Sony’s not telling us a huge amount about the PlayStation 5 at the present, so leave it to intrepid code junkies to extract the information out of the platform holder. New code uncovered on the web-based version of the PlayStation Store teases some of the tantalising new features we can expect to find on the next-gen console come launch.
First and foremost, it looks like wishlists will finally be integrated into the console, as there’s a line of code that states: “Your wishlist isn’t available on this website. You can find it on a PS5.” In addition, it looks like you’ll be able to create Parties with up to 100 people, and share music playlists with pals. There’s also reference to something called a ‘Takedown’, but we’re not sure what this entails yet.
(CNN)In a year that seemingly keeps on giving, perhaps it’s not so surprising that NASA’s newly discovered asteroid called 2020 SW will give earth a not so socially distant pass.
Discovered only on September 18, in Tucson, Arizona, the school bus-sized asteroid which is estimated to be somewhere between 15-30 feet in diameter is expected to graze past our planets surface with about 13,000 miles of breathing room. This falls well below the orbit of our geostationary weather satellites which are located about 22,000 miles above earth’s surface.
Its closest approach to earth will occur around 7:12 a.m. ET on Thursday, as it skirts over the Southeastern Pacific Ocean, near Australia and New Zealand.
Its approach will be so close to earth, that our gravity will alter its speed and trajectory according to earthsky.org.
“There are a large number of tiny asteroids like this one, and several of them approach our planet as close as this several times every year,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
Fortunately, the asteroid is not on an impact trajectory with earth, and if it were, our atmosphere would likely break it apart, creating a bright meteor, known as a fireball.
An even closer visitor
Although we received a six-day heads up on this week’s arrival of asteroid 2020 SW, no one saw the SUV sized asteroid called 2020 QG coming. It made history last month by becoming the closest non-impacting asteroid on record.
In the early morning hours of August 16, the asteroid passed within 1,800 miles of the earth’s surface over the Indian Ocean and was only discovered after having zipped past our planet. It’s small size, estimated between 10-20 feet wide played a role in our inability to spot it coming.
The record breaking close approach was the galactic equivalent of a bullet grazing ones skin, but fortunately the small size of the asteroid would have likely resulted in it breaking apart, even if its trajectory lined up with earth.
According to NASA, there are likely hundreds of millions of near earth asteroids similar in size to 2020 SW and 2020 QG, making them extremely hard to discover until they are very close to earth.
The 6.5 foot asteroid poses no threat to Earth and its puny stature would be no match for our atmosphere even if it had an impact trajectory with earth.
The big one
NASA categorizes NEO’s (Near Earth Objects) as ones that come within 4.6 million miles of earth (0.05 astronomical units) and measure more than 460 feet in diameter.
One such asteroid fits this description to a tee and is expected to make an uncomfortably close approach to earth on Friday April 13, 2029.
The asteroid designated as 99942 Apophis is one massive space rock. Measuring at over 1,100 feet across, Apophis is expected to pass within just 19,000 miles of the earth surface, once again below the orbit of weather satellites.
The asteroids size greater than three-and-a-half football fields, making it exceedingly rare for a large body to pass with such close proximity to earth, giving scientists what’s expected to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to study asteroids.
At its closest approach to earth, shortly before 6 p.m. ET on April 13, 2029, the massive asteroid will cross over the Atlantic Ocean and the United States in a little more than one hour. It will be close enough and large enough for it to be seen by the naked eye by more than a billion people on earth. Fortunately, scientists are confident that 99942 Apophis will not strike earth in 2029.
A little more than a decade ago, Congress assigned NASA to find 90% of the near-Earth asteroids that fit this description and are about 460 feet or larger in size.
Larger asteroids pose an obvious threat in the even of an impact, and can be detected much farther away from Earth, as their rate of motion in the sky is often much smaller at that distance.
The search for life in our solar system got a lot more exciting this week. On Monday, a team of scientists announced its members had detected phosphine gas in the caustic, hot atmosphere of Venus. So what? The gas — which you’d recognize by its fishy odor — is thought to be a byproduct of life.
“We did exhaustively search through all known chemistry … and we didn’t find anything that could produce more than the tiniest amount of phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere,” says MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager, who was one of the co-authors on the discovery published in Nature Astronomy,says. That leaves us two possibilities: The gas was created by life or by some chemical interaction scientists don’t yet know about.
