NASA Fires Voyager 1 Thrusters After 37 Years

Voyager 1 is the first man-made object to leave the solar system. 37 years after it was launched, NASA’s engineers fired the spacecraft’s backup thrusters. The primary thrusters have been getting weaker over the last few years. 

Voyager’s thrusters were fired for a few milliseconds from a distance of 13 billion miles in order to reposition the spacecraft so that the antennae would point towards earth.

Nobody at NASA knew if firing the thrusters would work after decades of inactivity. After 19 hours, the time which it took for the signal to get back to earth, it was confirmed that the thrusters had actually been fired. Voyager 1 will now be able to operate and send data back to earth for another 2 to 3 years.

As Voyager 1 software dates back to the 1970s,  scientists had to examine the software code to make sure the engines worked correctly.

Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 were launched in 1977  to carry out a grand tour of the solar system. They passed Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. After that, the spacecraft kept on flying and passed the boundaries of the solar system. In the past decades, the two spacecraft made great discoveries, including active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and a methane atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Although Voyager 2’s thrusters are in a better condition than it’s sister craft NASA also plans to fire them in the near future.

 

Voyager 1
Voyager 1

Words

  • although = while
  • backup = something that you use to replace something that doesn’t work
  • billion = a thousand million
  • boundary = where something ends
  • condition = shape
  • confirm = know for sure that something has worked
  • correctly = in the right way
  • data = information
  • dates back = here: is from a certain time in the past
  • decade = ten years
  • discovery = to find something for the first time
  • distance = the amount of space between two objects
  • engine = machine that makes something travel
  • engineer = someone whose job it is to design and build machines, rockets, bridges etc..
  • examine = look at something very closely
  • fire = here: to make something work
  • grand tour = here: a journey that takes you far away to all the planets of our solar system
  • inactivity = here : not in operation
  • launch = start into space
  • man-made = made by a person, not nature
  • methane = gas that you can not see or smell, but which is burned to give heat
  • near future = sometime soon
  • operate = work the way it should
  • primary = most important, main
  • reposition = here: to move it into a new position
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • solar system = our sun and the planets that go around it
  • spacecraft = object that can travel in space
  • thruster = small engine in a spacecraft that controls how it flies by  pushing out small amounts of gas
  • twin = here: built in the same way

World’s Largest Battery in South Australia

The world’s largest battery has gone into operation in Australia. American technology giant Tesla built the 100-megawatt lithium-ion battery for South Australia’s state government.

The battery was connected to the power grid only  2 months after Tesla and the Southern Australian government signed a contract. Tesla boss Elon Musk said that he could deliver the battery and make it operational within one hundred days. Tesla made the deadline easily.

According to the company, the battery can provide electricity for over 30,000 homes for an hour in case of an electricity blackout. It is also intended to help supply more energy during peak times.

The battery packs, about the size of a football field,  are connected to a nearby wind farm, 120 kilometres north of Adelaide.  They went into operation at the beginning of the Australian summer, when more energy is needed for air conditioning.

While many regions in Australia still rely on fossil fuels as their main energy source, South Australia gets a lot of its energy from renewable sources, especially solar and wind power.  However, backup energy is important for a region that has recently experienced severe storms.  The entire state witnessed a blackout in September 2016. 1.6 million people were left without electricity.

 

Tesla battery chargers in Adelaide Australia
Tesla battery chargers in Adelaide Australia – Image: Timeshift9

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • air conditioning = system that makes the air in a room cooler and drier
  • battery pack = several  batteries connected to each other
  • blackout = when everything  goes dark because there is no electricity
  • connect = link to
  • contract = official agreement between two parties
  • deadline = date or time by which you have to have something finished
  • deliver = to bring a product to a certain place
  • electricity = power that is carried in wires and cables  and is used for heating, lighting and to make machines work
  • entire = whole
  • especially = above all
  • experience = see, witness
  • fossil fuels = energy that is produced by dead plants and animals over millions of years; for example coal, oil and gas
  • however = but
  • intend = here: designed to work as …
  • lithium-ion battery = very powerful battery that can be used over and over again; it is used in laptops, cellphones, iPods etc..
  • make it operational = make something work
  • megawatt = one million watts
  • power grid = network of electrical wires that connect power stations
  • provide = give, deliver
  • recently = a short time ago
  • rely = depend on; need
  • renewable = here: energy that replaces itself naturally and never ends
  • sign = to put  your name on a document
  • severe = very strong
  • solar = from the sun
  • source = where something comes from
  • witness = experience, go through

Automation Could Cost Up To 800 Million Jobs

Up to 800 million people worldwide could lose their jobs because of automation. About half of them will have to learn new skills to get another job. In the United States alone, up to a third of the workforce could become unemployed within the next few decades. These are the results of a recent publication by McKinsey Global Institute.

