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NASA’s new space telescope nears destination in solar orbit

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2022)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, designed to give the world an unprecedented glimpse into the earliest stages of the universe, neared its gravitational parking space on Monday in orbit around the sun, almost 1 million miles from Earth.

With a final course-correcting maneuver by onboard rocket thrusters set for 2 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT), Webb is expected to reach its destination at a position of orbital stability between the Earth and sun known as Lagrange Point Two, or L2, arriving one month after launch.

The thrusters will be activated by mission control engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and the ground team will use radio signals to confirm when Webb has been successfully “inserted” into orbit, said Eric Smith, NASA’s program scientist for Webb.

From its vantage point in space, Webb will follow a special path in constant alignment with Earth, as the planet and telescope circle the sun in tandem, enabling uninterrupted radio contact.

By comparison, Webb’s 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, orbits the Earth from 340 miles (547 km) away, passing in and out of the planet’s shadow every 90 minutes.

The combined pull of the sun and Earth at L2 can hold the telescope firmly in place so it takes little additional rocket thrust to keep Webb from drifting.

Utilized by several other deep-space satellites over the years, and L2 position allows a “minimum amount of fuel to stay in orbit,” Smith said.

The operations center has also begun fine-tuning the telescope’s primary mirror – an array of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal measuring 21 feet, 4 inches (6.5 meters) across – far larger than Hubble’s main mirror.

Its size and design to operate mainly in the infrared spectrum will allow Webb to peer through clouds of gas and dust and observe objects at greater distances, thus farther back in time, than Hubble or any other telescope.

These features are expected to usher in a revolution in astronomy, giving the first view of infant galaxies dating to just 100 million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set the expansion of the known universe in motion and estimated 13.8 billion years ago.

Webb’s instruments also make it ideal to search for signs of potentially life-supporting atmospheres around scores of newly documented exoplanets – celestial bodies orbiting distant stars – and to observe worlds much closer to homes, such as Mars and Saturn’s icy moon Titan.

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Egyptian teen wants to create his own metaverse

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(Last Updated On: May 27, 2022)

A 13-year-old Egyptian teenager wants to build his own version of the metaverse where people can shop, attend class and conduct experiments online.

“My project focuses on wearing the gloves, the vest and headset which take you into the virtual reality world where you can go to school, work or a government institution, or to carry out your chemical research.

“This saves the environment and reduces traffic. Researchers who work on chemical experiments won’t have to buy expensive chemical material, they can simply carry out their experiments in a virtual lab in a simulation, akin to what happens in real life.”

The 13 year-old used his mother’s clothes to develop a sensory vest and gloves and he built his first robot when he was nine, Reuters reported.

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Twitter to pay $150 mln to settle with U.S. over privacy, security violations

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(Last Updated On: May 26, 2022)

Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) has agreed to pay $150 million to settle allegations it misused private information, like phone numbers, to target advertising after telling users the information would be used for security reasons, according to court documents filed on Wednesday.

Twitter’s settlement covers allegations that it misrepresented the “security and privacy” of user data between May 2013 and September 2019, according to the court documents.

The company will pay $150 million as part of the settlement announced by the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In addition to the monetary settlement, the agreement requires Twitter to improve its compliance practices.

The complaint said that the misrepresentations violated the FTC Act and a 2011 settlement with the agency.

“Specifically, while Twitter represented to users that it collected their telephone numbers and email addresses to secure their accounts, Twitter failed to disclose that it also used user contact information to aid advertisers in reaching their preferred audiences,” the complaint said.

Twitter’s chief privacy officer, Damien Kieran, said in a statement that with the settlement “we have aligned with the agency on operational updates and program enhancements” to protect user privacy and security.

Twitter is a free service that makes money primarily through advertising. Billionaire Elon Musk, who is buying the service for $44 billion, has criticized its ads-driven business model and pledged to diversify its revenue sources.

“If Twitter was not truthful here, what else is not true? This is very concerning news,” Musk said in a tweet late on Wednesday, commenting on the social media company’s ad practices and the fine.

U.S. officials pointed out that of the $3.4 billion in revenue that Twitter earned in 2019, about $3 billion was from advertising.

The company made $5 billion in revenue for 2021. It said in a filing earlier this month that it had put aside $150 million after agreeing “in principle” upon a penalty with the FTC.