Seager is one of the leading dreamers and thinkers in astronomy, looking for life beyond our planet. She studies planets orbiting stars many light-years away and thinks about how to detect life on them and others closer to home, like Venus.
She’s also thinking creatively about the microscopic life forms that could potentially survive there. This summer, before the phosphine announcement, she and her co-authors published a speculative, hypothetical sketch of what life on Venus could look like. The vision is beautiful: a living rain of microbes floating, cyclically, in the clouds, blooming and desiccating continually for millions of years.
I wanted to hear more about this vision of life in a world so very different from our own, so I called her up.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Evidence for life on the planet next door
To start off: What’s the gist of the discovery that you and the team announced this week?
We aren’t claiming we found signs of life. We are claiming we have a robust detection of the gas phosphine in the atmosphere.
[After searching] all the known chemistry — volcanoes, photochemistry, lightning — we didn’t find anything that could produce more than the tiniest amount of phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere. So we’re left with two possibilities. One is that there is some kind of unknown chemistry, which seems unlikely. And the other possibility is that there’s some kind of life, which seems even more unlikely. So that’s where we’re at. It took a long time to accept it.
Okay, so it’s very unlikely. Has Venus historically been thought of as a place life might exist in the solar system?
It’s been fringe pretty much the whole time that it’s been a topic. Carl Sagan first proposed there could be life in [Venus’s] clouds. There is a small group [of scientists] that writes about this topic. A lot of people love it. It’s like a closeted love because a lot of people are enthusiastic about it, but they either didn’t want to say so or they never had a reason to say so.
What do they love about it?
I think it’s just the intrigue that there could be life so close to home.
[Venus is closer to Earth than Mars. It’s also the second-brightest object in our night sky, other than the moon.]
Why life would have to exist in Venus’s clouds, not on the surface
As I understand it, if life exists on Venus, it wouldn’t be on the surface of the planet, but in its sulfuric acid clouds?
It’s always been the theory because the surface is too hot for complex molecules.
What is too hot? What happens there?
Molecules break apart. If you took a protein or an amino acid, or anything, and put it in high temperature, it would come apart into smaller fragments and atoms.
Why, then, is the atmosphere a better place to look for life?
It has the things that astrobiologists think life needs. It needs a liquid of some kind. And there is liquid in the atmosphere, although it is liquid sulfuric acid.
Life needs an energy source. So there’s definitely the sun, at least as an energy source. Life needs the right temperature. In the atmosphere, there is the right temperature. And life needs a changing environment to promote Darwinian evolution. So if you want to break it down like that, that’s why. To simplify, it’s mostly the temperature argument. Temperature and liquid.
Do we know of any life form on Earth that can exist in liquid sulfuric acid?
No, we don’t.
What makes it seem possible for life to exist in sulfuric acid?
We simply don’t know. I think your questions are the next decades of research, basically.
How do you even begin to imagine life in such a different world — life that has to live in conditions that would be deadly for any life on Earth?
It has to be made up of different building blocks than our life is made up of. Our building blocks — like proteins, and amino acids, and DNA — wouldn’t survive in sulfuric acid. Or life has to have found a way to have a protective shell, made of materials that are resistant to sulfuric acid.
The dance of (potential) life on Venus
Over the summer, you and your colleagues published a paper speculating on what life on Venus could look like. You describe that it could basically dance in the atmosphere, alternating between an active phase up high and a dormant phase down low. I found it to be kind of beautiful. Can you describe how you came up with this?
I had to help plug a hole in the concept of life in the atmosphere. That’s where it came from. Life has to live inside the liquid droplets, to be protected from the outside.
But in these droplets — where life is living, reproducing, metabolizing — the droplets would collide and grow.
Over time, like four months or a year or so, the droplets get big enough, so they start settling out of the atmosphere, like rain, but really slowly.
And so my colleagues told me I had to figure out how life could survive. If it all just rains out, it couldn’t stay in the atmosphere for billions of years, or hundreds of millions of years.
How did you solve this?
So I came up with this life cycle idea: as the droplets fall, they evaporate, and we’re left with a dried, spore-like life form. Now that’s not very massive; it stops falling and becomes suspended in a haze layer [lower down in the atmosphere]. And this haze layer is known to exist beneath the clouds of Venus. It’s very stable and long-lived. So the concept is that this haze layer is populated by dried-out spores, which can stay there for days, weeks, months years — and eventually they get updrafted back up to the region that has the right temperature for life, where it can attract liquid, hydrate it, and start their life cycle again.
