OSIRIS-REx’s asteroid sample lands in Houston (photos)


The asteroid sample collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft just experienced its second touchdown in only two days.

The sample — a stash of dirt and gravel that the probe snagged from the asteroid Bennu in October 2020touched down in the Utah desert on Sunday (Sept. 24), thrilling mission team members and scientists around the world. 

But the asteroid sample stayed in the Beehive State for just a day before boarding a plane to its final destination, which it reached today (Sept. 25).

“Welcome to Houston, OSIRIS-REx! The asteroid sample arrived today in Texas where it will be curated and preserved by our team here at Johnson. The information collected could help scientists around the world investigate planetary formation, the origins of life and how asteroids might impact Earth,” NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), which is based in Houston, said today in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

Related: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx lands samples of asteroid Bennu to Earth after historic 4-billion-mile journey

OSIRIS-REx collected the sample from the asteroid Bennu in October 2020. (Image credit: NASA/JSC)

OSIRIS-REx launched in September 2016 and arrived at Bennu, a 1,650-foot-wide (500 meters) near-Earth asteroid, in December 2018. The probe studied Bennu up close for 22 months, then swooped in to grab a sample — marking the very first time a NASA probe had managed to collect pieces of an asteroid in space.

That dive revealed Bennu’s surface to be surprisingly spongy; OSIRIS-REx sank far into the asteroid before backing away to safety. 

OSIRIS-REx left Bennu in May 2021, beginning a long journey back to Earth. At 6:42 a.m. EDT (1042 GMT) on Sunday, the probe released its sample capsule, which came down to Earth on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range about four hours later — just as planned.

The Bennu sample will now make its way to a newly built curation facility at JSC managed by the agency’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science division.

The OSIRIS-REx science team — which includes more than 200 people based at 35 institutions around the world — will then study the sample for about two years in an effort to meet the mission’s main science goals. As the above JSC post noted, those goals include better understanding how the solar system formed and evolved and the role carbon-rich asteroids like Bennu may have played in delivering life’s building blocks to Earth.

The science team will have access to about 25% of the Bennu material, which is thought to weigh about 8.8 ounces (250 grams). Four percent of the sample will go to the Canadian Space Agency, which provided OSIRIS-REx’s laser altimeter instrument. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will get 0.5% of the material, as part of a deal with NASA that includes collaboration between OSIRIS-REx and JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission, which returned a small sample of the asteroid Ryugu to Earth in December 2020.

The remaining 70% of the Bennu sample will remain at JSC “for study by scientists not yet born, using technologies not yet invented, to answer fundamental questions about the solar system,” according to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx sample-return press kit.   

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

via Space https://www.space.com

September 25, 2023 at 04:32PM

Spotify Now Lets Up to 32 People Control a Single Playlist


Spotify is no stranger to breaking the golden rule of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Now, the music streaming service has bolstered its collaborative playlist offering with Jam, a new feature that allows up to 32 people to control a single playlist.

TEST- Where’s the Line? Controversy Causes Post-Release Edits of TV/Film/Music

Having the de facto party sound engineer gate keep the aux cord and politely reject your request for a song is a humbling experience as any, but Jam appears to be democratizing that very phenomenon. Spotify announced the new feature and said that Jam is primarily designed for real-time listening, like a party, when the members of a playlist are all in the same room. Jam allows guests to manually add songs to the shared playlist, while the company’s algorithm can also recommend tracks it thinks the group will like. Spotify began rolling out Jam to Premium subscribers yesterday.

“Once you start a Jam, you can invite a group of friends or family—Free or Premium users, or a mix—so they can share the experience,” the company wrote in its announcement. “Premium listeners can join from wherever they are, whether they’re in the same room or across the world.”

Jam comes as Spotify leans head-first into the brand’s effort to be less of a streaming service and more of a social media platform. Spotify has had collaborative playlists since at least late 2020, allowing two users to share music in one single stream. At the same time, Spotify released Blends in 2021, in which two users can “blend” their music tastes with an algorithmically generated playlist that tries to guess which of their favorite music the other might like.

The absolutely gargantuan playlists Jam can create are the latest from a platform that is throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. In February, Spotify debuted an annoying AI-powered DJ that it touts as the latest in music exploration. DJ will play songs it thinks you like while interrupting after each offering with some cheeky quip to pull you right out of your music-listening experience. The next month, Spotify unveiled a TikTok-esque home feed that begs you to scroll through an endless barrage of visuals in order to discover new music. This all comes at a time when the music streamer is facing major financial difficulties and its biggest competitor, Apple Music, doesn’t even need to turn a profit because its primary purpose is to sell hardware.

via Gizmodo https://gizmodo.com

September 26, 2023 at 09:27AM

The Morning After: Amazon bets $4 billion on an OpenAI rival


Amazon’s bid for AI glory is in the billions. It’s investing up to $4 billion in OpenAI rival Anthropic to provide advanced deep learning and other services for its Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers. Google has already invested $400 million in the company, which was founded by former OpenAI executives.

