Day: January 11, 2020

17-year-old discovers a planet on third day of NASA internship

17-year-old discovers a planet on third day of NASA internship

Gen Z’s intergalactic takeover has begun. 

On Monday, NASA announced that its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which captures images to be uploaded to the Planet Hunters TESS citizen science project, had evidence of a new planet. The first circumbinary planet captured by TESS, “TOI 1338 b” as it is now known orbits two stars in the constellation Pictor — approximately 1,300 light-year away from Earth.  

The person responsible for the new discovery? 17-year-old intern Wolf Cukier. 

In summer 2019, Cukier was tasked with examining “variations in star brightness” in images captured by TESS. In a NASA press release, Goddard researcher Veselin Kostov explained that the human eye is better equipped than an algorithm when it comes to detecting subtle changes and patterns — so, a perfect job for a first-week intern.  Read more…

More about Nasa, Planet, Science, and Space

After delays, noise-adapting NuraLoop earbuds are coming soon and sound great

A few buffet mistakes aside, NuraLoop were the biggest disappointment of my 2019 CES. When the headphones showed up at the show as dummy units, it hurt my heart a little. The original Nuraphones made an appearance on my 2017 best of the year list, and the idea of a portable version I could take on long flights seemed almost too good to be true.

And for a full year, it was exactly that. Understandably, the Australian startup ran into a few roadblocks attempting to bring the product to market. It’s still a young company, even though its first gen product when over remarkably well. The noise-adapting headphones were extremely well thought out, right down to the package.

The hangup for their portable, in-ear counterparts is pretty surprising, to be honest. For much of the year, Nura just couldn’t crack the code of the cable, of all things. It’s a doubly odd sticking point, given how many of its competitors have ditched the cabling altogether. It should be noted up front, however, that the decision to keep things tethered is more pragmatic than aesthetic (honestly, it wouldn’t have been choice from a design standpoint).

As CEO Dragan Petrovic mentioned in a briefing at the show this week, the customer base for the original over-ears includes a pretty strong base of professional musicians, The cable includes a magnetic adapter for an analog headphone jack, so they can be used on stage monitors. There are a number of other times that still require capable — I’m writing this on a plane, for example. What am I supposed to do, just stare at Gemini Man?

There are other benefits, including a stated 16+ hours of battery life, without requiring a charging case. Also, you can wear them around your neck while not in use, if that’s a thing you like to do.

It’s never fun to have to delay a product, of course. In the year between CESes, Apple launched the AirPods Pro. The devices are two distinctly different approaches to the category, but Apple’s product does edge into NuraLoops’ territory, with a built-in fit check and great noise canceling. Again, different products with different audiences, but one has to wonder how many folks waiting for the NuraLoop pulled the trigger on the new AirPods, instead.

I’m happy to report that the sound quality on the NuraLoop is still extremely excellent. Sure, you lose the over-ear immersive bass effect without the ear cups, but the customized sound profile is still firmly in tact. The calibration is more or less the same, and when you’re done, you can swap between profiles to see how big a difference the customization makes (hint: it’s big).

The headphones are a bit on the bulky side. I’m definitely going to go exercise with them as soon as I get a review pair to see how well they stay put. The control scheme is clever — a touch well on the outside of each ear that perform a variety of different functions.

The year-long wait was less than ideal, but if you held out, you’ll probably find them worth it. The Nuraloop are another excellent product from the small Australian startup, which has managed to distinguish itself well in an overly crowded category. They run $200 and will start shipping in March.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

Airport informants, overhead drones: How the U.S. killed Soleimani

By Ken Dilanian and Courtney Kube and Dan De Luce

The Americans were waiting for him.

Armed with a tip from informants at the airport in Damascus, the CIA knew exactly when a jet carrying Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani took off en route to Baghdad. Intelligence from Israel helped confirm the details.

Once the Cham Wings Boeing 727 landed, American spies at Iraq’s main airport, which houses U.S. military personnel, confirmed its exact whereabouts.