It’s like a living rain, of sorts.
Why wouldn’t the spore die suspended in that lower layer?
It’s pretty warm there, so some might die. And this is all just a hypothesis, so it’s not a proven theory or anything, but for this to work, some of them have to live. We have examples on Earth of dried-out spore living a long time.
What it would mean to discover life on Venus
Why is it important to do this type of exercise, to be so speculative, and imagine life in a world so seemingly hostile to life?
If we think about it and couldn’t find any possible way for life to be in the atmosphere indefinitely, that would be bad news for the enthusiasts for life on Venus. Does that make sense?
Yeah, if you can’t think of any hypothetical that allows life to survive, it’s hard to make a case to go look for it. Does the life you imagined fit in with in the new discovery of the phosphine gas?
Yes. Well, it was motivated by the phosphine work.
What would it mean to find life on Venus?
I think it would mean that if there’s life there, it has to be so different from Earth, and that we could show that it had a unique origin. It would just give us confidence that life can originate almost anywhere. And that would mean that our galaxy would be teeming with life. All the planets around other stars. It just sort of ups our thinking that there could be life everywhere.
Are you talking about a second genesis of life happening separately on Venus? Or would we have to figure out if there’s a common origin of life in our solar system? That something seeded life on both Earth and Venus?
We’d have to figure it out.
How to find life on Venus, once and for all
What are the next steps, ideally?
Our ideal next step would be to send a spacecraft or spacecrafts, plural, to Venus, that could involve a probe going into the atmosphere and measuring gases confirming phosphine, looking for other gases, looking for complex molecules that might indicate life, and maybe even searching for life itself.
Anyone working on that?
Rocket Lab had mentioned about a month ago that they were planning to send a rocket to Venus. There are two NASA discovery class missions under a phase A competition [meaning they’re just mission proposals and need to be greenlit]. if they get selected for launch, they will get to go. Russia and India are planning to send something there. And I’ve started to lead a privately funded study. It’s not a mission. It’s just a study of what it would really take.
Can we answer this question — is there life on Venus — in our lifetimes?
I think it is answerable in a human lifetime.
Is too much time and money spent on finding life on Mars? Venus seems to be neglected in terms of big NASA missions.
Well, we don’t have infinite resources, unfortunately, but it sure would be nice to see more spent on Venus. We haven’t explored Venus for a very long time. You’d have to look up when the last time the US went to Venus. [It was the Magellan mission that launched in 1989.]
What would you love the public to think about and dwell on with this topic?
Our solar system, our galaxy, our universe is full of mysteries. We’d like to solve them, but some end up being unsolvable and they just leave us in limbo. So hopefully that’s not going to be the case here.
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In the dark depths of the ocean, where camouflage can be lifesaving, scientists have discovered the blackest fish ever documented.
Researchers have found 16 species of so-called ultra-black fish, which by definition absorb more than 99.5 percent of light, making them mere shadows as they swim, scientists wrote in a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, according to The New York Times.
“In the deep, open ocean, there is nowhere to hide and a lot of hungry predators,” zoologist Karen Osborn, of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and a co-author of the study, said, according to Reuters. “An animal’s only option is to blend in with the background.”
And while little light penetrates below 650 feet, some of the ultra-black fish live three miles underneath the surface, according to Reuters.
As the species evolved, they modified the pigment of their skin through continuous layers of melanosomes, which store light-absorbing melanin, to more easily hide from predators, the Times reported. “It’s like looking at a black hole,” Duke University biologist Alexander Davis, a co-author of the study, told the newspaper.
One bioluminescent anglerfish documented by the team absorbs an astounding 99.95 percent of light, making the fish virtually invisible.
Prosanta Chakrabarty, a biologist at Louisiana State University who wasn’t involved in the study, told the Times, “I would not be surprised if we have not yet found the blackest fish in the sea.”
