And an international team of scientists published the most detailed analysis to date of human genome function. Their findings suggest that a far larger chunk of our genetic code is biologically active than was previously thought.

September also saw the first licence issued allowing farmers to shoot badgers in England. The government later announced that it would delay the cull until summer 2013, amid protests.

October

Mr Baumgartner also set the record for the highest ever freefall
Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner became the first skydiver to fall faster than the speed of sound. But on the way down the skydiver went into a potentially dangerous flat spin. Fortunately, Baumgartner was able to steady himself before pulling the parachute cord and coasting into the record books.

The Nobels are the most prestigious prizes in the science world, awarded for physics, chemistry and medicine. One of the recipients of this year’s medicine prize, Prof John Gurdon, relished the story of a poor school report by his biology teacher, who branded his scientific ambitions as “a waste of time”.

November

The most definitive assessment so far of the contribution of global sea-level rise from melting at the poles showed that ice sheets have added 11mm to global sea levels over the past two decades.

In November, a large tanker carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) set off to become the first ship of its type to sail across the Arctic. The owners said that changing climate conditions and a volatile gas market make the Arctic transit profitable.

December

The UN climate conference in Doha, Qatar, established that rich nations should move towards compensating poor nations for losses due to climate change. But environmental campaigners condemned the talks for failing to agree meaningful action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

December was also marked by the passing of a giant in broadcasting. Sir Patrick Moore, who presented the BBC’s Sky at Night programme for 50 years, died aged 89 at his home in Selsey, West Sussex. Astronomer Marek Kukula said that “his impact on the world of professional astronomy as well as amateur is hard to overstate”

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West Antarctic Ice Sheet warming twice earlier estimate

The data from Byrd Station shows rapid warming on the west Antarctic ice sheet
A new analysis of temperature records indicates that the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming nearly twice as fast as previously thought.

US researchers say they found the first evidence of warming during the southern hemisphere’s summer months.

They are worried that the increased melting of ice as a result of warmer temperatures could contribute to sea-level rise.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The scientists compiled data from records kept at Byrd station, established by the US in the mid-1950s and located towards the centre of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS).

Previously scientists were unable to draw any conclusions from the Byrd data as the records were incomplete.

The new work used a computer model of the atmosphere and a numerical analysis method to fill in the missing observations.

The results indicate an increase of 2.4C in average annual temperature between 1958 and 2010.

“What we’re seeing is one of the strongest warming signals on Earth,” says Andrew Monaghan, a co-author and scientist at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to determine that there’s warming going on during the summer season.” he added.

Top to bottom

It might be natural to expect that summers even in Antarctica would be warmer than other times of the year. But the region is so cold, it is extremely rare for temperatures to get above freezing.

According to co-author Prof David Bromwich from Ohio State University, this is a critical threshold.

“The fact that temperatures are rising in the summer means there’s a prospect of WAIS not only being melted from the bottom as we know it is today, but in future it looks probable that it will be melting from the top as well,” he said.

Previous research published in Nature indicated that the WAIS is being warmed by the ocean, but this new work suggests that the atmosphere is playing a role as well.

The scientists say that the rise in temperatures has been caused by changes in winds and weather patterns coming from the Pacific Ocean.

“We’re seeing a more dynamic impact that’s due to climate change that’s occurring elsewhere on the globe translating down and increasing the heat transportation to the WAIS.” said Dr Monaghan.

But he was unable to say with certainty that the greater warming his team found was due to human activities.

“The jury is still out on that. That piece of research has not been done. My opinion is that it probably is, but I can’t say that definitively.”

This view was echoed by Prof Bromwich, who suggested that further study would be needed.

The Larsen B ice shelf collapsed in just a month in 2002
“The tasks now are to look at the relative contributions of natural variability,” he said.

“This place has very variable weather – some of it is influenced by human acts and some of it isn’t. I think its premature to answer that question right now.”

Whatever the source, the researchers are concerned that this warming can lead to more melting and have direct and indirect effects on global sea levels. The direct impacts are the run-off of melting waters into the sea.

But the scientists say this is unlikely to happen for several decades because much of the water is likely to percolate down the ice sheet and refreeze.

Glacial pace

The indirect effect is that it can “pre-condition” the ice shelves that float at the edges of the ice sheet. The scientists say that this is what happened in 2002 on the Antarctic peninsula when the Larsen B shelf collapsed spectacularly in just a month.

“The melt water went down into the crevasses and filled them up,” Dr Monaghan said.

“Just like a pothole in the road in wintertime, the water will freeze and expand and break it apart.”

He is concerned that a similar situation could now occur on the WAIS.

“What we saw after the breakup of Larsen was that the glaciers that were buttressed by the ice shelves sped up tremendously, by a factor of eight. That’s a potential concern of the enhanced melt in west Antarctica if the warming trend we find in summer continues.”

The authors say they are confident that the data from Byrd Station is representative of the region because the scientific outpost sits on a plateau and conditions are essentially uniform for a considerable distance.

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