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GAO: James Webb Space Telescope Launch Date Likely Will be Delayed (Again)

Posted: 04 Mar 2018 08:18 AM PST

The U.S. Government Acountability [sic] Office (GAO) has warned that the launch of James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is likely to be delayed again, which could cause the budget cap set by the U.S. Congress to be exceeded:

The U.S. Government Acountability [sic] Office (GAO), a non-partisan group that investigates federal spending and performance, has issued a report on the James Webb Space Telescope that has astronomers worried. "It's likely the launch date will be delayed again," the report concludes — an ominous statement, given that any further delays could risk project cancellation.

Last year NASA announced a delay in the telescope's launch to sometime between March and June 2019. The 5- to 8-month delay came from problems integrating spacecraft components, especially its complex, five-layered sunshield, which must unfold perfectly when the telescope is deployed. Right after requesting the change in launch readiness date, the mission learned of further delays from its contractor, Northrum Grumman, due to "lessons learned from conducting deployment exercises of the spacecraft element and sunshield."

The mission now has 1.5 months of schedule reserve remaining, the GAO finds. Delays during integration and testing are common, "the phase in development where problems are most likely to be found and schedules tend to slip." The project has a total of five phases of integration and testing, and has made significant progress on phases three and four, with the fifth phase beginning in July.

GAO's 31-page report, February 2018: JWST: Integration and Test Challenges Have Delayed Launch and Threaten to Push Costs Over Cap.

Also at Science Magazine.

Previously: Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed to Spring 2019
Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Could be Further Delayed

Related: James Webb Space Telescope Vibration Testing Completed
NASA Considering Flagship Space Telescope Options for the 2030s
WFIRST Space Observatory Could be Scaled Back Due to Costs
JWST: Too Big to Fail?
Trump Administration Budget Proposal Would Cancel WFIRST


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Experimentally Demonstrated A Toffoli Gate In A Semiconductor Three-Qubit System

Posted: 04 Mar 2018 05:57 AM PST

A new progress in the scaling of semiconductor quantum dot based qubit has been achieved at Key Laboratory of Quantum Information and Synergetic Innovation Center of Quantum Information & Quantum Physics of USTC [University of Science and Technology, China]. Professor GUO Guoping with his co-workers, XIAO Ming, LI Haiou and CAO Gang, designed and fabricated a quantum processor with six quantum dots, and experimentally demonstrated quantum control of the Toffoli gate.

[...] The Toffoli gate is a three-qubit operation that changed the state of a target qubit conditioned on the state of two control qubits. It can be used for universal reversible classical computation and also forms a universal set of qubit gates in quantum computation together with a Hadamard gate.

Furthermore, it is a key element in quantum error correction schemes. Implementation of the Toffoli gate with only single- and two-qubit operations requires six controlled-NOT gates and ten single-qubit operations.

As a result, a single-step Toffoli gate can reduce the number of quantum operations dramatically, which can break the limit of coherence time and improve the efficiency of quantum computing. Researchers from Guo's group found the T-shaped six quantum dot architecture with openings between control qubits and the target qubit can strengthen the coupling between qubits with different function and minimize it between qubits with the same function, which satisfies the requirements of the Toffoli gate well.

Using this architecture with optimized high frequency pulses, researchers demonstrated the Toffoli gate in semiconductor quantum dot system in the world for the first time, which paves the way and lays a solid foundation for the scalable semiconductor quantum processor.


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Clicker Heroes Maker Compares New Lawsuit From “Patent Troll” To Extortion

Posted: 04 Mar 2018 03:36 AM PST

In a Thursday blog post, the CEO of Playsaurus wrote that the company that sent him the letter, GTX Corporation, is a “patent troll.” CEO Thomas Wolfley called GTX’s demands to avoid “costly litigation” over Playsaurus’ use of electronic “Rubies” in its games “meritless.”

