Astronomers detect 15 high-frequency ‘fast radio bursts’ from distant galaxy

Were these powerful bursts used by an extraterrestrial civilization to power exploratory spacecraft?
August 30, 2017

Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia (credit: Geremia/CC)

Using the Green Bank radio telescope, astronomers at Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, have detected 15 brief but powerful “fast radio bursts” (FRBs). These microwave radio pulses are from a mysterious source known as FRB 121102* in a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years from Earth, transmitting at record high frequencies (4 to 8 GHz), according to the researchers

This sequence of 14 of the 15 detected fast radio bursts illustrates their dispersed spectrum and extreme variability. The streaks across the colored energy plot are the bursts appearing at different times and different energies because of dispersion caused by 3 billion years of travel through intergalactic space. In the top frequency spectrum, the dispersion has been removed to show the 300 microsecond pulse spike. (credit: Berkeley SETI Research Center)

Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and of the Breakthrough Listen program, and his team alerted the astronomical community to the high-frequency activity via an Astronomer’s Telegram on Monday evening, Aug. 28.

A schematic illustration of CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope in Australia receiving a fast radio burst signal in 2014 (credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions)

First detected in 2007, fast radio bursts are brief, bright pulses of radio emission detected from distant but largely unknown sources.

Breakthrough Starshot’s plan to use powerful laser pulses to propel nano-spacecraft to Proxima Centauri (credit: Breakthrough Initiatives)

Possible explanations for the repeating bursts range from outbursts from magnetars (rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields) to directed energy sources — powerful bursts used by extraterrestrial civilizations to power exploratory spacecraft, akin to Breakthrough Starshot’s plan to use powerful laser pulses to propel nano-spacecraft to Earth’s nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

* FRB 121102 was discovered Nov 2, 2014 (hence its name) with the Arecibo radio telescope, and in 2015 it was the first fast radio burst seen to repeat. More than 150 high-energy bursts have been observed so far. (The repetition ruled out the possibility that FRBs were caused by catastrophic events.)

FRB 121102: Detection at 4 – 8 GHz band with Breakthrough Listen backend at Green Bank

On Saturday, August 26 at 13:51:44 UTC we initiated observations of the well-known repeating fast radio burst FRB 121102 [Spitler et al., Nature, 531, 7593 202-205, 2016] using the Breakthrough Listen Digital Backend with the C-band receiver at the Green Bank Telescope. We recorded baseband voltage data across 5.4375 GHz of bandwidth, completely covering the C-band receiver’s nominal 4-8 GHz band [MacMahon et al. arXiv:1707.06024v2]. Observations were conducted over ten 30-minute scans, as detailed in Table 1. Immediately after observations, the baseband data were reduced to form high time resolution (300 us integration) Stokes-I products using a GPU-accelerated spectroscopy suite. These reduced products were searched for dispersed pulses consistent with the known dispersion measure of FRB 121102 (557 pc cm^-3); baseband voltage data were preserved. We detected 15 bursts above our detection threshold of 10 sigma in the first two 30-minute scans, denoted 11A-L and 12A-B in Table 2. In Table 2, we include the detection signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of each burst, along with a very rough estimate of pulse energy density assuming a 12 Jy system equivalent flux density, 300 us pulse width, and uniform 3800 MHz bandwidth. We note the following phenomenological properties of the detected bursts: 1. Bursts show marked changes in spectral extent, with characteristic spectral structure in the 100 MHz – 1 GHz range. 2. Several bursts appear to peak in brightness at frequencies above 6 GHz.

This autonomous MIT robot can follow rules of pedestrians
IANS/New York
Filed on August 31, 2017 | Last updated on August 31, 2017 at 07.25 pm

Engineers at MIT have designed an autonomous robot with ‘socially aware navigation,’ that can keep pace with foot traffic while observing these general codes of pedestrian conduct. Engineers at MIT have designed an autonomous robot with ‘socially aware navigation,’ that can keep pace with foot traffic while observing these general codes of pedestrian conduct.

Engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have designed an autonomous robot that can keep pace with foot traffic while observing the general social codes that pedestrians follow to avoid oncoming obstacles while keeping up a steady walking pace.

In drive tests, the robot, which resembles a knee-high kiosk on wheels, successfully avoided collisions while keeping up with the average flow of pedestrians, said the researchers who have detailed their robotic design in a paper scheduled to be presented at the IEEE Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems to be held in Vancouver, Canada, in September.

“Socially aware navigation is a central capability for mobile robots operating in environments that require frequent interactions with pedestrians,” said lead author of the study Yu Fan (Steven) Chen.

“For instance, small robots could operate on sidewalks for package and food delivery. Similarly, personal mobility devices could transport people in large, crowded spaces, such as shopping malls, airports, and hospitals,” Chen said.

