Voyager 2 Becomes Second Object to Leave Solar System

Voyager 2 has become the second man-made object to pass the boundary of the solar system and enter interstellar space. It is currently 18 billion km from earth. Its sister ship, Voyager  1 reached this boundary in 2012.

According to NASA scientists, the probe can operate for five to ten more years. It is so far away from earth that commands take about 16 hours to reach it.

Voyager 2 has entered the heliopause, an area where hot solar winds do not exist any more and the sun’s magnetic field ends. Interstellar space is the vast emptiness between star systems.

The spacecraft is better equipped than its predecessor, Voyager 1. It has instruments on board to measure speed , density and temperature of solar winds. Voyager 1 stopped sending back this data decades ago. Voyager 2 also sends other useful information back to scientists on earth.

The Voyager missions, which were launched in the 1970s have become a great success for NASA. Both craft have traveled beyond their projected destinations. The two spacecraft were originally created to study Jupiter and Saturn more closely. Later, it turned out that Uranus and Neptune could also be examined before the probes left the solar system.

Even though their power sources will eventually stop, the Voyager probes will continue to move on to places no man-made object have gone before.

Voyager 2
Voyager 2

Words

  • according to = as said by ..
  • beyond = farther than
  • boundary = a line where one are ends and another one starts
  • command = instruction
  • craft = spaceship
  • currently = at the moment
  • data = information
  • decade = ten years
  • density = the relationship between how big something is and how it is filled
  • equipped = here: it has instruments on board
  • emptiness = with nothing in it
  • even though = while
  • eventually = in the end, finally
  • examine = to look closely at something and find out more information about it
  • interstellar space = the area between star systems
  • launch = send into space
  • magnetic field = the area around an object that has magnetic power
  • measure = to find out how high, fast etc.. something is
  • man-made object = something that is made by people , not by nature
  • NASA = the American space agency
  • originally = at first
  • power source = where the energy to move on comes from
  • predecessor = here: the spacecraft that was launched before it
  • probe = unmanned spaceship that has instruments on board
  • projected destination = the place they were originally planned to go to
  • reach = get to; arrive at
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • solar = from the sun
  • solar system = our sun and the planets that move around it
  • vast = extremely big

Hong Kong-China High Speed Rail Link

The first high-speed railway between Hong Kong and China has gone into operation.

The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link is expected to bring economic benefits to both China and Hong Kong as well as allow more Chinese tourists to travel to the former British colony. It will connect Hong Kong to the 25,000 km high-speed Chinese rail network, the largest in the world. 

Bullet trains can now travel from Beijing to Hong Kong in only 9  hours, compared to 18 before. Shenzen, just across the border from Hong Kong, can be reached in only 20 minutes.

Chinese authorities will  be in control of part of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon station. As a part of China, mainland police forces will check travelers’ documents and passports, making an additional stop at the Hong Kong – Chinese border unnecessary. It is the first time that mainland Chinese laws  are applied inside Hong Kong.

The project cost nearly 11 billion dollars and took almost eight years to complete. Authorities expect that by 2021, up to 80,000 passengers could access the new service on  80 trains daily.

Critics say the new rail link undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy, which has  been guaranteed by China until 2047.  They also raise concerns about increasing Chinese influence in the former British colony.

 

 

China - Hong Kong high speed rail link
Train on the new Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail link – Image : 
N509FZ

Words

  • access = use
  • additional = also; another
  • apply = in use ; work
  • authorities = government organisation that controls things and can make decisions
  • autonomy = being able to govern yourself
  • benefit = good side of something 
  • border = line between two countries
  • bullet train = very fast train that travels between two places
  • connect = link; bring together
  • critics = people who are against the project
  • former = in the past
  • go into operation = here: to start carrying passengers on trains
  • guarantee = a formal promise
  • high-speed = very fast
  • increasing = to go up; more and more
  • influence = power
  • law = the rule of a country
  • mainland = here: China without Hong Kong and Taiwan
  • raise concerns = to be worried about
  • undermine = here: to make weaker

Porsche To Stop Production of Diesel Cars

German sports car maker Porsche has declared that it would no longer produce diesel cars, but instead concentrate on petrol-powered , electric and hybrid vehicles. It is the first German automaker to completely withdraw from the diesel car sector.

