ExoMars Mission Has Been Fully Funded

Mars lander

The upcoming ExoMars mission has been fully funded by EU officials.

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission had an uncertain fate after the test of the Schiaparelli lander ended in failure by crashing into Mars at high speed. However, it seems that the ESA managed to obtain the necessary funding for their upcoming mission.

Not many experts and scientists were expected to receive the green light to proceed with the ExoMars mission after disastrous results of the Schiaparelli module. It seems that the ministers from the European Union’s 22 member countries alongside representatives from Canada and Slovenia had more confidence in the ExoMars project. During their meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, the ministers agreed to contribute the remaining $465 million required to start the ExoMars mission.

European officials have stated in the resulting resolution from the meeting that:

“The Agency is encouraged to strive to reap the benefits expected from the significant investments made through the ExoMars program, including those earmarked for the successful completion of the second ExoMars mission.”

Besides its uncertain future, the ExoMars mission also faced a number of budget shortfalls, which the ministers agreed to fill up while reasserting their faith in agency’s capabilities and the success of the mission. The highest contributors to the mission’s funds were Italy with $182 million, followed by the UK with around $87 million.

Scientists from the ESA are now steadily preparing for the second part of ExoMars mission which involves the landing of a rover as well as a surface platform on Mars. In preparation for the 2020 mission, the Trace Gas Orbiter which was deployed in the first phase is set to act a relay module for the future spacecraft. The attention of the second phase of the mission will be on the Mars rover, which will be able to make subsurface drilling explorations in an attempt to find various traces of life.

The Agency sought funding totaling around $12 billion for a number of activities, from satellite navigation to Earth observation and rocket development. The officials from each partner country decided on allocating $10.9 billion for the ESA’s space activities in hopes of achieving their vision of a United Space in Europe, each minister declaring its support for the development of the ESA. They also extended the Europe’s participation in the ISS until 2014.

Image source: ESA

Verizon Unlimited Data Plan Will Make A Return

verizon unlimited store

Verizon will once again start offering an unlimited data plan called the Verizon Unlimited starting with February 13.

The weekend came with a surprising announcement from Verizon. This wireless network provider is reintroducing its unlimited data plan. And it will do so starting with February 13th. How will the new service be called? The Verizon Unlimited.

Verizon Communications is considered the largest wireless communications service provider in the United States. And it is also one of the biggest broadband telecommunications companies.

This Sunday, Verizon revealed some interesting news. This was released in an official statement, posted on the company’s website. And it announced the launch of the Verizon Unlimited.

This will be a new unlimited data plan. Starting with February 13, the company will start offering it as an introductory plan. In the official blog post, the company revealed some details about the new data plan.

As such, Verizon Unlimited should offer access to one of the best 4G LTE networks. It will also be providing HD video streaming options. And also Mobile Hotspots.

Verizon Unlimited will also come with some special features for Mexico and Canada. Users will be able to call and text users in the respective countries. And also provide with 500 MB per day of 4G LTE roaming. Both these options will be readily included in the unlimited data plan. And they will not inquire an additional fee.

Verizon Unlimited will come with an introductory cost of $80. This will be the price for one line. A four-line unlimited data family plan will come with a $45 per line. Interested users will have to enable the AutoPay service. And also the paperless billing.

This new unlimited data plan will include the following options. It will offer the aforementioned Mexico and Canada services. It will also provide access to the TravelPass. Following its activation, this latter will offer 500MB LTE roaming. But it will come with an extra $10 fee.

Verizon Unlimited will be offering hotspot tethering. At 4G LTE speeds, it will be working up to 10GB. After this value is reached, users will be moved to a 3G data speeds.

Unlimited plan users will benefit from the full LTE speeds. But only until they reach a 22GB usage. After reaching this limit, their data speeds will be reduced. They will also be de-prioritized. Verizon stated that it is not expecting this de-prioritization to become a common event.

In the blog post, Verizon also points out the following. It will not be imposing the unlimited data on users that do not need it. As such, it will continue offering the 5GB L, M, and S Verizon plans.