In order for a robot to make its way autonomously through a heavily trafficked environment, it must solve four main challenges – localisation (knowing where it is in the world), perception (recognising its surroundings), motion planning (identifying the optimal path to a given destination), and control (physically executing its desired path).

Chen and his colleagues used standard approaches to solve the problems of localisation and perception.

For the latter, they outfitted the robot with off-the-shelf sensors, such as webcams, a depth sensor, and a high-resolution lidar sensor.

For the problem of localisation, they used open-source algorithms to map the robot’s environment and determine its position. To control the robot, they employed standard methods used to drive autonomous ground vehicles.

For motion planning, the researchers used reinforcement learning, a type of machine learning approach, in which they performed computer simulations to train a robot to take certain paths, given the speed and trajectory of other objects in the environment.

The team also incorporated social norms into this offline training phase, in which they encouraged the robot in simulations to pass on the right, and penalised the robot when it passed on the left.

“We want it to be travelling naturally among people and not be intrusive,” study co-author Michael Everett said.

“We want it to be following the same rules as everyone else,” Everett added.

Apple’s ARKit aims to beat Google’s ARCore in race to make augmented reality mainstream

The development tool has the potential to reach a wider audience when compared to competitors gives it an advantage in the burgeoning augmented reality space

When Apple releases the consumer version of iOS 11 in a few weeks, among of a flurry of standard, expected operating system updates, the tech giant is also unleashing the first wave of third-party ARKit-developed apps.

While ARKit’s capabilities are far from those of Google’s now essentially dead Tango platform, the fact that the development tool has the potential to reach a wider audience when compared to competitors gives it an advantage in the burgeoning augmented reality space.

Likely in an effort to better compete with Apple’s ARKit, the same can now also be said about Google’s recently announced ARCore, an Android-based development platform that aims to retain the technological capabilities of Tango, while offering compatibility with as many Android devices as possible. Given ARCore has only just been revealed, it remains unclear how powerful it really is. It’s also worth noting that Google’s new AR platform only supports Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and the Google Pixel, though the company has a goal of hitting 100 million users in the near future.

Apple has often been accused of putting on a facade and pretending it developed new technology that other companies had been experimenting with for years. While this claim is frequently accurate in most cases, Apple does have a knack for bringing burgeoning technology to the masses, often by tweaking it to be more accessible and user-friendly. The tech giant is hoping this will happen again on the development side of things, despite not offering creators the most technically capable hardware to build their AR apps for.

Apple’s Craig Federighi at WWDC 2017 in San Francisco MobileSyrup

In the case of AR, overlaying the virtual world on top of reality, Apple wants people to associate the tech with more than just Pokemon Go and dancing hot dog Snapchat filters. Unlike Google’s Tango offering, however, ARKit is not capable of mapping a three-dimensional space like Tango, resulting in the platform’s inability to take precise measurements into account when running augmented reality apps. It’s unclear if ARCore will be able to map out physical space in the same way Tango was.

Apple, however, is hoping that ARKit’s hardware limitations won’t matter because the development tool is compatible with all of the company’s devices that feature its A9 and A10 processor (basically phones dating back to the iPhone 6s and any iPad Pro), amounting to approximately 500 million devices worldwide. The company also says it has placed an emphasis on ensuring tasks like the reflection of light, colour temperature and shadows, are easier for developers to implement properly in their AR apps.

This is why Apple’s Craig Federighi described ARKit as “the largest AR platform in the world,” during the development kit’s reveal at WWDC back in June.

An example of ARKit being tested MobileSyrup

When it comes to Tango, which Google says was designed to serve as a starting point and a proof of concept for something bigger, a specific smartphone is required; the Phab 2 Pro, which is no longer officially available in Canada, or the recently revealed ZenFone AR, inherently limiting the audience of Google’s platform significantly — this is much less of an issue for Apple.

While Twitter accounts like @madewithARkit, as well as MobileSyrup’s recent partnership with Tom Emrich’s We Are Wearables, are already making an effort to document the cool, experimental apps developers are creating with Apple’s new augmented reality tool, the tech giant recently showed off a number of previously unrevealed in-development ARKit Projects, many from significant partners.

It’s important to note that it’s unclear if these projects will be available when ARKit apps roll out along with iOS 11. Many of them are in very early stages of development.


In the vein of Snapchat’s accessible, fun and extremely popular AR masks, as well as the social media platform’s infamous dancing hotdog, Giphy wants to expand this concept and allow users to send animated augmented reality gifs that can be experienced through the lens of their iPhone’s camera.

“Our first vision is to help you place these things in space and ARKit does that. It tracks the world around you so you can do more than just share a gif with your friend in a text. You’ll be able to share a whole scene of gifs,” said Ralph Bishop, the head of design at Giphy in an interview.

