ESA Maps More Than a Billion Stars in Our Galaxy

The Gaia space probe, launched in 2013, has mapped more than a billion stars in the Milky Way, vastly expanding the inventory of known stars in our galaxy, the European Space Agency said Wednesday.

ESA Maps More Than a Billion Stars in Our Galaxy

Released to eagerly waiting astronomers around the world, the initial catalogue of 1.15 billion stars is “both the largest and the most accurate full-sky map ever produced,” said French astronomer Francois Mignard, a member of the 450-strong Gaia consortium.

In a web-cast press conference at the ESA Astronomy Centre in Madrid, scientists unveiled a stunning map of the Milky Way, including stars up to half a million times feinter than those that can be seen with the naked eye.

The images were captured by Gaia’s twin telescopes — scanning the heavens over and over — and a billion-pixel camera, the largest ever put into space.

The resolution is sharp enough to gauge the diameter of a human hair at a distance of 1,000 kilometres (620 miles), said Anthony Brown, head of the Gaia data processing and analysis team.

Gaia maps the position of the Milky Way’s stars in a couple of ways.

Not only does it pinpoint their location, the probe — by scanning each star multiple times — can plot their movement as well.

The data release today includes both kinds of data for some two million stars.

But over the course of Gaia’s five-year mission, that catalogue is set to expand 500-fold.

Orbiting the Sun 1.5 million kilometres (nearly a million miles) beyond Earth’s orbit, the European probe started collected data in July 2014.

Manchester City eyeing nothing less than a win in Manchester derby: David Silva

Table-topper Manchester City sit marginally above Manchester United on goal difference after both sides won their first three league games but the Citizen swill miss Sergio Aguero for the crucial clash on Saturday.

Nothing less than victory will do for Manchester City in Saturday’s feisty Premier League derby against Manchester United, playmaker David Silva has said.

David Silva

Silva, who scored both goals in Spain’s friendly win over Belgium last week and two more against Liechtenstein in their World Cup qualifier on Monday, has featured in all of City’s league games this season under manager Pep Guardiola.

Table-topper City sit marginally above United on goal difference after both sides won their first three league games.

“It’s going to be a very beautiful game. The two teams arrive to this game having taken good results and after making wholesale changes in every sense,” the 30-year-old told Spanish radio station Cope.

“We’ve started the season very well and it should be a great game. But we won’t be playing for a draw. We will go out to win the match.”

City have won three times and drew one in their last five top flight meetings with United at Old Trafford.

“It’s a ground where in the last few years things have gone okay for us. We know they are a very difficult rival – but we won’t settle for a draw,” Silva added.

Will Bollywood look beyond star sons and daughters?

This is not a critique of the kinds of movies that the Hindi film industry churns out. It isn’t a review of the style of acting or lack thereof either.
What this is, however, is commentary from an outsider. A well-wisher perhaps, an admirer even, of the reach and fight that Bollywood puts up in a global film market that’s dominated by the all-consuming juggernaut that is Hollywood.

And this commentary follows an opinion formed from hours of waiting at a barber’s and flipping through the pages of many a glossy Bollywood-centric magazine. The covers of which are usually adorned by men who seem to have the same workout regimen and acting coach, and women who have nicer poses than their male counterparts.

If the description below fits perfectly, the loudest of three cheers to an ability to memorize that I’m pretty sure I lack. It’s embarrassing to admit this, but I find it difficult to remember the names of people I went to college with. But it’s simply my attempt to draw a vivid picture and nothing more.

Actor X, the son of former star Actor M and Actress Y who had been a promising star in the making till she gave up her career to marry Actor M and raise Actor X and his siblings, is excited because his debut film is a starring role alongside another debutante actress.

Let’s call her Actress B, and lo and behold, she also happens to be the daughter of a Bollywood couple, a father who was a known for his ‘negative roles’ and a mother who gave up her dancing career to be a good wife and mother.