In a brief phone interview with Ars on Friday, Wolfley told Ars that receiving the demand letter was disconcerting.

“I kind of feel like it’s as if someone walked into my home with a knife and asked me for $35,000, except it’s legal,” he said. “I’ve been stressed out this whole week.”

[...] In the blog post, Wolfley continued that GTX’s legal efforts were “abusive and unethical,” noting that $35,000 was half the annual salary of an employee. He also wrote:

As I am a major owner of Playsaurus, I see this as a personal attack, and the cost in my own time and well-being has already been significant and draining. It is a shame that the United States legal system can’t provide a quick and easy way for us to punish them for these actions.


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Ethereum Fixes Serious “Eclipse” Flaw

Posted: 04 Mar 2018 01:15 AM PST

Developers of Ethereum, the world's No. 2 digital currency by market capitalization, have closed a serious security hole that allowed virtually anyone with an Internet connection to manipulate individual users' access to the publicly accessible ledger.

So-called eclipse attacks work by preventing a cryptocurrency user from connecting to honest peers. Attacker-controlled peers then feed the target a manipulated version of the blockchain the entire currency community relies on to reconcile transactions and enforce contractual obligations. Eclipse attacks can be used to trick targets into paying for a good or service more than once and to co-opt the target's computing power to manipulate algorithms that establish crucial user consensus. Because Ethereum supports "smart contracts" that automatically execute transactions when certain conditions in the blockchain are present, Ethereum eclipse attacks can also be used to interfere with those self-enforcing agreements.

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3D-Written Model To Provide Better Understanding of Cancer Spread

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 10:54 PM PST

Purdue researcher Luis Solorio has helped create a lifelike cancer environment out of polymer to better predict how drugs might stop its course.

Previous research has shown that most cancer deaths happen because of how it spreads, or metastasizes, in the body. A major hurdle for treating cancer is not being able to experiment with metastasis itself and knock out what it needs to spread.

Studies in the past have used a 3-D printer to recreate a controlled cancer environment, but these replicas are still not realistic enough for drug screening.

"We need a much finer resolution than what a 3-D printer can create," said Solorio, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

Rather than 3-D printing, Solorio and a team of researchers have proposed 3-D writing. The device that they developed, a 3-D jet writer, acts like a 3-D printer by producing polymer microtissues as they are shaped in the body, but on a smaller, more authentic scale with pore sizes large enough for cells to enter the polymer structure just as they would a system in the body.

3-D jet writing is a fine-tuned form of electrospinning, the process of using a charged syringe containing a polymer solution to draw out a fiber, and then deposit the fiber onto a plate to form a structure. This structure is a scaffold that facilitates cell activity.

[...] "Ideally, we could use our system as an unbiased drug screening platform where we could screen thousands of compounds, hopefully get data within a week, and get it back to a clinician so that it's all within a relevant time frame," Solorio said.


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This Is How Many Friends You Need to Be Happy

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 08:33 PM PST

Friends make you happy, healthy, and they'll be there for you when the rain starts to pour. But how many of them do you need? Turns out the show Friends had the science all figured out.

Back in the early 90s, British anthropologist Dr. Robin Dunbar came to an interesting conclusion: humans could likely only maintain social relationships with an average of 148 individuals due to the size of our brain's neocortex, or what's known as Dunbar's Number. More social information processing demands requires more cognitive resources, and we only have so much brain power. Basically, we tend to top out at having 150 meaningful relationships in our lives, whether they're family, friends, or casual acquaintances. Your Facebook might have hundreds or thousands of "friends," but a good chunk of them, if not most, are out of mind.

