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Hottest Planet Ever Discovered

A new planet has been discovered by astronomers, and the details regarding it are surprising scientists. It is a gas giant in close orbit around a star in the constellation Cygnus. Named KELT-9B, it is the hottest planet ever discovered, with estimated surface temperatures in the range of 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than many stars.


The planet was discovered by scientists at Vanderbilt University and Ohio State. It takes this gas giant only about 1.5 earth days to orbit its star, and the researchers say it likely has a tail like a comet as it spins.


Scott Gaudy from the Ohio State University was the leader of the team that published the study.


“It’s a gas giant 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter but only half as dense,” he said upon the study’s release, “because the extreme radiation from its host star has caused its atmosphere to puff up like a balloon. And because it is tidally locked to its star ― as the Moon is to Earth ― the day side of the planet is perpetually bombarded by stellar radiation, and as a result is so hot that molecules, such as water, carbon dioxide and methane can’t form there.”


The original study appeared on the Ohio State web site. Their findings have excited scientists from all over the planet.


The team used the KELT (Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope) built by Joshua Pepper, astronomer and assistant professor of physics at Lehigh University. The two part device located in Arizona and South Africa to observe the planet. They are both small, robotic telescopes that scan the night sky continuously, studying over 5 million stars.


When those robots detect a dimming of a star’s light over multiple observations, it gains special scrutiny to determine if it the dimming is caused by a planetary orbit. This technique has been used extensively over the last few decades to find thousands of exoplanets. This one just appears to be the hottest.


Tesla’s Solar Roof Installations Start in California

With some serious word of mouth behind it, Tesla’s newest venture into solar technology– a combination of hidden solar cells and high-end glass tales they call a “solar roof”– will see its practical application this month in California.


The interest in such an innovative product is easy to understand. Elon Musk’s company breaks ground every time they introduce technology.


While solar panels have increased in popularity over the years, they always served the same purpose: to create usable solar energy. The Tesla roof offers a deluxe, expensive tiling that adds the solar power as almost a bonus. Musk’s marketing it as a replacement for solar panels may mislead customers, as the roof is, in fact, a full, luxury roof.


Despite Musk’s claims that including the solar electricity it will cost “less than a traditional roof”, the Tesla roof will sell for around $65,000 (three times the price of other solar panels) while producing a fraction of the energy per foot. This makes it likely not worth the cost unless one not only wants solar panels but also needs to replace his entire roof.


Meanwhile, with such an ambiguous product description, many customers seem to be holding out until they have more information. In general, growth in the solar industry in California is falling, and the lack of transparency in this case is affecting interest.


The truth is, the Tesla roof is in a category of its own, as a complete high-end roof with solar capabilities. Although the buzz about solar products is good, the misleading way that Musk has marketed the Tesla roof may ultimately damage the solar industry. The ambiguity about this high-end product will likely not convince those interested in solar panels.

Using Magnetic Nanoparticles to Clean Water

The oil industry has a complicated relationship with water. Huge oil spills have caused major environmental damage, and fracking has been shown to contaminate drinking water supplies. Part of the problem is the technology, which can only remove 95 percent of oil from water. The other five percent remains as tiny droplets that are time-consuming and costly to extract. Recently, a team from the University of Texas at Austin took a step towards solving that issue.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research, researchers developed a technique that uses magnetic nanoparticles to remove oil from water. Lead author Saebom Ko, a Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering research associate, explained, “This new technique is really aimed at removing that little bit of oil in that water that needs to be removed before you can consider it treated.”

This technique, known as high gradient magnetic separation, has been previously used in the food and mining industries, but this one of the first applications in the oil industry. First, they designed a surface coating for the nanoparticles. The coating was made up of positively charged polymers, which attracted the negatively charged oil particles through the electrostatic force. After the nanoparticles have attracted the oil droplets, the mixture is removed from the water using a magnet.

The success of the technique has led researchers to look beyond than the oil industry. They hope that nanoparticles can be used to clean oil spills and even filter contaminants like lead from drinking water. Geosystems Engineering professor Hugh Daigle is optimistic about the flexibility of this technology. “The applications can extend far beyond the oil field because, with an appropriate surface coating design, you can take your magnetic core and coat it with whatever chemical you choose on the outside to stick to the target and pull it out with a magnet,” he said.