But wait, that’s not the best part of this new generation starring twosome. The icing on the cake is that they are being ‘launched’ by a director whose father was a producer and at one point or the other worked with one or all of the starring twosome’s parents.

This and similar permutations repeat themselves in the mundane writing and interviews cliched to the brim that fight for space with even more inane and repetitive poses of the crème de la crème of Bollywood.

As an observer, I notice a theme. That most of Bollywood’s talent seem to be the sons, daughters, nephews, and nieces of anyone with any degree of recognition or pull in the film industry. And that they all state that a)Bollywood motion pictures is a constituent of their blood, and b)they have to work extra hard to prove that they belong on their own merit. (Footnote- I suck as a thespian of any worth, but I will keep appearing in movies because why the hell not, till something works)

My argument is this. If Bollywood is this premier Indian institution, this great machine of the representation of India and its numerous cultures, shouldn’t the stake holders look for talent and ideas from all over the country?

I’m a believer in the free market, and Bollywood studios are private entities are free to do whatever they like. But if you must for a moment, consider this suggestion.
There are amazing actors and actresses all over this country, in Ghaziabad, in Kerala, in Jammu and Kashmir, in Bhopal, even in Arunachal Pradesh or Mizoram, who will never get their shots because someone else happens to be the son of a mediocre actor whose uncle set up a film studio years ago.
What has Bollywood got to lose, really? There are so many stories that it can tell, so many different representations of culture and religion that it can portray.

Michael Clarke flies young Nepalese spinner to Australia to train at his academy

The young leg-spinner from Nepal Sandeep Lamichhane is currently staying with a local family as he prepares to play for Michael Clarke’s club.

Sandeep Lamichhane,16, from Nepal impressed Michael Clarke recently during his coaching spell in Hong Kong. The former Australian captain was impressed with the leg-spinner’s outstanding potential and that promted him to allow Lamichhane to train at his academy at Sydney and play for his club.

Sandeep Lamichhane

“It is a really exciting opportunity to have such a talented Nepalese cricketer travel this distance to come and test his skills and improve his game at my academy. Sandeep is a fantastic young man who enjoys his cricket and is extremely passionate about the game,” said Clarke, who sponsored the boy to get him to Australia.

Lamichhane who has already represented Nepal under-19s is staying in Sydney with a local family as he prepares for the upcoming season where he is going to play for Pup’s club Western Sydney.

“Thank you very much @MClarke23 for your kind words and for inviting me to Australia. Looking forward to give my best,” Lamichhane tweeted on Tuesday.

Suriya, director Vignesh Shivan to team up for next

Tamil actor Suriya, who is currently busy with Tamil actioner S3, also known as Singam 3, will team up with Naanum Rowdydhaan director Vignesh Shivan for a yet-untitled film.


“Happy to associate with Suriya and Vignesh Shivan for our next project. Anirudh Ravichander has been roped in to compose the tunes,” read a statement from Studio Green, who will be bankrolling the project.

The Tamil film, which happens to be Suriya’s 35th film, is expected to go on the floors next month.
According to a source close to the film’s unit, the makers are most likely to rope in Keerthy Suresh or Nayanthara as the leading lady.
Suriya’s home banner 2D Entertainment will co-produce the film.

New 3D-Printed Polymer Can Convert Methane Into Methanol

Scientists have combined 3D printed polymers with methane-eating bacteria to create the first reactor that can produce methanol from the greenhouse gas, an advance that may lead to a more efficient energy production.

The researchers removed enzymes from methanotrophs, bacteria that eat methane, and mixed them with polymers that they printed or molded into innovative reactors.

New 3D-Printed Polymer Can Convert Methane Into Methanol: Study

“Remarkably, the enzymes retain up to 100 percent activity in the polymer,” said Sarah Baker, from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US.

“The printed enzyme-embedded polymer is highly flexible for future development and should be useful in a wide range of applications, especially those involving gas-liquid reactions,” Baker said.

Advances in oil and gas extraction techniques have made vast new stores of natural gas, composed primarily of methane, available.