Jobs that involve manual or factory work are the ones that are most at risk. People who work in social fields, the environment or management are less likely to lose their jobs. In countries with ageing populations, more jobs will be needed in health care.

The report says that there is no reason to panic because new job fields will emerge which will more than compensate the loss of traditional jobs. In addition, economic activity and rising productivity will also provide for more jobs.  However, workers will need to adapt to jobs more quickly than before and lifelong learning will be essential.

Artifical intelligence is already spreading quickly in some areas. Technological inventions, like self-driving cars, will become hugely popular within a decade. More jobs will be needed in the energy sector and people will find more work building modern infrastructure in cities.

However, governments around the globe will have to give support and spend money on programs to train workers for new tasks.

The report states that the situation today is similar to the beginning of the 20th century when agricultural societies became more and more industrialised.  The invention of the automobile contributed to this change. In the 1980s the computer revolution eliminated some jobs but created many others.

Automation in a German factory
Automation in a German factory – Image: KUKA Roboter Gmbh

Words

  • adapt = change; get used to
  • ageing = getting older
  • agricultural = farming
  • artificial intelligence = the study of how to make computers do intelligent things  that people can do, such as think and make decisions
  • automation = the use of computers and machines to do jobs that normally people do
  • century = a hundred years
  • compensate = replace
  • contribute = here: to play a major part
  • decade = ten years
  • economic activity = producing and consuming goods
  • eliminate = lose; do away with
  • emerge = come up, appear
  • environment = people and things that are around you in your life
  • essential = extremely important and necessary
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • health care = services that a country provides for its people
  • hugely = very much
  • in addition = also
  • infrastructure = the basic systems that a country or city needs, like railways, banks, schools etc..
  • invention = a useful machine that is created
  • involve = here: to be about
  • less likely = will probably not …
  • management = controlling and organising the work of a company
  • manual = with your hands and physical strength
  • productivity = the goods that are produced by workers in a certain time
  • provide =  give, offer
  • publication = when information is printed for everyone to read
  • recent = a short time ago
  • similar = like
  • skill = the ability to do something well
  • task = job
  • traditional = here: jobs that have existed up to now
  • train = here: prepare people for a new job
  • workforce = all the people in a country who can work
  • unemployed = without a job , out of work

 

Artificial Light Makes Our World Brighter

A new study of satellite images has revealed that our planet is getting brighter and brighter during the night. More and more artificial lighting may cause harm not only to humans and animals but whole ecosystems.

The study has found out that the quantity of light has increased by 2.2 % per year over the last decade. Much of that increase comes from the Middle East and Asia, while in Europe and the USA brightness has stayed about the same.  Only a few countries have actually seen a decrease in the amount of light. Among those are Syria and Yemen.

Artificial light on earth is growing because more and more towns and other settlements are being created in places that were once farmland, forests or wilderness. In addition, China and other booming economies are building whole cities in sparsely populated areas.

Even though large areas of land surface remain dark, there are places on earth where lights never go out, for example, shopping malls, dining districts or international airports.

The technology of artificial lighting is also changing. More and more LED lights are replacing older light bulbs. They are more energy-efficient and emit a brighter bluish-white light. As they are becoming cheaper people tend to buy more.

Doctors warn that too much artificial light can bear health risks. It can lead to shorter periods of sleep, insomnia and changes in a person’s biorhythm.

Scientists have claimed that increased light have an effect on animal habitats. More light near beaches may affect the turtle population that comes there to lay their eggs. Migrating birds that rely on stars to navigate can be influenced by light and travel off course.

