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Nasa probe Osiris-Rex 'kisses' asteroid Bennu in historic mission - Bangkok Post
WASHINGTON: After a four-year journey, Nasa's robotic spacecraft Osiris-Rex briefly touched down on asteroid Bennu's boulder-strewn surface on Tuesday to collect rock and dust samples in a precision operation 330 million kilometres from Earth.
WASHINGTON: After a four-year journey, Nasa's robotic spacecraft Osiris-Rex briefly touched down on asteroid Bennu's boulder-strewn surface on Tuesday to collect rock and dust samples in a precision operation 330 million kilometres from Earth. The so-called "Touch-And-Go" or TAG maneuver was managed by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, where at 6.12pm (5.12am Wednesday in Bangkok) an announcer said: "Touchdown declared. Sampling is in progress," and scientists erupted in celebration. The historic mission was 12 years in the making and rested on a critical 16 second period where the spacecraft performed a delicate autonomous maneuver to grab its payload: at least 60 grams (two ounces), or a candy-bar sized amount of surface material that scientists hope will help unravel the origins of our solar system. If Osiris-Rex successfully comes home in September 2023, it will have collected the largest sample returned from space since the Apollo era. "We think we actually might be coming back with a baby picture of what the solar system was like, of what our chemistry was like, billions of years ago," Nasa scientist Michelle Thaller said. "We're looking for our own origins out there, and that's why we've gone so far to bring a bit of Bennu back." The spacecraft, about the size of a large van, slowed down to a crawl of just 10 centimetres per second on the final phase of its descent into the asteroid's Nightingale crater on the north pole of the asteroid, which is 490 metres in diameter. It eased its robotic arm down to a target zone just eight metre in diameter, or equal to about three parking spaces, then fired pressurized nitrogen to agitate the surface material and catch its sample. The spacecraft fired its thrusters to back away from Bennu's surface. All of this occurred about 18.5 minutes earlier than announced, and the first images will only be available Wednesday once the probe is further away and has a higher data transmission rate. It will be known on Saturday if Osiris-Rex succeeded in collecting the desired amount of dust. Scientists want at least 60 grammes but the spacecraft is capable of picking up as much as two kilograms. Beth Buck of Lockheed Martin explained that it's not possible to actually land on the asteroid, "so we will only be kissing the surface." - 'Rosetta stone' - Scientists are interested in analyzing the composition of the asteroids in the solar system because they are made of the same materials that formed the planets. It's "almost a Rosetta stone, something that's out there and tells the history of our entire Earth, of the solar system during the last billions of years," said Nasa's chief scientist, Thomas Zurbuchen. Laboratories on Earth will be able to carry out much more high powered analysis of their physical and chemical characteristics, said Naa's planetary science division director Lori Glaze. Not all samples will be analyzed immediately, like those brought back from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts, which Nasa is still opening up 50 years later. Nasa chose this particular asteroid because it is conveniently close and also ancient: scientists calculated that it formed in the first 10 million years of our solar system's history, 4.5 billion years ago. After Osiris-Rex reached the rock at the end of 2018, the scientists were surprised to receive photographs showing that it was covered with pebbles and boulders sometimes 30 meters high. Last year, Japan managed with its Hayabusa2 probe to collect some dust from another asteroid, Ryugu, and is now on its way home.
K-pop titan BTS's online concert draws global fans - Bangkok Post
Fans of BTS tuned in to an online concert by the K-pop boyband on Saturday, holding their signature light sticks and sharing messages in a chatroom.