Three American drones moved into position overhead, with no fear of challenge in an Iraqi airspace completely dominated by the U.S. military. Each was armed with four hellfire missiles.

This account of how the U.S. took out Soleimani is based on interviews with two people directly familiar with the details of the operation, as well as other American officials who were briefed on it.

Slide 1 of 58: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announce new sanctions on Iran in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2020.Slide 2 of 58: Brian Hook (2nd R), U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brian (R) listen during a press briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin held the press briefing to discuss the new sanctions against Iranian officials.Slide 3 of 58: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R3), Qasem Soleimani's long-time lieutenant and the new leader of Quds Force Gen. Esmail Qaani (R2) attend a memorial for Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Forces, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq, in Tehran, Iran on January 09, 2020.Slide 4 of 58: Qasem Soleimani's long-time lieutenant and the new leader of Quds Force Gen. Esmail Qaani (L2), Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Hossein Salami (R3), son of Qasem Soleimani, Mphammed Reza Soleimani (R2) attend a memorial for Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Forces, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq, in Tehran, Iran on January 09, 2020.


On large screens, various U.S. officials watched as an Iraqi militia leader walked up a set of stairs to greet the leader of Iran’s Quds Force as he emerged from airplane.

It was past one in the morning, so the black and white infrared imagery wasn’t very clear. No faces could be seen.

The men on the ground had no idea that their lives were now to be measured in minutes.

CIA Director Gina Haspel was observing from agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was watching from another location. Another feed was on view in the White House, but Trump was in Florida at the time.

The imagery showed two senior figures get into a sedan, which pulled away. The rest of the entourage climbed into the minivan, which sped to catch up.

The drones followed as the vehicles began moving to exit the airport. Signals intelligence specialists sought to home in on the cell phones of the occupants to confirm their identities. Years of mapping and terrain information from satellites was available on the screens of the drone operators.

Other vehicles passed occasionally, but traffic was light. The minivan pulled ahead of the sedan.

At U.S. Central Command forward headquarters in Qatar, where the operation was being run, there were no significant doubts about who was inside those vehicles.

Qasem Soleimani, Hossein Salami are posing for a picture: Image: Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei © Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader Image: Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Those watching could see the missiles strike, a man-made bolt from the sky. The vehicles were engulfed in a fireball. In total, four missiles were fired. There were no survivors.

The leader of Iran’s Quds force, who had helped kill Americans for more than a decade, was no more.

U.S. military officials watched a live feed of the strikes at various locations around the world. Despite the successful operation, the reaction was somber as the gravity of the attack set in and the officials contemplated what response it could unleash.

It was an operation utterly unremarkable for any technical or intelligence wizardry. It’s remarkable, rather, for how routine such lethal actions have become.

The targeted killing is the latest demonstration of how, two decades after the CIA spotted but was unable to kill a man they believed was Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, the U.S. has become adept at hunting and killing its enemies, particularly in the troubled regions of the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

“In less than a generation, we went from something that was abnormal and maybe even science fiction, to the point where it’s the new normal,” said Peter Singer, an expert on future warfare at the New America Foundation. “Both leaders and the public don’t even blink an eye.”

Targeted strikes like the one that killed Soleimani represent a fundamental change in warfare, said Anthony Cordesman, who studies military trends at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“It requires a truly immense intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance effort — one which basically no other country in the world can match, and which is vastly expensive, time-consuming and requires lot of expertise.”

The only thing different about Soleimani was that he was a state actor, a senior official of another government. For that reason, and in light of the expected retaliation from Iran, this strike has proven far more controversial than others. But as a technical matter, experts say, it was fairly straightforward.

Soleimani, long a shadowy presence in the Middle East, had ventured into public view in recent years, posing for pictures in Iraq and elsewhere as he plotted strategy to counter U.S. interests. So he wasn’t nearly as hard to find as bin Laden, who was hiding in Pakistan when he was killed in 2011, or the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in Syria by a U.S. drone strike in October 2019 after a years-long manhunt.