According to the same source, Verizon has been working on improving its network. They have been trying to make it “better, faster, stronger, every single day”.

Verizon Unlimited will also support connected devices. For example, a GizmoPal or a smart watch. These can be linked to the unlimited data plan for $5 a month.

The decision to introduce this new unlimited data plan came as a surprise to some. Verizon stopped offering unlimited data plans to new users back in 2011. Though a small number of subscribers held on to the “grandfather” unlimited data plan. Although the company seems to have been trying to transition them to other plans.

Verizon Unlimited will start being available this Monday. The duration of this “introductory plan” offer was not revealed. As such, interested users should look into the matter.

Image Source: Flickr

Blood Test Facilitates Parkinson Diagnosis

two blood vials

Study finds that a blood test is accurate in diagnosing Parkinson’s

A new study has found that just a simple blood test could be as efficient and accurate as a spinal fluid test for determining whether a personal actually has Parkinson’s or if its symptoms are caused by a related disorder.

The study, published in the journal Neurology released by the American Academy of Neurology, reveals that difficulties of differentiating between Parkinson’s disease and other similar disorders, at the early stage of the disease, as most symptoms tend to overlap.

Diagnosing the disease early is important as a benefit of treatment can vary dramatically depending on the stage of the disease and between that of actual Parkinson’s or just similar disorders. However, according to the lead author of the study, Dr. Oskar Hansson, from the Lund University, Sweden, diagnosing Parkinson’s disease can become much easier than it is currently being done today.

The researchers found the different concentrations of nerve protein in a patient’s blood can easily discriminate between the different neurological disorders. Furthermore, a simple blood test also provides the same accuracy as a spinal fluid test.  The nerve protein in question is known as neurofilament light chain protein. It acts as a component of nerve cells and can also be found in both the spinal fluid and the blood stream.

For their study, the researchers analyzed more than 500 people from three different study groups.  Two of the three groups involved people from England and Sweden who had lived with Parkinson’s or other atypical parkinsonism disorders (APD) for an average time of four to six years. The last group had people who suffered from either type of disease for just three years or less.

Among the overall number of patients, 244 had Parkinson’s, 88 suffered from multiple system atrophy, 79 were healthy and served as a control group, 70 were affected by progressive supranuclear palsy, and 23 had corticobasal degeneration.

After extensive analysis, the researchers found a simple blood test was just as accurate in detecting the specific disorder as a spinal fluid test. This new method can help doctors provide a more comprehensive diagnostic to their patients.

What do you think about the new study? Do you know anyone suffering from Parkinson’s or any other APD disease?

Image sourceFlickr

Scientists Create a Bat Bot

B2 bat bot

B2 bat bot replicated the flight mechanism of real bats.

Bats are fascinating creatures for scientists for several reasons, from the way they navigate the world around them to their flight mechanisms. Now, researchers were able to create a robot that simulates the key flight aspects of bats.

The bat bot has been officially dubbed as B2 and was developed by scientists from CalTech and the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. The B2 bat bot features soft and articulated wings that are able to replicate the basic function of biological bats.

According to Alireza Ramezani, a researcher from the University of Illinois, the invention has successfully demonstrated the advanced design of a self-contained aerial robot which is able to fly not through propellers or engines but using flapping wings, that is also able to fly autonomously.

The design of the wings is very similar to that of the bats featuring wing conformations and dynamic wing articulations while weighing just 93 grams.

Researchers stated the biological bat has a flight mechanism which involves over 40 types of joints. These joints interlock the bones and various muscles with one another and lead to the creation of a musculoskeletal system which can change its shape and allows the bat to move in a number of independent directions.

The scientists were able to reduce the number of joints to nine in the bat bot, while still maintaining the same basic function as that of the biological bat. More specifically, the B2 robot uses a skeleton array capable of morphing thanks its silicone-based membrane skin. The bat bot changes its articulated structure even in mid-flight, without even losing the smooth and effective aerodynamic surface.

This function is quite similar to that of real bats whose wings act like a rubber sheet when they flap. The “sheet” fills up with air and starts to slightly deform, which at the end of its downstroke motion flap, the wing is able to push out the air as it springs back into its initial position. This mechanism is what amplifies the potential of flexible membranes.