A large volume of methane is leaked, vented or flared during these operations, partly because the gas is difficult to store and transport compared to more-valuable liquid fuels.

Methane emissions also contribute about one-third of current net global warming potential, primarily from these and other distributed sources such as agriculture and landfills.

Current industrial technologies to convert methane to more valuable products, like steam reformation, operate at high temperature and pressure, require a large number of unit operations and yield a range of products.

The only known catalyst to convert methane to methanol under ambient conditions with high efficiency is the enzyme methane monooxygenase (MMO), researchers said.

The reaction can be carried out by methanotrophs that contain the enzyme, but this approach inevitably requires energy for upkeep and metabolism of the organisms.

Instead, the team separated the enzymes from the organism and used the enzymes directly.

The team found that isolated enzymes offer the promise of highly controlled reactions at ambient conditions with higher conversion efficiency and greater flexibility.

“Up to now, most industrial bioreactors are stirred tanks, which are inefficient for gas-liquid reactions,” said Joshuah Stolaroff, an environmental scientist on the team.

“The concept of printing enzymes into a robust polymer structure opens the door for new kinds of reactors with much higher throughput and lower energy use,” said Stolaroff.

The team found that the 3D-printed polymer could be reused over many cycles and used in higher concentrations than possible with the conventional approach of the enzyme dispersed in solution.

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

International Yoga Day: Embrace Yoga to Age Gracefully, Say Experts

Yoga won’t give you immortality but this ancient discipline of bringing union between the body, mind and spirit can definitely help you fight age – both physical and mental, say health and wellness experts.

International Yoga Day: Embrace Yoga to Age Gracefully, Say Experts

“In my practice in India and abroad I have seen several cases where my clients have gotten better by regular yoga, pranayam and meditation,” Preeti Rao, Health, Lifestyle and Wellness Consultant at Max Healthcare.

Regular yoga practice can help fight chronic lifestyle diseases like hypertension, hormonal imbalances, diabetes, reproductive disorders, and respiratory and cardiovascular related health concerns. Besides people with obesity, anxiety, constipation and digestive disorders can benefit significantly from practising yoga, according to the experts.

“From diabetes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol to heart problems, yoga can help you combat many such health issues that usually develop over the years. Also, arthritis is one of the most common problems among elderly people and yoga is a great way to tone it down and help the body become more active and flexible,” said Nidhi Arora, physiotherapist at AktivOrtho, an orthopaedic, neurological and gynaecological rehabilitation centre.

“Individuals prone to osteoporosis or are already suffering from the problem can gain a lot from yoga as a daily life discipline which increases bone density and growth. To keep a watch over increase in weight as well, yoga proves to be very helpful,” Arora noted.

Yoga can improve blood flow in the body and increase oxygen supply to body cells. It helps improve balance which tends to become weak as one ages, acclaimed fitness expert and nutritionist Sonia Bajaj said. What’s more, the benefits of yoga transcends physical fitness alone.

“Yoga is not limited to yoga or physical exercise,” Rao said.

Scholarly studies and research in this area have strongly documented how yoga helps in improving cognitive abilities.

“Pranayama helps one to attain a better balance between the right and left-brain bringing more balance between emotional and rational thinking. Meditation facilitates a process of introspection, and brings more clarity and focus in one’s life. Regular yoga also improves memory,” Rao noted.

“A regular yoga practice even for just 20-30 minutes daily that is simple and involves varied breathing exercises and mediation is what I would recommend to remain sharp, alert and for a balanced life,” she added.

A recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that a three-month course of Kundalini yoga and Kirtan Kriya meditation practice helped minimise the cognitive and emotional problems that often precede Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, brain disorders that impair the memory.

Kirtan Kriya, which involves chanting, hand movements and visualisation of light, has been practiced for hundreds of years in India as a way to prevent cognitive decline in older adults. Yoga and meditation was even more effective than the memory enhancement exercises that have been considered the gold standard for managing mild cognitive impairment, the findings showed.