Astronomers with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have discovered a black hole that is the nearest such object yet found, just 1,000 light years away—close enough to be seen with the unaided eye. It is part of a triple star system, dubbed HR 6819, and the ESO scientists believe other members of this class of systems may also harbor black holes that previously were not a high priority for black hole searches. They announced their discovery in a new paper published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Scientists think there are far more black holes in the Universe than we have discovered to date—probably hundreds of millions of them, given the age of our Universe—because we can’t observe them directly; we can merely infer their presence by their effect on surrounding matter. A black hole’s gravitational effects can influence the orbits of nearby stars, for example, or infalling matter can form an accretion disk of hot gas rapidly orbiting the black hole, emitting powerful X-rays. Or an unfortunate star will get too close to a black hole and be torn apart for its trouble, with the infalling remnants also accelerating and heating up to emit X-rays into space.
But the majority of black holes are actually quiet and hence very difficult to detect. This latest discovery offers useful clues about where at least some of the truly dark black holes might be hiding. “One will never get enough telescope time to do a thorough search like that on all objects,” ESO scientist Thomas Rivinius, a co-author on the paper, told Ars. “What you need to do is a staged approach to help you identify candidates, then thin out the candidates list, and only then have a close and detailed look at the remaining ones. Knowing what to look for should put us in a better position to find them.”
The ESO team had been conducting a study of double-star systems, and HR 6819 was included as part of their observational data-gathering since it appeared to be just such a system. But while reviewing their data, the astronomers found clear evidence of an unexpected third object in the system: a black hole that had previously eluded detection.
In a trinary star system, two of the stars orbit each other as a binary pair, while the third star orbits the pair at a greater distance. This ensures that the system is stable, since if the inner and outer orbits were the same size, one of the stars would eventually be ejected from the system. In the case of HR 6819, one of the two visible stars orbits an invisible object every 40 days, while the other visible star orbits farther away. By studying the orbit of the star in the inner pair, the team was able to infer the black hole’s presence and also calculate its mass. “An invisible object with a mass at least four times that of the Sun can only be a black hole,” said Rivinius.
“We used to believe that single stars are the most usual ones,” said Rivinius. “In fact, at least for the really massive ones, single stars are probably the rarest.” That’s because the greater a star’s mass, the less likely it is to be alone, and Rivinius points out that even single massive stars could, in fact, be the survivors of multiple star systems that were “disrupted,” or have fainter companion stars we just can’t detect. Trinary systems like HR 6819 are less common, but nor are they extremely rare. Physicists currently believe that the supernovae that give rise to black holes would actually disrupt the structure of multiples. “If a significant number of multiples, however, survive the supernovae, this changes the statistics,” said Rivinius.
“If such a system happens to be in the immediate neighborhood, it is likely common in other regions of the galaxy as well,” said Rivinius. His back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that there could be 2,500 such systems. That’s not going to clear up the large discrepancy between the black holes we’ve discovered and the number astronomers believe could be out there. “But considering so far we were not aware any such triple could exist, it is quite a step,” he added. The ESO team has already identified a second star system that might also be a trinary with a black hole, although more observational data is needed to confirm this.
The discovery that a black hole can be part of a trinary star system is also relevant because astronomers have suggested that such triple systems could be progenitors of binary systems with two black holes, or a black hole/neutron star pairing. When the partners in those binary systems merge, the violent event emits gravitational waves that can be detected by the LIGO collaboration.
“The problem with LIGO detections is that for two black holes in a normal, lonely binary, it takes a very long time to close in to each other,until they finally merge,” said Rivinius. “In fact, it takes longer than the current ageof the Universe, and we really shouldn’t see as many mergers as we do,if that was the only mechanism. But the closer they are already, the(much) faster it goes.”
It’s known as the Lidov-Kozai mechanism. It occurs when, for example, a close binary inner pair has a circular orbit, but not in the same plane as the outer orbit. This causes the inner orbit to become more “eccentric,” according to Rivinius. “In short, it means the third body can help the two inner ones get close to each other, at least at times,” he said.
However, that is not going to be the case with the HR 6819 trinary system. “The two stars in HR 6819 are not massive enough to explode as a supernova and form a black hole,” said ESO’s Dietrich Baade, another co-author. “Therefore, HR 6819 will never harbor two black holes, and it will never be a full equivalent of the progenitors of gravitational wave events. But it is a useful nearby proxy to investigate.”
A bug has been discovered in Apple’s macOS Image Capture app that needlessly eats up potentially gigabytes of storage space when transferring photos from an iPhone or iPad to a Mac.