Fans of BTS tuned in to an online concert by the K-pop boyband on Saturday, holding their signature light sticks and sharing messages in a chatroom. Titled "Map Of The Soul ON:E", the virtual event came after the seven-member group scrapped its initial plan to hold an in-person show for a limited audience, in line with the South Korean government's tightened social distancing curbs. The band had already cancelled planned world tours. The band's latest success was Dynamite, its first song entirely in English, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart last month. "You're not here but I feel you here, as if I can hear your chants, and next time let's really be here together," vocalist V, or Kim Tae-hyung, told fans. Since their 2013 debut, BTS has spearheaded a global K-pop craze with catchy, upbeat music and dances, as well as lyrics and social campaigns aimed at empowering young people. The band earned a Guinness World Records title for most viewers for a livestreamed performance after its first paid online concert in June drew nearly 757,000 from 107 countries. Management company Big Hit Entertainment has not released how many people watched the latest show, though it garnered some 114 million real-time "cheer clicks", a sign of approval that fans can press multiple times. As the band performed, a background wall of small screens showed thousands of fans joining from across the world, many waving light sticks known as "army bombs". A chatroom was opened to allow fans to post comments simultaneously. In Seoul, a small group gathered at a fan-run, BTS-themed cafe to watch the concert together, though wearing masks and keeping a distance from each other. "Their songs gave comfort in these tough times and made me a fan," said An Ji-won, 40, after breaking down in tears as she watched the show. "They sing to say everything will be OK and to cheer up, which I think is why all fans around the world love them."
Half of Covid patients in Irish study suffer ongoing fatigue - Bangkok Post
LONDON - More than half of patients and staff with Covid-19 monitored by an Irish hospital suffered persistent fatigue in the aftermath of the initial disease, according to a new study Friday highlighting the "significant burden" of lingering symptoms.
LONDON - More than half of patients and staff with Covid-19 monitored by an Irish hospital suffered persistent fatigue in the aftermath of the initial disease, according to a new study Friday highlighting the "significant burden" of lingering symptoms. It comes as patient groups and doctors call for more research into the medium- and long-term effects of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which has sickened more than 30 million people across the world and killed at least 943,000. "Whilst the presenting features of SARS-CoV-2 infection have been well-characterised, the medium- and long-term consequences of infection remain unexplored," said Liam Townsend, of St James's Hospital and Trinity Translational Medicine Institute at Trinity College Dublin. The study, which tracked 128 participants at St James's Hospital, found that 52 percent reported persistent fatigue when they were assessed an average of 10 weeks after "clinical recovery" from infection, regardless of how serious their initial infection was. The preliminary study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, included 71 people who had been admitted to hospital and 57 employees of the hospital who had mild illness. The average age was 50 and all participants had tested positive for Covid-19. Researchers looked at a variety of potential factors, including the severity of the initial illness and pre-existing conditions, including depression. They found that it made no difference whether a patient had been hospitalised or not. However, they did find that women, despite making up just over half of the participants (54 percent), accounted for two-thirds of those with persistent fatigue (67 percent). Those with a previous history of anxiety or depression were also found to be more likely to have fatigue. The authors said the findings showed that more work was needed to assess the impact of Covid-19 on patients in the longer term. "Our findings demonstrate a significant burden of post-viral fatigue in individuals with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection after the acute phase of Covid-19 illness," they concluded. - 'Long Covid' - The study, which is being presented at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Conference on Coronavirus Disease (ECCVID) later this month, suggested those affected are "worthy of further study and early intervention". As the pandemic has scorched its way across the planet, most attention has been focused on the immediate impact, measured by hospital admissions and deaths. But it has become increasingly clear that the virus can reverberate long after a patient has "recovered". Online support groups across the world have attracted thousands of members looking for help and advice about ongoing illness. In July, a study of recovered hospital patients in Italy found that 87 percent were still suffering at least one symptom 60 days after falling ill. Fatigue and breathing difficulties were the most common. Researchers from King's College London, which is behind a large-scale symptom-tracking project, estimate that one in 10 people using the app still have symptoms after 30 days and some remain unwell for months. "We are increasingly seeing evidence of 'long Covid', and fatigue is one of the commonly reported side effects. This study highlights that fatigue was experienced in both hospitalised patients and in those with milder initial presentations," said Michael Head, of the University of Southampton, commenting on the latest research. "The emerging extent of long Covid is why it is important to reduce community transmission, even among younger groups of people who are not immediately seriously ill."