The team plans to test using nanoparticles to treat drinking water this summer. They’ll also work to industrialize the process to handle large volumes of water and oil. Finally, they plan to refine techniques to recycle and reuse dirty nanoparticles. This study was just the first step in crafting a technology with the potential to revolutionize the way water is treated around the globe.


How Artificial Intelligence Continues to Impact Our Daily Lives

Many areas of our lives are already touched by Artificial Intelligence (AI). When we receive recommendations from, Ebay or any of several other online merchants, we don’t always realize that each of our interactions with their websites is leaving behind a silent digital footprint that can be parsed, categorized and matched to other merchandise that we may not have even viewed. Then the upsell merchandise is automatically offered to us at staged intervals during our shopping experience for consideration. The AI software is even able to learn more about our preferences and shopping habits by our responses to its offerings.


Forecasts by BofA Merrill Lynch Global estimate a $70 billion market for AI by 2020. The value of AI to the economy is predicted by some to double and boost productivity in the work-place by upwards of 40 percent in less than 20 years.


AI is already proving its incalculable value in health-care by reducing errors in medical diagnoses by 85 percent. The dramatic impact of AI’s use in clinical settings is already being demonstrated with machine learning algorithms being used to locate anomalies in MRI scans that even highly experienced physicians have been unable to detect. The untapped value of these intelligent computing algorithms in medicine lies in their being able to introduce higher levels of precision in treatment and diagnosis at far lower costs.


In one demonstration of the power of AI in marketing promotions, the audience at the PegaWorld Business and IT Conference watched the interaction between an intelligent Coca Cola machine and a consumer. The machine interacted with software running on the patron’s cell phone and when he was within 15 feet, the machine sent an alert to the customer’s phone informing him that there was a Coca Cola machine in close proximity that had his favorite drink, Coke. The customer walked up to the machine, paid for and was dispensed the cola drink without exchanging any cash currency.


Parting Thoughts


The next major revolution that will leave a lasting and ongoing global impact will come from intelligent software running on computerized devices. As the line blurs between computer-intelligence and human-intelligence, interactions with AI software running on computers will assume larger roles in our daily human experiences.


Visual Intelligence is the New Artificial Intelligence

It is difficult to understand how something so obvious has evaded us for so long, but computer scientists are beginning to develop visual technologies that will enhance artificial intelligence. Fei-Fei Li, who directs the the artificial intelligence lab at Stanford University, observed that in the Cambrian Era a variety of species surged because they adapted eyes. Visual stimuli allows beings to take in their environment, name objects, navigate obstacles, sense predators, seek prey and, most essentially, to learn. By empowering artificial intelligence technologies with cameras, computer scientists are on the verge of creating another surge of evolution, this time in the tech realm.


The idea is a tad bit creepy, but powering inanimate objects with cameras will assist them in data gathering. This visual data can then be used to improve user experiences across a range of industries. TechCrunch contributor Evan Nisselson provides an example of this future tech in action within the e-commerce sphere. If your home is replete with cameras that are able to provide an in-home digital assistant with visual data, then the assistant can tell you when the back pocket of your pants is wearing out and then, when prompted, can order a new pair of pants. Think of it like the Amazon Dash button only there is no need to push anything. The assistant will be able to assess a visual scenario and arrive at a conclusion, much like a human would.


Like most technologies, consumer applications are fairly predictable. Visual data put to use within industrial and business realms will most likely provide more innovative developments than clothes shopping. Considering that cameras will be capable of seeing more than the human eye can capture, such as thermal activity, x-rays, ultrasound, white light and other visual data that goes unnoticed by the human eye, then visual intelligence holds the power to fill in human visual gaps. The result will no doubt increase manufacturing productivity and business analytics in unpredictable ways.



Scientists to Combat Oil Spills with Magnetic Nanoparticles

Scientists from the Austin-based University of Texas recently unveiled a new weapon in the fight against oil spills. The cutting-edge technology, which saw coverage in a number of tech news resources, is also purported to have potential use in purifying lead from contaminated drinking water which, if true, would go a long way towards solving potable water shortages in developing nations across the globe.