Anthropic recently unveiled its first consumer-facing chatbot Claude 2, accessible by subscription much like OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The Claude Constitutional AI system is guided by 10 “foundational” principles of fairness and autonomy and is supposed to be harder to trick than other AI. Anthropic is already working on a chatbot it calls Claude-Next, which is supposed to be 10 times more powerful than any current AI.

But it’ll have to impress if it wants to supplant OpenAI’s dominance, at least in the public’s eye. OpenAI’s ultra-popular ChatGPT chatbot is the one to beat, while its DALL-E image generation service has gained even more traction through its hooks into Microsoft’s Bing search.

— Mat Smith


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DJI Mini 4 Pro drone review

The best lightweight drone gains more power and smarts.


DJI’s Mini 3 Pro fitting in tons of technology and a high-quality camera into a sub-250-gram drone. Its successor adds omnidirectional obstacle sensors, which eliminate the blind spots on the Mini 3 Pro, and a new feature called ActiveTrack 360, which lets you program camera moves when tracking a subject. The Mini 4 Pro isn’t cheap for a budget drone. It’s $759 for the drone with a battery and RC-N2 controller, but if you’re in the market for a drone in that price range, nothing else can touch it.

Continue reading.

Analogue’s limited-edition transparent Pocket handhelds come in 7 colors

They will be available on September 29 for $250.

It’s only been a few weeks since Analogue released a glow-in-the-dark Pocket console, and I claimed the era of see-through gadgets was over. I was wrong. The same company is now teasing seven transparent Pocket handhelds: clear, smoke, red, blue, orange, green and purple. The retro gaming console will set you back $250 — $30 more than the basic versions. They will launch (and presumably sell out) on September 29 at 8AM PT / 11AM ET.

Continue reading.

The iPhone 15 Pro version of Resident Evil Village lands on October 30

The AAA console game will be the first in a wave of games coming to the iPhone.


Resident Evil Village is heading to iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max on October 30. It’ll hit the M1 and M2 models of the iPad Pro and iPad Air on the same day. The base game will cost $40 and its Winters’ Expansion DLC will be an additional $20. It’s expensive for an iPhone game, but Apple has teased a graphically rich, full-fat console game. Hopefully REV delivers on all of that. Other games coming to the iPhone 15 Pro include Death Stranding and Assassin’s Creed Mirage.

Continue reading.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://ift.tt/kHvX3Wl

via Engadget http://www.engadget.com

September 26, 2023 at 06:24AM

Mathematicians find 12,000 new solutions to ‘unsolvable’ 3-body problem


The three-body problem is a notoriously tricky puzzle in physics and mathematics, and an example of just how complex the natural world is. Two objects orbiting each other, like a lone planet around a star, can be described with just a line or two of mathematical equations. Add a third body, though, and the math becomes much harder. Because each object influences the others with its gravity, calculating a stable orbit where all three objects get along is a complex feat.

Now, an international team of mathematicians claims to have found 12,000 new solutions to the infamous problem — a substantial addition to the hundreds of previously known scenarios. Their work was published as a preprint to the database arXiv, meaning it has not yet undergone peer review.

More than 300 years ago, Isaac Newton wrote down his foundational laws of motion, and mathematicians have been working on solutions to the three-body problem pretty much ever since. There is no single correct answer; instead, there are many orbits that can work within the laws of physics for three orbiting objects. 

Related: The ‘Three-Body Problem’ has perplexed astronomers since Newton formulated it. A.I. cracked it in under a second.

Unlike our planet’s simple loop around the sun, orbits for the three-body problem can look twisted and tangled, like pretzels and scribbles. The 12,000 newly discovered ones are no exception — the three hypothetical objects start at a standstill and, when released, are pulled into various spirals toward one another via gravity. They then fling past one another, moving farther away, until the attraction takes over and they once again come together, repeating this pattern over and over again.

The orbits “have a very beautiful spatial and temporal structure,” lead study author Ivan Hristov, a mathematician at Sofia University in Bulgaria, told  New Scientist. Hristov and colleagues found these orbits using a supercomputer, and he’s confident that with even better tech, he could find “five times more.”

Three-body systems are quite common in the universe; there are plenty of star systems with multiple planets, or even multiple stars orbiting each other. In theory, these new solutions could prove extremely valuable to astronomers trying to explain the cosmos. But they’re only useful if they’re stable, meaning the orbital patterns can repeat over time without breaking apart, flinging one of the component worlds off into space. Just because they’re theoretically stable doesn’t mean they’ll stand up to the many other forces present in a real star system.

“Their physical and astronomical relevance will be better known after the study of stability — it’s very important,” Hristov said.

Juhan Frank, an astronomer at Louisiana State University who wasn’t involved in the work, is skeptical that these orbits will turn out to be stable. They’re “probably never realized in nature,” he told New Scientist. “After a complex and yet predictable orbital interaction, such three-body systems tend to break into a binary and an escaping third body, usually the least massive of the three.”

No matter what, though, these solutions are a mathematical wonder. According to Hristov, “stable or unstable — they are of great theoretical interest.”

