DAILY DOSE: James Webb Telescope leaves scientists agog; Early analysis of asteroid samples taken from Bennu.

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WOW FACTOR.

In a rare respite from bad news for U.S. President Joe Biden, the beleaguered head of state unveiled a stunning image taken by the most expensive space telescope ever deployed. Per the Associated Press, “Our view of the universe just expanded: The first image from NASA’s new space telescope unveiled Monday is brimming with galaxies and offers the deepest look of the cosmos ever captured. The first image from the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope is the farthest humanity has ever seen in both time and distance, closer to the dawn of time and the edge of the universe. That image will be followed Tuesday by the release of four more galactic beauty shots from the telescope’s initial outward gazes.” Needless to say, the view captured by the telescope left astronomers agog. We were more amazed at the fact that Biden had some good news for a change. https://bit.ly/3c6z2Wa

CREDIT: NASA.

WALKING BACK QUESTIONABLE SCIENCE.

Months ago, China bucked Western scientists’ consensus that the risk of contracting Covid-19 from the surfaces of chilled and frozen foods was minimal at most. Now, Beijing is quietly rolling back that practice as it becomes more costly to continue. Per Reuters, “China’s health authority said on Tuesday that local governments no longer need to test some imported goods for the coronavirus, in a move aimed at reducing the cost of its strict COVID-19 prevention measures. China began testing the packaging of chilled and frozen food imports for the virus in June 2020, after a cluster of infections among workers at a wholesale food market in Beijing. Six months later, Beijing also advised testing on ambient products too, even as scientists said the risk of coronavirus infection through contact with contaminated surfaces was low.” The initial guidance to test food surfaces smacked more of politics than public health when it was first implemented. Chinese scientists cited contaminated foreign food imports for a minor Covid-19 outbreak at the time. https://reut.rs/3NVaYmx


MAKE LIKE A BABY.

Scientists believe they been able to train a neural network to learn the physics of shapes by emulating the way infants do. The software model, named Physics Learning through Auto-encoding and Tracking Objects (PLATO), was fed the raw images from videos. PLATO was designed to develop an internal representation of physical properties of the objects, such as their positions and velocities. According to Nature, “The system was trained on around 30 hours of videos showing simple mechanisms such as a ball rolling down a slope or two balls bouncing off each other, and developed the ability to predict how those objects would behave in different situations. In particular, it learnt patterns such as continuity, in which an object follows an uninterrupted trajectory rather than magically teleporting from one place to another; solidity, which prevents two objects from penetrating each other; and persistence of the objects’ shape. ‘At every step of a movie, it makes a prediction’ about what will happen next, Piloto says. ‘As it gets further into the movie, the prediction becomes more accurate.’” This is how the apocalypse starts… Emulating infants. https://go.nature.com/3Pn1yRS


ASTEROID DUST ANALYSIS.

In April 2021, the NASA spacecraft OSIRIS-REx traveled to the nearby asteroid, Bennu, in order to drill samples of rock and eventually return them to Earth. A study published in Science reports on initial analysis of the drilled material. According to the authors, “The sampling event mobilized rocks and dust into a debris plume, excavating a 9-m-long elliptical crater. This exposed material is darker, spectrally redder, and more abundant in fine particulates than the original surface. The bulk density of the displaced subsurface material was 500–700 kg per cubic meter, about half that of the whole asteroid. Particulates that landed on instrument optics spectrally resemble aqueously altered carbonaceous meteorites. The spacecraft stored 250 ± 101 g of material, which will be delivered to Earth in 2023.” https://bit.ly/3Pp1SPN

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE CREDIT: NASA.


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