The researchers believe that their bat bot can also be used to contribute to several biological studies on the mechanisms of bat flight. The robot can reconstruct several of the maneuvers performed by bats just by applying a few movement patterns.

The study detailing the invention of the B2 bat bot was published in the AAAS Science Robotics journal.

Image credit: Alireza Ramezani, Soon-Jo Chung, Seth Hutchinson

Conversation Emotions Will Be Easier To Read Thanks To An App

people conversation emotions

A team of MIT scientists has developed an app which could make it easier to read the conversation emotions.

A team of MIT scientists has developed an app which could make it easier to read the conversation emotions. This could help people determine if the speaker is actually excited.

Most anyone must have been in the following situation. You are talking with someone. And they are telling you a sad story. Or, on the contrary, a happy one. But some people may make you wonder. Are they actually happy or sad? Now, a team of scientists may have just offered a solution.

The research team comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT. They are part of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory or CSAIL. They have been involved in an ongoing study.

This targets the study of emotion detection. The scientists have already released studies on the matter. And they also presented some of their developed devices. For example, last fall, they built a new device. This was able to detect human emotions. How? By using wireless signals.

Now, the team took the device one step further. Earlier this week, they presented a software that can detect conversation emotions. This was incorporated into an app. One targeted specifically for wearables.

It should be able to follow a conversation. And as such, identify the emotions behind the dialog. This conversation emotions tool should work for every part of the speech.

During testing, the researchers incorporated the app into a fitness tracker. It should be able to offer information in real time. The app works as follows. During conversations, it collects speech data. And also physical information. It then analyzes the overall tone.

Based on these elements, it should provide the conversation emotions result. And it can also offer part specific information. It can be used to determine if one was sad or another happy.

This app will track the emotions in five-second intervals. As such, it can also track and point out changes. It can determine if the person had a change of tone.

The analyzed physical change will be targeting the following. They will be monitoring the participant’s skin temperature. And also their heart rate or physical movement. Waving or crossing your arms are considered tell-tale signs.

This new app is AI-powered. The AI or artificial intelligence makes use of neural networks. These can analyze and compare huge amounts of data. And they can also acquire need data. By learning, such technology should also become “smarter”. And also offer better results.

The researchers also carried out some field tests. They asked the participants to wear a Simband. Their conversation emotion app had been previously installed. Overall results reported the following. The neural networks were 83 percent accurate in reporting the conversation’s tone.

In most cases, the AI system associated the emotion as follows. Monotonous vocals interrupted by long pauses were considered sad. Speech patterns that varied were considered happy. These are just a few, base emotions.

Research is hoping to further develop the emotions spectrum. They are hoping to add more complex, nuanced feelings. More details about the current software were offered in a study paper. This was released on February 01 by CSAIL. The paper was titled as follows. “Predicting Latent Narrative Mood using Audio and Physiologic Data”.

Research on the matter will continue. According to one of the study members, such an app could have varied uses. It could help people with anxiety. Or even persons diagnosed with medical conditions such as Asperger’s.

Image Source: Wikimedia

Apple Watch OS Beta Adds Theater Mode and SiriKit

apple watch on a wrist

Apple has released a new beta build for WatchOS with Theater Mode.

Apple has announced today that it has released the beta version of the watchOS 3.2 to developers. The beta build allows app creators to integrate Siri within certain functions of their apps as well as add the new theater mode.

In the last period, virtual assistant and voice commands have come to the forefront of technologies as an increasing number of manufacturers have added this type of features to their devices. Now, Apple has decided to step up its smartwatch game by providing third-party support for Siri in the form of the SiriKit, which developers can use to integrate Siri with various functions of their apps.

It will allow users who will use the apps to make voice commands for the specific functions. It will very likely be used mostly for messaging and workout apps, but any additional options for users and developers are welcomed.

