Leading the News
ESA Confirms Schiaparelli’s Mars Landing.
The Independent (UK) (10/19, Griffin) reports that the European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed that the Schiaparelli probe landed on Mars via a signal sent from the Mars Express spacecraft, in orbit around the planet. Scientists “didn’t initially confirm that meant that the lander had arrived on the planet safely,” the article reports. ExoMars manager Don McCoy had announced earlier on Wednesday that Schiaparellia had entered Mars’ atmosphere and deployed its parachute.
The New York Times (10/19, Chang, Subscription Publication) reports that Schiaparelli’s signal disappeared sometime during its descent. ESA Mission Operations Department head Paolo Ferri said, “At a certain point, it stopped. … It was unexpected, but we couldn’t conclude anything from that.”
Schiaperelli Tracked By GMRT, MRO. On the Rocket Science Blog (10/18) ESOC Operations Engineer Thomas Ormston described how scientists are able to track the flights of spacecraft such as the Schiaperelli Mars lander through monitoring of UHF radio signal transmissions using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), located in Pune, India. Schiaparelli began transmissions “nearly 1.5 hours before the Entry Interface Point,” and was due to continue transmission through descent and touchdown. GMRT tracking enables scientists to monitor spacecraft descents and landings in real time. The NASA/JPL’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) was scheduled to fly over the Schiaparelli landing site about two hours after landing to capture “status information and data from the lander.”
NYTimes Calls For Higher Standards For College Accreditors.
A New York Times (10/20, Subscription Publication) editorial says the “system created by Congress to determine eligibility” for federal funding for higher education “virtually guarantees that a portion…will be wasted by schools that have abysmally low standards, high dropout rates and, in many cases, saddle students with huge debt in exchange for useless degrees.” Congress, it argues, “can remedy this problem by changing the way schools are accredited and by giving the Department of Education more say in the process.” The Times offers its support for a bill pending in the Senate that would “force accreditors to respond more quickly to investigations and lawsuits alleging fraud by the schools, and to root out conflicts of interest that lead to cozy relations between accreditors and the schools they are supposed to oversee.”
College Students Create Election Prediction Model Forecasting Clinton Win.
USA Today (10/18) reports that Election Analytics @ Illinois, a project created by college students, predicts “election winners through combining multiple polls” and works “combining current polling data and results from the last presidential election to construct voter turnout models.” The piece reports University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor Sheldon H. Jacobson aid “the polling system weights polls based on sample size and recency.”
Research and Development
Engineers Develop Wearable Device To Combat Drunk Driving.
CBS News (10/19, Mastroianni) reports on an experimental wearable device by engineers at the University of California with funding from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) that can detect alcohol levels from perspiration and send it to a smartphone, letting a user know when they have had too much to drink. NIBB Tissue Chips Director Seila Selimovic explained, “It resembles a temporary tattoo, but is actually a biosensor patch that is embedded with several flexible wireless components.” The device aims to cut back on drunk-driving related car accidents and chronic health problems. The article mentions that according to the NHTSA, over 9,900 people are killed each year in drunk driving accidents.
Malfunction Prevented Juno Spacecraft From Observing Jupiter During Close Flyby.
The New York Times (10/19, Chang, Subscription Publication) reports that NASA’s Juno spacecraft “experienced a malfunction” prior to its flyby of the planet Jupiter on Wednesday, after which the spacecraft put itself into safe mode, shutting down its instruments and restarting its computer. The malfunction prevented Juno from collecting data or images during its close flyby of the planet, but an opportunity for another close flyby will occur on December 11.
ABC News (10/19, Chang) reports that NASA is in communication with Juno, “but its activities are limited until engineers diagnose what went wrong.”
AFP (10/20) quotes Juno Project Manager Rick Nybakken, who said, “At the time safe mode was entered, the spacecraft was more than 13 hours from its closest approach to Jupiter. … We were still quite a ways from the planet’s more intense radiation belts and magnetic fields. The spacecraft is healthy and we are working our standard recovery procedure.”