Later on, Dunbar's research led to the concept of "Dunbar's layers", where the emotional closeness between individuals was taken into account. This meant that your relationships looked more like layers instead of a cloud of 150 people. The closest layer has three to five people, the next layer has 15 people, then 50, and so on. That inner layer is what makes up your "vital friendships," or your inner circle of close friends. These are people that you should have in your life to meet up with regularly, talk about personal matters, and maintain a strong emotional connection. In the show Friends, each main character—Ross, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Monica, and Chandler—these five people in their life, making it a pretty decent model to follow on a biological and sociological level. If you can manage to maintain three to five close friendships in the same way, you're far more likely be content. After all, who wouldn't be better off with people who will always be there for you?

https://lifehacker.com/this-is-how-many-friends-you-need-to-be-happy-1823425885

Do you agree with this premise ? If yes, where do you stand on the "number of friends" scale ?


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European Regulator Finds That Neonicotinoid Pesticides Threaten Bees

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:18 PM PST

European agency concludes controversial 'neonic' pesticides threaten bees

Controversial insecticides known as neonicotinoids pose a danger to wild bees and managed honey bees, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy, said in a report released today. Bayer, a maker of so-called neonics, disputed EFSA's findings. But the report is likely to give a boost to those pushing for tighter European regulation of the chemicals.

"This report certainly strengthens the case for further restrictions on neonicotinoid use," entomologist Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex in Brighton, U.K., said in a statement. The European Commission last year proposed—but has not yet adopted—extending a partial ban on neonics to all field crops.

Related: Landmark Study: Honeybee Queens Severely Affected by Neonicotinoid Pesticides
Neonicotinoid Can Cause Brain Damage in Bats; Bumblebee Species Added to Endangered List
Extensive Study Concludes Neonicotinoid Pesticides Harm Bees
Lithium Chloride May Help in Fixing Bee Colony Collapse Disorder


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Study Concludes that Luck, not Talent or Smarts, Results in Wealth

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 03:56 PM PST

MIT Tech Review reports on a new study which used computer model to analyze wealth distribution in society. It concludes that the majority of riches do not result from talent, intelligence or hard work - but luck. Those who succeed most in modern society are born well and experience several 'lucky events' which they exploit, but are of mediocre talent. The study's abstract states that the model has potential for encouraging investment in the genuinely gifted, and summarizes:

"...if it is true that some degree of talent is necessary to be successful in life, almost never the most talented people reach the highest peaks of success, being overtaken by mediocre but sensibly luckier individuals. As to our knowledge, this counterintuitive result - although implicitly suggested between the lines in a vast literature - is quantified here for the first time."


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"Supercolony" of 1.5 Million Penguins Found in Antarctica

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 01:45 PM PST

Previously Unknown "Supercolony" of Adelie Penguins Discovered in Antarctica

For the past 40 years, the total number of Adélie Penguins, one of the most common on the Antarctic Peninsula, has been steadily declining—or so biologists have thought. A new study led by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), however, is providing new insights on this species of penguin.

In a paper released on March 2nd in the journal Scientific Reports, the scientists announced the discovery of a previously unknown "supercolony" of more than 1,500,000 Adélie Penguins in the Danger Islands, a chain of remote, rocky islands off of the Antarctic Peninsula's northern tip.

Also at BBC and Smithsonian.

Multi-modal survey of Adélie penguin mega-colonies reveals the Danger Islands as a seabird hotspot (open, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-22313-w) (DX)


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Scientists Observe a New Quantum Particle With Properties of Ball Lightning

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 11:38 AM PST

Ball lightning is a frequently reported but currently unexplained phenomenon, in which a glowing ball floats in midair, passes through walls, and otherwise defies physical common sense. Now, scientists have created a synthetic electromagnetic knot called a skyrmion, in a quantum gas. Its behaviors and properties are similar to those reported for ball lightning, and may finally make it possible to study something that has previously been outside the realm of science, for lack of repeatable observations.

Starting with a Bose-Einstein condensate, and adding a magnetic field, they produced

objects [that] can move like independent particles, shifting from place to place within a material while maintaining their knotted configuration. And like a tight knot in a thread, skyrmions are difficult to undo, making them relatively stable structures.


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