The second main feature to be included with the watchOS 3.2 beta is called the Theater mode. Although the feature is meant to be used while you’re watching a movie, either in the cinema or at home with a group of friends, it can be used for various activities like when you are using an Apple watch to monitor your heart rate during sleep. Once enabled, the theater mode mutes all the sound of your watch and even prevents the screen from lighting up if you raise your wrist.

Unfortunately, if you prefer complete silence without completely turning off the device, Theater Mode will still buzz as you receive notifications. However, you will need to either tap the screen or press its Digital Crown to use it.

Nonetheless, the new mode is a step in the right direction as Apple is still working on a sleep tracker, despite the Apple Watch not having a built-in app for this purpose. Third-party apps like Autosleep or Cardiogram have tried to fill in the void, providing users with sleep data like when they woke up or their heart rate spikes.

Apple has not announced when the watchOS 3.2 will be available for consumers, but you shouldn’t have to wait very long, based on previous releases.

What do you think about the new features in the beta build?

Image sourcePexels

Fat Shaming Leads to Bigger Health Risks

fat women on the street

Fat shaming can lead to greater health risks.

Being overweight has been the source of prejudice for many people and it is a big problem in itself without accounting a study’s new findings which show that fat shaming can lead to greater health risks. The findings are especially troubling for the United States which a pervasive obesity problem and a bullying culture. These two factors can lead to serious mental health issues for already unhealthy people.

Overweight persons have been stereotyped in the United States as being either too uneducated to know how the quality of the food affects their bodies or too lazy and incompetent to lose the weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. People who usually perform acts of fat shaming don’t take into account the whole life of the person into account when they make their snap judgments.

Now, a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, have discovered conducted a study which shows that fat shaming can lead to greater health risks for the victim. Besides the psychological impact of fat shaming, the emotional state that fat shaming induces can lead to increased risk of metabolic and cardiovascular disease.

The study was led by Rebecca Pearl, an assistant professor of Psychology in collaboration with her colleagues from the Penn Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.  She stated that the idea that fat shaming people motivates them to lose weight actually has the opposite effect.

This type of bullying actually leads the victim to feel more depressed, unwilling to exercise or to adopt a healthier diet. The researchers also found an association between the internalization of weight bias and the metabolic syndrome, which is an indication of declining health.

For their study, the scientists examined 159 obese adults which were part of a larger clinical trial test for weight loss medication. Most of the participants were black women and were required to fill a questionnaire which measured their depression and the internalization of the weight bias, which consists of applying negative stereotypes to themselves.

The researchers found that only participants with high levels of weight bias internalized were actually associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. However, further research is needed to show a direct link between the two factors.

Image source:Pixabay

30% of Children Drink More Than Two Sugary Beverages Every Day

sugary beverages

The study also shows that more than 30% of kids tend to drink more than 2 sugary beverages every day.

Although states officials are trying to figure out a way to make people cut down the sugary beverages they are not succeeding. A new study shows that almost 70% of children in the United States are consuming at least one juice or other sugary drink every day.

The study also shows that more than 30% of kids tend to drink more than 2 sugary beverages every day. This is concerning because the amount of sugar can damage their health. This is even more concerning because we are talking about children, who are more sensitive than adults.

This study was made between 2011 and 2014. It was completed by the CDC this Thursday. The biggest problem here is the number of calories that are added to the diet of these children. If they drink two sugary drinks every day they consume almost 15% of their daily calories.

These children then tend to eat a lot and when they combine it with the sugar from these drinks they have a higher risk of obesity. Once they start to get used to the sugary beverages they are going to drink them every day and want even more.

The US dietary guidelines also recommend that people should take less than 10% of their daily calories from sugary drinks or other sweets. Doctors mentioned that sugary beverages should not be consumed with regularity; they should only be served once in a while. This is because sugary beverages can damage the health.

Some of the conditions that can be caused by the high consumption of sugar include dental caries, Type 2 diabetes, and weight gain. All of these have a negative impact on the health. People with high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes can develop other health problems as well.

This is why everybody is concerned about the level of sugar that children consume. It is important for parents to know that children need to get their calories from vegetables, fruits, and meat. This is why they need to stop buying sugary beverages and letting their children drink so often.