 

Satellite image of the United States at night
Satellite image of the United States at night

Words

  • actually = in fact, really
  • affect = influence, change
  • artificial light = light that is produced by people or machines, not naturally by the sun
  • bear = have
  • biorhythm = changes in the way and speed that your body reacts at certain times
  • booming economy = country where business is growing very strongly
  • brightness = being bright
  • cause harm = be a danger
  • claim = to say that something is true, even if you cannot prove it
  • decade = ten years
  • decrease = to go down
  • effect = change
  • emit = send out
  • energy -efficient = here: an object that produces more light and uses less energy
  • even though = while
  • habitat = natural home of a plant or animal
  • image = picture
  • in addition = also
  • increase = to go up
  • influence = here: to change the way you travel
  • insomnia = not able to sleep
  • migrate = to travel regularly to other parts fo the world
  • navigate = to find out which way you need to go when you travel from one place to another
  • off course = away from the route you would normally take
  • quantity = how much of something
  • rely = depend on, need
  • remain = stay
  • replace = to use instead of something else
  • settlement = group of houses or buildings where people live, especially in areas where nobody has lived before
  • shopping mall = large area with a lot of shops
  • sparsely = here: with few people
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a special subject
  • surface = the top layer of an object
  • technology = here: how something is done or produced
  • tend = here: will probably happen
  • wilderness = large area of land that has never been developed  or farmed

NASA Software Shows How Sea Level Rises Affect Cities

NASA scientists have created a new software program that can show how cities in coastal regions are endangered by flooding and sea level rise caused by global warming. The simulation shows how 300 coastal cities will be affected in the next century.

The software was developed by  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It calculates which ice sheets and glaciers are melting and how the additional water influences coastal regions. It takes into consideration the rotation of the Earth as well as the influence of gravity. The results are surprising. Sea levels will actually decrease around cities closer to ice masses, while the biggest rises will occur through ice caps that are farther away.

New York, for example,  will be most affected by melting ice caps in northeastern  Greenland. Sydney, on the other hand,  will actually be influenced by parts of Antarctica that are far away from Australia’s city.

The software aims at helping city planners prepare for sea level changes within the next few decades and how to keep ocean water out.

A climate report published this week shows that, since 1900, global sea levels have risen by about 20 cm, with half of the rise occurring in the last 25 years. Projections show that by 2100 ocean levels will rise by an average of 1 metre, however, the rise will not affect all coastal areas in the same way.

 

Ice Sheet in Greenland -
Ice Sheet in Greenland – Image: Christine Zenino

Words

  • actually = in fact
  • additional = extra
  • affect = change
  • aim = here: what it wants to do and who it wants to help
  • average = here: evenly spread out across all oceans
  • calculate = here: find out how much something will change by using numbers
  • century = a hundred years
  • coastal = where land meets the sea
  • decade = ten  years
  • decrease = go down
  • develop = create , make
  • endangered = to be in danger
  • flooding = when land becomes covered with water
  • glacier = very large mass of ice which moves down a valley
  • global = worldwide
  • global warming =  the increase in the world’s temperatures by higher amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • gravity = force or power that causes something to fall to the ground and stay there
  • ice cap = large mass of ice
  • influence = change
  • NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration = American space agency
  • occur = happen
  • prepare = get ready for something
  • projection = calculation about what something will be in the future  based on the information we have now
  • publish = to make information for everyone to see
  • rise = to go up
  • rotation = the Earth’s spin  around its own axis
  • sea level = the average height of the sea
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • simulation = here: software that shows how something could happen in the future
  • take into consideration =  here: to use  certain factors when you run the programme

China Overtakes US in Number of Supercomputers

For the first time in history, China has overtaken the United States in the number of supercomputers.  Currently, China has a total of 202 of the world’s 500 fastest computers, up from 159 half a year ago. The number of US supercomputers has dropped to 144.

The world’s most powerful computer is located in China. The Sunway  TaihuLight ,  at Wuxi can do 93 quadrillion calculations per second. The fastest US computer, the Titan, is ranked fifth while Europe’s speediest computer is Switzerland’s Piz Daint, ranked third.

Supercomputers are machines that occupy entire buildings and use the combined power of thousands of processors. They are used to carry out special tasks that involve a huge number of calculations.  Among them are weather forecasts and climate studies, as well as strategic tasks like nuclear weapons simulations.

Chinese supremacy in the world of supercomputing reflects the country’s  investment in research and development. One-fifth of the money used on research and development around the world is spent in China.

On the other side, many Chinese systems have been created to earn money. Processing power is rented to other national and international companies.

For years the speed of supercomputers has steadily increased although since 2012 this increase has slowed down.

