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Scientists unveil micro battery for the smallest computers in the world

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(Last Updated On: March 4, 2022)

There was a time, not so long ago, when computers were so large, they occupied entire rooms. Today, some processing units can come as small as a few specks of dust.

Even next to a grain of rice, these stacks of micrometer-sized chips look infinitesimal, Reuters reported.

Shrinking computer batteries to fit that size, however, has proved more challenging.

Some scientists in Europe are therefore proposing an alternative structure: a microbattery based on folding micro thin layers like origami.

The battery is just a prototype for now, but the preliminary results are encouraging.

“There is still a huge optimization potential for this technology, and we can expect much stronger microbatteries in the future,” says physicist Oliver Schmidt from the Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany.

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Asteroid coming exceedingly close to Earth, but will miss us

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2023)

An asteroid the size of a delivery truck will whip past Earth on Thursday night, one of the closest such encounters ever recorded.

NASA insists it will be a near miss with no chance of the asteroid hitting Earth, The Associated Press reported.

NASA said Wednesday that this newly discovered asteroid will zoom 3,600 kilometers above the southern tip of South America. That’s 10 times closer than the bevy of communication satellites circling overhead.

The closest approach will occur at 7:27 p.m. EST (3:34 p.m Kabul time).

Even if the space rock came a lot closer, scientists said most of it would burn up in the atmosphere, with some of the bigger pieces possibly falling as meteorites.

NASA’s impact hazard assessment system, called Scout, quickly ruled out a strike, said its developer, Davide Farnocchia, an engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“But despite the very few observations, it was nonetheless able to predict that the asteroid would make an extraordinarily close approach with Earth,” Farnocchia said in a statement. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”

Discovered Saturday, the asteroid known as 2023 BU is believed to be between 3.5 meters and 8.5 meters) across. It was first spotted by the same amateur astronomer in Crimea, Gennady Borisov, who discovered an interstellar comet in 2019. Within a few days, dozens of observations were made by astronomers around the world, allowing them to refine the asteroid’s orbit.

The asteroid’s path drastically will be altered by Earth’s gravity once it zips by. Instead of circling the sun every 359 days, it will move into an oval orbit lasting 425 days, according to NASA.

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Microsoft Teams and Outlook down for thousands

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(Last Updated On: January 25, 2023)

Thousands of users are struggling to access vital Microsoft services including Outlook and Teams.

Outages have been reported on Downdetector, a website that tracks when other sites aren’t working properly.

Outlook, the email service popular with both individuals and businesses, has gone down, while Teams, the messaging service that’s widely-used in companies, also appears out for several thousand users.

Microsoft is looking into the outage. The Microsoft 365 Twitter account said in a series of tweets: “We’re investigating issues impacting multiple Microsoft 365 services.

“We’ve identified a potential networking issue and are reviewing telemetry to determine the next troubleshooting steps.

“We’ve isolated the problem to networking configuration issues, and we’re analyzing the best mitigation strategy to address these without causing additional impact.”

It added: “We’ve rolled back a network change that we believe is causing impact. We’re monitoring the service as the rollback takes effect.”

Teams is used by more than 280 million people and has only become more prominent since Covid lockdowns confined workers to their homes, while Outlook has previously reported 400 million users.

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Signs used by apes are understood by humans, study finds

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(Last Updated On: January 25, 2023)

Research carried out by the UK’s St Andrews University has found that humans understand the “signs” or gestures wild chimps and bonobos use to communicate with one another.

This was the conclusion of a video-based study in which volunteers translated ape gestures, BBC reported, which stated that these findings suggest the last common ancestor humans shared with chimps used similar gestures, and that these were a “starting point” for our language.

The findings are published in the scientific journal PLOS Biology.

Lead researcher, Dr Kirsty Graham from St Andrews University explained: “We know that all the great apes – chimps and bonobos – have an overlap of about 95% of the gestures they use to communicate.

“So we already had a suspicion that this was a shared gesturing ability that might have been present in our last shared ancestor. But we’re quite confident now that our ancestors would have started off gesturing, and that this was co-opted into language.”

This study was part of an ongoing scientific mission to understand this language origin story by carefully studying communication in our closest ape cousins.

BBC reported that this team of researchers spent many years observing wild chimpanzees. They previously discovered that the great apes use a whole “lexicon” of more than 80 gestures, each conveying a message to another member of their group.

Messages like “groom me” are communicated with a long scratching motion; a mouth stroke means “give me that food” and tearing strips from a leaf with teeth is a chimpanzee gesture of flirtation.

Volunteers watched videos of the chimps and bonobos gesturing, then selected from a multiple choice list of translations.

The participants performed significantly better than expected by chance, correctly interpreting the meaning of chimpanzee and bonobo gestures over 50% of the time.

“We were really surprised by the results,” said Dr Catherine Hobaiter from St Andrews University. “It turns out we can all do it almost instinctively, which is both fascinating from an evolution of communication perspective and really quite annoying as a scientist who spent years training how to do it,” she joked.

The gestures people can innately understand may form part of what Dr Graham described as “an evolutionarily ancient, shared gesture vocabulary across all great ape species including us”, BBC reported.

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