IBM Plans To Leverage Watson, Medical Research Labs To Further Expand Artificial Intelligence Footprint.
The New York Times (10/19, Subscription Publication) reports that IBM is “betting its future” on the success of its artificial intelligence division, headlined by its Watson technology and associated business initiatives. Among related AI investments the company plans on making, the report lists a new Watson-based offering in genomics, gene sequencing, and medical diagnostic analysis as a major part of its strategy going forward. Senior vice president of IBM’s research labs and Watson division envisions great things for the firm’s health industry contribution, commenting specifically on how the technology can collaborate with various medical labs to target a variety of diseases. The report adds, that “the technology, IBM executives say, has the potential to make precision medicine and tailored therapies available to millions of cancer patients instead of the small number now treated at elite medical centers with genomics expertise.”
Prof. Stephen Hawking Warns About Potential Consequences of AI.
The Daily Mail (10/19, Best) reports that renowned Professor Stephen Hawking is warning about the potential conflict that could result from increased experimentation with artificial intelligence technology. According to Hawking, among the dangers presented by AI, are their capacity to create “powerful autonomous weapons” that could have dire consequences globally. Hawking, also however added, that “if sufficient research is done to avoid the risks, it could help in humanity’s aims to ‘finally eradicate disease and poverty.’”
Automakers Beating Silicon Valley At Car Tech Game.
Engadget (10/19, Baldwin) reports that with Apple reportedly scaling back its Titan EV/autonomous car project, and with Google continuing to report how often other drivers run into its vehicles, automakers such as Ford, GM, Audi, Mercedes, Honda, BMW, and Tesla have themselves introduced vehicles with semi-autonomous features. Engadget observes that “Research is great, but shipping a product is the end goal.” Automakers are not only shipping, but they are also iterating faster than before. Google has expressed its desire to partner with an automaker, and Apple reportedly has a similar aim, but a “big question” remains: “Do the car companies need them?” Engadget believes “[t]he next stage of driving (or not driving, as the case may be) is exciting. But right now and for the foreseeable future, it’s going to be automakers, not tech giants, pushing the technology forward.”
Commentary: Clinton Expresses Interest In Tech Sector Gender Parity Issues.
Stern Group founder Paula Stern writes in commentary for The Hill (10/19) “Pundit’s Blog” about the impact of the tech sector on the overall US economy, and points out that eliminating gender gaps in the industry brings “the potential to significantly boost the tech sector and the American economy overall.” Moreover, the issue of gender disparity in computer science and the IT industry “has begun to gain some serious traction in recent months, capturing the interest of heavy-hitters like Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and philanthropist Melinda Gates.”
Nintendo Set To Reveal New NX Game Console.
Bloomberg News (10/20, Alpeyev) reports that Nintendo today is finally set to reveal its new NX gaming platform. The console has been anticipated for some time now, and according to Ace Research Institute analyst Hideki Yasuda, “the reveal comes relatively late for a game console that is slated to go on sale in March.” Forbes (10/19) similarly adds that the late October debut would make the time between the presentation and official release “a very short window, shorter than what nearly every other console” has received in the past. Business Insider (10/19) also reports.
Engineering and Public Policy
Vermont Village Approves New Approach To Hydro Renovation Project.
The AP (10/19) reports officials in the Vermont village of Enosburg Falls “are moving forward with a phased approach to a hydro renovation project.” The village’s Board of Trustees “approved appropriating $107,000 from the village electric department for the project at its Oct. 4 meeting.” The project which involves “engineering firm H.L Turner Group and Pennsylvania-based manufacturer Kingsbury Inc. aims to upgrade the village’s four-blade turbine runner at its hydroelectric facilities.”
Report Finds Solar Power Compensation Isn’t Enough.