“Historically and anecdotally, yoga has been thought to be beneficial in ageing well, but this is the scientific demonstration of that benefit,” lead author of the study Harris Eyre, doctoral candidate at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said.

“If you or your relatives are trying to improve your memory or offset the risk for developing memory loss or dementia, a regular practice of yoga and meditation could be a simple, safe and low-cost solution to improving your brain fitness,” Helen Lavretsky, the study’s senior author and professor in residence in the department of psychiatry, University of California-Los Angeles, suggested.

“Yoga forms like asana, pranayama and a regular devotion towards meditation are such strong tools that they are bound to invigorate the brain, help enhance the power of the mind and stimulate the nervous system as well. Yoga should be taken seriously as results from it are long-lasting and life-changing for sure,” Arora noted.

However, with many different types of yoga being practiced today, it is important for you to find out with the help of experts which type of yoga meets your needs, she said.

How a Computer Helped a Paralysed Chimp Walk Again

In a first, Japanese researchers have rehabilitated a paralysed chimpanzee through interaction with computers and touch screens.

The case of Reo, a male chimpanzee that learned to walk again after being paralysed due to illness, shows how much can be done to rehabilitate animals injured in captivity, said lead author Yoko Sakuraba of Kyoto University.

How a Computer Helped a Paralysed Chimp Walk Again

Reo’s example suggests that euthanasia does not have to be the only option for injured animals

The case was described in an article in Primates, the official journal of the Japan Monkey Centre published by Springer.

In their normal work, researchers of the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University use chimpanzees’ interaction with computers and touch screens to study the cognition and perception of these primates.

When Reo was paralysed from the neck down, dedicated staff put this technology to further use by encouraging the animal to walk again.

When Reo was 24 years old in 2006, he suddenly became paralysed when a portion of his spinal cord became inflamed.

For the first ten months thereafter, the chimpanzee was severely disabled, lying on his back. He gradually recovered enough to sit up, and could later pull himself upright by using suspended ropes.

Intensive physiotherapy over a period of 41 months followed, after which he was able to climb about again using only his arms.

To aid Reo’s ultimate integration back among the other twelve animals held at the institute, his carers decided to try to get him walking again.

They incorporated a computerised task in this process. This was considered an option because in his youth Reo had learnt how to perform cognitive tasks on a touch panel, and in so doing had become used to receiving food rewards whenever he succeeded at tasks presented to him.

A computer-controlled monitor was, therefore, placed on one wall, and cognitive tasks were again put to him.

The rehabilitation sessions encouraged him to increase his movements considerably, and he started walking up to five hundred metres in a two-hour session.

“Cognitive tasks may be a useful way to rehabilitate physically disabled chimpanzees, and thus improve their welfare in captivity,” Sakuraba said.

Chinese Economic Cyber-Espionage Plummets in the US

The Chinese government appears to be abiding by its September pledge to stop supporting the hacking of American trade secrets to help companies there compete, private US security executives and government advisors said on Monday.

Chinese Economic Cyber-Espionage Plummets in the US: FireEye

FireEye Inc, the US network security company best known for fighting sophisticated Chinese hacking, said in a report released late Monday that breaches attributed to China-based groups had plunged by 90 percent in the past two years. The most dramatic drop came during last summer’s run-up to the bilateral agreement, it added.

FireEye’s Mandiant unit in 2013 famously blamed a specific unit of China’s Peoples Liberation Army for a major campaign of economic espionage.

Kevin Mandia, the Mandiant founder who took over last week as FireEye chief executive, said in an interview that several factors seemed to be behind the shift. He cited embarrassment from Mandiant’s 2013 report and the following year’s indictment of five PLA officers from the same unitMandiant uncovered.

Prosecutors said the victims included US Steel, Alcoa Inc and Westinghouse Electric. Mandia also cited the threat just before the agreement that the United States could impose sanctions on Chinese officials and companies.