Examples shown off during the demonstration were relatively simple and included a waving person, an animated heart, clapping hands and a mouth, though Giphy says more complicated gifs are in the works.

Bishop says that Giphy World also moves beyond sending a single gif and that the app lets users create “fully packaged AR experiences” that allow for more complicated messages that feature augmented reality.

For example, users are able to place numerous arrows on the ground that lead someone to a specific animated gif located slight off in the distance. It’s unclear if Giphy World is the killer app ARKit needs to reach the masses, but it certainly seems to be on the right track.


Taking the basis for Eric Carle’s much-loved character, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a children’s book that has been around for 45 years, Touch Press has come up with an inventive way to bring iconic story to life with the help of AR.

While a demo that’s still very in the early stages and is only six weeks into development, visually, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of the most impressive looking AR games I’ve ever seen. “It’s effectively a virtual, digital caterpillar pet.

The virtual caterpillar is placed within a real-life scene and children are able to interact with it by altering the camera’s perspective in an effort to keep input methods simple to ensure The Very Hungry Caterpillar is accessible to children.

While the demo only showed off a few, very simple activities players can do with the caterpillar, O’Neill says Touch Press plans to expand this functionality significantly over the course of the game’s development.

“We know that kids really love caring for digital pets, entertaining him, being entertained by him and feeding him, and ultimately along his journey until he transforms into a beautiful butterfly. With ARKit, we’ve ben able to make that pet real,” said Barry O’Neill, Touch Press’ CEO.


Ikea Place is perhaps the best broad use case example of augmented reality beyond Giphy World.

The app aims to bridge the gap between the home and purchasing products at Ikea by allowing users to view a visual representation of that object in their home.

Items like sofas and lamps, as well las rugs and tables, can be virtually placed in a home with Ikea Place. It is, however, still unclear how many items will be included in the app at launch, as well as if ARKit’s limitations as a platform will be a hinderance to how useful it actually is.

For instance, since ARKit isn’t able to measure the complete size of a room, Ikea Place users could run into situations where their virtual, augmented reality furniture is floating in the air, rather than sitting on the actual floor.

“Instantly overnight this is going to be accessible to hundreds of millions of people and it’s totally going to change how we do business, how we live and how we do retailing,” said Michael Vladsgaar, the leader of digital transformation at Ikea, when asked about why the furniture store has opted to develop a dedicated AR apps.

That said, while Ikea Place seems poised to be an accessible, easy to use app, its launch could have implications on the broader retail industry, with competing companies launching similar AR platforms.


While Apple has surprisingly mostly avoided discussing the video game side of ARKit, one example of the platform’s gaming potential is Arise, an AR Puzzle game created by Climax Studios, the developer behind titles like Dirt Rally, Silent Hill Shattered Memories and Xbox classic Sudeki.

The game has player constantly shifting their perspective in order to guide a character through a puzzle filled island.

To Climax Studios’ credit, the ability to move around the game’s AR space in real-time is a novel concept.

“What we’ve tried to do here is come up with a mechanism that allows us to just use positioning, so it looks like there’s a gap, but there isn’t — it’s very, very simple interaction… We plan to use perspective and things like that later on,” said Simon Gardner CEO at Climax Studios, explaining the unique control scheme Climax has implemented in Arise in order to work within ARKit’s limitations.

Gardner explained that his company sees ARKit as an opportunity to reach a significantly wider audience that augmented reality has ever been capable of, though the studio has also dabbled in projects designed for Google’s Tango platform as well.


Though less impressive than Arise, The Walking Dead: Out World is an augmented reality trip into the uncanny valley.

The game allows players to fight in the streets, parks, living rooms and backyards along with companions from the show like Rick, Daryl, and Michonne.

The game, which seems more like a demo-like companion to the television show, has players shooting various weapons at Walkers while a strangely unlife-like character from the show stands nearby, occasionally helping with the fight.

To Next Games’ credit, despite the stoic, awkward looking expression on characters’ faces, their actual bodies, including clothing and weapons, are very detailed.

The game also features a photo mode that allows players to pose with their favourite walking dead character.

MobileSyrup is a Canadian-focused tech site dedicated to providing the latest news & reviews on smartphones, tablets, wearables, IoT, VR, gaming and automotive.

Reducing carbohydrates, not fat, should be focus of dietary guidelines, study says

A McMaster University study found a higher-fat diet was actually associated with a lower risk of early death.

Avocados, as well as nuts and vegetable and olive oils, contain monounsaturated fat. A study linked eating a moderate amount of all types of fats with a reduced risk of early mortality compared to a low-fat diet.
Avocados, as well as nuts and vegetable and olive oils, contain monounsaturated fat. A study linked eating a moderate amount of all types of fats with a reduced risk of early mortality compared to a low-fat diet.  (GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO)  

A large Canadian study is challenging conventional wisdom that says a low-fat diet is optimal for cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of premature death.