Fuel Fix (TX) (10/19) reports according research compiled and released this week by Environment Texas, “utility customers around the country who rely on individual solar power generation could be under-compensated by their local utility companies.” Forty-one U.S. states “offer solar energy users net metering, which repays those users at retail prices for the extra energy they offer the grid” and the report contends “those repayments are not equal to the value of the power generated.” Environment Texas “examined 16 studies of solar power grids around the country–including two in San Antonio and Austin–and found that in most cases solar users are being underpaid in exchange for the energy they produce.” E&E Publishing (10/19, Subscription Publication) reports in a statement co-author of the report Bret Fanshaw said, “Rooftop solar users are givers, not takers, when it comes to the value they provide to society and the electric system. … In many cases it appears that solar programs are a bargain for utilities, not a burden.” The study found “the median value of rooftop solar energy in the 16 analyses was 16.35 cents per kilowatt-hour…while an average residential retail rate in related states was about 13 cents per kWh.”
Colorado Shifts To Wind Power As Mountain States Shift to Natural Gas.
The Denver Post (10/19, Svaldi) reports that according to the EIA, Colorado is shifting to wind power while most mountain states are shifting to natural gas for power generation. The Post explains that “wind sources added 6.7 billion kilowatt-hours to the generation mix in the state the past decade, more than what wind added in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana and Utah combined.” Gwen Farnsworth, a senior energy policy advisor with Western Resource Advocates, said that a utility has a motivation to use established renewable generation capacity when available over sources that burn fuels.
Vermont Town Plans To Place Solar Array On Old Landfill.
The AP (10/19) reports South Burlington, Vermont officials are “looking to install a solar array on top of an old landfill in an attempt to gain something out of a strip of land that can’t be used for much else.” The city, according to a report by Vermont Public Radio, is “collaborating” with Altus Power American and Encore Renewable Energy “on the project, which seeks to place solar panels on a three-foot soil ‘cap’ on top of the landfill.”
First Robotics Competition Holds Regional Round In Waco, Texas For First Time.
The AP (10/19) reports that “for the first time this year, all three Waco-based teams that compete in the internationally-recognized First Robotics Competition are led by girls, and they have worked the past several months to bring the competition to the city.” While the competition has usually been held in Dallas or Houston, “the Rapoport Academy, Harmony Science Academy and Girl Scout Troop 3994 managed to bring a regional round of the FRC to the area for the first time this spring.”
Oceanside, California Students Take Part In PLTW Robot Building.
KGTV-TV San Diego (10/19) reports on its website that students at Palmquist Elementary School in Oceanside, California “put their engineering skills to work Wednesday in an effort to build robots. Project Lead the Way developed the curriculum, which teaches students to think critically.” The school is currently “the only elementary school in the Oceanside Unified School District that teaches the curriculum to students as young as kindergarten.”
Omaha-Area Students Take Part In Manufacturing Day.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (10/19) reports, “More than 150 Omaha-area high school students toured one of four regional manufacturers Wednesday as part of Nebraska’s annual Manufacturing Day.” The event, “coordinated by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership and the Partnership’s Manufacturing Council, connects area high schools with local manufacturers, with the aim of introducing students to manufacturing careers.”
Economist Says Engineering And Vocational Studies Must Be Expanded.
Peter Morici, an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, writes in the Washington Times (10/18) that “rekindling growth and creating enough good-paying jobs will require wholly rethinking how we educate and socialize young people for work.” He writes that “further subsidizing college tuition and more resources for public schools” is not sufficient. Rather, “we need to dramatically expand engineering and other applied arts as was once the primary mission of state universities, send fewer students to four-year colleges, and steer more young people and resources into vocational tracks at community colleges.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Federal Interagency Task Force Recommends Safety Upgrades For Natural Gas Storage Facilities.
• Clark Foundation Gives Johns Hopkins $15 Million To Support STEM Undergrads.
• Microsoft Says Speech Recognition Technology Now On Par With Humans.
• Grace Hopper Conference Highlights Women In Tech Industry.
• Brexit Could Negatively Impact UK Research.
• California Town Leads Charge Into Solar Power Mandates.
• Google Study Highlights Race/Gender Gaps In Computer Science Education.