Woodpeckers wage war over prized breeding sites - Bangkok Post
WASHINGTON: Acorn woodpeckers wage battle royales that last days in order to win valuable territory vacated by deceased counterparts, according to a new study that used radio tags to track the warring birds.
WASHINGTON: Acorn woodpeckers wage battle royales that last days in order to win valuable territory vacated by deceased counterparts, according to a new study that used radio tags to track the warring birds. Researchers also found that spectators flew in from kilometers around to watch the fights, collecting valuable social information from the power struggles. The paper was published in the journal Current Biology on Monday and led by Sahas Barve, a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Scientists already knew these turf wars attracted 40 or more birds from different areas, but it was unclear precisely what was going on. "We now know that these birds put in tremendous effort to win the power struggles," he told AFP Tuesday. If you were to approach a big tree hosting a battle from far away, you would first hear a lot of acorn woodpeckers making angry calls and zapping around. "When you get closer, you can see that there are a dozen or more coalitions of three or four birds fighting and posturing on branches," he added. "One group has to beat all the others to win a spot in the territory, which is really, really rare in animals." In order to make more sense of the chaotic scenes, the scientists placed miniaturized, solar-powered radio tags on the backs of 36 acorn woodpeckers in California using fanny-pack like harnesses. These radio tags are more advanced than the previous generation of devices, which were bulkier and relied on batteries, constraining their life span. The new tags feed information to receivers on the ground, allowing the researchers to track the birds almost in real time. Moving up in society The woodpeckers were fighting for control over "granaries" -- large acorn storage structures consisting of acorns stuffed into thousands of individual holes in the bark. The granaries are valuable mating sites, housing multiple male and female breeders and their offspring. When a breeder dies, nearby groups of non-breeding birds form same-sex coalitions of either sisters or brothers to go and fight for the vacant spot. If they are victorious, they can claim the site for themselves, which allows them to move up the social ladder and have their own offspring. The radio tag data showed that some birds returned for several days to engage in up to 10 hours of hostile spread-wing displays, incessant calling, and intense fighting that was at times fatal. "We didn't think it could be that long because they have to be away from their home territory," said Barve. "When do they eat? We still don't know." The team had hypothesised that woodpeckers would fight hardest for territories closest to their current home, but found that in reality, more complex social forces were at play. "These birds often wait for years, and when there's the right time and they have the right coalition size, they'll go and give it their all to win a really good territory," said Barve. The sophisticated social behavior was also seen in the fact that the battles attracted large crowds, some traveling as far as three kilometers to see the action. "They are curious birds -- just like humans watch important social events, they do that too," said Barve. The birds came for up to an hour a day to watch the fights, despite many already having granaries of their own. The researchers inferred that the benefits of acquiring social information must outweigh the costs of leaving their homes unattended for so long. Acorn woodpeckers live in tight social networks and know everyone's place because of their frequent travels to other territories. "If anything is disruptive to that, or if anything weird happens, they want to go check it out," said Barve.
Junk food linked to age-marker in chromosomes: study - Bangkok Post
PARIS - People who eat a lot of industrially processed junk food are more likely to exhibit a change in their chromosomes linked to ageing, according to research presented Tuesday at an online medical conference.