“Twitter obtained data from users on the pretext of harnessing it for security purposes but then ended up also using the data to target users with ads,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan in a statement. “This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users, while boosting Twitter’s primary source of revenue.”

The complaint also alleges that Twitter falsely said it complied with the European Union-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield Frameworks, which bar companies from using data in ways that consumers do not authorize.

Twitter’s settlement follows years of fallout over the privacy practices of tech companies.

Revelations in 2018 that Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, was using phone numbers provided for two-factor authentication to serve ads enraged privacy advocates.

Facebook, now called Meta (FB.O), similarly settled with the FTC over the issue as part of a $5 billion agreement reached in 2019.

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N.Korea fires salvo of missiles, including ICBM, hours after Biden leaves Asia

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(Last Updated On: May 25, 2022)

North Korea fired three missiles, including one thought to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Wednesday, after U.S. President Joe Biden left Asia following a trip in which he agreed to new measures to deter the nuclear-armed state.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the three missiles were fired in less than an hour from the Sunan area of the North’s capital, Pyongyang, where its international airport has become a hub of missile tests.

The first missile launched on Wednesday appeared to be an ICBM, while a second unidentified missile appears to have failed mid-flight, the JCS said. The third missile was a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), it said.

In response, the United States and South Korea held combined live-fire drills, including surface-to-surface missile tests involving the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) of the U.S. and the South’s Hyunmoo-2 SRBM, both militaries said.

“Our military’s show of force was intended to highlight our resolve to firmly respond to any North Korean provocations, including an ICBM launch, and our overwhelming capability and readiness to conduct a surgical strike on the origin of the provocation,” the JCS said in a statement.

North Korea has conducted a flurry of missile launches this year, from hypersonic weapons to test firing its largest ICBMs for the first time in nearly five years. It also appears to be preparing for what would be its first nuclear test since 2017.

U.S. and South Korean officials had recently warned that North Korea appeared ready for another weapons test, possibly during Biden’s visit, which was his first trip to Asia as president and included a summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul.

Yoon, who took office on May 10, convened his first meeting of the national security council, which strongly condemned the latest launch as a “grave provocation”, especially as it came before Biden returned home.

Yoon ordered the aides to strengthen the U.S. extended deterrence and combined defence posture as agreed with Biden, his office said.

“North Korea’s continued provocations will only result in even stronger, faster South Korea-U.S. deterrence, and bring deeper isolation upon itself,” Yoon’s government said in a separate statement.

A White House official said that Biden, who departed Japan on Tuesday evening, had been briefed on the launches and would continue to receive updates.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also agreed to step up diplomatic efforts to reinforce extended deterrence and facilitate a new U.N. sanctions resolution in a phone call, Seoul’s ministry said.

“We call on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and engage in sustained and substantive dialogue,” a State Department spokesperson said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.

SHOW OF FORCE

Pyongyang resumed ICBM testing in late March, ending its self-imposed 2017 moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear testing, amid stalled denuclearisation talks with Washington.

In Wednesday’s test, the suspected ICBM flew 360 km (223.7 miles) to a maximum altitude of 540 km, while the SRBM flew 760 km to a maximum altitude of 60 km, the JCS said.

Japan reported at least two launches, one of which flew about 300 km and reached a maximum altitude of 550 km, and the other to the distance of about 750 km (465 miles) and a maximum altitude of 50 km, Japan’s defence minister said.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said the missiles appeared to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Japanese chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the North could take more provocative actions, including a nuclear test.

The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command said it was aware of “multiple” launches. They highlighted the “destabilising impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons programme” but did not pose an immediate threat.

In Seoul over the weekend, Biden and Yoon agreed to hold bigger military drills and deploy more U.S. strategic assets if necessary to deter North Korea’s intensifying weapons tests.

But they also offered to send COVID-19 vaccines to North Korea as the isolated country battles its first confirmed outbreak, and called on Pyongyang to return to diplomacy.

There had been no response from Pyongyang to the diplomatic overtures or offers of aid, Biden said at the time.

The waning hours of Biden’s visit to the region also saw Russian and Chinese bombers flying joint patrols near Japanese and South Korea air defence zones on Tuesday in a pointed farewell.

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