Discovered by the developers of media asset management app NeoFinder and shared in a blog post called “Another macOS bug in Image Capture,” the issue occurs when Apple’s Mac tool converts HEIF photos taken by iOS to more standard JPG files.
This process happens when users uncheck the “Keep Originals” option in Image Capture’s settings, which converts the HEIC files to JPG when copied to Mac. However, the app also inexplicably adds 1.5MBs of empty data to every single file in the process.
“Of course, this is a colossal waste of space,” said the NeoFinder team, “especially considering that Apple is seriously still selling new Macs with a ridiculously tiny 128 GB internal SSD. Such a small disk is quickly filled with totally wasted empty data.
“With just 1000 photos, for example, this bug eats 1.5 GB off your precious and very expensive SSD disk space.”
NeoFinder’s developers say they discovered the bug by “pure chance” when working on improving the metadata capabilities of NeoFinder using a hex editor, and provided an example shot of what the end of individual JPG files look like in hex, post-transfer.
MacRumors was also able to replicate the issue in macOS 10.14.6 and later using an online hex editor. It’s worth noting that the bug only occurs when transferring photos from Apple devices, not when importing photos from digital cameras using Image Capture.
NeoFinder’s team says it has notified Apple of the bug, and the developers suggest anyone plagued by the issue can try using a new beta version of the third-party utility Graphic Converter, which includes an option to remove the unwanted empty data from the JPEG files.
While the iPhone SE and Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro making their way into customers’ hands were the biggest news this week, we also saw a ton of rumors about Apple’s upcoming product line.
Confusion about Apple’s plans for its AirPods lineup continues to reign, with conflicting rumors on models and timing, while we also saw some new rumors about a 23-inch iMac and an 11-inch iPad coming…
iFixit today shared a new report detailing which parts from the new iPhone SE can be replaced with those from the iPhone 8. This comes just days after a teardown video shared on Thursday by a Chinese YouTuber also highlighted many of the similarities between the two devices. iPhone 8 (left) and the new iPhone SE (right) via iFixit The report mentions that the 2020 iPhone SE’s cameras, SIM…
The iPhone SE had its official launch day today, with the first orders arriving to customers this morning. We picked up one of the new (PRODUCT)RED iPhone SE models and checked out the design and features in our latest YouTube video, which is worth watching if you’re thinking of making an upgrade from an older iPhone.
Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Despite the…
When it comes to design, the iPhone SE is identical to the iPhone 8, featuring a 4.7-inch LCD display, thick top and bottom bezels, a single-lens rear camera, and a Touch ID Home button.
Unsurprisingly, the iPhone 8 also looks a lot like the iPhone SE inside, as detailed in a teardown video by a Chinese YouTuber who has one of the devices on hand. The video, which has subtitles, was shared…
iFixit has published its full teardown of the new iPhone SE, confirming that the device has many similar or identical components as the iPhone 8, including the display, battery, cameras, Taptic Engine, SIM tray, and more.
The new iPhone SE appears to have the same 12-megapixel rear camera sensor as the iPhone 8, with the benefit of the A13 chip’s improved image signal processor, as Rene…
There appears to be a new character-linked bug in Messages, Mail, and other apps that can cause the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch to crash when receiving a specific string of characters. Image from Twitter In this particular case, the character string involves the Italian flag emoji along with characters in the Sindhi language, and it appears the system crash happens when an incoming…
Economic Daily News on Monday revived rumors that this year’s 5G iPhone will feature under-display fingerprint scanner technology. According to a machine translation of EDN’s Chinese-language report, touch panel maker GIS, OLED display maker BOE and Qualcomm are collaborating on the ultrasonic technology, which could feature in at least one of the high-end models in Apple’s 5G iPhone…
Germany said on Sunday it will use Apple and Google’s decentralized contact tracing API, reversing course on its original intention to use its own solution to track the spread of coronavirus.
Last week, the German government said it would use its own home-grown technology for smartphone-based tracing of infections, based on a design that would hold personal data on a central server….
Well-connected Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman recently took questions from followers on Periscope about Apple’s product roadmap. Gurman’s sources are usually very reliable, and the journalist is known for breaking Apple stories, so we took it as an opportunity to summarize his current expectations of the company in the near term.
Unsurprisingly, many viewers asked Gurman about the so-called…