Oil spills have long posed a serious danger to the environment. They have the potential to devastate the habitats of aquatic species. The spills also impact air quality, as chemical compounds within the oil oxidize and enter the atmosphere. Even current cleanup procedures pose risks; apparently, the ships used to facilitate the clean-up release further damaging particles into the environment. Furthermore, current methods, namely skimming and centrifuging, are only able to remove about 95 percent of oil from contaminated water. However, the new tech hopes to bring this number closer to 100.


The experimental process works by coating nanoparticles with a positively charged polymer. Negatively-charged oil particles are naturally drawn toward the synthetic, lab-grown nanoparticles, and the pairs they form are subsequently removed from the water using a powerful magnet. The process is much faster than current methods, with particle attraction occurring within minutes of their introduction into the water.


While further testing is necessary before employing the method on a larger scale, so far the results have been promising. The nanoparticles have been proven to safely remove salt and polymer contaminants from water, and tests with oil-contaminated samples show a removal rate of about 99 percent. This, according to a study in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research, puts the remaining oil well below the detectable limit.


Scientists are still experimenting with the best way to implement the fledgling technology. So far, they’ve devised a wand coated in the nanoparticles, and are working on a system that uses a tube and filter. They are also working on making the particles reusable, which would qualify them as a more environmentally friendly solution than skimming or centrifuging. While large-scale implementation may be a long way off, controlled studies of the nanoparticles are promising, and will only improve as scientists continue to experiment.



Artificial Intelligence Analyzes Mouse Movements to Stop ID Thieves

Brief hesitations and differences in hand movements between truth-tellers and fake responders could help stop identity thieves in the future. Italian researchers developed a machine-learning algorithm based on a series of 12 questions provided to volunteers that mirrored the type of security questions often provided by financial websites with one twist: they included unexpected questions like “What zodiac sign are you?” The element of surprise allowed them to discover differences in how thieves respond vs. genuine customers. Later, the AI was tested to see if it could determine who was being honest or deceptive in an additional question set.


A group of 40 respondents were provided with a series of questions that included typical questions like “Do you live in Padua?” or “Are you Italian?” These questions were regarded as easy to answer for identity thieves, but more unusual questions were included, which enabled researchers to plot trajectories of mouse movements representing truthtelling and falsification. The reason for the difference in movement was the extra time required for liars to compute the correct answer. “The uncertainty in responding to unexpected questions” led to errors, which in turn, allowed the researchers to create the algorithm. The algorithm has been able to determine fake from real responses with 95 percent accuracy.


The study was inspired by a data breach of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service which resulted after hackers used personal information from thousands of Americans to guess security questions provided on the IRS website. The typical questions included “Which of the following streets have you lived on?” and “What is your monthly mortgage payment?” After success in guessing these answers, the identity thieves gained access to thousands of personal tax returns. The tax returns gave more than adequate information, including social security numbers and salary details, for many types of identity theft and credit fraud.


BMW Unveils ‘E-Drive Motorrad’ – the Electric Scooter of the Future

This year, BMW celebrates its 100th anniversary by showcasing their Vision Next 100 series vehicles, which are designed for transportation in the next century. And their latest concept, the BMW Motorrad Concept Link electric scooter, shows just how far two-wheel driving has evolved.


First unveiled on June 10, at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este motor festival, the E-Drive Motorrad is hailed as BMW’s most unique vehicle ever. According to the BMW Motorrad chief of design, Alexander Buckan, this scooter is a completely new concept, designed from scratch and based only on drivers’ needs. In addition to its eye-catching design, the Motorrad boasts some major structural innovations as well as a number of truly futuristic features and accessories.


Design & Specs

Although BMW has yet to release the official specs, the E-Drive is said to be faster and more efficient than any of their previous electric scooters. Considering the fact that their latest C Evolution scooter goes from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, the Next 100 scooter will be able to match any gas-powered vehicle in its class.