The company made the decision in the aftermath of the emission cheating scandal that hit Porsche’s parent company Volkswagen . In an interview, Porsche’s CEO Oliver Blume said that Porsche’s image had suffered due to the  scandal.

For luxury car manufacturer Porsche, the production of diesel cars has not been that important. In 2017 only 12 % of all Porsche cars produced were diesel-powered. The company has been making diesel cars for 10 years, but since February has stopped taking orders for them. It has never developed or produced any diesel engines of its own.

Porsche is also reacting to the fact that more and more European cities are considering a ban on diesel vehicles in an attempt to reduce air pollution. In addition, the demand for diesel cars is also decreasing.

Currently, the German car maker is investing heavily in new hybrid and electric car technology.  Next year it  will launch its first fully-electric sports car,  the TaycanBy 2025  Porsche expects that every second car it produces will be an an electric sports car.

 

Porsche Taycan
Taycan – Porsche’s first fully electric sports car – Image: Alexander Migl

Words

  • aftermath = the period of time that has passed after something important happened
  • attempt = try
  • ban = to forbid something
  • concentrate = focus on
  • consider = think about
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • decrease = go down
  • demand = the number of cars that people want to buy
  • due to = because of
  • emission cheating scandal = in 2015 the United States found out that Volkswagen had lied about emission tests on its cars
  • declare = to say officially
  • heavily = a lot
  • hybrid = here: car that has a petrol engine and an electric motor
  • in addition = also
  • launch = to start selling
  • petrol-powered = engine that runs on petrol instead of diesel
  • reduce = lower ; make something go down
  • suffer= here: to be in a difficult situation
  • vehicle = car
  • withdraw = here: to stop production

 

 

 

Apple Worth 1 Trillion Dollars

Apple has become  the first US company to reach a market value of 1 trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) . The hi-tech firm has beaten  its rivals Microsoft, Google  and Amazon to pass the magical mark. Apple’s stock is now worth $207 per share, an all-time high. If it were a country, Apple would rank 17th in the world, on par with Indonesia.

Before Apple, only China’s oil giant PetroChina made it over the 1 trillion dollar  mark  back in 2007.  It’s value declined sharply shortly afterwards when oil prices collapsed.

Apple was founded in 1976 in a California garage by Steve Jobs. In the first two decades the company was famous for producing computers. Later on Apple developed its revolutionary MP3 player, the iPod, which also saved the company from bankruptcy 20 years ago.

The iPhone, the world’s first smartphone, was introduced in 2007 and has become the company’s flagship product. Up to now over 1.3 billion iPhones have been sold. Although Apple is currently selling fewer new models, sales and profits are rising. It is also making money by selling music and apps.

In 2017, Apple  has made profits in the range of $50 billion, selling over $220 billion worth of products .

Apple may soon be joined in the 1 trillion dollar club by other hi-tech giants . Amazon and Microsoft are close to the mark and may be passing it soon.

 

Apple headquarters in Cupertino , California
Apple headquarters in Cupertino , California – Image: Daniel L. Lu

Words

  • all-time high = the highest point ever reached
  • although = while
  • bankruptcy = situation in which you have no money left and cannot pay back what you owe to others
  • collapse = here: to go down very quickly
  • close = near
  • currently = at the moment
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = to go down very fast
  • develop = to design and produce a new product
  • flagship = the best and most important product
  • found- founded = here: to start a new company
  • introduce = here: to bring to the market
  • join = to be together with others
  • market value = what a company is worth on the market
  • on par = on the same level
  • profit = the money you get by selling products and services after  your costs have been paid
  • rank = position
  • reach = get to a certain point
  • revolutionary = something completely new and different
  • rival = another company that wants to be more successful than you are
  • share = a part of a company that belongs to you
  • stock = the total value of all the company’s shares
  • value = what something is worth

Scientists Come One Step Further in Creating Quantum Computers

The world of technology has got one step closer to creating quantum computers.  Dutch scientists have recently created a 2-qubit (quantum bitprocessor running on a silicon chip.

While standard computers work with bits of information that can have only two states, 0 or 1, quantum processors are based on the fact that bits can exist in both states at the same time. As a result, they have tremendous computing power and can do things that no classical computer can do. Quantum computers can be used for solving complex problems and can manage much larger number of calculations at once.