What is your opinion about this study? Do you think that it is normal for children to drink so many sugary beverages?

Image source: Flickr

Seoul Virus Outbreak Caused By Pet Rats

Rat babies

The Seoul virus outbreak was caused by two ratteries in Illinois.

The CDC confirmed Friday that pet rats were the source of the Seoul virus outbreak in Wisconsin and Illinois. Based on the agency’s report, eight human cases of infection have been reported so far.

Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, the CDC deputy division director for high consequent pathogens and a veterinarian, says that this is the first time in the U.S. history when humans get infected with the Seoul virus in pet rats.

Previous outbreaks occurred, but all of them were caused by wild rats. McQuiston adds that a similar outbreak linked to pet rats occurred in Europe a few years ago. The first patient who contracted the virus was a Wisconsin resident, who reported having flu-like symptoms.

When his doctor learned about the man’s exposure to small rodents, he decided to check if the patient might have been infected with hantavirus. The sample tested positive for the rat virus, so the public health specialists in Wisconsin sent them to the CDC.

Plus, they also sent a second sample from a family member who was a home-based rodent breeder too. On the 11th of January, the CDC officials confirmed the two cases of Seoul virus infections in both men.

McQuiston explains that the Seoul virus is unusual in the United States. The infection usually triggers mild symptoms similar to the flu, but in the worst-case scenario, it can lead to severe complications, including renal disease.

More precisely, the patients can experience abdominal pain, headache, fever, nausea, chills, rashes, and eye infection. It is worth mentioning that in the rarest cases, this simple infection might lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a potentially deadly disease which causes severe aches, fever, and fatigue.

In some patients, the disease might be asymptomatic. The symptoms generally appear within seven to 14 days after the patient contracts the Seoul virus, but in some cases, the symptoms appear after eight weeks.

The investigators discovered that two ratteries in Illinois were responsible for six other cases of human infection. However, only one of the patients experienced the symptoms. Fortunately, the Seoul virus cannot be transmitted from one person to another, so the authorities believe that they will successfully contain the outbreak as soon as possible.

People can contract the Seoul virus if they come in contact with urine, saliva, blood, and other infectious fluids from sick rats.

Image Source:Pixabay

Google Acquires Fabric Developer Platform from Twitter

Google logo

Google has acquired Twitter’s Fabric developer platform.

Twitter is looking to get in a better financial situation and for this purpose, it has started to sell some of its non-essential division to other companies. The most recent transaction involves Google who has purchased not only the Fabric developer platform but some of their mobile app tools as well.

After the acquisition of Twitter, last year fell through, the company now has to become profitable on its own. For this purpose, it’s looking to streamline its services and focus on aspects that actually produce revenue. For example, Twitter decided to shut down Vine, the somewhat popular 6-seconds video platform and relaunching as Vine Camera, without the ability to hosts video as it can get quite expensive.

Besides the notable Fabric transaction, Twitter also managed to sell its Answers mobile app analytics, Crashlytics, reporting feature, Fastlane development automation system, and Digits SMS login system. The Fabric developer platform was initially launched in 2014 as modular SKD which allowed devs to choose different options on how to improve the apps. Now, the platform is used for apps with a total of almost 2.5 billion users built by 580,000 developers around the world.

The news of regarding the transaction involving Google was made public by the Fabric on a blog post and was confirmed on Twitter by Jeff Seibert, a senior direct of the product. The post states that the acquisition by Google will lead to a new chapter in the life of the Fabric developer platform. It reveals that the entire team will be joining Google’s own Developer Products Group, working directly with its Firebase team. This make sense since both divisions have the similar goal of helping developers create better apps.

The acquisition by Google was ideal for Twitter, as the company seeks to sell off many of its divisions without upsetting the people which depend on them by shutting them down. The specific terms of the deal were not revealed.

Despite the current and future changes implemented by Twitter, the company is still looking to invest in public APIs, while continuing to retire and sell other divisions like the commerce one. Nonetheless, it will continue to allow users to make donations to various charities.

What do you think about Twitter’s future?

Image source: Fabric