PARIS - People who eat a lot of industrially processed junk food are more likely to exhibit a change in their chromosomes linked to ageing, according to research presented Tuesday at an online medical conference. Three or more servings of so-called "ultra-processed food" per day doubled the odds that strands of DNA and proteins called telomeres, found on the end of chromosomes, would be shorter compared to people who rarely consumed such foods, scientists reported at the European and International Conference on Obesity. Short telomeres are a marker of biological ageing at the cellular level, and the study suggests that diet is a factor in driving the cells to age faster. While the correlation is strong, however, the causal relationship between eating highly processed foods and diminished telomeres remains speculative, the authors cautioned. Each human cell has 23 pairs of chromosomes that contain our genetic code. Telomeres do not carry genetic information, but are vital for preserving the stability and integrity of chromosomes and, by extension, the DNA that all the cells in our body relies on to function. As we get older, our telomeres shorten naturally because each time a cell divides, part of the telomere is lost. That reduction in length has long been recognised as a marker of biological age. Scientists led by professors Maria Bes-Rastrollo and Amelia Marti, both of the University of Navarra in Spain, wanted to explore a suspected connection between the regular consumption of highly processed junk food and shrinking telomeres. - Not real food - Earlier studies had pointed to a possible link with sugar-sweetened drinks, processed meats and other foods loaded with saturated fats and sugar, but the findings were inconclusive. Ultra-processed foods are industrially manufactured substances composed of some mix of oils, fats, sugars, starch and proteins that contain little if any whole or natural foods. They often include artificial flavourings, colourings, emulsifiers, preservatives and other additives that increase shelf-life and profit margins. These same properties, however, also mean that such foods are nutritionally poor compared to less processed alternatives, the researchers said. Earlier studies have shown strong correlations between ultra-processed foods and hypertension, obesity, depression, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. These conditions are often age-related in so far as they are linked to oxidative stress and inflammation known to influence telomere length. Marti and colleagues looked at health data for nearly 900 people aged 55 or older who provided DNA samples in 2008 and provided detailed data about their eating habits every two years thereafter. The 645 men and 241 women were equally divided into four groups, depending on their consumption of ultra-processed foods. Those in the high-intake group were more likely to have a family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and abnormal blood fats. That also consumed less foods associated with the Mediterranean diet -- fibre, olive oil, fruits, vegetable and nuts. Compared to the group who ate the fewest ultra-processed foods, the other three showed an increased likelihood -- 29, 40 and 82 percent, respectively -- of having shortened telomeres. The findings were published earlier this year in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Ko takes lead at LPGA Marathon Classic - Bangkok Post
WASHINGTON - Lydia Ko produced a barnstorming finish to snatch a one-shot lead with a six-under-par second round at the LPGA Marathon Classic on Friday.
WASHINGTON - Lydia Ko produced a barnstorming finish to snatch a one-shot lead with a six-under-par second round at the LPGA Marathon Classic on Friday. The former world number one from New Zealand bagged back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th holes to leapfrog England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff for sole possession of the lead at Highland Meadows in Sylvania, Ohio. Ko's pair of closing birdies bookended a blistering start to her round, when she reeled off four consecutive birdies over the first four holes to move into the lead. Her roller coaster 65 included nine birdies, three bogeys and six pars, leaving her at 13 under after 36 holes. For most of the second round, it looked as if Ko would have to settle for a share of the lead with Ewart Shadoff. The 32-year-old from Yorkshire was flawless in compiling an eight-under-par 63, making five birdies before the turn with two more on the 11th and 13th holes. Ewart Shadoff then briefly took the lead with a birdie on the par-five 17th to move to 12 under, before Ko's strong finish left the Englishwoman a shot off the pace. Ewart Shadoff's round follows her strong showing at last week's Drive On Championship at Inverness Club in Ohio, where she led going into the final round before fading from contention. World number two Danielle Kang, who had shared the overnight lead with Ko after an opening 64 on Thursday, had also looked poised to challenge at the top of the leaderboard with another blemish-free round. Kang lost ground with a bogey on the 17th, however, before a birdie on the 18th gave her a four-under-par 67, to leave her in third on 11 under, two off the lead. Ko, Ewart Shadoff and Kang have put clear daylight between themselves and the rest of the field. The chasing pack is led by Mexico's Maria Fassi, who is fourth on nine under after a five-under-par 66. Kristen Gillman and Megan Khang are tied in fifth place on eight under, five off the lead, while Australia's Minjee Lee is seventh on six under after a four-under-par 67 on Friday.
Pandemic to bring surge in child wasting cases: UN - Bangkok Post
PARIS - The unprecedented social and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic will see nearly seven million more children experience stunting as a result of malnutrition, the United Nations said Tuesday.