The McMaster University study of more than 135,000 people in 18 countries found that eating a moderate amount of all types of fat is linked to a reduced risk of early mortality compared to the much-touted low-fat diet — while consuming a high-carbohydrate diet is associated with an increased risk of dying early.

“Contrary to popular belief, increased consumption of dietary fats is associated with a lower risk of death,” said lead author Mahshid Dehghan, a nutrition epidemiologist at the Hamilton university’s Population Health and Research Institute.

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“Those with a high fat intake, about 30 per cent of energy intake, had a 23 per cent lower risk of mortality and an 18 per cent lower risk of stroke, compared to the low-intake group, which had 11 per cent energy from fat,” Dehghan said from Barcelona, where she presented the findings Tuesday to the European Society of Cardiology Congress.

“The association with lower mortality was also seen with all major types of fat, by which I mean saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.”

Saturated fat is found in meat and dairy products, while monounsaturated fat is contained in nuts, avocados, and vegetable and olive oils. Polyunsaturated fat is found in walnuts, sunflower and flax seeds, fish, corn, soybean and safflower oils.

Current global guidelines recommend that 50 to 65 per cent of daily calories come from carbohydrates, and less than 10 per cent from saturated fats. But Dehghan said that advice is mostly based on evidence from studies in North America and Europe.

Cardiovascular disease is a global epidemic, with 80 per cent of the burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries. Diet is a key modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, experts say.

Dehghan said the healthiest diet would be made up of 50 to 55 per cent carbohydrates and 35 per cent total fat, including both saturated and unsaturated types.

“We found no evidence that below 10 per cent of energy from saturated fat is beneficial — and going below 7 per cent is even harmful,” she said, adding that a diet containing 10 per cent to 13 per cent of energy from saturated fat was found to be beneficial.

A diet that provides more than 60 per cent of energy from carbohydrates — one common among populations in China and South Asia — was associated with a 28 per cent higher risk of premature death, researchers found.

“The message of our study is moderation as opposed to very low or very high intake in consumption of both fats and carbohydrates.”

“We’re not advocating an extreme diet,” agreed co-author Andrew Mente. “We’re not saying that people should go on a low-carb, very high-fat diet because we didn’t find any benefit with a very low-carb diet either.

“There’s a sweet spot for carbohydrates, which is about 55 per cent of energy intake.”

The PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) study was published Tuesday in The Lancet. In a linked commentary in the journal, Drs. Christopher Ramsden and Anthony Domenichiello of the U.S. National Institute on Aging called the research “an impressive undertaking that will contribute to public health for years to come.”

“The relationships between diet, cardiovascular disease and death are topics of major public health importance . . . Initial PURE findings challenge conventional diet-disease tenets that are largely based on observational associations in European and North American populations, adding to the uncertainty about what constitutes a healthy diet. This uncertainty is likely to prevail until well-designed randomized controlled trials are done.”

Mente, also a nutrition epidemiologist at the Population Health and Research Institute, was lead author of a second analysis from the PURE study presented Tuesday at the cardiology meeting.

That paper — one of three from PURE published in The Lancet — found that eating three to four servings of fruit, vegetables and legumes per day reduces the risk of premature death.

“And consuming higher amounts, pretty much you have the same level of risk,” Mente said from Barcelona. “There’s no added benefit with consuming more than four servings.

“This is important because existing guidelines recommend that people consume at least five servings per day, which is less affordable in the poorer countries because fruits and vegetables — particularly fruits — are more expensive as a proportion of people’s incomes.”

Lower-income Canadians may also be unable to afford the five to 10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables recommended in the country’s Food Guide.

“So what our study shows is you can achieve maximum benefit through fruits and vegetables and legumes, and it’s also affordable at the same time.”

Mente said the study also showed raw vegetables appear to confer greater health benefits than those that are cooked because of a loss of nutrients from being exposed to heat.

With the federal government in the process of revamping Canada’s Food Guide, the research could be a timely addition to consultations on what Canadians should be eating, Mente suggested.

“We would hope that independent thinkers perhaps reconsider the guidelines and look at our data, and perhaps rather than putting limits on total fat and saturated fat, perhaps we should be putting limits on the amount of carbohydrates that people consume.”

Reprogrammed cells relieve Parkinson’s symptoms in trials

Monkeys implanted with neurons derived from stem cells showed sustained improvement after two years.

B. Bick, . Poindexter, UT Med. School/SPL

A depletion of brain cells that produce dopamine is responsible for the mobility problems seen in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Japanese researchers report promising results from an experimental therapy for Parkinson’s disease that involves implanting neurons made from ‘reprogrammed’ stem cells into the brain. A trial conducted in monkeys with a version of the disease showed that the treatment improved their symptoms and seemed to be safe, according to a report published on 30 August in Nature1.