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

via Space https://www.space.com

September 24, 2023 at 05:11AM

Unity walks back new engine pricing after protests


Forget Starfield, Baldur’s Gate 3, or [insert the game that you’re currently playing here]. The big story in the game industry over the last week has been Unity and how the makers of the cross-platform engine have pissed off pretty much everyone. On Friday, Unity issued an update a little over a week after announcing a new per-install fee structure that would have drastically increased costs for developers large and small. Following the near-universal outcry, Unity has scaled back some — but not all — of the planned changes.

Most importantly, the free tier of the Unity engine will not automatically charge game developers a fee for every installation of games developed with it. In addition, the terms applying this fee to games retroactively, possibly setting the bar for the charge impossibly low for thousands of titles already on the market for PCs, consoles, and mobile phones, are now gone. The runtime fee changes will only be applied following the next major release of the Unity game engine. That release won’t come until 2024.

Other controversial aspects of the new fee structure are still in place. Per-installation fees will remain for new games that earn more than $1 million USD in a 12-month period with an option to swap out this revenue model for a rather steep 2.5% revenue share scheme. That fee will be based on the estimated numbers of users engaging with the published game on a per-month basis. And along with the user installation numbers, these will be self-reported. The self-reporting concession sidesteps many of the issues that developers had with how users would be calculated, like re-installations, game streaming, or games offered on multiple platforms.

While per-installation fees for bigger and more profitable games remain, it seems like these changes address most of the issues that developers (and by proxy, gamers) had with the original shocking announcement. The concession that existing games built with Unity will not be subject to retroactive charges, endangering the very existence of some games and their developers’ ability to continue selling them, is a big walk-back. The announcement was made in a post that begins with an apology, and one that’s more sincere than a previous damage control tweet.

Even so, the week-long episode created a deep rift between Unity and the game dev community that won’t be easy to reverse. Many developers began considering a shift to Epic’s similarly cross-platform Unreal Engine, or smaller alternatives like Godot or Defold. With a reprieve of several months at least before the less dramatic changes are set to go into effect, Unity may find that it’s no longer the de facto standard for indie developers.

via PCWorld https://www.pcworld.com

September 25, 2023 at 11:36AM

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Is About to Bring Asteroid Pieces Back to Earth


Seven years after it left for the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is returning with a celestial souvenir. On the morning of Sunday, September 24, as it passes by Earth the probe will release a canister holding about 9 ounces of space rock. The container will plummet through the atmosphere, its parachute will unfurl, and it will touch down in the Utah desert at about 8:55 am Mountain time.

Assuming its contents survive the journey unscathed, the return will mark a tantalizing step forward for planetary science. Researchers have long salivated over the prospect of examining pristine asteroid fragments. While meteorites—which are often broken chunks of asteroids—fall from the sky all the time, they’re immediately contaminated by the ground they smash into. This will be a rare look at an untainted rock from space, and it will help scientists understand what Bennu is made of and where it came from. If the mission is successful, it will be only the third asteroid sample return in history—following Japanese space agency missions to Ryugu and Itokawa.

To planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, the mission’s principal investigator, it’s also “a little bittersweet,” because the program is now coming to an end. Still, he says, “I’m excited to get it into the laboratory, so we can do all this amazing science.” His University of Arizona team will study the composition of the dust and rock fragments in the container and trace any organic molecules they may harbor. The scientists will also be able to compare samples of Bennu to Ryugu.

But first, the capsule, which is circular and about the size of an ice chest, has to make it safely down to Earth. That will mean slowing from 28,000 miles per hour to just 11. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft for NASA and is responsible for the capsule recovery. “We have done sample returns before, so we have that experience,” says Sandra Freund, a systems engineer at Lockheed and the OSIRIS-REx program manager, referring to previous NASA missions that collected materials from a comet and the solar wind. “We know we can do this, but there’s always a risk when you’re bringing something back to Earth. You’ve got atmospheric reentry, which is a very fiery experience. You’ve got parachutes that need to deploy. So there are a number of things that need to go just right.”

The capsule’s built-in heat shield is designed to save it from burning up at 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, as a meteor or unprotected satellite that size hurtling through the atmosphere would. “Any time you want to bring a payload through the atmosphere, you need protection for it. It can be pretty gnarly,” says Todd White, a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, who worked on the spacecraft’s thermal protection system. The heat shield is made of a lightweight chopped carbon fiber infused with resin, and it’s ablative, meaning that it slowly burns off. “It looks nice and brown on the back and white on the front—but when it lands it’ll look charred and crispy,” White says.

First, the capsule will deploy a small drogue chute to keep itself stable. Then seven minutes into its descent, it will open its main parachute and drift to the ground for six more minutes. Recovery helicopters will get the first view of its rapid descent. Relatively soft soil should cushion the impact when it lands within the Department of Defense’s remote Utah Test and Training Range and Dugway Proving Grounds. It’s an active range, though, so before NASA personnel make their approach to retrieve the container, a military representative will check the area to make sure there’s no unexploded ordnance.

via Wired Top Stories https://www.wired.com

September 22, 2023 at 07:03AM