PARIS - The unprecedented social and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic will see nearly seven million more children experience stunting as a result of malnutrition, the United Nations said Tuesday. Even before COVID-19 there were an estimated 47 million children under five who were moderately or severely wasted, most living in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia. Now as lockdowns and international trade routes disrupt vital aid supplies, the UN warned that the coronavirus pandemic could have an "intergenerational effect" on the health of millions. Writing in The Lancet medical journal, a team of experts showed the results of computer modelling estimates on food supply in 118 poor and middle-income nations. They found that the prevalence of moderate or severe wasting among under-fives would increase 14.3 percent -- equating to an additional 6.7 million cases. Wasting occurs when the body is so acutely malnourished that its muscles and fat begin to diminish. A host of research initiatives have shown clear links between wasting and chronic and severe health conditions later in life. "The profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on early life nutrition could have intergenerational consequences for child growth and development and life-long impacts on education, chronic disease risks and overall human capital formation," wrote the researchers. The models showed that in the worst case scenario where the pandemic could cause young children to miss 50 percent of their nutritional care and treatment services, nearly 180,000 could die this year alone. Wasting is responsible for one in 10 infant deaths in low- and middle-income countries and recent research suggested the pandemic will throw an additional 140 million people into extreme poverty -- that is, living off less than $1.90 a day. In countries already experiencing a humanitarian crisis, the United Nations' children's fund has warned that up to 100 percent essential nutrition services could be disrupted. An accompanying open letter signed by the World Health Organization's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that this could be alleviated somewhat, but that aid agencies need a minimum additional $2.4 billion to protect at-risk children. "We must step forward together with sustained action and investments on nutrition today and deny the COVID-19 crisis and intergenerational legacy of hunger and malnutrition in children," it said.
Philippines to open another air terminal to international flights - Bangkok Post
MANILA: The Philippines will reopen one more terminal at its main airport in the capital for international travel, expanding service operations to airliners from Japan and other countries beginning next week.
MANILA: The Philippines will reopen one more terminal at its main airport in the capital for international travel, expanding service operations to airliners from Japan and other countries beginning next week. Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila said on Saturday it will restart international flight operations at Terminal 3 beginning Wednesday. Arrival and departure flights of All Nippon Airways, along with seven other airline carriers, will be allowed to resume at the terminal, airport authorities said. Japan Airlines and JetStar Japan, as well as other foreign carriers permitted to operate, will continue flying out of Terminal 1. The government-owned airport shut down operations at Terminal 3 on March 28, following the imposition of wide-scale lockdowns in the capital and other cities to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. The Philippines has recorded 40,336 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, as of yesterday, and 1,280 deaths.
Nasa sending robotic helicopter to Mars - Bangkok Post
NEW YORK: Nasa is about to take to the air on another planet.