The E-Drive Motorrad’s electric motor is located on top of the rear wheel, with two energy packs kept along the stretched base. Perhaps the most notable design change – the flat, prolongated seat – may look stiff, but it was actually designed to improve comfort on urban roads. As for the metallic “stripes”, BMW has confirmed that they’re actually exposed wires, which are safe to touch and easy on the eyes.


Gadget on Wheels

As far as Internet-age technology goes, BWM has gone above and beyond with the E-drive. The scooter has two integrated touchscreens and an internal computer that syncs with any WiFi-enabled device. One screen displays non-essential information, such as music and weather. Meanwhile, the other screen shows everything from speed and battery levels to navigation and traffic alerts.


As if that wasn’t futuristic enough, BMW also built in a hidden storage compartment for luggage. The compartment works in conjunction with a special jacket. And the lock won’t open until the driver gestures with their hand while wearing it.


Aside from being a key, the jacket sleeves also help avoid accidents by vibrating when another vehicle is in close proximity. The vibrations work according to the other vehicle’s location, becoming more intense as it gets closer.


AR Growth Will Skyrocket

Augmented reality, or AR, is the hybrid of virtual reality and the physical world. It is the interlay of a digital world on the physical world to give us additional context for both. It starts to blur the lines between what we consider real and what we consider information, causing us to experience an altogether new way of interacting not just with information but the world around us.


There are many technologies coming to the forefront that can utilize AR, starting with our own mobile phones. Through AR apps, and through our phone’s camera, we can see our physical world with a virtual world layered on top of it. Wherever we pan and zoom our phone, we can see additional physical context on top of what we’re observing.


While AR has been around for years, it is only in the last year or two, with the advent of mainstream games and apps like Pokémon Go, that the potential of AR started to open up to the mainstream in a big way. Just earlier this June in fact, Apple released an AR development platform for iOS 11, making it much easier for developers to start developing AR overlays.


Many experts feel the real potential of AR will not arrive until we receive products such as Microsoft HoloLens which allows us to comfortably see digital information via glasses. Imagine seeing a visual model of the house we are helping design or a 3-D canvas of a sculpture we are creating, right before our very eyes. We could shift and tilt the virtual object per our needs, or start over from scratch. This could be augmented by input devices allowing us to use our physical hands, rather than a mouse or stylus, to move the object around.


AR allows us to add context to whatever we are seeing in front of us. We have had technologies such as Layar and other such apps in the last few years, providing contexts to the street or neighborhood we are in, overlaying our first person view with details. Taken to the next level, we could eventually have robust apps that display bubbles above a person’s head detailing their company, designation, or hobbies during an event. Another possibility is key bullet points visible popping up during a lecture or workshop.


AR points to a blended reality where the very nature of what we interact with in the world is at altogether a new level. It points to new ways to think, and new ways to feel, in unimagined ways.


Self-Driving Cars Will Be on the Road Soon, Thanks to Washington Governor

If you thought self-driving cars were a thing of the future, think again. Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced his plans for the tech in a blog post on Wednesday.


With big heads from Google, Uber, and GM in attendance, Inslee signed an executive order to begin the testing of self-driving cars in Washington. The order, which authorizes companies to apply to the Washington Department of Licensing in order to test their driverless cars, could set these cars on the road in less than two months.


The governor expressed belief in the positive outcomes from his action, writing that it would bring more business into the state while also making it safer. He also hoped that the autonomous and electronic technologies could combine to reduce carbon emissions.


Officials from several state agencies will make up a control group that, based on the results of the testing, will suggest revisions to laws regarding the self-driving cars.


Specifying very few safety regulations other than that the car must be able to turn itself off safety in a system failure, Inslee admitted to a “relatively light touch” when it came to regulations. This may be due to his full confidence in the technology, at least when compared to human error.


“One thing I know about radar, it doesn’t drive drunk, it doesn’t drive distracted. We humans are good at a lot of things, driving cars isn’t necessarily one of them compared to the automated processes that are digital and foolproof. I just have huge confidence in the safety aspects of this,” the governor said in a statement to The Seattle Times.


Trust in the tech sure has come a long way since Google started testing it last year in Kirkland. It remains to be seen if it is quite as safe as Inslee hopes.