“They all contributed to a positive result,” Mandia said.

A senior Obama administration official said the government was not yet ready to proclaim that China was fully complying with the agreement but said the new report would factor into its monitoring. “We are still doing an assessment,” said the official, speaking on condition he not be named.

The official added that a just-concluded second round of talks with China on the finer points of the agreement had gone well. He noted that China had sent senior leaders even after the US Secretary of Homeland Security pulled out because of the Orlando shootings.

FireEye said that Chinese intrusions into some US firms have continued, with at least two hacked in 2016. But while the hackers installed “back doors” to enable future spying, FireEye said it had seen no evidence that data was stolen.

Both hacked companies had government contracts, said FireEye analyst Laura Galante, noting that it was plausible that the intrusions were stepping stones toward gathering information on government or military people or projects, which remain fair game under the September accord.

FireEye and other security companies said that as the Chinese government-backed hackers dropped wholesale theft of US intellectual property, they increased spying on political and military targets in other countries and regions, including Russia, the Middle East, Japan and South Korea.

Another security firm, CrowdStrike, has observed more Chinese state-supported hackers spying outside of the United States over the past year, company Vice President Adam Meyers said in an interview.

Targets include Russian and Ukrainian military targets, Indian political groups and the Mongolian mining industry, Meyers said.

FireEye and CrowdStrike said they were confident that the attacks are being carried out either directly by the Chinese government or on its behalf by hired contractors.

Since late last year there has been a flurry of new espionage activity against Russian government agencies and technology firms, as well as other targets in India, Japan and South Korea, said Kurt Baumgartner, a researcher with Russian security software maker Kaspersky Lab.

He said those groups use tools and infrastructure that depend on Chinese-language characters.

One of those groups, known as Mirage or APT 15, appears to have ended a spree of attacks on the US energy sector and is now focusing on government and diplomatic targets in Russia and former Soviet republics, Baumgartner said.

'We're Horrified': At Stanford, The Impact Of A Sexual Assault Is Searing

It could have been mistaken for any other late afternoon in the expectant days before graduation. Seniors shuttled four years of possessions from the Kappa Alpha fraternity into waiting U-Hauls that would carry them away from Stanford for the last time.

But the students weren’t talking just about commencement, or summer, or jobs ahead. Their conversations this week, like so many on this elite campus these days, kept turning to sexual assault.

'We're Horrified': At Stanford, The Impact Of A Sexual Assault Is Searing

It was inescapable on their phones and laptops, what happened just a few hundred feet away and its lingering impact: A woman left one of their parties drunk, passed out behind a dumpster and was attacked by a Stanford swimmer.

“We’re horrified that this happened here,” said Dominick Francks, 22, a Kappa Alpha brother majoring in atmosphere/energy and computer science. “Everyone is pretty blown away.”

As the nation was riveted this week by the victim’s account of the January 2015 assault and its effects on her, this community has continued to cope with — and learn from — what has become a prime example of the problem of college sexual violence. Here, at Stanford, it overshadowed everything else.

Within an hour of the victim’s letter being posted online, Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers’ phones lit up: “You need to read this.”

Fraternity members said they were deeply shaken by the letter, describing it as eloquent, eye-opening and brave. One said he hoped the letter would become required reading at Stanford.

The case resonated nationally because it encapsulated the problem of sexual assault on campus, with all its complexities and jarring headlines, from the Baylor football team’s assaults that led to the ouster of the school’s football coach and president to high-profile cases at Vanderbilt, Florida State and so many others.

People argued over whether binge drinking was to blame, or fraternity culture or the entitlement of privilege. Some saw it as proof that sexual assault is treated differently when the accused is an athlete, a campus leader, an outstanding student. A statement from Turner’s father — arguing against jail time because the life his son had worked so hard to achieve would never happen and saying “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life” — went viral.

