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Millions of dead fish wash up amid heat wave in Australia

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(Last Updated On: March 19, 2023)

Millions of fish have washed up dead in southeastern Australia in a die-off that authorities and scientists say is caused by depleted oxygen levels in the river after recent floods and hot weather, AP reported.

Residents of the Outback town of Menindee in New South Wales state complained of a terrible smell from the dead fish.

“The stink was terrible. I nearly had to put a mask on,” said local nature photographer Geoff Looney.

“I was worried about my own health. That water right in the top comes down to our pumping station for the town. People north of Menindee say there’s cod and perch floating down the river everywhere,” he said.

The Department of Primary Industries said the fish deaths were likely caused by low oxygen levels as floods recede, a situation made worse by fish needing more oxygen because of the warmer weather.

Police have established an emergency operations centre in Menindee to coordinate a massive cleanup this week.

State Emergency Operations Controller Peter Thurtell said the immediate focus was to provide a clean water supply to residents.

“There is no need for community concern as the initial assessment has determined multiple viable solutions to maintain water supply to the Menindee township and surrounds,” he said.

State agencies also started to release higher-quality water where possible to boost dissolved oxygen levels in the area.

“We’ve just sort of started to clean up, and then this has happened, and that’s sort of you’re walking around in a dried-up mess and then you’re smelling this putrid smell. It’s a terrible smell and horrible to see all those dead fish,” said Jan Dening, a Menindee resident.

Mass fish kills have been reported on the Darling-Baaka River in recent weeks. Tens of thousands of fish were found at the same spot in late February, while there have been several reports of dead fish downstream toward Pooncarie, near the borders of South Australia and Victoria states.

Enormous fish kills occurred on the river at Menindee during severe drought conditions in late 2018 and early 2019, with locals estimating millions of deaths.

Science & Technology

Asteroid that could wipe out a city is near, but don’t fear

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(Last Updated On: March 24, 2023)

An asteroid big enough to wipe out a city will zip harmlessly between Earth and the moon’s orbit this weekend, missing both celestial bodies.

Saturday’s close encounter will offer astronomers the chance to study a space rock from just over 100,000 miles (168,000 kilometers) away. That’s less than half the distance from here to the moon, making it visible through binoculars and small telescopes, AP reported.

While asteroid flybys are common, NASA said it’s rare for one so big to come so close — about once a decade. Scientists estimate its size somewhere between 130 feet and 300 feet (40 meters and 90 meters).

Discovered a month ago, the asteroid known as 2023 DZ2 will pass within 320,000 miles (515,000 kilometers) of the moon on Saturday and, several hours later, buzz the Indian Ocean at about 17,500 mph (28,000 kph).

“There is no chance of this ‘city killer’ striking Earth, but its close approach offers a great opportunity for observations,” the European Space Agency’s planetary defense chief Richard Moissl said in a statement.

Astronomers with the International Asteroid Warning Network see it as good practice for planetary defense if and when a dangerous asteroid heads our way, according to NASA.

The Virtual Telescope Project will provide a live webcast of the close approach.

The asteroid won’t be back our way again until 2026. Although there initially seemed to be a slight chance it might strike Earth then, scientists have since ruled that out.

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Launch of 3D-printed rocket ends in failure

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(Last Updated On: March 23, 2023)

A rocket made almost entirely of 3D-printed parts made its launch debut Wednesday night, lifting off amid fanfare but failing three minutes into flight — far short of orbit.

There was nothing aboard Relativity Space’s test flight except for the company’s first metal 3D print made six years ago, The Associated Press reported.

The startup wanted to put the souvenir into a 200-kilometer-high orbit for several days before having it plunge through the atmosphere and burn up along with the upper stage of the rocket.

As it turned out, the first stage did its job following liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and separated as planned. But the upper stage appeared to ignite and then shut down, sending it crashing into the Atlantic.

It was the third launch attempt from what once was a missile site. Relativity Space came within a half-second of blasting off earlier this month, with the rocket’s engines igniting before abruptly shutting down.

Although the upper stage malfunctioned and the mission did not reach orbit, “maiden launches are always exciting and today’s flight was no exception,” Relativity Space launch commentator Arwa Tizani Kelly said after Wednesday’s launch.

Most of the 33-meter rocket, including its engines, came out of the company’s huge 3D printers in Long Beach, California.

Relativity Space said 3D-printed metal parts made up 85% of the rocket, named Terran. Larger versions of the rocket will have even more and also be reusable for multiple flights.

Other space companies also also rely on 3D-printing, but the pieces make up only a small part of their rockets.

Founded in 2015 by a pair of young aerospace engineers, Relativity Space has attracted the attention of investors and venture capitalists.

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TikTok hits 150 mln U.S. monthly users, up from 100 million in 2020

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(Last Updated On: March 21, 2023)

TikTok said on Monday the short-video sharing app now has 150 million monthly active users in the United States, up from 100 million it said it had in 2020, Reuters reported.

The Chinese-owned app confirmed the figure ahead of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s testimony set for Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

On Friday, six more U.S. senators backed bipartisan legislation to give President Joe Biden new powers to ban TikTok on national security grounds. Last week, TikTok said the Biden administration demanded that its Chinese owners divest their stake in the app or it could face a U.S. ban.

The app faces growing pressure in Washington including calls to ban the app by many in Congress who fear its U.S. user data could fall into the hands of China’s government. TikTok said in September 2021 that globally it had more than 1 billion monthly users.

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Mark Warner, who is cosponsoring legislation to give the administration more powers to ban TikTok, said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that he did not think TikTok U.S. data was safe.

“This notional idea that the data can be made safe under (Chinese Communist Party) law, just doesn’t, doesn’t pass the smell test.”

TikTok said it has spent more than $1.5 billion on rigorous data security efforts, rejects spying allegations and said “if protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.”

The new figures are a sign of the app’s wide popularity especially among younger Americans. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Bloomberg News there could be political ramifications to banning TikTok. “The politician in me thinks you’re gonna literally lose every voter under 35, forever,” she said.

According to Reuters some TikTok content creators will come to Washington this week to make the case why the app should not be banned.

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