NEW YORK: Nasa is about to take to the air on another planet. As part of its next mission to Mars, leaving Earth next month, the space agency will attempt to do something that has never been done before: fly a helicopter through the rarefied atmosphere of Mars. If it works, the small helicopter, named Ingenuity, will open a new way for future robotic explorers to get a bird’s-eye view of Mars and other worlds in the solar system. “This is very analogous to the Wright brothers moment, but on another planet,” said MiMi Aung, the project manager of the Mars helicopter at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory over the past six years. Flying on Mars is not a trivial endeavor. There is not much air there to push against to generate lift. At the surface, the atmosphere is just 1/100th as dense as Earth’s. The lesser gravity, one-third of what you feel here, helps with getting airborne. But taking off from Mars is the equivalent of flying at an altitude of 100,000 feet on Earth. No terrestrial helicopter has ever flown that high, and that is more than twice the altitude that jetliners typically fly at. The copter will hitch a ride to Mars with Perseverance, which is to be the fifth robotic rover Nasa has sent there. The mission is scheduled to launch on July 20, one of three missions to Mars this year. (continues below) Technicians work with the Mars helicopter in a vacuum chamber at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in February 2019 (Photo: JPL-Caltech/Nasa/NYT) At a news conference last week previewing the Perseverance mission, Jim Bridenstine, the Nasa administrator, made a point to highlight Ingenuity. “I’ll tell you, the thing that has me the most excited as an Nasa administrator is getting ready to watch a helicopter fly on another world,” he said. Until 1997, all of the spacecraft sent to the surface of Mars had been stationery landers. But in 1997, the Pathfinder mission included something that was revolutionary for Nasa: a wheeled robot. That rover, Sojourner, was roughly the size of a short filing cabinet. That success was followed by two golf cart-size rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, arriving on Mars in 2004 and then Curiosity, about the size of a car, in 2012. For a robotic explorer on another planet, the ability to move around offers great advantages. Planetary scientists are no longer stuck staring at one spot. A rover can drive across the landscape, stopping for closer looks at intriguing rocks. That freedom was key to gaining the current understanding of early Mars, that the planet, now cold and dry, was once wet and possessed at least some environments that were potentially habitable for life. Ingenuity is in essence the aerial counterpart of Sojourner, a demonstration of a novel technology that might be used more extensively on later missions. The body of Ingenuity is about the size of a softball with four spindly legs sticking out. Two sets of blades, each about 4 feet from tip to tip, spin in opposite directions. It weighs just 4 pounds and stands about 18 inches high. Bob Balaram, the chief engineer for the helicopter, started working with some colleagues on the idea back in the 1990s. “It didn’t really go anywhere,” Balaram said. “We did run some small tests, but then it sat on the shelf till about six, seven years back.” He said Charles Elachi, then the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, became interested and provided money for further study. “And that got us going,” Balaram said. Doing something that had never been done before was an engineering challenge that appealed to Aung, who joined as the project manager in the middle of 2014. “About 20 years ago, it couldn’t have been possible, really, because of the math,” said Aung, who was a deputy manager of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s autonomous systems division before joining the Mars project. But a number of advances, such as miniaturization of electronics, batteries that stored more energy and materials that could be shaped into lightweight blades, had finally made the dream of Mars flying machines into a technological possibility, Aung said. Turning the possibility into a working helicopter took years of trial and error. By the end of 2014, the engineers had built a small prototype. The little helicopter was placed in a chamber where most of the air was sucked out, replicating the density of the Martian atmosphere. Because they had yet to write the software for the helicopter to fly itself, a member of the team tried to guide its motion with a joystick, like a hobbyist flying a drone. As the blades spun, the helicopter rose up. It immediately veered out of control. They had lift but no control. “It did kind of what we had to do at that point, which was say we can actually get off the ground,” said Havard Grip, the engineer who led work on aerodynamics and achieving controlled flight. “So in that way, it was a success. But it also was clear that there was a lot more work to be done here on understanding how this thing behaves.” Balaram and Grip said one problem was that the blades bounced up and down as they spun at 2,000 to 3,000 revolutions a minute. On Earth, the pressure of the air pushing against the blades minimizes the bouncing. But in the thin Martian atmosphere, the bouncing created an instability that made it hard to control the motion of the helicopter. The solution turned out to be making the blades slightly stiffer, but that added some weight. - Try again - In May 2016, the next prototype was ready. In the same chamber simulating the diaphanous Martian atmosphere, the helicopter rose, then hovered steadily and softly landed. For the first time, a helicopter prototype had flown under control in conditions that simulated the Martian