The study’s key finding — that the implanted cells survived in the brain for at least two years without causing any dangerous effects in the body — provides a major boost to researchers’ hopes of testing stem-cell treatments for Parkinson’s in humans, say scientists.

Jun Takahashi, a stem-cell scientist at Kyoto University in Japan who led the study, says that his team plans to begin transplanting neurons made from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into people with Parkinson’s in clinical trials soon.

The research is also likely to inform several other groups worldwide that are testing different approaches to treating Parkinson’s using stem cells, with trials also slated to begin soon.

Nature breaks down the latest research — and what it means for the future of stem-cell treatments.

Why are stem cells a promising treatment for Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative condition caused by the death of cells called dopaminergic neurons, which make a neurotransmitter called dopamine in certain areas of the brain. Because dopamine-producing brain cells are involved in movement, people with the condition experience characteristic tremors and stiff muscles. Current treatments address symptoms of the disease but not the underlying cause.

Researchers have pursued the idea that pluripotent stem cells, which can form any cell type in the body, could replace dead dopamine-making neurons in people with Parkinson’s, and thus potentially halt or even reverse disease progression. Embryonic stem cells, derived from human embryos, have this capacity, but they have been the subject of ethical debates. Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are made by coaxing adult cells into an emybronic-like state, have the same versatility without the associated ethical concerns.

What did the latest study find?

Takahashi’s team transformed iPS cells derived from both healthy people and those with Parkinson’s into dopamine-producing neurons. They then transplanted these cells into macaque monkeys with a form of the disease induced by a neuron-killing toxin.

The transplanted brain cells survived for at least two years and formed connections with the monkey’s brain cells, potentially explaining why the monkeys treated with cells began moving around their cages more frequently.

Why is the research important?

Crucially, Takahashi’s team found no sign that the transplanted cells had developed into tumours — a key concern with treatments that involve pluripotent cells — or that they evoked an immune response that couldn’t be controlled with immune-suppressing drugs.

“It’s addressing a set of critical issues that need to be investigated before one can, with confidence, move to using the cells in humans,” says Anders Bjorklund, a neuroscientist at Lund University in Sweden.

When will clinical trials begin and how will they work?

“I hope we can begin a clinical trial by the end of next year,” says Takahashi. Such a trial would be the first iPS cell trial for Parkinson’s. In 2014, a Japanese woman in her 70s became the first person to receive cells derived from iPS cells, to treat her macular degeneration.

In theory, iPS cells could be tailor-made for individual patients, which would eliminate the need to use drugs that suppress a possible immune response to foreign tissues.

But customized iPS cells are expensive to make and can take a couple months to derive and grow, Takahashi notes. So his team instead plans to establish iPS cell lines from healthy people and then use immune cell biomarkers to match them to people with Parkinson’s in the hope of minimizing the immune response (and therefore the need for drugs to blunt the attack).

In a study described in an accompanying paper in Nature Communications2, Takahashi’s team implanted into monkeys iPS-cell-derived neurons from different macaques. They found that transplants between monkeys carrying similar white blood cell markers triggered a muted immune reaction.

What other stem-cell approaches are being tested for Parkinson’s?

Earlier this year, Chinese researchers began a Parkinson’s trial that used a different approach: giving patients neural-precursor cells made from embryonic stem cells, which are intended to develop into mature dopamine-producing neurons. A year earlier, in a separate trial, patients in Australia received similar cells. But some researchers have expressed concerns that the immature transplanted cells could develop tumour-causing mutations.

Meanwhile, researchers who are part of a Parkinson’s stem-cell therapy consortium called GForce-PD, of which Takahashi’s team is a member, are set to bring still other approaches to the clinic. Teams in the United States, Sweden and the United Kingdom are all planning trials to transplant dopamine-producing neurons made from embryonic stem cells into humans. Previously established lines of embryonic stem cells have the benefit that they are well studied and can be grown in large quantities, and so all trial participants can receive a standardized treatment, notes Bjorklund, also a consortium member.

Jeanne Loring, a stem-cell scientist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, favours transplanting iPS-derived neurons made from a patient’s own cells. Although expensive, this approach avoids dangerous immunosuppressive drugs, she says. And because iPS cells are established anew for each patient, the lines go through relatively few cell divisions, minimizing the risk that they will develop tumour-causing mutations. Loring hopes to begin her team’s trial in 2019. “This shouldn’t be a race and we’re cheering for success by all,” she says.

Lorenz Studer, a stem-cell scientist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City who is working on a trial that will use neurons made from embryonic stem cells, says that there are still issues to work out, such as the number of cells needed in each transplant procedure. But he says that the latest study is “a sign that we are ready to move forward”.