Scientists explain that they are still in the early stages of developing a real quantum processor. Hardware manufacturer IBM has already built a 50-qubit computer, but with superconductive materials that need extreme cooling. Putting a quantum processor on a silicon chip, which is already used in the computer industry, may be the first step toward mass production.

In such quantum processors, electrons can be in many states at once. This is called superposition. In the lab, scientists have managed to keep electrons between both positions at the same time, however, such electrons are not stable and quickly fall apart. By linking these electrons together on a silicon chip qubit hardware manufacturers could produce quantum processors for commercial use.

Design of a quantum computer chip
Design of a quantum computer chip – Image: D-Wave Systems, Inc.

 Words

  • bit = the smallest unit of information that a computer uses
  • calculation = when you use numbers to find out something
  • classical = here: normal; the ones we have today
  • commercial use = here: something that is produced so that people buy it
  • complex = very complicated
  • electron = very small piece of matter with a negative electrical charge that moves around the central part of an atom
  • hardware manufacturer = company that producers computers
  • however = but
  • lab = laboratory
  • link = connect with each other
  • manage = work with; succeed in doing something
  • mass production = products that are produced in factories in large numbers so they can be sold cheaply
  • processor = central part of a computer that deals with commands and the information it is given
  • quantum = unit of energy in physics
  • qubit= quantum bit = piece of information that can exist in two states at the same time
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • silicon chip = small piece of silicon  that has electrical connections and can store information
  • stable = steady; something that does not change
  • stage = phase, time during which something happens
  • superconductive = when electricity can flow through a material very easily, especially at low temperatures
  • state = condition that something is in
  • tremendous = very big, fast, powerful

SpaceX Launches World’s Most Powerful Rocket

SpaceX, a private space transport company owned by American billionaire Elon Musk, has launched the world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy. It is the larger version of the Falcon 9 rocket, which has successfully been putting payloads into space for years. The booster is made up of three rockets strapped together for combined thrust.

The Falcon Heavy was developed over a period of 7 years and cost about $500 million. It is 23 stories tall and has 27 engines. The rocket’s thrust equals that of 18 Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

The new rocket is designed to send large satellites into earth orbit. It can carry 64 metric tons, twice the payload of other rockets, into space at a lower price. The rocket can also transport spacecraft to destinations further away from earth. In addition, its starting boosters are reusable.

The first flight was set to travel as far as the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The rocket had an electric sports car, Elon Musk’s privateTesla Roadster, on board.

SpaceX has been flying NASA cargo missions to the International Space Station for a few years. The company wants to compete with other business in carrying payloads to space. Musk’s company has several commercial customers and has been receiving contracts to fly government payloads. The first manned mission to space is planned for the end of 2018.

 

Space X rocket Falcon Heavy on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Falcon Heavy on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida

Words

  • asteroid belt = large rocks that move around the sun between Mars and Jupiter
  • billionaire = person who has a billion dollars, euros etc.. or more
  • booster = a rocket that gives you the power to leave the earth
  • cargo mission = here: a trip that carries goods and other products into space
  • commercial = here: private
  • compete = be as good as or better than others
  • contract = an agreement to do a job for someone
  • design = the way something should work
  • destination = place you want to go to
  • develop = to design and create a new product
  • equal = the same as
  • in addition = also
  • International Space Station = ISS = space station that was built by scientists from 16 countries; it is mainly used for scientific experiments
  • launch = to send an object into space
  • manned mission = here: trip that sends people into space
  • orbit = move around an object in a circle
  • payload = the goods or products that a machine transports to a place
  • receive = get
  • reusable = you can use it again
  • several = some, a few
  • stories = floors
  • strapped together = bind together so that it works as one
  • successfully = if something works the way it should
  • thrust = power of an engine that makes a rocket move upwards
  • twice = two times

Cloning of First Monkeys in China

Two monkeys have been cloned in a Chinese laboratory. They were created with the identical technique used to clone Dolly, the sheep back in 1996. Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were born a few weeks ago at a Chinese lab. Researchers say they are growing normally.