 

America's Titan2  - Supercomputers
America’s Titan2 Supercomputer – Image: Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Words

  • although = while
  • calculation = here: a single task
  • combined = everything  put together
  • create = make
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • drop = go down
  • entire = whole
  • huge = very big; very many
  • investment = to use money for special things
  • involve = need
  • located = can be found
  • nuclear weapons simulation = here: software that tries to find out how nuclear bombs will affect the world and its population if they are used
  • occupy = use up; need
  • overtake = to be better than
  • processor = central part fo a computer that deals with commands and the information you give it
  • quadrillion= the number one followed by 24 zeros
  • ranked = position in a list
  • reflect = show, demonstrate
  • rent = let someone use something for money
  • research and development = to study special fields and use new ideas to create new things
  • speediest = fastest
  • steadily = slowly
  • strategic = here: about the military
  • supremacy = being number one or the best in the world
  • task = piece of work
  • weather forecast = a description of what the weather will be like in the next few days

Mysterious Chamber Discovered in Egyptian Pyramid

A mysterious chamber in an  Egyptian pyramid has been recently discovered by scientists. A special technique shows a  large void hidden in the Great Pyramid of Giza  near Cairo

The ScansPyramid project, led by the University of Cairo and the Egyptian government,  uses advanced technology to find out more about ancient structures. Scientists from Egypt, France and Japan installed special detectors which could detect small particles called muons. These are a type of cosmic rain which constantly falls down on the earth. Three separate teams have conducted the research and have found the same cavity in the pyramid.

The newly found chamber in the Egyptian pyramid is 30 metres long and about the size of the Grand Gallery which is a known passageway that leads to the King’s Chamber. However, nothing else is known about the new room. It is also impossible to reach the space as there is no passage that leads to it. Experts also warn against having great expectations about new discovery inside the cavity.  It is possible that the void does not have any meaning at all and was just left there for construction reasons.

The Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, was built at around 2650 BC. after the death of the pharaoh. It is the largest of the three remaining pyramids at Giza, which belong to the wonders of the ancient world.

The Great Pyramid at Giza -
The Great Pyramid at Giza – Image: Nina Aldin Thune

Words

  • advanced technology = modern and complicated machines and tools
  • ancient = old; from a long time ago
  • cavity = hole
  • chamber = room
  • conduct = carry out
  • cosmic = coming from space
  • detector = a machine that finds or measures something
  • discover = find something for the first time
  • expectation = here: what you think or hope you will find
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • however = but
  • mysterious = difficult to understand and explain
  • particle = very small piece of something
  • passageway = long narrow area in a building; corridor or hallway
  • pharaoh = king in ancient Egypt
  • recently = a short time ago
  • remaining = … which still exists
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • structure = any kind of building
  • technique = special way fo doing or finding  something
  • void = empty space in which nothing exists

 

Google Maps Navigates Through Solar System

In addition to finding any place on Earth,  Google Maps now lets you navigate through space too.  It has recently added two dwarf planets, Pluto and Ceres, as well as some of the moons of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter  to its service.

Users can now explore the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon . You can see lakes and rivers of methane beneath its clouds . About half a million images  come from the Cassini mission ,which  explored Saturn and its moons for  15 years before it burned up in the planet’s atmosphere.

Other highlights include close-ups of Saturn’s sixth-largest moon Enceladus , where water was discovered beneath the surface. Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede are also included in Google Map’s new version. A total of 16 planets and moons can now be explored by users.

Exploring space  works like any place on Earth would.  Just choose a planet or moon and zoom around. Google Map offers the most important physical features of each celestial body as well as corresponding names.

Google Maps started out as a service that let users navigate land . In the past, years the world’s oceans have been added to the map service and in 2014 Google added images of our moon and Mars. Since 2017 users can take a tour of the International Space Station. Most of the material comes from various explorations carried out by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

 

Artist's drawing of how Titan's surface may look like
Artist’s drawing of how Titan’s surface may look like

 

Words

  • atmosphere = mixture of gases that surrounds a planet
  • celestial = about the sky or heaven
  • close-up = film or picture in which the camera is very close to an object
  • corresponding names = names that are connected to the objects in the map
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • dwarf planet = object in space that is too large for a moon and too small to be planet
  • explore = to travel around a place in order to find out more about it
  • offer = give to the user
  • in addition = also
  • include = to contain; have in it
  • methane = gas that you cannot see or smell; it can be burned to give heat
  • navigate = to find your way around from one place to another
  • physical features = the landscape with mountains, rivers etc..
  • recently = a short time ago
  • service = here: something that the company lets users do
  • surface = top part of a planet
  • various = many different
  • zoom = to move very quickly

 

Sidewalk Toronto – City of the Future in Canada

Sidewalk Labs, a Google company, has announced  plans to build a futuristic city in Toronto, Canada. The new urban area, called Sidewalk Toronto, aims at turning the waterfront of Lake Ontario into a playground for city development and a testing site  for new technologies.