  1. Kikuchi, T. et alNature (2017).

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  2. Morizane, A. et alNature Commun. (2017).

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Apple Watch is about to get a MAJOR update to one of its biggest features, code hints

THE Apple Watch looks set to get a major overhaul to its fitness tracking capabilities – one of the biggest selling-points behind the smartwatch – that could prove invaluable in owners’ everyday lives.


Apple Watch users could soon be getting a brand new feature that would be absolutely essential for all their fitness needs.

After scouring through the latest iOS 11 beta code, some assets have been found that could hint at new features coming to watchOS 4.

The Apple Watch looks set to soon support virtually every workout you can think of, according to Engadget.

Sports such as football, boxing, baseball and fitness activities like core training and pilates look set to benefit from Apple Watch tracking.

Interestingly, other sports that aren’t normally supported also look set to be supported by the Apple Watch.

Activities like sailing, dancing, bowling, surfing, skiing look set to receive Apple Watch tracking support.

While these tracking features look like they’re heading to the Apple Watch, which models will benefit from it is still up in the air.

Some of these workouts are available currently to watchOS 4 beta users, while others aren’t.

It has caused some to speculate that these workouts may be limited to the new model of the Apple Watch that is expected to be unveiled next month.

Many of these activities would not require any hardware changes, so chances are Apple just isn’t ready to make these workouts available.

Apple is expected to launch a brand new Apple Watch in the coming weeks, which is likely to be part of the Apple Watch Series 3.

The new Apple Watch is also expected to be unveiled alongside the Apple iPhone 8 and a 4K Apple TV.

These products are set to be launched at a big Apple event in San Francisco, and the rumour mill is predicting a September 12 date the for the reveal.

Apple Watch 2: Can it really survive in the sea? recently predicted the iPhone 8 would arrive early next month and a new rumour from Mac4ever suggests September 12 is the day Apple will reveal all.

This date has allegedly been received from telecoms companies who will clearly know the launch date in readiness for the huge surge in interest that’s expected.

Although there’s no confirmation of this date, another recent leak, posted on Twitter, suggests the iPhone will be available to buy from around September 20.

Apple usually releases its new devices a week after the launch event so these two dates do appear to match.

We should get official confirmation soon, as Apple usually sends out invites to its big announcements around two weeks before they are made.

The news about the fitness features set to be heading to the Apple Watch comes after Fitbit launched their own smartwatch.

Fitbit yesterday unveiled the Fitbit Ionic, that will be out in October and has a £299 price tag.

It boasts a lightweight aluminium case, health and fitness features, water resistance up to 50 metres and GPS tracking.

However, unlike last year’s Fitbit Blaze – which skirted the line between smartwatch and fitness band – the Ionic will have a third-party app platform.

Deezer expands Hi-Fi beyond Sonos to Google Cast and Chromecast speakers

Once nipping at the heels of Spotify in the world of music streaming services, we don’t hear too much about Deezer these days. Little surprise: today, the company originally based out of Paris only has around 12 million active users, just a fraction of Spotify’s 140 million, across its 185-country footprint and 43 million tracks.

Today, the company is launching a service that it hopes will help it boost those numbers, specifically among higher-margin users who are willing to pay rather than simply use Deezer’s freemium tier. It’s expanding Deezer HiFi, a $19.99/month high fidelity tier, to any wireless speaker system that supports Google Cast, Chromecast Audio or on any Chromecast built-in speaker using Deezer’s mobile app. This will mean that HiFi is expanding to speakers from Sony, Samsung, Yamaha and Bang & Olufsen, Onkyo, Pioneer, AudioPro and Devialet.

The expansion comes about two years after Deezer took its first baby step into partnerships with speaker companies: it originally announced a global expansion of the service, previously called Deezer Elite, in partnership with Sonos.

It also comes a couple of weeks after Deezer announced its first integration with Google Home, making the service usable with Google’s voice-responsive hub.

It’s now clear how many users Deezer has picked up to date from its Sonos partnership (we’re asking). You have to wonder, though, about whether Deezer is being pushed into these expansions by virtue of other market movements. Sonos has been working on its own voice-controlled smart speaker to compete with the Echo from Amazon and Google’s Home service, which is excepted to be fully revealed in September to work with a number of content and voice service providers.

Deezer HiFi is part of the somewhat-crowded throng of music services and products that have been built in recent years to cater to listeners who want sound quality significantly better than what you can get on an average streaming service and average speakers.

Others that are part of this trend include Tidal, the music service owned by Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) with lots of buy-in from other big-name musicians; and speaker makers like Devialet(also based out of Paris, like Deezer, and like Tidal backed by Carter, but also Foxconn, Andy Rubin and others). Spotify is reportedly working on launching its own Hi-Fi service soon, too.