Here in Palo Alto, the impact is visceral. Inboxes and social media are full of links to petitions: People demanding better support from the university for sexual assault victims, calling on Stanford officials to apologize and pay for the victim’s therapy, and asking the judge in the case to step down. A protest is planned for Sunday at an annual commencement event.

“Everyone on campus is talking about it,” said Dulcie Davies, a graduating sorority member who plays field hockey. “Everyone is sharing everything on Facebook.”

The reaction to the victim’s letter was the culmination of many months of soul-searching, said Victor Xu, a rising senior who is managing editor of The Stanford Daily. It’s a constant topic of conversation online and on campus, over dinner, in random conversations with friends and within families, he said.

It was just outside the Kappa Alpha house last year that a freshman left the party drunk and sexually assaulted an unconscious woman. Brock Turner, a varsity swimmer and Olympic hopeful, withdrew from the school, was banned from campus and was convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault.

When the 20-year-old from Ohio was sentenced last week — to six months in jail, three years of probation and a life as a registered sex offender — many people were shocked. The prosecutor had asked for six years in prison.

When the letter the victim read in court, 12 pages of eloquent agony, was published on Buzzfeed, it ignited: More than a million people signed online petitions demanding that Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky be removed from the bench, and a formal recall effort was launched. Persky got death threats.

The events prompted difficult questions within the university’s Greek system. Although Turner was never a member of Kappa Alpha, the fact that he met the victim at one of their parties, and assaulted her nearby, was troubling to many at Stanford.

In recent months, fraternities have hosted women’s groups to talk about sexual assault. Kappa Alpha had events on sexual health and masculinity. Members said they saw brothers break down in tears as they shared stories about pressure to succeed — academically, athletically and with women — and not show vulnerability.

Fraternities had been on notice since July 2014, when sexist jokes at a toga party at Sigma Alpha Epsilon led to harassment complaints. The students later permanently lost their house.

News of the Turner assault made women on campus feel less safe, Davies said. But the victim’s letter, released last week, and the campus discussions in recent months, also had some positive effects, she said.

“It just brought to light the smaller situations that happen,” Davies said. “Now people are coming to terms with saying things like sexist comments are not okay. In the past, it would have been played off. Now people are willing to speak out against it.”

Students and faculty were divided about whether Stanford had done enough.

Stanford has taken aggressive action in recent years to combat campus sexual assault, university officials say, including establishing a “yes means yes” affirmative consent standard in 2012 — before it became California law — in an attempt to avoid confusion about whether sexual contact is welcome. The school requires students to learn about prevention and changed how sexual assault cases are judged, with an expectation of expulsion when a student is found responsible for sexual assault. Next year’s budget includes $2.7 million to counter sexual violence.

A Washington Post analysis of federal data put Stanford among the top 10 schools with the highest number of rapes reported in 2014, with 26.

“I think what [the case] boils down to is that there’s a real disconnect between how people perceive rape that happens on campus and rape that happens off-campus. And, really, you know, rape is rape,” said Matthew Cohen, a sophomore and member of the student senate. “It should be treated the same way whether it happens on university campus or not.”

Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor who is friends with the victim, said that the university had yet to apologize. The woman was not a Stanford student.

“They’ve never shown any remorse that this happened on Stanford property,” Dauber said. “You create this culture, not of alcohol but of toxic masculinity, in which misogyny is really deep and it’s always somebody else’s fault.”

Dauber introduced a new course last year for sophomores on sexual assault at universities because she had “a line of girls” outside her door who said they had been assaulted. The students in the course later formed a group that advocates for sexual assault prevention.

“Stanford looks at sexual assault cases from the lens of protecting its brand,” said the group’s organizer, Stephanie Pham. “Maybe it’s this need to forge an image of a perfect university where sexual assault doesn’t happen.”

Francks, the Kappa Alpha member, said he was home the night of the party in January 2015 but went to sleep early ahead of a morning golf event. He said more needs to be done.

“Why are we training girls how not to get raped but not teaching boys not to rape?” Francks said. “A lot of changes need to be made. But some are happening already.”