Sci-Tech

Questions and answers on ‘net neutrality’

by Rob Lever Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) m– US regulators voted Thursday on a plan overhauling rules for internet services providers. The action by the Federal Communications Commission is likely to end so-called “net neutrality.” Here are some questions and answers: What is net neutrality and why is it important? The concept dates back to the early days of the web, and requires internet service providers to treat all data equally — prohibiting […]

No alien ‘signals’ from cigar-shaped asteroid: researchers

PARIS, France (AFP) — No alien signals have been detected from an interstellar, cigar-shaped space rock discovered travelling through our Solar System in October, researchers listening for evidence of extraterrestrial technology said Thursday. The object, dubbed Oumuamua, was spotted by several Earthly telescopes two months ago. Given its weird trajectory, surprised researchers immediately concluded it was from beyond our planetary system — the first interstellar object ever identified in our midst. The rock is thought […]

Daimler delivers its first all-electric trucks in Europe

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany (AFP) — German carmaker Daimler on Thursday delivered its first fully electric lorries to companies in Europe, as the global race to mass produce the first generation of “green trucks” heats up. Among the first customers for Daimler’s Fuso eCanter light-weight truck was express delivery service DHL, which said it would use its six vehicles to navigate Berlin’s inner city traffic. The keys to eight other eCanter trucks were handed over […]

Artificial intelligence finds solar system with 8 planets like ours

by Kerry Sheridan Agence France Presse MIAMI, United States (AFP) — A solar system with as many planets as our own has been discovered with the help of NASA’s Kepler space telescope and artificial intelligence, the US space agency said Thursday. “Our solar system now is tied for most number of planets around a single star,” NASA said in a statement. However, none of the planets are expected to be hospitable to life. The eight-planet […]

Ticked off: Tiny ‘dracula’ with a taste for dino blood

by MariĆ«tte Le Roux Agence France-Presse PARIS, France (AFP) — Dinosaurs, the most fearsome creatures ever to walk the Earth, were bugged already 100 million years ago by a paltry pest that still plagues animals today: the bloodsucking tick, scientists have discovered. Preserved for eternity in amber, fossilised tree resin, researchers have found a hard tick — uncannily similar to those we know — clinging to a 99-million-year-old dinosaur feather, a team wrote in the […]

Oh my stars! Stage set for ‘spectacular’ meteor show

PARIS, France (AFP) — A thin, waning moon should allow for uninterrupted views Wednesday night of the annual Geminid shooting star show, set to be “spectacular” this year, astronomers say. At its height, the meteor shower should yield a shooting star every minute, offering plenty of opportunity for wish-making, they said. Peaking on Wednesday night, it will be “particularly rich in bright meteors, or fireballs,” the Irish Astronomical Association (IAA) said. “There will be no […]

Will Trump send Americans to the Moon? Money talks: experts

by Kerry Sheridan Agence France-Presse MIAMI, United States (AFP) — US President Donald Trump’s decision this week to return Americans to the Moon makes sense as a way to develop technology to one day reach Mars, but only if Congress allocates the money, experts say. Reviving an American program to explore the Moon is seen as a way to boost jobs and morale at home, while encouraging international collaboration with Europe, Japan, China and India […]

Shark-spotting drones on patrol at Australian beaches

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — High-tech shark-spotting drones are patrolling dozens of Australian beaches this summer to quickly identify underwater predators and deliver safety devices to swimmers and surfers faster than traditional lifesavers. As hundreds of people lined up in the early morning sun to take part in a recent ocean swimming race at Bilgola beach north of Sydney, they did so in the knowledge the ocean had been scanned to keep them safe. “I think […]

New island offers clues in search for life on Mars: NASA

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — The world’s newest island — formed during a volcanic eruption in the remote Pacific four years ago — may offer clues to how life potentially developed on Mars, NASA said Wednesday. The island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai rose from the seabed about 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa in late 2014-early 2015. Scientists initially expected the island — created when vast quantities of rock and […]

Russian space agency blames satellite loss on programming error

MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Russia’s space agency on Tuesday blamed a failed satellite launch from its new cosmodrome on a programming error, prompting an angry response from the deputy prime minister in charge of space. On November 28 Russia lost contact with its Meteor-M weather satellite after its launch from the new Vostochny cosmodrome — only the second such launch since the facility opened in the country’s far east last year. The failure “exposed a […]

Tokyo airport to be ‘scattered’ with robots for 2020 Olympics

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Visitors to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics can expect to arrive at an airport “scattered” with robots to help them, an official said Tuesday as he unveiled seven new machines to perform tasks from helping with luggage to language assistance. Among the seven robots on show was a fluffy cat mascot that can carry out simultaneous interpretation in four different languages. Visitors speak into a furry microphone, and translations appear instantly on […]

Twitter makes ‘tweetstorms’ easier with ‘threads’

SAN FRANCISCO, United States (AFP) — Twitter said Tuesday said it would make it easier for users to build “tweetstorms” by linking together posts in “threads” to expound at length at the famously short-form messaging service. The move comes just a month after Twitter rattled the twitterverse by doubling the limit for tweets in most languages to 280 characters, in a bid to draw in more users and boost engagement. It was the first time […]