Deezer’s service specifically promises “lossless capture of original analog audio source quality at 5x the bitrate at 1,411 kbps” using the FLAC codec.

While part of the significance of this deal is about how it’s showing the Deezer is trying to grow its business by focusing on specific, higher-end tiers of users, it’s also notable because it is one more sign of how streaming music is being drawn into the connected home experience, as one of the main use cases for voice-activated hubs.

“With more and more consumers embracing voice-activated services and a clear market for high quality audio, it is important that we are in a position to offer both to ensure the best possible experience,” said Riad Hawa, Deezer VP of Hardware Partnerships, in a statement. “Through deepening our relationship with existing partners and expanding our product offering, we believe that we deliver just this.”

This is not the only move that Deezer has made to scale its business. The company tried(but ultimately failed) to list itself publicly. And according to this report, it was among the companies that considered buying Soundcloud before the latter troubled streaming service secured emergency funding instead. Deezer also later raised some funding in the wake of its IPO cancellation. Since being founded in 2007, Deezer has raised about $217 million, with backers including Access Industries (which owns Warner Music), Orange (France Telecom), and Xavier Niel.

How Apple Plans to Change the Way You Use the Next iPhone

Premium device is said to come with new gesture controls to replace home button, taller screen with rounded corners.

Apple Inc. plans to transform the way people use its next high-end iPhone by eliminating the concept of a home button and making other adjustments to a flagship device that’s becoming almost all screen, according to images of the new device viewed by Bloomberg News and people familiar with the gadget.

The home button is the key to the iPhone and the design hasn’t changed much since it launched in 2007. Currently, users click it to return to the starting app grid that greets them multiple times a day. They hold it down to talk to the Siri digital assistant. Double click it and you get multitasking where different apps screens can be swiped through like a carousel.

Apple is preparing three new iPhones for debut next month. One of the models, a new high-end device, packs in enough changes to make it one of the biggest iPhone updatesin the product’s decade-long history. With a crisper screen that takes up nearly the entire front, Apple has tested the complete removal of the home button—even a digital one—in favor of new gesture controls for tasks like going to the main app grid and opening multitasking, according to the people and the images.

The new iPhone dock will be similar to the dock feature on iOS 11 for iPad shown here.

In the new, high-end iPhone, Apple also plans a taller screen with rounded corners, a cutout at the top of the display for the camera and sensors, and new antenna locations, the images show. Apple often tests different designs and the details may differ from what the company ultimately releases. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Across the bottom of the screen there’s a thin, software bar in lieu of the home button. A user can drag it up to the middle of the screen to open the phone. When inside an app, a similar gesture starts multitasking. From here, users can continue to flick upwards to close the app and go back to the home screen. An animation in testing sucks the app back into its icon. The multitasking interface has been redesigned to appear like a series of standalone cards that can be swiped through, versus the stack of cards on current iPhones, the images show.

Source: Bloomberg

The new model’s overall size will be similar to that of the iPhone 7, but it will include an OLED screen that is slightly larger than the one on the iPhone 7 Plus (5.5-inches), people familiar with the product have told Bloomberg News. The phone will have symmetrical, slim bezels around the entirety of the screen, meaning the area below the screen that used to house the home button and the area above the screen for the earpiece have been removed. The earpiece, facial recognition sensor, and selfie camera are instead present in a cutout, or “notch,” at the top of the screen, the images show.

The new screen is rounded on the corners, while current iPhone screens have square corners. The power button on the right side of phone is longer so it is easier to press while holding the device in one hand, according to the images and the people.

The screen is also noticeably taller than the iPhone 7 Plus’s screen, meaning it could show more of a web page or additional text messages, the people said. The phone will still have six vertical rows of apps, showing 24 icons on each page, excluding the dock, a grey bar at the bottom that houses commonly used apps. The dock is redesigned with a new interface similar to the one on the iPad version of iOS 11, the images show.

Apple has opted to not hide the notch area at the top of the screen, showing a definitive cutout at the top of apps with non-black backgrounds. The cutout is noticeable during app usage in the middle of the very top of the screen, where the status bar (the area that shows cellular reception, the time, and battery life) would normally be placed, according to the images. Instead, the status bar will be split into left and right sides, which some Apple employees call “ears” internally. In images of recent test devices, the left side shows the time while the area on the right side of the notch displays cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity and remaining battery life. Because of limited space, the status bar could change based on the task at hand, according to a person familiar with the testing.

The color reproduction of the OLED screen means that when the display shows black, it blends in nearly perfectly with the phone’s notch and thin black edges on the front, presenting a seamless look, according to the people familiar with the product. The screen itself, however, is flat like current and past iPhones and lacks the fully curved displays of the latest Samsung phones.