Still, it’s not as if the Iranian put his name on passenger manifests. Tracking his travels took some doing, and knowing exactly where he would be was an intelligence feat, officials say. So was killing him in a way that risked no civilian casualties.

“These things are tricky,” said one former special operator familiar with what happened. “There is a lot that can go wrong.”

At the Baghdad airport, Soleimani was greeted by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of an Iraqi anti-American militia and suspect in the bombing of the American and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983. Al-Muhandis got into the sedan with the Iranian and he, too, was killed in the strike.

The drones that followed the convoy are not silent, but in an urban environment like Baghdad, the sound they make is not easily discernible, officials say. There was no hint that the men in the vehicles knew they were being targeted.

The Iraqi government was not pleased by the news that the U.S. killed an official of a neighboring state on its territory without consultation. Two Iraqi security officials told Reuters that they are investigating the role of suspected U.S. informants at the Baghdad airport.

Syrian intelligence is investigating two employees of Cham Wings airline, Reuters reported.

U.S. officials told NBC News that they had been closely tracking Soleimani’s movements across the region for days. The Trump administration says he was planning attacks against Americans, though they have not released any evidence.

“We had specific information on an imminent threat,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a Friday news conference at the White House. “And those threats included attacks on U.S. embassies. Period, full stop.”

Iranian officials have said that Wednesday’s missile strikes against U.S. troops in Iraq, which caused no casualties, will be the end of their retaliation for the killing of their general. But U.S. intelligence officials don’t believe that.

“If I were a U.S. ambassador, I wouldn’t be starting my own car for the foreseeable future,” one official said.

Valentine’s Day is all about personalised gifts

Valentine's Day is all about personalised gifts

TL;DR: Getting Personal has launched a January Sale, saving you 10% with the code JAN10.

Attention all lovebirds! Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and you should probably be prepared if you want to make a good impression on your special someone.

The celebration of all things pink, fluffy, and heart-shaped takes place on Feb. 14, and that means you need to start thinking about what you’re going to buy. You could play it safe and get something generic, or you could impress and get something personal.

Getting Personal offers gifts, cards, and unique ideas you won’t find anywhere else. You can personalise your gift this year with over 5,000 exclusive ideas and designs to consider on the site, making things really easy on you. Read more…

More about Valentine S Day, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Uk, Uk Deals, and Getting Personal

Waymo’s Anca Dragan and Ike Robotics CTO Jur van den Berg are coming to TC Sessions: Robotics+AI

The road to “solving” self-driving cars is riddled with challenges, from perception and decision making to figuring out the interaction between humans and robots.

Today we’re announcing that joining us at TC Sessions: Robotics+AI on March 3 at UC Berkeley are two experts who play important roles in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle technology: Anca Dragan and Jur van den Berg.

Dragan is an assistant professor in UC Berkeley’s electrical engineering and computer sciences department, as well as a senior research scientist and consultant for Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that is now a business under Alphabet. She runs the InterACT Lab at UC Berkeley, which focuses on algorithms for human-robot interaction. Dragan also helped found, and serves on, the steering committee for the Berkeley AI Research Lab, and is co-PI of the Center for Human-Compatible AI.

Last year, Dragan was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Van den Berg is the co-founder and CTO of Ike Robotics, a self-driving truck startup that last year raised $52 million in a Series A funding round led by Bain Capital  Ventures. Van den Berg has been part of the most important, secretive and even controversial companies in the autonomous vehicle technology industry. He was a senior researcher and developer in Apple’s special projects group, before jumping to self-driving trucks startup Otto. He became a senior autonomy engineer at Uber after the ride-hailing company acquired Otto .

All of this led to Ike, which was founded in 2018 with Nancy Sun and Alden Woodrow, who were also veterans of Apple, Google and Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s self-driving truck program.

TC Sessions: Robotics+AI returns to Berkeley on March 3. Make sure to grab your early-bird tickets today for $275 before prices go up by $100. Students, grab your tickets for just $50 here.

Startups, book a demo table right here and get in front of 1,000+ of Robotics/AI’s best and brightest — each table comes with four attendee tickets.