atmosphere, although it was still connected to an external power source and computer. The complete design, with the batteries, a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor that is the same as those in cellphones, communication systems and sensors all integrated, was ready in January 2018. To mimic the weaker gravitational pull of Mars, a pulley pulled upward to counteract part of Earth’s gravity. The density of air in the chamber was pumped down again. But this time, instead of leaving wisps of Earth air, a bit of carbon dioxide, the main constituent of Martian air, was pumped in. The helicopter rose and flew. Half a year later, Nasa gave the go-ahead for adding the helicopter to Nasa’s next Mars rover mission, Perseverance. Ingenuity is now attached to the belly of Perseverance, which is undergoing final preparations for launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. In the meantime, Aung and her team are rehearsing what they will be doing once Ingenuity is on Mars. With the Jet Propulsion Laboratory largely shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, all that work has been done via teleconferences, with all of the team members working at home. About two months after Perseverance lands on Mars in February, the tests of Ingenuity will begin. The rover will find a suitably flat spot, drop the helicopter onto the ground, then drive at least 100 yards away. “The helicopter never returns to the rover,” Aung said. Over 30 days, the helicopter will make up to five flights. Much of the time will be spent sitting around waiting for solar panels to recharge the batteries. The first flight is to go up a few feet and hover for up to 30 seconds, then land. Subsequent flights will be longer, higher, farther. On the fifth flight, if everything works, Ingenuity will go up about 15 feet, fly out 500 feet and then return to where it started. It has two cameras: a downward-facing, black-and-white one for keeping track of where it is; and a color one for oblique views of the landscape. The flight will last 90 seconds. Once the flights are done, Ingenuity will be left at its final landing site, and Perseverance will drive off for the rest of its mission. Aung said that the technology could be adapted to a bigger craft, up to about 30 pounds in weight instead of 4. That might be large enough to carry a couple of pounds of cameras and other instruments. Already, Nasa has plans for sending a nuclear-powered rotorcraft, Dragonfly, to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. But Titan has a thick atmosphere, so flying there does not pose the same technological challenges as Mars. Even if future helicopters are headed to Mars, they will almost certainly never be a viable mode of transportation for astronauts there. “You wouldn’t envision extending it to where you can fly humans like you can on Earth,” Aung said. “There just isn’t enough atmosphere.”
Plants can camouflage odours to avoid being eaten: study - Bangkok Post
PARIS - Plants in dense tropical forests are able to mask their chemical scents in order to avoid being detected and eaten by insects -- a key advantage in the "information arms race" between themselves and plant-eating herbivores, according to a new study.
PARIS - Plants in dense tropical forests are able to mask their chemical scents in order to avoid being detected and eaten by insects -- a key advantage in the "information arms race" between themselves and plant-eating herbivores, according to a new study. International researchers from Europe and North America examined 28 species of insects and 20 plant species in Chamela-Cuixmala, a tropical forest reserve on the western coast of Mexico. Their research -- published Thursday in the journal Science -- sheds light on how individual members of "complex plant communities" evolve to emit similar odours, a pack mentality that keeps them alive and confuses hungry herbivores. "Easily distinguished odours are to the herbivores' advantage and plants' disadvantage," said Professor Phil Stevenson, a researcher at Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. "So, we have an information arms race. Plants want to avoid being located and eaten so do their best to smell like other plants." Thursday's study was the first time scientists were able to analyse the interactions between such a wide variety of plants and insects, lead author Pengjuan Zu at Massachusetts Institute of Technology said. Previous attempts to understand the cat-and-mouse evolution game between plants and insects relied on the study of only individual plant species in controlled environments. This is a far cry from the ensemble of plant and insect species that coexist in real-life forests, the authors wrote. To do this, Zu collected chemical odours emitted by nearly two-dozen plant species in silicon tubes, which were then brought back to Kew to be analysed. Through a combination of "information theory" -- a technique for understanding communication patterns in humans -- and existing understandings of evolutionary biology, scientists were able to construct models of these plant-herbivore communication networks. "We now know that all the chemicals produced by plants carry information which has an important role in chemically camouflaging plants in a complex plant community," Zu said. The study could also help scientists better understand how information is passed between different species in the food chain, such as carnivores and insect-eating herbivores -- potentially paving the way for future research. "Herbivores, consequently, have to evolve to be finer tuned with the information for locating specific plant hosts," Zu said. "The information can be further shared by carnivores that hunt insect herbivores, resulting in an information chain along the food chain."