Over two decades ago, Dolly, became the first successfully cloned mammal. Since then cows, pigs, dogs and other mammals have been cloned.  The cloning of primates was thought to be more difficult than the creation of other mammals in a lab. The Chinese team has brought the scientific community one step closer to the cloning of humans.

The technique used in the test involves transferring the nucleus of a cell into an egg which has had its nucleus removed. The experiment was remarkable because it used fetal cells instead of adult cells. It took the Chinese scientists many attempts and 127 eggs to clone just two monkeys.

According to scientists, the cloning of monkeys will help to research human diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It is also important in drug research.

China has invested heavily in research in the past years. The successful test came at a time when American and European scientists have backed away from using monkeys and apes for ethical reasons.

 

Close-up of Dolly, the sheep in her stuffed form
Close-up of Dolly, the sheep in her stuffed form – Image: Toni Barros

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • Alzheimer’s disease = disease that affects the brain, especially of older people; it makes it difficult for you to move, talk or remember things
  • attempt = try
  • back away = stop doing something
  • cancer = serious illness in which cells can grow in an uncontrolled way
  • clone = an animal or plant produced by scientists from one cell of another animal or plant so that they are exactly the same
  • creation = making something
  • decade = ten years
  • disease = illness
  • drug research = creating new forms of medicine
  • ethical = something that is morally good or bad
  • fetal = belonging to an unborn baby or animal
  • human = a person
  • identical = the same
  • including = also
  • invest = put money into …
  • laboratory = room or building in which scientific experiments take place
  • mammal = type of animal that drinks milk from its mother’s body when it is young; humans, dogs and cows are mammals
  • nucleus = the central part of an atom
  • primate = member of a group of mammals that includes humans and monkeys
  • remove = take away
  • remarkable = unusual, surprising
  • researcher = person who studies something in order to find out more about it
  • scientific community = all the people who do research work in labs
  • technique = method; way of doing something
  • transfer = move from one place to another

 

Amazon Go – The First Automated Store

Amazon has opened its first automated store to the public. Amazon Go is a grocery store located on the ground level of the corporation’s Seattle headquarters.

The store, which offers food, salads and boxed meals could revolutionize our shopping experience in the future.

As soon as you arrive at the store, a cell phone app connected to an Amazon account registers your presenceEverything that happens in the store is tracked by hundreds of infrared cameras. When you pick up items from the shelves they are automatically put into your virtual shopping cart. The cameras also detect when you put an item back on the shelves and remove it from your cart. The moment you walk out your account is charged without making any physical payment.

The technologies used at Amazon Go are the same as with driverless cars –  computer tracking, weight sensors on shelves and complicated algorithms.

The 1,800 square foot store has been open to Amazon employees for a year. Now the public can also shop there.

However, not everything has been running smoothly in the store’s opening year.There were hardships to overcomeFor example, it’s hard for cameras to distinguish between different flavours or products that look the same. They also have problems handling people who move around or identifying shoppers with similar body sizes and clothes.

Even though there are no checkout counters and cashiers who make you wait in line, there are shop assistants who restock goods and help customers find their way around.

 

Amazon Go store in Seattle
Amazon Go store in Seattle – Image: SounderBruce

Words

  • account = here: the  services of a company that you use
  • algorithm = set of instructions that are followed in a fixed order and used  for solving problems
  • automated = using computers, cameras and machines
  • boxed meal = meal that has already been cooked and is ready to eat
  • cashier = person who you pay money to in a shop
  • charge = you have to pay money for the goods you buy
  • checkout counter = place where you pay for products when you leave a store
  • complicated = difficult
  • connect = link
  • corporation = big company
  • detect = discover, notice
  • distinguish = find the difference between two things
  • driverless = without a driver
  • employee = a person who works there
  • even though = although, while
  • flavour = the taste of something
  • hardships = problems, difficulties
  • headquarters = place from where a company operates
  • however = but
  • identify = find out the name of someone
  • infrared = light that gives out heat but cannot be seen
  • item = product
  • located = to be found; situated
  • overcome = solve
  • physical payment = real money you pay with in a store
  • presence = someone is present
  • public = here: everybody
  • register = record
  • restock = bring in more items to replace those that have been bought
  • revolutionize = to change completely the way you do something
  • shopping experience = the way we shop
  • similar = almost the same
  • smoothly = here: the way it should; without any problems
  • track = watch closely
  • virtual = not real; here: your Amazon account
  • weight sensor = small object that finds out if there is something on the shelf or not

Chocolate in Danger of Becoming Extinct

Chocolate may be in danger of becoming extinct by the middle of this centuryPests and fungal diseases have been found in cacao trees that may endanger the crop’s survival.