Apple also plans to include a stainless steel band around the phone which the glass curves into. The steel band has small antenna cuts on the corners like past iPhones to improve reception, the images show. Apple previously used steel sides and a glass casing for the iPhone 4 and 4s before moving to a mostly metal back and sides with the iPhone 5. The iPhone 6 line and newer have had completely metal backs.

Apple also is planning two additional new iPhone models that use faster processors, but include the same screens as the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The new devices will debut at Apple’s September launch event alongside upgraded Apple TV and Apple Watchmodels.

Ultra-thin carbon nanotubes can desalinate seawater

Ultra-thin carbon nanotubes can desalinate seawater
Thinkstock photo for representation.

Washington, August 30

Scientists have developed carbon nanotubes over 50,000 times thinner than a human hair which can quickly and effectively separate salt from seawater, an advance that may help solve the global water crisis.Increasing demands for fresh water pose a global threat to sustainable development, resulting in water scarcity for four billion people, researchers said.Current water purification technologies can benefit from the development of membranes with specialised pores that mimic highly efficient and water selective biological proteins.Scientists, including those from Northeastern University in the US, developed carbon nanotube pores that can exclude salt from seawater.The team found that water permeability in carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with diameters of 0.8 nanometre significantly exceeds that of wider carbon nanotubes.The nanotubes, hollow structures made of carbon atoms in a unique arrangement, are more than 50,000 times thinner than a human hair.The super smooth inner surface of the nanotube is responsible for their remarkably high water permeability, while the tiny pore size blocks larger salt ions.“We found that carbon nanotubes with diameters smaller than a nanometre bear a key structural feature that enables enhanced transport,” said Ramya Tunuguntla, a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the US.“The narrow hydrophobic channel forces water to translocate in a single-file arrangement, a phenomenon similar to that found in the most efficient biological water transporters,” said Tunuguntla.Computer simulations and experimental studies of water transport through CNTs with diameters larger than one nanometre showed enhanced water flow, but did not match the transport efficiency of biological proteins and did not separate salt efficiently, especially at higher salinities.The key breakthrough achieved by the LLNL team was to use smaller-diameter nanotubes that delivered the required boost in performance.“Carbon nanotubes are a unique platform for studying molecular transport and nanofluidics,” said Alex Noy principal investigator at LLNL.“Their sub-nanometre size, atomically smooth surfaces and similarity to cellular water transport channels make them exceptionally suited for this purpose, and it is very exciting to make a synthetic water channel that performs better than nature’s own,” said Noy.The research was published in the journal Science. — PTI

Acer’s New Chromebook 15 Boasts 12 Hour Battery Life

The updated Chromebook combines great battery life with a full HD IPS 15.6-inch display for only $399.
Acer Chromebook 15

When Chromebooks first appeared there was a lot of uncertainty over whether they’d be around for very long. Who’d buy a laptop that required an Internet connection in order to function? But the features and functionality continued to improve, and new models keep appearing such as this updated Chromebook 15from Acer.

Acer is the only manufacturer offering a Chromebook with a 15.6-inch display right now, and the company is clearly trying hard to make it the must-have Chromebook. The Chromebook 15 includes a 1080p IPS 15.6-inch display housed in an aluminium-topped case that measures 14.9-by-10.1-by-0.7 inches and weighs 3.8 pounds. Liliputing points out that is a fifth of an inch thinner and a pound lighter than the previous model.

If the large full HD display (with touch and non-touch options) wasn’t enough to tempt you, Acer combined it with a claim of 12 hours of battery life (the previous model only manages nine hours). Another nice-to-have is upward-facing speakers either side of the full-size keyboard for clear audio.

Acer Chromebook 15

As for connectivity, Acer included 802.11ac Wi-Fi, two USB 3.1 Type-C ports with an adapter allowing for charging, two USB 3.0 ports, Bluetooth 4.2, headphone jack, and an SD card reader supporting up to 128GB SDXC. The HD webcam embedded above the display offers an 88 degree field of view.

Acer will begin selling the new Chromebook 15 from October in North America, with a range of models expected to be available. There will be a choice between dual-core Celeron or Pentium processors, touch or non-touch display, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 32GB or 64GB of eMMC storage. Regardless of model, Android apps are supported through the Google Play Store on the laptop.

Pricing will start at $399, which I assume gets you a Celeron processor, non-touch 15.6-inch 1080p display, 4GB RAM, and 32GB of storage. That’s pretty good considering the display and battery life, and hopefully it isn’t that much more expensive to get a Pentium chip, 8GB RAM, and 64GB of storage. For reference, the existing Chromebook 15 using a dual-core 1.5GHz Celeron processor, 4GB RAM, and 32GB of storage can be picked up for $299.