The project wants to make cities cheaper, healthier and even more exciting to live in .  The new city will offer its residents ultra-fast WiFi connections, lanes for self-driving cars and sustainable energy sources.  Thousands of sensors will report pollution and noise levels, as well as monitor traffic and levels of carbon monoxide.

Planners of Sidewalk Toronto want to find new solutions for  overpopulation, waste management , traffic , pollution and other urban problems. Several companies have said that they will make their services  available to the new city. 

Planners estimate that the project will cost around 1 billion dollars. However, it will also offer tens of thousands of people a place to live, work  and have fun. Eventually, similar projects may spread to other parts of the world, helping to build smarter and greener  cities.

Google has also announced that it plans to move its Canadian headquarters to Sidewalk Toronto.

 

 

 

Skyline of Toronto from Lake Ontario
Skyline of Toronto from Lake Ontario – Image: George Socka

Words

  • aim = wants to , plans to
  • announce = to officially say something in public
  • available = here: something that people can use
  • carbon monoxide = poisonous gas that produces carbon when it is burned
  • development = to become bigger, more modern and advanced
  • estimate = think about how much something will cost
  • eventually = as time goes on, slowly
  • futuristic = something  that looks unusual and very modern
  • headquarters = the main building or offices used by a large company
  • however =  but
  • lane = one of two or many areas on the road that keeps cars apart
  • monitor = watch, observe
  • overpopulation = too many people live on a small area of land
  • resident = here: a person  who lives in a city
  • services = work or help that a company gives you
  • similar = almost the same
  • solution = way of dealing with a problem
  • spread = move to another place
  • sustainable = something that can be used without causing danger to the environment or nature
  • urban = about a city
  • waste management = way of getting rid of unwanted materials and dirty water
  • waterfront = part of a city or town that is next to the sea or lake
  • WiFi connection = connecting computers and other machines to the Internet by using radio signals

 

Estonia – A Digital Society

Estonia is a small Baltic state with a population of 1.3 million. Despite its size it is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and has been creating a digital society since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In Estonia, citizens are allowed to do most things online.  Every inhabitant has a unique ID card that they use for a number of purposes.They can file tax returns, get medical prescriptions  and manage their health records online. They can pay for a parking ticket via mobile phone and don’t have to go to a registration office when a child is born. Parents can check their children’s grades  and communicate with teachers. For many years Estonians have been able to vote online.

In 2014 the small Baltic country started a new digital initiative. It allows non-citizens to become digital residents for 100 euros. The government wants to bring qualified people to the country because the working population is steadily decreasing. The country desperately needs new programmers, web developers and media experts. Up to now 20 000 people from other countries have applied for digital citizenship.

Many countries, among them Finland and Japan are trying to copy Estonia’s digital society. However, authorities point out that the country’s smallness is an advantage. Such a system may not work very well in larger countries with millions of people.

Digital Summit in Estonia
Digital Summit in Estonia – Image: Anna Piperal

Words

  • advanced = very modern
  • advantage = here: something that helps you to be successful
  • apply = to make a request
  • authorities = the people who are in charge of a government organisation  or department
  • Baltic = region in the northeastern part of Europe
  • citizen = person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • collapse = breakdown , end
  • create = make
  • decrease = go down
  • desperately = very much
  • despite = even though
  • file tax returns = here: to send information  on how much you have earned to the local government; it then tells you how much tax you have to pay
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • health records = information about your health
  • however = but
  • ID card = small plastic card that has information about a person
  • inhabitant = a person who lives in a country
  • initiative = a new plan
  • point out = to show something that is important
  • population = the number of people living in a country
  • prescription = a piece of paper on which  the doctor writes down what medicine a sick person should take
  • purpose = what something is needed for
  • qualified = with special skills and talents
  • registration office = place where you have report to when a baby is born or someone dies
  • resident = a person who officially lives in a country
  • society = people in general and the way they live and work together
  • size =how large the country is
  • smallness = not large in size
  • Soviet Union = largest Communist country that existed between 1922 and 1991
  • steadily = slowly
  • unique = being only one of its kind
  • via = by way of , through