In addition, cacao is also under attack by global warming. Trees grow in a very small area about 20° north and south of the equator, where humidity and temperatures are the same all year round. By 2050 rising temperatures and drier weather will push cacao production up into mountainous areas, many of which are home to wild animals.

Scientists from the University of California are trying to save the plant. Together with researchers from the American food company Mars, they are trying to grow cacao seeds that are more resistant and can grow at higher altitudes.

Most of the world’s cacao production comes from two countries in western Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. These areas may not be suitable for cacao production in the decades to come. Millions of farmers depend on cacao for a living.

 

Cacao tree
Cacao tree – Image: Luis Ovalles

Words

  • altitude = how high up something is
  • cacao = seeds from which chocolate is made
  • decade = ten years
  • endanger = to be a threat to something
  • equator = line around the middle of the earth
  • extinct = die out; not exist anymore
  • century = a hundred years
  • depend on = need
  • fungal disease= disease caused by  a simple plant that has no leaves  and grows in the ground or on other plants; mushrooms are a type of fungus
  • global warming = an increase in the world’s temperatures caused by growing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere
  • humidity = the amount of water that is in the air
  • in addition = also
  • mountainous = in the mountains
  • pest = a small animal or insect that can destroy crops and plants
  • researcher = person who studies a topic in order to find out more about it
  • resistant = here: it cannot be destroyed or damaged
  • rise = to go up
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seed = small hard object from produced by plants, from which a new plant can grow
  • suitable = here: to be the ideal place to grow something
  • survival = existence ; staying alive
  • under attack = to be attacked by something

NASA Plans Mission to Alpha Centauri

NASA has announced that it plans to send a spacecraft to the nearest star outside the solar system, Alpha Centauri,  in 2069. The bold mission is scheduled to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing in 1969.

The announcement comes from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is responsible for planning new missions within the solar system and beyond.

Alpha Centauri is a system of three stars,  just four light years away.  Even at a tenth of the speed of light, which NASA experts say may be possible,  it would take a spacecraft 44 years to reach the constellation.

The technology for such a mission, however, does not even exist yet. Some form of laser-powered sails or a nuclear propulsion system would have to be created to reach such a speed.

 

NASA’s  first interstellar mission would concentrate on exploring one of the system’s exoplanets, Proxima Centauri b, which may be habitable.

Experts say that it would take half a century before such a mission could even be launched. As a result,  the spacecraft would probably not reach its destination before the beginning of the next century. In addition, considering cuts to NASA’s budget, the agency does not nearly have enough money to develop a spacecraft that could actually make the mission.

Currently, Voyager 1, launched in 1977,  is the farthest spacecraft and man-made object from earth.

 

The Alpha Centauri star system
The Alpha Centauri star system – Image: David Benbennick

Words

  • agency = organisation
  • anniversary = date on which something important happened in the past
  • announce = to say officially, in public
  • beyond =  here: outside the solar system
  • bold = exciting; not afraid of being difficult to do
  • century = a hundred years
  • coincide = be at the same time as
  • considering = if you look at or think about something
  • constellation =gourp of stars
  • currently = at the moment; now
  • destination  = place where you want to go
  • develop = plan, design and make
  • exoplanet =planet that is not in the solar system
  • explore = to travel to a place to find out more about it
  • habitable = a place with water and air, that allows you to live there
  • in addition = also
  • interstellar = between stars
  • laser = a narrow beam of light
  • light year = the distance light travels in one year = 9 500 000 000 000 kilometres
  • lunar = moon
  • mission = here: a trip to a faraway destination
  • nuclear propulsion system  = a system that uses nuclear energy to make a spacecraft  move forward
  • reach = get to
  • responsible = in charge of
  • scheduled = planned
  • solar system = our sun and the planets that go around it
  • spacecraft = object that can reach space and travel to the sun and other planets
  • technology = objects and machines to make something work